President Bashar al-Assad said that Syria is capable of confronting any external aggression as it is facing a daily internal aggression by the armed terrorist groups, thanks to the steadfastness of the Syrian people and their support to the army.
President al-Assad was speaking during his meeting on Sunday with Chairman of the Foreign Policy and National Security Committee at the Iranian Shura Council, Alaeddin Boroujerdi.
President al-Assad said that Syria is achieving one victory after another until restoring security and stability to the homeland.
The two sides discussed the situation in the region and the latest developments related to the US threats of launching a military aggression against Syria.
President al-Assad affirmed during the meeting that the US threats will not discourage Syria from commitment to its principles and firm stances, and combating terrorism backed by regional and Western countries, especially the US.
For his part, Dr. Boroujerdi, expressed the support of the Iranian leadership and people to Syria in the face of aggression, stressing that the honest people in the region will not allow foreign schemes that are targeting Syria’s role and the security and stability of the region’s populations to pass.
He considered that any external aggression on Syria will be a failure and will backfire on the aggressors as the ”US and its agents in the region, especially the Zionist entity, will be the main loser in this adventure.”
The flimsy pretexts that Washington is using to justify its threats have become exposed to the international public opinion, Boroujerdi said, adding that Iran advises all people of common sense around the world to put pressure on the US to spare the region and the world the risks of inflaming wars that no one can control.
In the same context, Prime Minister, Dr, Wael al-Halqi and Foreign and Expatiates Minister, Walid al-Moallem met Boroujerdi and the accompanying delegation.
Deputy Foreign and Expatriates Minister, Dr. Fayssal Mikdad and Advisor to Foreign and Expatriates Minister Ahmad Arnous attended the meeting.
– U.N. experts investigating a poison gas attack in Syria left on Saturday, paving the way for the United States to lead military strikes to punish Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.
U.S. President Barack Obama said the United States, which has five cruise-missile equipped destroyers in the region, is planning a “limited, narrow” military action to punish Assad for an attack that Washington said killed 1,429 people.
“We cannot accept a world where women and children and innocent civilians are gassed on a terrible scale,” Obama said on Friday after Washington unveiled an intelligence assessment concluding Assad’s forces were to blame for the attack.
After laying out the case in a televised speech, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke on Friday to the foreign ministers of European and Gulf allies, as well as the head of the Arab League, a senior State Department official said.
The team of U.N. experts drove up to Beirut International Airport on Saturday after crossing the land border into Lebanon by road earlier in the day. No Western intervention had been expected as long as they were still on the ground in Syria.
The 20-member team, which had arrived in Damascus three days before the Aug. 21 attack to investigate earlier accusations, eventually visited the sites several times, taking blood and tissue samples from victims in rebel-held suburbs of Damascus.
Inspectors also took samples of soil, clothing and rocket fragments. However, their mandate is to determine whether chemicals were used, not who used them.
Washington says it does not need to wait for the inspectors to report, since it is already certain chemical weapons were used and convinced that Assad’s forces were behind the attack.
U.S. forces are likely to launch strikes jointly with France, which has strongly backed the use of force to punish Assad.
“The chemical massacre in Damascus cannot and must not go unpunished. Otherwise we’d run the risk of an escalation that would trivialise the use of these arms and put other countries at risk,” French President Francois Hollande told Friday’s Le Monde newspaper in an interview.
Britain also strongly backed action, but was forced to pull out of the coalition after Prime Minister David Cameron unexpectedly lost a vote over it in parliament on Thursday.
Turkey backs the use of force and Arab states in the region say Assad should be punished, although they have mainly stopped short of explicitly endorsing military strikes against him. Iran, which supports Assad, has warned of wider war.
Kerry said Washington must act to protect itself and its allies, including Syria’s neighbours Turkey, Jordan and Israel, from future use of banned weapons.
“If we choose to live in the world where a thug and a murderer like Bashar al-Assad can gas thousands of his own people with impunity” it would embolden others, such as Iran, Hezbollah and North Korea, Kerry said.
