It was not surprising that Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov made fun of Ahmed Muath al-Khatib, head of the Syrian National Coalition, for his “lack of expertise”.
By the same logic, it sounds pretty normal for the Iranian leadership to make fun of everyone who cares for Syria’s security and the welfare of the Syrian people when it proposed an alleged “political resolution initiative” while, in fact, the regime in Damascus has now become Tehran’s appendage in the Arab region.
What is tragicomic is that Iran’s “revolutionary” slogans and threats of destroying Israel and bringing the United States to its knees do not really bother them. In fact, both Washington and Tel Aviv have for the past two years been more worried about the possible alternative to the Syrian regime, which may mean they would rather see Syria itself being destroyed than al-Assad regime toppled.
Apart from the sentimentality of political discourse, which Mr. Lavrov apparently dislikes, it is important to seek a profound analysis of what the Syrian crisis has come to and what options still remain. In a joint press conference with Lavrov, the U.N.-Arab League Special Envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi warned Syrians and the International Community that if political settlement initiatives do not work, Syria will be “heading towards hell.”
This is quite an eloquent understatement. With the official number of deaths in Syria surpassing 50,000 and the infrastructure of the largest cities and the most vital economic facilities virtually destroyed, it seems we have reached “hell” already.
On the other hand, Lavrov assured his guest and all his listeners that Bashar al-Assad will not step down. He also affirmed Moscow’s unchanging stance, which he claims “does not support” al-Assad, even though it used three vetoes that prevented any deterrent action that may have stopped a murderous regime slaughtering its own people.
Moscow which is now shedding crocodile tears at the fate of the Syrian people still refuses to see any linkage between its support of al-Assad regime and the massacres it is perpetrating against the Syrian people. Worse still, Moscow still refuses to recognize that the despair and bitterness of the Syrian people; after nearly two years of “security” solution to the crisis, this has led to extremism and sectarian agitation.
Sure enough Moscow is entitled to protect its political, economic, and military interests in the Middle East, and it is benefiting from Iran’s growing influence in several Arab countries as long as Iranian rhetoric remains hostile to the United States. Furthermore, Moscow is keen not to lose its remaining areas of influence in the region for domestic reasons, mainly related to Vladimir Putin’s Tzarist-nationalist considerations.
In the meantime, Iran has its own interests embodied in a region-wide political and sectarian project. To implement it is sugarcoating its project with “causes” that endow it with legitimacy, such as striving to liberate Palestine, eliminate Zionism, resist American imperialism, and unify the Muslims. The last “cause”, obviously, can only be achieved under the auspices of the Supreme Guide.
Unfortunately, Iran’s alleged adoption of those “causes” has enjoyed some credibility in several parts of the region, yet a revision of facts on the ground proves that Iran’s project is actually creating a rift between Muslims and serving the interests of their enemies, and eventually it is the people who are now pay the price.
The occupation of Iraq, for example, which was orchestrated by the “Likudnik – Neo Cons” lobby in Washington, was met with Iran’s implicit blessings, and the current Iraqi government now receives direct orders from Tehran. Add to this the ongoing sectarian conflict that has ripped Iraq apart ever since.
A similar scenario sounds likely in Lebanon in the light of the rapid of growth of radical Sunni groups in an attempt to counter the unrestrained influence of Hezbollah.
Sectarian polarization can also been seen now in Syria, again owing to Iran’s direct intervention. This same intervention is what also caused internal divisions in Palestine and, thus, offered Israel the most precious gift, the dissolution of Palestinian unity, on a gold platter.
In view of the above, any settlement in Syria that does not start with the end of the regime would be a waste of time and would only bring about more destruction.
This is the truth that I presume Mr. Brahimi knows only too well, but Mr. Lavrov does not want to acknowledge.
(The writer is a columnist at Asharq al-Awsat where this article was first published on Dec. 31, 2012)