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Tehran and Moscow Double Down in Syria

The Syrian outlook continues to worsen.

Latest update: Russia and Iran have been caught with their hands in the Syrian cookie jar. The U.S. Treasury Department recently exposed Iran’s efforts to help Syria evade international sanctions on oil exports, while Russia was caught shipping weapons to Assad. The WSJ reports:

American officials investigating the Iranian operation said it is designed to quietly ship Syrian crude oil to Iran, where it can be sold on the international market, with revenue going back to Damascus…

This month, Cyprus intercepted a St. Petersburg-based ship, the Chariot, that was moving four containers of munitions bound for the Syrian port of Tartus, according to Cypriot officials. Cyprus eventually released the ship after assurances from its Russian owners that it wouldn’t complete the delivery, according to Cypriot officials.

But Moscow this week confirmed the arms shipment was made.

With this kind of material and financial support, Assad hopes to keep his side in the game.  Currently, the Free Syrian Army is reported to consist of just a few hundred soldiers; nor do they have the necessary equipment to fight a civil war. Meanwhile, the Syrian political opposition, mostly operating from abroad, is tentatively united, but lacks a clear plan and concrete support.

How will regional powers, like Turkey and Qatar respond? Probably by arming the opposition. If so, we can expect the conflict to grow bloodier still and the sectarian passions ripping at what is left of the fabric of Syrian society will have time to intensify.

For Syria’s sake, and the region’s, the Assad family and its closest friends need to leave.  Via Meadia likes to see murderers behind bars as much as anybody else, but under the circumstances an offer of amnesty and a reasonable cash settlement seem in the best interests of all concerned. Perhaps there are some nice empty dachas somewhere on the Black Sea.

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  • Kris

    I’m more partial to the lamppost solution, but I agree with your conclusion. Which is one reason I was dismayed by the prosecution of Pinochet.

  • Bryan

    Unfortunately for them, it is probable that, in the collective mind of the Sunni Muslim majority, Syria’s 3.5 million Alawites are included in the “closest friends” of the Assad family. Assad and his actual closest friends might be able to escape and retire into obscurity in a dacha in Sochi; the vast majority of the Alawites will not be able to do so, but having been implicated in the rule of the Assads, they will face bloody retribution from the majority.

    I’m not denying that the Alawite community–who have not complained about their privileged position in Syria and who manned the elite units that destroyed Hama decades ago and are terrorizing Syrian cities now–are innocent lambs, but it is nonetheless the case that Assad’s fall is not a concern just for him and his closest associates. His entire community is put at risk of large-scale violence.

    If I were Assad, I would cut my losses and aim to establish an Alawite state west of the an-Nusayriyah Mountains. If he fired his closest advisors and claimed they had been manipulating him all along, and then spent every waking moment saying how it was necessary for the Alawites to have a state to protect themselves from Lebanon-style ethnic violence, he might be able to convince enough people to stay in power in this little fiefdom. If not, well, would he be any worse off than if he had lost while fighting for control over all of Syria?

  • Anthony

    How about we just stay out of it and let the Arabs solve their own problems for once.

  • gringojay

    Syrian society another penciled-in country holding a toxic brew of sectarians. All those chemical weapons aren’t stopping it from imploding.
    House prices are dropping so fast. Ruskies are just swapping arms for apartments to deport heir pro-caliphate Chechnians to.
    Syrian’s old new rallying cry :”Calip-Hate” …”get used to it!”

  • Naif Mabat

    Is there an example in modern history of any dictator, let alone one as brutal as Assad, retiring to live out the rest of his days in a quiet beachfront address in a different country?

    There were several deposed monarchs who did this in the twentieth century (Wilhelm II of Germany, Farouk of Egypt, for example), but dictators? Sounds good in theory but it has never ended up that way.

    • Walter Russell Mead

      @Naif Mabat: Baby Doc Duvalier, Idi Amin, Mobutu…

  • Mastro

    Offer Assad and his cronies amnesty in Saudi, UAE – where ever.

    I used to feel sorry for Junior- not now- too many dead- but I think exile is the best way to go.

  • george

    You really need to drop the “Via Meadia likes…” statements in your postings. We don’t really care what you like – just try reporting. If Via Meadia personnel were acting as envoys to Syria, it might matter what you like, but you aren’t, so don’t.

  • Lorenz Gude

    I’ve always enjoyed the “Via Media likes…’ statements because they give a nice air of mock gravitas. I see it as openly sassing the New York Times. YankeeWombat (that is me in another personality) thoroughly enjoys it when he hears the mickey being taken out of those puffed up journalists of record. Carry on WRM, continue to give them grief and curry from the Gazeboes and obscure Ha Has of neither Queens.

  • WigWag

    Professor Mead, perhaps you’ve forgotten but Baby Doc Duvalier’s exile was temporary. He’s back living in Haiti and more popular than ever.

  • Kris

    george@8: “You really need to drop the ‘Via Meadia likes…’ statements in your postings. We don’t really care what you like – just try reporting.”

    You might be happier subscribing to some newswire.

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