Syria and its main ally Russia say rebels carried out the attack as a provocation. Moscow has repeatedly used its U.N. Security Council veto to block forceful action against the Syrian leader and says any attack on Syria would be illegal and only inflame the civil war there.
“I am convinced that it (the chemical attack) is nothing more than a provocation by those who want to drag other countries into the Syrian conflict, and who want to win the support of powerful members of the international arena, especially the United States,” President Vladimir Putin said.
Syria’s Foreign Ministry repeated its denial that the government had used chemical weapons against its own people. Kerry’s accusations were a “desperate attempt” to justify a military strike. “What he said was lies,” the ministry said.
Washington says the Syrian denials are not credible, and the rebels would not have been able to launch such an attack.
The White House was to brief Republican senators on Syria in a conference call on Saturday at the request of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a spokesman for the senator said.
RESIDENTS PREPARE FOR STRIKES
In Syria itself, residents in and around Damascus readied themselves for a strike.
A man named Youssef carried a small plastic bag bulging with documents. “Do I put them in my parents’ home? My in-laws? At work? I don’t know which area is safer, I don’t know where to hide them,” he told a friend.
“That’s my marriage certificate, my passport, my home ownership deed, my college degree, and all my wife’s documents too. We can’t figure out where to put them for safekeeping.”
Doctors in the outskirts of the capital said they were training up teams and trying to secure shipments sent in by aid groups of atropine and oxygen, which are needed for treating poison gas victims.
“We worry about another chemical weapons attack should foreign powers carry out the strike, as some kind of revenge, or who knows what could happen,” said a doctor in the rebel-held suburb of Arbin, called Abu Akram.
Rebels said they were planning to take advantage of a strike to launch an offensive. Qassim Saadeddine, a former Syrian army colonel and spokesman for the rebels’ Supreme Military Council, said rebel groups had been sent a military plan of action.
“The hope is to take advantage when some areas are weakened by any strikes. We ordered some groups to prepare in each province, to ready their fighters for when the strike happens,” he told Reuters, speaking by Skype.
“They were sent a military plan that includes preparations to attack some of the targets we expect to be hit in foreign strikes, and some others that we hope to attack at the same time.”
It may be the least revolutionary country in the world, but this week Saudi Arabia won the full support of the world’s greatest insurrectionists.
Sayed Sami Hassan has been in Cairo’s Tahrir Square since January 25, 2011, and in that time has seen off an American-backed dictator, a military junta, and an elected Muslim Brotherhood president. He is the sort of street rebel whom, at home, Saudi Arabia’s autocracy most fears.
But this week he gave the absolute monarchs from across the Red Sea his absolute backing. “The Saudis are our brothers,” he said, from his tent in Tahrir’s continuous encampment.
“They are Muslims, they believe in God. President Morsi, now he was an agent of America and Qatar, but the Saudis are helping us.”
The shifts of allegiance in the Middle East in the last three years have been as startling as the convulsions of the Arab Spring itself. But the latest has caught diplomats, analysts and, to the extent they notice the relationships their masters quietly foster, Egypt’s ordinary people by surprise
Saudi Arabia, not long ago written off as a gerontocracy whose oil billions could not prevent it being outmanoeuvred by a host of rivals in the power struggles of the Middle East, has suddenly re-emerged as the region’s most powerful influence-peddler.
It announced its backing for the military’s swift disposal of President Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood government within two hours.
Then on Tuesday it opened its wallet, offering $5 billion in aid. Saudi Arabia’s neighbour and ally, the United Arab Emirates, added $3 billion more, while Kuwait offered $4 billion. In his year in office, Mr Morsi’s government was bailed out to the tune of $8 billion by Qatar – but its Gulf neighbours had beaten that easily in just a week.
There is no evidence that Saudi Arabia was involved in the plot, well-executed and clearly planned in advance though it was.
But the Egyptian defence minister, Gen Abdulfattah al-Sisi, clearly had an air of confidence in Egypt’s future about him when he announced what had happened, despite inheriting an economic black hole, beset by power cuts, fuel shortages, and, it was later revealed, with just two months’ supply of wheat remaining.
