08 February 2012

Redux of Libya in Syria? Don't Bet On It

Will a new coalition step into the breach in Syria? Given the similarities with Libya - Arab dictator, Soviet client state, religious-affiliated resistance, freedom of navigation thru the Med - it's tempting to dust off the Libya plan and press "play". Not likely goig to happen, though...

Perhaps in part because of the bad blood over Libya, the world body has reached no similar consensus over Syria. Rather, the opposite, with some of the harshest diplomatic language traded for years. To the United States, the vetoes were a "travesty." German ambassador Peter Wittig essentially said that Moscow and Beijing had Syrian blood on their hands.
"China and Russia will now have to assume that responsibility in the face of the international public opinion and especially in the Arab world, the Arab citizens and, of course, in face of the Syrian people," Wittig said.
Beyond the rhetoric, the vetoes had a more practical consequence. NATO officials have made it clear that the alliance cannot act, by enforcing a no-fly zone for example, without U.N. support. Writer Derek Flood, recently in Syria with elements of the Free Syrian Army, says NATO officials envision no role for the alliance in Syria this year. But they have not ruled out a "coalition of the willing" outside the NATO orbit.
Both Russia and China are wary of any international action supporting protest against authoritarian rule. And Syria has been first the Soviet Union's -- and now Russia's -- key ally in the region after Egypt 'defected' in the 1970s. As it has for decades, Russia still supplies the Syrian government with weapons. One Russian analyst, Ruslan Pukhov, told CNN: "Once the Assad regime vanishes, we have zero influence in the region."
According to Andrew Tabler of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, al-Assad has ably judged the "diplomatic red lines" to keep Moscow onside. There have been no massacres on the scale of what happened in Hama 30 years ago (when thousands were killed after a brief uprising against his father's rule) that might have forced Russia into a corner. The persistent drip of civilian casualties over almost a year has not unleashed a tide of irresistible outrage.

By: Brant

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