(WASHINGTON) — With Syrian government forces preparing for what looks like a large attack on Aleppo, the country’s commercial capital, U.S. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said Thursday that the U.S. is concerned that there could be a massacre in that city.
“This is the concern, that we will see a massacre in Aleppo, and that’s what the regime appears to be lining up for,” Nuland said, adding that the U.S. hopes to prevent a potential attack in Aleppo by increasing pressure on the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and calling them out on the matter.
Nuland explained that she chose to use the word “massacre” out of concern about, “the columns of tanks outside the city, that they seem to be massing for an attack … the fact that you now have not only helicopter gunships but fixed-wing aircraft, which is a serious escalation in this conflict, the kind of artillery, et cetera, that we’re seeing.”
But what can the U.S. do outside of the United Nations to prevent a massacre? Nuland spoke vaguely about the U.S., “working with the opposition to try to strengthen them.”
“This is a horrific situation,” she said. “This is abhorrent, what this regime is willing to do against its own people. We have to call it out. We have to do what we can to strengthen the opposition for the day after.”
The “day after” is the new language that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been using for a political transition in a post-Assad Syria.
Likewise, Nuland repeated Clinton’s cautions from earlier this week to the Syrian opposition that they not carry out a policy of retribution once Assad’s gone.
But ultimately, she said the Assad regime, “will stop at nothing to hold on to power, and it is an extremely dangerous situation.” Nuland said the regime has ignored opportunities to stop the violence and “turn the page.”
“Instead, they’ve responded with bombardments and fixed-wing aircraft, helicopter gunships, artillery in the city and now this massing outside of one of the most historic and beautiful cities in that part of the world,” said Nuland.
“It is a desperate situation, and we are continuing to do all we can in the international community to put the pressure on,” she said.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Faith Karimi and Chuck Johnston, CNN
Holly Yan, David Williams and Steve Almasy, CNN