In These New Times

A new paradigm for a post-imperial world

Russia must not “give up” Syria

Posted by seumasach on November 29, 2011


28th November, 2011

An officially-declared information war is currently being waged against Syria. An overwhelming majority of European television stations are portraying the events in Damascus as the cruel oppression of peaceful demonstrators by the Syrian army. In all reports, the key words have been “civilian deaths”, for which the West blames the Syrian authorities. The Arab League, having forgotten all principles of Arab solidarity, is ready to impose sanctions on Damascus. They are demonstrative in nature and do not seriously undermine the financial interests of Bashar al-Assad’s regime. But with its actions, the Arab League has clearly shown that it stands on the side of the opposition.

The Arab League’s decision is not only an understandable attempt to put pressure on Syria. First, it is a message to Russia and China, which had blocked a UN Security Council resolution that gave a “green light” to a military operation against Damascus. Until now, in their assessments of the Syrian situation, Russian diplomats have been citing the Arab states’ fairly low-key reaction to al-Assad’s policies and criticizing the West for its calls to the Syrian opposition not to enter into negotiations with the current president.

But the peaceful civilians, about whom the European leaders are concerned, appear to be such only in political ads or the eyes of human rights activists. It is already clear that Syria has descended into a civil war. Opponents of the al-Assad regime have abandoned non-violence and are actively using weapons against the military and police forces. Clashes are taking place in the cities, which inevitably leads to civilian deaths. But the Syrian army is the only one getting the blame for the deaths, while the opposition is portrayed as “the Lambs of God” before the Western society. Syrian news agencies are trying to relay reports about the deaths of dozens of Syrian soldiers. But the Western press makes no mention of that, just as it fails to report about this so-called opposition, where behind the ardent liberals, who had long emigrated from Syria, fight various Islamic movements.

The military uses armour in order to suppress the violence. It is being used rather effectively, which raises apparent discontent in Europe. Where al-Assad’s opponents got modern weapons – is a rhetorical question. Suffice to recall how, in the midst of the Libyan conflict, the French denied that they were helping arm the rebels with disregard for the UN Security Council resolution. Only several months later, after the capture of Tripoli, it was discovered that Paris, indeed, was making the supplies through third countries. No investigation into the case has been conducted following the collapse of the Gaddafi regime.

Washington has deployed an aircraft carrier with support ships to the Mediterranean Sea. The White House denies that this step is part of preparations for military action against Syria. But the Pentagon’s operations against Iraq and Libya also began with fairly “innocent” relocations of aircraft-carriers, and ended in a traditional manner – with airstrikes on Baghdad and Tripoli.

Syria will not be able to protect itself on its own. In the event NATO launches a military operation or the Turkish army invades the country, in the best case scenario, Damascus will be able to hold out for one month. Western officials do not hide their certainty that neither Russia nor China will decide to intervene in the events in Syria, simply limiting their actions to diplomatic demarches.

But the changing global situation indicates that countries, taking predictable political steps, will always lose geopolitically.

Moscow is not expected to show active support for Syria despite the enormous investments that have been made into that country. But, perhaps time has come for Russia to make a choice – either continue observing as the Western coalition systematically disregards international law or help a country, which we have numerous times called a strategic partner – be it with weapons, advisors, or the Navy – and do so without looking at the consequences, but with a firm understanding that, in the future, there will be other times when Russia will be forced to defend its interests, and not only through diplomacy. The Libyan events have shown that the West no longer fears “major bloodshed” and, without hesitation, uses force to topple any inconvenient regime. It is also time we realize that the use for force is possible and, in certain cases, necessary to protect our allies. Russia’s successful military operation, conducted to protect civilians in South Ossetia from the Georgian army had, ultimately, raised Moscow’s prestige. It showed that its army is not a “paper tiger”, as many had believed in the West.

The situation in Syria is a new test of strength for Russia. And this is the case when we cannot “give up” Damascus.

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