On Sunday Egypt’s prosecutor signalled that there would be no let up against Mr Morsi, who remains in detention. It took the unusual step of announcing a criminal investigation against the the country’s democratically elected leader on suspicion of spying, inciting violence and ruining the economy. Several other senior Brotherhood figures already face charges of inciting violence.
The Gulf monarchies are not just being altruistic. While Qatar has emerged in the last few years as the Arab world’s most important, and certainly richest, backer of the Muslim Brotherhood, its Gulf neighbours regard the group’s reformist, populist brand of political Islam with suspicion and, in the case of the UAE, loathing.
It was no coincidence that the UAE’s money was handed over personally by Sheikh Hazza al-Nahyan, the UAE’s national security adviser – this was something close to home, not a matter of charity or mere foreign affairs.
Both Saudi Arabia and the UAE were aghast that President Hosni Mubarak was forced to quit two years ago. They were particularly upset that President Barack Obama, who had originally offered what they regarded as a pragmatic view of the Muslim world in place of his predecessor’s aggressive “democracy promotion”, had not stood behind America’s long-term Middle Eastern place-man.
Neither country has been reassured by what has happened since. Mr Morsi infuriated both by appearing to open the door to rapprochement with Iran, which they regard as the region’s main source of trouble, while both feared Egypt would send support to Brotherhood cells in the Gulf. The UAE only last week convicted 69 people it said were allied to the Brotherhood for “plotting a coup”.
“Saudi and the UAE were very unhappy with Morsi’s government and its impact on the region,” said Theodore Karasik, research director at the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis. “They took advantage of Morsi’s failures to engineer this change of government and are seeking to shape policy according to their own vision.”
He said there was no concrete evidence of prior negotiation between Egypt’s military and either country. However, Ahmed Shafiq, Mr Mubarak’s last prime minister who lost closely to Mr Morsi in last years’ presidential election run-off, has been living in Abu Dhabi, the UAE capital, and acting as an adviser to its rulers.
Mr Shafiq predicted the coup before the military made its final, 48-hour ultimatum to Morsi. “No doubt, even though I’ve been sitting here [in Abu Dhabi] I’ve had a role in what’s happening,” he said.
Both Gen Sisi and Adly Mansour, the chief justice appointed as interim president by the generals, have old ties with Riyadh – Gen Sisi was once military attache there, while Mr Mansour spent seven years as an adviser to the Saudi ministry of commerce.
The sudden resurgence of Saudi influence is not only being felt in Egypt.
There was a far less-noticed coup in the hotel corridors of Istanbul last week, where the Syrian opposition plot and bicker, a process seemingly so irrelevant to the fighting in Aleppo and Homs that it largely passes unnoticed.
But the day before Saudi’s money was sent to Egypt, it won another small battle when Ghassan Hitto, who was said to be close to Qatar and the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, finally resigned as the interim prime minister of the Syrian National Coalition. Two days earlier, Saudi’s man, Ahmad Assi Jarba, a tribal sheikh of more traditional bent, became its president.
Meanwhile, American liaison officers to the Syrian rebels, said to be aghast that Qatar-funded arms supplies are ending up in the hands of jihadists, are trying to work with the Saudis to persuade the “West-friendly” factions to take on the al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra even before tackling the Assad regime.
Analysts attempting to decipher the opaque world of the Gulf’s royal families say these moves are not just a sign of rising Saudi self-confidence, but a result of a change of leadership within Qatar itself.
The ruler there, Sheikh Hamad al-Thani, one of the world’s richest men, recently handed over power to his son, Crown Prince Tamim. Although he himself stressed his age, it was seen locally as less of a sign that Qatar was about to become a North Europe-style “bicycling monarchy” and more that conservative local clan leaders were unhappy with his international image as a sponsor of political Islam.
Crown Prince Tamim, a 33-year-old educated at British public schools and less at ease with the fierce rhetoric of Brotherhood clerics, is said to have withdrawn support from his father’s clients. According to one rumour he has even made Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, the Brotherhood’s spiritual mentor and a long-time Qatar resident, persona non grata.
