Last Updated: Sun Feb 05, 2012 15:28 pm (KSA) 12:28 pm (GMT)

The Chinese and Russian Gamble in Syria

Ali Younes

The joint Russian and Chinese Veto that derailed the Arab-sponsored resolution at the Security Council against the Syrian regime on Saturday represent the two countries total disregard of human life and sending the wrong signal to Dictator Bashaar Al Assad.

The New York Times reported on Saturday prior to the UNSC vote that “Russia rejected the tentative plan on Friday and on Saturday.” The report also added that Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei V. Lavrov told Reuters that the resolution was “not hopeless” but must be amended to avoid giving the impression that the world body was taking sides in a civil war. “We are not saying that this resolution is hopeless,” He Said.

Mr. Lavrov apparent concern for neutrality in this one-sided war flies in the face of reason and human decency. His statement is akin to asking a bystander to stay on the sidewalk and turn his face the other way while a deranged killer brutally murders his victims. One cannot and shouldn’t stay morally neutral between a victim and his killer, otherwise one risks becoming un-human.

The Russian-Chinese veto comes as death toll from the latest assault on the Syrian city of Homs rose to over 300 people in one day according to news reports. The continued bloodshed stands as a grim reminder of the Assad family brutal determination to spare no effort or weapon in its mad dash to stay in power regardless of the cost in human life.
Martin Jerisat, an Arab American attorney and political commentator based in California, stated that “while the Arab League is a dysfunctional organization, it should do more to support the Syrian people by cutting off all diplomatic relations with the regime and end their trade ties with Russia and China.”

it’s worth noting meanwhile that Russia and China have no love lost for Assad, their gamble of supporting him assume that Assad will survive the uprising and run into Russia’s and China’s arms weakened and vulnerable and hence giving them strategic bases and much needed influence in the region.

Although Syria is a poor country with very little oil to trade with and very few economic incentives to offer to either country, Its importance for both countries,however, lie in its strategic location bordering powerhouses Turkey and Israel, and by giving them leverage against the US and Europe over trade and military ties with Central Asia and Africa.
Arab American political analyst Osama Abu Katta criticized The Russian and Chinese veto at the Security Council saying that “the Russians and the Chinese are not wining any hearts and minds in the Arab World; On the contrary, their immoral support for Assad is making them the most reviled states in the region.”

Either Russia or China has not been historically reliable allies of the current and past Arab dictators anyway. Russia’s as well as China’s support for the late Libyan dictator Moammar Qaddafi against his own people, proved that neither one of them is concerned about the loss of human life or the plight of Arab citizens. Their support for Qaddafi ended up costing them invaluable trade and economic ties with the new Libyan government.
Bashaar Al Assad might have crossed the point of no return in his open war against his people, he and his international allies are in lose-lose situation. The Assad family hold on power is in a slippery slope stage amid the rising death toll and increased anti-regime demonstrations. For the Russians and the Chinese stacking up all of their cards with him is a tantamount to committing to a diplomatic suicide.

Russian and Chinese moves at the Security Council might be tentative depending on how weak or how strong Assad’s grip on power will evolve. Moreover, both countries have an inherent military and economic weakness vis-à-vis the United States and Western Europe; therefore they cannot continue to stand behind Assad indefinitely while the world anger grows more rapidly over the rising bloodshed in Syria. Their weakness was evident during the American wars against Iraq in 1991 and in 2003 where in both cases Russia and China stood spineless against the United States and failed to prevent an attack against their ally Saddam Hussein. At the end they ended up selling him down the river like a spent cartridge in exchange for future considerations by the US. The same scenario took place with Qaddafi only few months ago and there is no telling that it won’t happen to Assad.

(Ali Younes is a writer and an analyst based in Washington D.C. He can be reached at and on twitter @ClearAli. )

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