(12/08/2013) I am a firm believer in the fact that Russia and China are to blame for the utter desolation and international butchery that is Syria. Aside from various external efforts to intensify the military aspect of the war, the two key powers hampered any diplomatic effort to resolve it. This abuse of their international responsibility is by far the most sinister of their actions as they halted any glimmers of peace in the region.
Soon after the Syrian uprising turned bloody and many militias became seriously armed, the United Nations and the civilized world grew more concerned at this civil war. This is when the newly appointed U.N. – Syrian envoy, Kofi Anan, began to formulate attempts to deescalate the conflict with a number of ceasefires and monitoring efforts. Despite agreeing to these, Assad’s regime instead ramped up the military effort, which in turn was matched by the so-called rebels. This in itself was inexcusable and highlighted the brutality of this bitterly selfish regime. But it was in the international theater were, on reflection, much graver actions against international stability were taken.
Russia and China vetoed not one British drafted U.N. Resolution but three. This essentially rendered any diplomatic efforts temporarily useless, summarized by Mr. Annan’s resignation roughly this time last year. Even the new breeze of optimism brought with Lakdar Brahimi’s appoint to the same post was dampened by his own cynicism after he failed to hint that success was by any means likely. From here, China remained essentially quiet on the subject while Russia, sometimes not so secretively, did all they could to ensure that one of their last remaining Middle Eastern allies clung to power, damn the civilian cost.
Aside from the infuriatingly hypocritical and highly doctored oratory that the Kremlin is no doubt used to, they actually have provided direct military support with equipment and funding. More importantly they have provided significant diplomatic cover, as I have mentioned before, which gives the regime further time to divide and conquer the rebels, who have until recently failed to receive any significant outside support from international establishments. Though now this is changing despite an increasingly fragmented and in some cases fundamentalist opposition.
The scene of international diplomacy is now changing. With little to nothing from Lakdar Brahimi, Saudi Arabia has taken it upon themselves to intervene and have directly gone to Russia with a sizeable amount of carrot, a significant arms deal, with a touch of stick, a pledge to not challenge Russias gas sales. Though no officials were able to comment on the news, as of now, I am sure this deal pricked the ears of the Russians much more than Kofi Annan’s attempts to broker a ceasefire last year.
To some, this may just highlight the inability of the U.N. to effectively deal with crisis (Syria being one of the most significant ones for quite some time with the death toll well over 100,000 and the refugee count in the millions with countless displaced inside the country) as perhaps the U.N. could have presented some more persuasive and bolstered options to those not willing. But it should more show the graveness of Russia and China’s abuses of their Security Council powers. I personally think it to be wrong to blame Kofi Annan for any failures to resolve the crisis as these aforementioned factors were well beyond his control.
Saudi Arabia’s attempts could also represent a changing shift in international diplomacy, and one for the worse in my opinion. On the surface it should be just as well that a new solution is being sought. Countless lives could be saved, stability could return to the region. Maybe even prosperity would once again show it’s face. This is all true but it is not a guarantee because the true goals of this new solution are not being sought for stability and universal human rights, but for various selfish issues. This lack of a morally sound common goal is why the situation is dire in the first place. Russia wanted to retain it’s despotic ally in the region (whose ties extend well back into the Soviet annals of history) and this new solution is based on Saudi Arabia’s attempt to protect the Sunni majority in the country. Though this is a very justified reason, the Sunni’s are being tyrannized and brutalized by not just Assad’s regime but by a fragmented opposition which contains many different sectarian sects who are just as much at war with each other as Assad, it is hard to see this is the only reason. Though this could be argued with U.N. intervention, it is much clearer and more transparent when the diplomacy is on an international scale, not between two unaccountable nation states.
In the case of Syria, any progress is welcome. If the Saudi’s can persuade Russia to relent in their fervent support of Assad, which is by no means likely, then serious progress could be made in halting yet another catastrophic episode in the Middle East. But let this not represent a change in the nature of international diplomacy where the likes of the United Nations or Western Powers are too spooked by the failures of Afghanistan and Iraq to even attempt to halt any further crises, which in itself can be a momentous catalyst of disaster.
If indecision is the handicap of conventional interventionist forces, then this is a damn site better than the opacity and agenda riddled one of certain closed, inter-state solutions.