The gilded chandeliers of Gulf palaces are a long way from the painful changes afoot in Egypt and Syria, and certainly from their mass street protests. But it is an irony that leaders of Tamarod, or “Rebellion”, the Egyptian youth protest movement that brought millions to the streets on June 30 to call for Mr Morsi to go, now find themselves allied to Saudi Arabia, where such demonstrations would have been snuffed out months before.
“Stability in Egypt and a successful transition are in the interests of all Arab countries, including the Gulf,” said Mohammed Abdulaziz, one of Tamarod’s three main leaders, words that could have come out of any general or prince’s mouth.
He claimed that Egypt was still the “big sister” or natural leader of the Arab world. “For sure, Egypt cannot just be a client state for anybody,” he said.
At Sayed Hassan’s Tahrir Square tent, an older man backed up his insistence that Egypt had not just replaced America and then Qatar, as sponsors of dictatorship with another – Saudi Arabia. “The Egyptian people will never be tricked again,” said Ahmed Mahmoud, 60. Mr Hassan’s response suggested his rhetoric outmatched his confidence. “Egyptian people” he said, “are deceived sometimes. Just not every time.”
Russia‘s pledge to deliver anti-aircraft missiles to Damascus at a time when world powers are trying to end Syria‘s civil war is consistent with a pattern of using the weapons system as a bargaining chip in its power struggle with the West.
Russia has said it is committed to sell the S-300 surface-to-air missiles as a deterrent against foreign military intervention, under a contract struck in 2010 with President Bashar al-Assad.
But Western powers who are trying, along with Russia, to organise an international conference to end the 26-month-old conflict say such a delivery would be hugely counter-productive.
“No one knows if this conference will become a success, but it is the wrong message which has been sent by Russia to the world and to the region by delivering S-300 or other weapons,” German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said on Friday.
Secret WikiLeaks cables show that Russia has played this game before, in particular with the long-range S-300 that Israel, for one, sees as a “red line” threat to its airspace.
Russia’s determination to supply Syria mirrors an earlier commitment to Iran, though it long assured diplomats it had no intention of sending S-300s to either country, the cables show.
Russia was well aware of the “destabilising” effect of supplying weapons like the S-300 to the Middle East, one September 2008 cable quoted Viktor Simakov, Counselor for Israel and Palestine in Russia’s Foreign Ministry, as saying.
“Simakov reiterated that Russia understood very well Israel’s concern about either Syria or Iran obtaining the Iskander or S-300 missile systems,” the cable said.
Syria had upset Russia by allowing an earlier delivery of anti-tank missiles to fall into the hands of militant Islamist group Hezbollah, and Russia promised tighter “end user controls” in future.
Syria tried to obtain missiles in 2008 by offering to host Russia’s own missile defences on its territory, matching U.S. missile defences in Europe that Russia objects to. Although Russia did sign a contract in 2010, it did not then agree; Israel’s promise not to sell arms to Georgia during the Georgia-Russia war that August may have outweighed Syria’s offer.
Speculation was mounting in late 2008 that Russia was planning to honour its 2005 contract to supply S-300s to Iran. But Russian officials assured the U.S. charge d’affaires in Moscow that the transfer would not be completed until Iran complied with its nuclear obligations, according to one cable.
But by early 2009, the sale looked like it was going to take place, and Washington asked six allied Middle Eastern countries to raise the issue immediately with Russia.
The move appeared to pay off, although then-U.S. Ambassador to Moscow John Beyrle expected Russia to keep pressing the issue, for financial, political and foreign policy reasons.
The Iran sale was merely “frozen”, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told U.S. Senator Carl Levin in 2009, and hinted that Russia did not want to be challenged again.
“The less we hear from Washington about this, the better,” an April 2009 cable quoted Ryabkov as saying.
Russian officials told Amos Gilad, at that time head of the political-military bureau in Israel’s Ministry of Defence, that the missiles to Iran would not be delivered for political reasons.
“However, Gilad said the Russians would reassess this political calculation should the United States continue to pursue missile defense plans in Poland and the Czech Republic,” said a cable dated July 30, 2009.
