It should come as to no surprise that China and Russia decided to veto the European-draft resolution condemning Syria at the Security Council earlier in the week despite the swinging rhetoric that marked the failed attempt to condemn the Syrian regime.
One thing for certain about the Russian and Chinese veto is that it should not be understood as an endorsement for the Syrian regime’s brutal crackdown on the peaceful protesters, or as a sign of Chinese and Russian alliance with the Al Assad’s regime.
The heart of the matter for the Chinese and the Russians is to make a stand against the Western powers attempt to repeat the same methods used in Libya that eventually led to a regime change and lose their political and economic interests in Libya.
Their initial reluctance to join the NATO air campaign against Libya eventually led to their exclusion from the lucrative business and rebuilding contracts in post Qaddafi era, serve as a backdrop for their veto that handed the Syrian regime its first international victory at the Security Council.
While Buthaina Shaaban, the Syrian regime spokeswoman, asserted that the veto at the Security Council was a “historic event” that showed international support for the Syrian regime and in essence a rare and much needed “victory” for the embattled Assad’s regime.
It is understandable, however, that Shaaban’s attempt to spin this victory in the best possible way that will help her boss to cling to whatever ray of hope out there to save his family’s hold on power.
But Shaaban should not be too optimistic about the Russians and the Chinese motives. The Russians and the Chinese realize that in such globalized international relations they cannot afford to appear to be defending a regime that has been waging a war against its own people, and expect their international standing and economic interests in the region to remain the same.
It is the case of Libya, however, that is currently shaping how western powers, Arab states represented by the Arab league, the Russians and the Chinese are dealing with the Syrian uprising. The Arab League support for the military intervention in Libya where some of its member states actively participated in the military campaign against Qaddafi was a rare international relations moment of cooperation between regional and international actors.
Without the active military and political support of the Arab League members it would have been very difficult for the western powers to muster the Security Council to pass the 1973 resolution that authorized the use of force against the Qaddafi regime and referring the Libyan leaders to the International Criminal Court, ICC, for prosecution.
The failure of the Security Council to condemn the Syrian regime, shows that the Libyan case was indeed a rare moment of cooperation between international and regional actors whose common interests aligned together to remove one regime from power and install another. At this point, as evident by this veto, the stars are not completely aligned together against the Syrian regime.
The Arab League has yet to take a firm stand against Al Assad and his regime, the US under the Obama administration is not in the mood to take a militant stance here as evident by the recent congressional confirmation of the US ambassador to Syria, while the Europeans are hoping that the Syrian regime would fall under its own weight if enough political and economic sanctions were imposed against it.
Under such conditions, it is not surprising, moreover, that the ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo is still silent on the case of Syria comparing with his outspoken public pronouncement on Libya.
That said, however,the current conditions do not rule out a change in the Chinese and Russian positions if the western powers enticed them with economic incentives in Libya or future role in shaping post Assad’s Syria and if enough influential Arab states decided it is time to join the West to remove Al Assad family from power.
Ali Younes is a writer and Middle East analyst based in Washington D.C. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org