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Russia and West Wary of Syrian “Allies”, Look to UN

Both Russia and the West appear to be losing confidence in their respective “allies” in Syria. In what the Wall Street Journal described as “a rare sign of international unity over the standoff”, the United Nations Security Council has endorsed a plan to end the bloodshed in Syria:

The statement supports a six-point plan by U.N.-Arab League Special Envoy Kofi Annan, which, crucially, calls for a cease-fire with government troops putting down their arms first, followed by the opposition. Previously, Russian officials had insisted on both sides ceasing hostilities simultaneously.

The statement finesses this point by calling on Damascus to enact a cease-fire and withdraw its troops. As that happens, Mr. Annan would seek a similar commitment from the armed rebels, the statement says.

The plan also calls for an immediate daily two-hour pause in hostilities to allow for the delivery of humanitarian aid, political dialogue between the two sides and the release of detained people, among other measures.

As we noted yesterday, Moscow is slowly backing away from its steadfast support of Assad. The Russians are increasingly aware of the Assad regime’s limited political competence, and the approval of this deal reinforces the sense that they doubt Assad can recover and restore an impasse.

The plan also underscores the diminished enthusiasm among Western powers for the opposition forces fighting Assad. Underpinning fears of the rebels’ sectarian and even fanatical associations, Human Rights Watch recently presented an open letter citing “increasing evidence” of kidnappings, torture and executions committed by rebel forces. These concerns, combined with a limited appetite for a new and bigger humanitarian war, suggest that the West and the Arabs, much as they want Assad out, are not moving toward any kind of armed intervention.

Even if Kofi Annan’s mediation is beginning to look more attractive, the Council’s support doesn’t increase its odds of success. Creative compromise and “live and let live” solutions are not exactly characteristic of Syrian political life. A negotiated deal that gets the Assads out but provides protections for minorities would be the best solution in Syria; the odds are very much against anything that nice coming to pass.

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  • Kris

    I will lift up mine eyes unto the U.N., from whence cometh my help.

  • Luke Lea

    Where are the good guys?

  • t0r67foulvjjcfxte

    If it wasn’t tragic it would be hilarious. It seems they learned something from Libya. Maybe there is intelligent life in the universe.

  • J R Yankovic

    What else can you say? Sometimes sanity makes strange bedfellows?

  • Fred

    Could it be that the civilized world is finally recognizing that the [profanity removed] lot of those people are barbarians?

  • Trent Telenko


    Russian anti-terrorist troops in Syria is a good new/bad news thing.

    The bad news is that they are there. “Anti-terrorism troops” is Spetznaz spelled sideways.

    The good news is that I think they are coming for the weapons of mass destruction and incriminating terrorist/WMD files.

    That is the only logical reason for such a small force to show up in Syria from Russia.

    Like Iraq before our invasion, they are getting out the incriminating evidence of decades of Russian-Syrian terror/WMD cooperation, before the Assad clan falls.

    This sure beats having the jihadi crazies getting bugs or radiological materials. **

    ** There is too much lethal gas in Syria for any measure to prevent it falling into the wrong hands.

  • Mark Michael

    The Weekly Standard on the Obama admin. stance on Syria:


    McCain grilled senior administration officials and military officers, and set the record straight regarding the disposition of the Syrian rebels. Over the past several weeks, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have both claimed, without evidence, that al Qaeda had infiltrated the opposition. Last week McCain countered: The Syrian rebels are “not fighting and dying because they are Muslim extremists.” The administration then started to walk back its charges. What the White House really meant, said Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, is that al Qaeda is looking to “exploit” the situation.

    As well they might. The Syrian uprising is now a year old….

    “That air defense system,” Panetta told the Senate, “is pretty sophisticated.” According to the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, it is “approximately five times more sophisticated .  .  . than existed in Libya.”

    In 2007 the Israelis had no trouble disabling Syrian air defenses before their air raid on the Al Kibar nuclear reactor in the Syrian desert. And that was hardly the first time the Israeli Air Force ran roughshod over the Syrians. Damascus’s Russian-supplied air capabilities, defensive and offensive, are a running joke in the region.

    In the June 1982 air battle over Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, it took the Israelis only half a day to destroy almost all of Syria’s Soviet-made surface-to-air-missile batteries as well as 29 Soviet-supplied aircraft. Within three days the rout was complete; the IAF downed 82 Syrian planes without a single loss of its own.

    That was a victory for Jerusalem and for Washington. The confrontation showed that Soviet arms were far inferior to American weapons—even making allowance for the fact that it was Syrians at the controls. The Bekaa Valley turkey shoot, as some still refer to the 1982 debacle, was facilitated by the Syrians keeping their mobile missile systems in one place for several months because they didn’t like digging latrines….

