Michael Young, the prominent columnist of The Daily Star in Beirut, provides an insightful inventory of considerations Russia may have in mind in defending the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria, not only in the Security Council but also–and significantly–with ongoing munitions deliveries. He writes,
The Russians may sense that they’re backing a lame horse in Assad, and an indication of this was Lavrov’s statement in Australia this week. He noted, “We are not friends or allies of President Assad. We never said that Assad remaining in power is a precondition for regulating the situation. We said something else – we said that the decision should be made by Syrians, by the Syrians themselves.”
The argument that Russia hopes to protect its stake in a future Syria is unconvincing. By holding on to Bashar Assad so stubbornly, despite the killing, the Russians are ensuring that a post-Assad government will impose retribution. Nor does there appear to be bargaining yet between the Russian government and the Syrian opposition that would persuade Russia to drop Assad if it gained satisfaction.
Yet another Russian argument against approving the Arab plan to remove Assad from office is that this might provoke a Syrian civil war. Are the Russians watching the same channel as the rest of us? Syria, precisely because of the homicidal policies of its leader, is heading inexorably toward civil war. The single way to derail such an outcome – and the opportunities are diminishing daily – is to make it apparent to Assad and his acolytes that there is Arab and international unanimity, Russia included, behind –their departure.
–Michael Young, “From Russia, for Bashar’s eyes only,” The Daily Star (Lebanon), February 02, 2012
The Trenchant Observer
See also earlier articles by The Trenchant Observer, including:
Monumental miscalculation? Russia’s strategic interests in Syria and its defense of the al-Assad regime”
February 2, 2012
Syria: The Human Cost of Delay
January 18, 2012
Qatar’s leader suggests sending troops to Syria
January 14, 2012
Government Terror in Syria—Putin, Al Assad, and Security Council Referral to the ICC
December 31, 2011
REPRISE: Syria and the Shame of the World, November 19th, 2011 (originally published on August 20, 2011)