In the end, Russia scrapped the sale in 2010, and in what may have been a quid pro quo, the Israelis agreed to sell Russia surveillance drones that would narrow its technological military gap with Georgia.
“For better or for worse, the delivery of S-300’s have become a barometer of our bilateral relations,” Ambassador Beyrle wrote in 2009.
First came confirmation that the interview was on. We flew to the Qatari city of Doha.
And waited…And waited…Then we were given a day, then two hours notice – a location.
That is an area of the city and a time. No address – just initial directions to the general area.
We proceeded junction to junction; roundabout to roundabout, stopping to receive new directions at each way point.
A Mossad injection 15 years ago very nearly killed the man we were going to see. Three years ago another top Hamas official was assassinated in a Dubai hotel room by a group of Mossad agents dressed up as tennis-playing tourists on faked passports – including British ones.
So the Palestinian group Hamas, do not take chances. Elected to power in Gaza over, yet deemed “a terrorist organisation” by the US and the EU, Hamas remains committed to denying Israel’s right to exist and resisting Israel by force of arms.
We arrived at a villa after several calls for the next stage of directions. “So who owns this place then?”
“It is owned by a man,” came the reply from the genial man in charge of welcoming us to this safe house.
Several times the producer would ask the question, several times, exactly the same smiling reply. We hand in our mobile phones. We walk through an airport-style scanner. The film equipment is carefully, intimately, searched. Then tea, cakes, sweets and we wait.
Finally, the courtyard doors open again and Khaled Meshaal emerges from a 4×4 with guards. The boss of Hamas is with us.
Neatly trimmed beard, soft-spoken with a ready smile, careful to greet all our team and both cameramen with handshakes. Scrupulous not to neglect or ignore anybody in the room. The guards take up postions by the door and outside. Open- necked shirt, neat, dark jacket: the technocrat, fixer, pragmatist, very much intended look.
I start with Syria.
Hamas left Damascus in January last year, for Doha. Goodbye to his longtime friend and ally President Bashar al-Assad: “The military approach is wrong. It makes the crisis worse. It doesn’t solve anything,” he explains, “it only makes it more complicated. What we are witnessing today proves our advice was right.”
So advice to Assad to seek a political solution when it looked feasible. And now Hamas denies the accusations that it is supporting rebel Syrian groups like the Free Syrian Army.
“We do not interfere in Syrian internal affairs nor do we interfere in the Syrian Crisis and this is our policy towards the Arab Spring and all other Arab and non-Arab countries in the world,” he said.
“So when the British government wants to arm Syrian rebels they’re making a mistake?” I ask.
“Hamas policy is against any foreign intervention in our countries.This is our general principle. But at the same time we support the rights of people to freedom, democracy and reform and we are against the use of force and violence, massacres, and military options against them. We support people to win their rights, but we are against foreign intervention.
“The international community has been talking about this for months and I think there is a kind of deception going on, and that there is a hidden agenda from many international parties to prolong the Syrian crisis and destroy Syria. These parties do not want to see recovery for Syria…they use positive slogans but in reality their attitude identifies with the Israeli agenda of destroying Syria, more death, and prolonging the Syrian crisis.”
I ask: “In moving to Doha you are sending a clear message to Assad that he should go?”
“No no, this is not what we meant. We, as the leadership of Hamas, had to leave Damascus the moment we felt that our efforts to convince the Syrian leadership to choose a solution other than the military one failed. On the other hand, the Syrian leadership was not happy with Hamas’ political stance and also, I felt they wanted to put pressure or demand on us to stand by the official Syrian position and support the leadership in their military solution to the Syrian issue … this is why we did not feel then I could stay, so we left – circumstances forced itself on us, but if Assad goes or stays, that’s up to the Syrian people not to us,” is the reply.
“But you moved to Qatar,” I say, “which more than any other supports the rebels in Syria. You’ve betrayed a great friend in Bashar al-Assad and betrayed Iran.”
“I explained to you why we left and this not a betrayal of any one We did not mean to anger any party by our political position, we just stuck to our principles.”
