You know things are going bad when the King of Saudi Arabia feels he can openly criticise you. Despite reigning over one of the most brutal, fundamentalist and repressive countries on earth, King Abdullah is correct in his criticism of Russia and China, following their veto of a UN draft resolution calling on Syrian President Assad to step down. Along with Iran they are now isolated in major world opinion over how to deal with Assad’s 11 month killing spree. Even Turkey and the Arab League, while it may seem hypocritical, have long abandoned Syria, no longer able to give support to Assad’s brutal crackdown.
While many have condemned the veto as a ‘license to kill’ I would argue that license has been issued for some time now, with Russian – Syrian arms deals worth $US4 billion last year and Moscow being the biggest supplier of arms to the Middle Eastern country. While China has denied selling weapons to Syria recently, there is long history of Chinese arms being sold to Syria or mysteriously finding a route to Damascus.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov last week defended his countries actions – of continuing to sell arms to a regime which in 11 months has slaughtered over 6,000 of its own civilians – and said the arms sales will continue, all but ensuring more civilian deaths in the days, weeks and months to come. Lavrov said ‘…we do not accept demands that we should stop something, which is not prohibited by the international law,’ which is strange, because I thought the slaughter of thousands of innocent civilians may actually be against international law and providing the means to do that might be at least against the spirit of international law? Apparently not. Lavrov added, ‘We don’t supply firearms (although Moscow does supply ammunition) and what we supply is not used in the conflict,’ – how Lavrov can be so sure of this I do not know, perhaps Assad has simply promised not to use the 24 MiG-29M/M2 fighter jets or the 35 to 60 tons of ammunition and explosives on innocent civilians, so maybe it is just going into his private museum, Bruce Wayne style – although I doubt it.
Meanwhile, the US, still obsessed with the idea of al Qaeda, has attempted to insert them into the Syrian equation, blaming the terrorist organisation for a recent bomb attack in Damascus – and you know that once the US start saying that al Qaeda is somewhere, they really want in (see Afghanistan 2001, Iraq 2003). As if Assad’s actions over the past twelve months, which now includes using the health system as a tool of repression, by deliberately targeting the wounded and those who are trying to treat them, is not reason enough to for military intervention. For some reason the US seems to think if they mention al Qaeda the world will support going in militarily, when I would argue they have, via NATO, enough justification already.
Talk of reintroducing an Arab League or UN monitoring team, mainly by Russia and China, would be a welcome, albeit small step. However, when it was tried last year, it clearly did not faze Assad one bit, with dozens of civilians killed upon, during and since the arrival and departure of the team.
This weekend, the Free Syrian Army, the main resistance to Assad’s forces, claimed arguably its biggest scalp, with the assassination in Damascus of Brig. Gen. Issa al-Khouli, a military doctor and Assad loyalist. Along with other government troop deaths in Homs and Iblib the FSA continue their uphill battle against the regime – a real uphill battle when the enemy is supported (and armed with much more powerful weapons) by Russia, China and Iran.
Whichever way you look at it, through arms sales or political support Russia and China, along with Iran, are just as responsible for the continued massacre of Syrian civilians as Assad and his henchmen.
The quicker Assad is removed, into exile or otherwise, the better off Syrians will be.