Friday, February 3, 2012

Russia facilitates civil repression in Syria

Arab and western governments joined forces on Tuesday to urge the UN to condemn the violent suppression of protests in Syria and to endorse a plan for President Bashar al-Assad to step aside.

Ahead of the UN meeting in New York, Gennady Gatilov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, said that the draft resolution was a “path to civil war” and insisted that it would not lead to a “search for compromise”. Sergei Lavrov, the foreign minister, also declared that he “guarantees” Moscow will block a resolution proving military intervention in Syria, according to the Interfax news agency.

Why is Russia is refusing to back any pressure on Syria? Perhaps for the same reason it refused to sanction Iran, and provided political cover for Muammar Gaddafi - because it is a patron saint of dictators everywhere.

Russia supplied cruise missiles to Syria in December 2011. Although that deal was signed in 2007, the delivery took place many months after the start of bloody repression of a popular insurrection. Russia has similarly supplied Gaddafi with arms in deals worth billions that predated the civil war in Libya. However, Russia is not merely fulfilling its obligations in arms deals. Recently, Russia announced a new deal to provide Syria with 36 Yak-130 aircraft well-suited for ground attack of small mobile groups of the opposition. This deal is openly in defiance of international efforts to put pressure on Assad’s regime, which has faced broad condemnation for its brutal crackdown on an uprising. More than 5,600 people have died over 11-month  insurrection.

Russian technology for Syrian repression
Russia‘s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said last week that Moscow doesn’t consider it necessary to offer an explanation or excuses over suspicions that a Russian ship had delivered munitions to Syria despite an EU arms embargo. He told a news conference that Russia was acting in full respect of international law and wouldn’t be guided by unilateral sanctions imposed by other nations. “If some intend to use force at all cost … we can hardly prevent that from happening,” Lavrov said at a news conference. “But let them do it at their own initiative on their own conscience. They won’t get any authorization from the U.N. Security Council.”

Lavrov accused the West of turning a blind eye to attacks by opposition militants and supplies of weapons to the Syrian opposition from abroad and warned that Russia will block any attempt by the West to secure United Nations support for the use of force against Syria.

Russia has been a strong ally of Syria since Soviet times when the country was led by the president’s father Hafez Assad. It has supplied Syria with aircraft, missiles, tanks and other modern weapons.

Here's a copy of the draft resolution on Syria currently being discussed inside the U.N. Security Council. It calls on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to hand over power to his deputy and says additional measures would be taken if he doesn't comply within 15 days.

"We are looking for a resolution that reflects the commitments that the Arab League was seeking from the Syrian government, that -- in its November 2nd agreement, which unfortunately has not been lived up to by the Syrian side," said spokesperson for the US Department of State Victoria Nuland.

She indicated the United States was hopeful that Russia, which has been openly supporting Assad and sending him weapons, will work with the rest of the Security Council to produce a resolution that is strong and effective. Russia and China vetoed European resolution on Syria last fall and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said last Friday that Russia would veto any resolution that seeks to remove Assad from power.

"We continue to want to work with the Russians so that the whole U.N. Security Council is united in sending the strongest possible message to the Assad regime that the violence has got to end, and we've got to begin a transition," Nuland said. Russia does not seem to be concerned about its unsightly support a murderous dictator.

Syrians mark the 30-year anniversary of massacre in Hama 
The reasons for Russia's intransigence may be more than merely wanting to maintain its influence and a weapons market in a failing dictatorship. There are reasons to believe the Russian special forces, Spetsnaz, were involved in transfer of weapons of mass destruction from Iraq to Syria in 2003, prior to US invasion in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Why would Russians risk involvement in such a dirty operation in the first place? A lot of Saddam's WMD stocks came from Russia, for which Saddam paid in illegal oil shipments against UN embargo. Russia is likely concerned that the new Syrian regime, like that of Libya will open itself to international inspections. Their indifference to the suffering of Syrian may backfire - if Assad falls, the new regime will be very antagonistic towards Russia.

Meanwhile, Syrian government continues to butcher its own people: 'least 217 Syrian protesters killed in Homs' today with Russian weapons, no doubt.

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