But it’s clear the move has been difficult. Relations with Syria are strained to put it mildly. Qatar has long been the key sponsor of the uprising in Syria. The Emir recently visited Gaza, and as we speak Qatari money is rebuilding the ruins of Israeli bombing back in Gaza.
And then Israel itself.
Bizarrely Hamas and Israel may even find themselves close to being on the same side over Syria. Israel bombs, Hamas leaves Damascus and seeks refuge in the coutry supporting the rebels. How deep is the rift with Assad? If profound, then on the basis that my enemy’s enemy is my friend Hamas could be uncomfortably close to The Zionist Entity as they would have it:
“If you use this kind of description,” says Mr Meshal, “how can you explain the Israeli assault against us in Gaza months ago?
“The aggression that killed our great leader Ahmad Al-Jaabary after we left Syria. Israel looks after its own interest and has its own policy of assault no matter which country it’s assaulting, if it’s Lebanon or Syria or any other country in the World. Israel is our enemy.”
So does Hamas continue with its position of stating that Israel clearly exists de facto but has no legitimacy to exist in law?
“I am surprised that the world keeps concentrating on the recognition of Israel and its right to exist, while it is an existing state on the ground, occupying the land and expelling its people while practising all manner of killings, aggression and terror. In all civil and religious laws in the world, there is no legitimacy to any one who establishes themselves by means of violation and the seizure of land and the rights of others. Does the international community accept this equation?”
“So yes or no? Does Israel have the right to exist Mr Meshal?”
“You ask your question your way, so let me answer you in my way. I’m telling you, we are the real owners of the land. We have the right to live freely without occupation, settlements, aggression, prisons and Jewishisation of the land.The law I believe in and I think it’s the same for every human being in the world, not only the Arabs and all Muslims is that there is no legitimacy or future for occupation or aggression.”
I wondered if there were any circumstances in which he could conceive of shaking hands with the Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu?
“Although the question is legitimate, how can I have peace with a killer like Netanyahu. Think logically. I am the Palestinian victim, my land is occupied, and my people are displaced. Netanyahu is waging war against my own people, and denies my rights, so why would the world expect me to shake his hand in the future? There was a historical handshake between Rabin and Arafat, God bless his soul, in the White House Garden when they signed Camp David Agreement, but what was the result? This hand, Arafat’s, the hand that shook Rabin’s hand was poisoned and killed by Rabin’s followers after that.”
He accuses Israel of somehow relishing concessions from Arabs in the Middle East for their own sake and here the historical self-image of Hamas is tellingly revealed.
“It’s a kind of sadism because it enjoys and relishes the Arab concessions. This is why the only answer to this situation is to take a rigid stance.
“You are in Britain and you are a respectable TV station. Why are the British proud of Churchill when he was dealing with Nazism when they occupied France and bombed Britain? Why did De Gaulle call for resistance to the German occupation of France from London? Why did he become a hero instead being criticised because of his lack of flexibility?”
With that, he takes his leave in a leisurely fashion. There are more talks with others in side the house before the guard shepherd him into the 4×4 and he leaves the house “owned by a man” and we can now retrieve our mobile phones and, after a suitable time has elapsed, leave the villa as well.
Talk about a tough neighbourhood. The unfolding tragedy in Syria has claimed more than 75,000 lives and created more than two million refugees; the Assad regime has used nerve agents against its own people; and Syrian rebel groups have videotaped executions and even engaged in cannibalism in the name of God. Lives have been lost and red lines have been crossed. Yet there seems to be no end in sight.
Besides the human cost to the people of Syria, the failure to address the crisis carries three main risks to all who have an interest in preserving peace and stability in the Middle East. First, the fires of tribal and sectarian
blood-feuds are not easily doused in our region. The longer this conflict goes on, the greater the chances that a post-Assad Syria will end up a Somalia – a failed state of constantly warring factions.
Second, the more often chemical weapons are used, even on a small scale, the greater the chances that they will be employed en masse. So too, with each passing day, the prospects grow that these weapons will fall into terrorist hands. Israel is acutely aware of this danger and is committed to doing whatever is necessary to prevent Hizbollah from obtaining Syria’s lethal arsenal.