    Nonetheless, the Obama administration is putting way too much emphasis on Russia’s calculations. It’s waiting on a Putin change of heart because it fears that U.S. material support of the Free Syrian Army will convince the Russians that the conflict is a proxy war. But the Russians already perceive it as a proxy war. So do the Iranians, which is why both are pouring in as much support as they can to keep Assad afloat. The administration’s response to Russian intransigence was to hold a Friends of Syria conference in Tunisia that was so incommensurate with the bloody reality it aimed to address that even the Saudi foreign minister stormed out in disgust.

    For the United States, the key issue should be countering Iran. As General James Mattis, the head of CENTCOM, said, the fall of Assad would be “the biggest strategic setback for Iran in 25 years.” During his Senate testimony the next day, Panetta agreed that it would hurt the Islamic Republic. The good news then is that the administration is starting to see how the pieces are arrayed on the game board. The bad news is that it’s still wary about taking the other side’s pieces….

    Regional players are finally coming out strongly against Assad. Last week former Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri denounced the regime and its Lebanese partner, Hezbollah. That Hariri—who has frequently been threatened by Assad and his allies, and whose father Rafik was allegedly killed under Assad’s orders—has taken to the podium is yet more evidence that smart money in the region is betting on Assad’s eventual collapse.

    Barry Rubin:


    Five months ago, I wrote here and here detailing how the U.S. government collaborated in creating an anti-American, Islamist-dominated leadership for the Syrian revolution. This leadership group, assembled by the Islamist Turkish regime as the Obama government’s subcontractor, failed immediately. Now it is collapsing openly.

    Of the nineteen announced members of the top leadership, I explained, ten of them were Islamists, either Muslim Brotherhood or Salafist. A reliable Syrian opposition source tells me that two more members are secretly Islamist tools. This was far in excess of the proportion of those forces in the revolution. In short, the U.S. government was helping to turn Syria’s revolution over to the Islamists….

    –The Turkish regime, Obama’s favorite Middle East government, betrayed U.S. interests (and those of the Syrian people) in assembling a group dominated by its fellow Islamists who hate the United States and would link up with other radical regimes in Egypt, the Gaza Strip, and Tunisia. This shows that the Turkish regime cannot be trusted.

    –The Syrian opposition should be helped to form a truly representative, moderate-dominated, pro-democratic opposition which should then receive Western support.

    –Western countries should support that opposition with weapons and also impose a safe haven and a no-fly zone for the Syrian regime.

    I do not expect that the Obama Administration or other Western governments will do any of these things to happen but they are precisely what should be done.

    Tony Badran:


    Despite the embarrassing fiasco of the Kofi Annan mission to Syria, and the predictable lack of any progress with the Russians, President Obama yesterday still doubled down on this failed approach. “[F]or us to provide strong support to Kofi Annan, to continue to talk to the Russians, the Chinese and others… that’s the most important work that we can do right now.”

    As a result, it’s not hard to see why the Saudis and Qataris felt forced to go through Russia one more time. It was the expressed wish of the President of the United States. A careful rereading of the statement made by the anonymous official to shows that this was the message communicated to US allies.

    The official noted that the US would take the passive attitude toward arming the FSA “at the next Friends of Syria meeting,” which will take place early next month. In other words, the Obama administration opted to waste a full month banging on the Kremlin’s door, yet again, as Bashar al-Assad escalated his military campaign in Homs, Idlib and Daraa.

    The administration has been criticized repeatedly for not asserting leadership when it came to Syria. In reality, however, the administration did very much push its preferences on its regional allies. Its public messaging and diplomatic activity left no doubt that it continued to oppose any military aid to the FSA and that it insisted on going through Moscow one more time, regardless of the time this would buy Assad.

    So, although the official said that the administration was not going to “publicly or privately” tell allies not to arm the FSA, as a matter of fact, Washington has been quite verbose these last three weeks, and its message to regional allies, like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, against arming the opposition, has been unmistakable. After all, the US Secretary of State herself twice said that arming the Syrian opposition might be like sending weapons to Al-Qaeda.

    It’s clear that President Obama, who’s running on a policy of extrication from the region, sees that opening the door to military aid risks drawing the US in. Despite the increased pressure to move in that direction, the president is determined to keep the US out of the game.

    This was not lost on Al-Sharq Al-Awsat’s Homayed. “[I]t is clear that Obama is not concerned with the security of the region… rather [he] is preoccupied with his re-election bid,” he wrote in his column.

    The Saudis may not yet have gone as far as Senator John McCain, who the other day called the administration’s policy “disgraceful and shameful.” However, with their media now openly labeling President Obama as part of the problem alongside Assad’s Russian allies, they’re hardly being subtle.

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