Third, the Syrian crisis, dangerous as it is, detracts leaders from effectively tackling a problem whose risks are far more acute – a nuclear-armed Iran.
Admittedly, there are no easy answers for dealing with Syria. True, Assad’s armed forces are weak and debilitated by infighting. His air force and air defence systems could be destroyed in a relatively short time by powers both inside and outside the region. But that won’t necessarily end the fighting or secure the chemical weapons.
The other alternatives – a US, Nato or Turkish imposed “no fly zone”, the establishment of a safe corridor for refugees, and US or Israeli strikes against the chemical weapons facilities – are also not without significant risks.
While all these must remain on the table, right now the best chance for a successful resolution of the Syrian crisis is a diplomatic initiative led by Russia.
The Kremlin has at its disposal the necessary leverage to convince Assad to leave, or at least to stop the fighting. The Russians, for whom the naval bases in Tartous and Latakia have strategic importance, have invested a lot of political capital, financial resources and prestige in the Assad dynasty over the past four decades. They trained and equipped the Syrian army; they provided it with intelligence gathering capabilities. And they are on first-name terms with the Syrian generals who command the chemical weapons units.
Russian military support for Syria is not a thing of the past. Their readiness to provide Assad with improved radars for the Yakhont surface-to-sea missile systems is deeply concerning. Even more worrying is their intention to supply the Syrians with the S300 anti-aircraft system, which could alter the delicate balance of weapon systems in the region.
But despite this support, the Russian leadership, shrewd as ever, well understands that the Assad regime is ultimately doomed, even if the Kremlin prefers not to say so publicly. Nor does Russia want to see Islamic fundamentalists ruling Syria or endless civil war in a failed state. Russia has every reason to be a leading partner in a post-Assad Syria and to protect its strategic interests there.
That is why, in a mirror-image of what happened in Libya, where Russia was asked to support a European-led effort backed by the US, here Russia must be convinced to lead the international effort in Syria.
The Russians, like all of us, are far from perfect. But they are an important world power with special relevance to Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and the Middle East. Their interests and perspectives have to be seriously taken into account.
There will definitely be a price to be paid for Russia’s readiness to lead. Missile defence in Europe could be raised, as well as issues related to the “near abroad” (Ukraine, Belarus and the likes), the Caucasus power balance, possibly even some energy and trade concerns. But all these should not deter us from entering into this dialogue. They are all legitimate interests of Russia. The international diplomatic arena, though, is a Gestalt where everything is dependent on everything else. And the cards held by the US, Europe and other players make the West’s hand as strong, if not stronger, than the Russian one.
The Russians, however cool they play it, fully understand the urgency of the Syrian issue and the risks. They will surely drive a hard bargain. But President Putin operated in a very responsible manner when it came to the supply of advanced air defence systems to Iran. We still have several months before the S300s in Syria could turn operational. And however modern and effective the system is, it is not invincible or indestructible.
I believe that with the right approach, President Putin will act responsibly again, and I believe that a successful Russian-led effort in Syria could help transform its attitude towards constructive cooperation in other sour international theatres.
There is no reason why a mutually agreed special role for Russia in post-Assad Syria, to include recognising its naval interests, could not be found. While US Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent diplomatic efforts have not yet borne fruit, he and his administration should be applauded for trying sincerely to tackle it.
Given the high costs of allowing the carnage in Syria to continue and the high risks entailed in alternative courses of action, we should not abandon the effort. The key to Syria still lies in Moscow, and there is no time to wait.
Now that the Libya crisis is deepened is Britten ready to get involve as the interest of most British Industries is now at stake.
As we all know that where ever there’s Oil and then word Crisis is been mention there is always help at hand, wonder what will it be this time round to get our over stretch under cut Arm Force to be dumped in the middle of it all, surely it can’t be Weapon of Mass destruction this time and we all know what they will be fighting for.
Let’s see how long it is going to take for our Boys to be on the move.
Britten and America Saviour of the World to the Rescue in the Middle East once more.