Eleven months after the onset of the Syrian unrest, which was triggered by the undeniable blunder of the security apparatuses in the city of Daraa in apprehending a number of students, there is no doubt that bids by internal players to defeat their opponents has been futile. The Syrian regime cannot silence its opposition, whom it calls terrorists, and the opposition groups have, unlike Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, not been able to topple the regime.
The balance in the internal scene has tempted some of the international and regional players to reenact the Yemen scenario in Syria, namely the gradual transition of power to the vice president and granting legal immunity to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. It’s still not clear whether Washington’s plan in Yemen, cloaked with a [Persian] Gulf Cooperation Council outfit, would succeed. It goes without saying that Syria’s situation is different from that of Yemen. Unlike Yemen, Syria enjoys an important role in the Middle East and is neighbor to Israel and any change in the country impacts the entire region.
After the veto of the anti-Syrian resolution in the Security Council, it appears that the UN will not be able to play an important role in the Syrian crises in the foreseeable future. The Saudi government has taken the plan for the transition of power in Syria to the United Nations General Assembly where no state holds a veto power and its ratifications are not guaranteed to be implemented. One of the reasons behind the inefficacy of the UN General Assembly is the US policies regarding Israel. The United States has always turned the assembly’s condemnations of the Zionist regime into worthless ratifications. Furthermore, the Saudi regime has never exhibited any initiative from itself in condemning the Israeli measures in the 1967 occupied territories in the UN General Assembly.
All in all, there is no doubt that the general assembly’s ratification will increase the pressure on Bashar al-Assad and pave the ground for his greater international isolation, encouraging other states to cut ties with Damascus.
The players who flexed muscles over Syria in the Security Council will take their battle outside Syria. France, representing the Western governments, seeks to create an international group in support of the Syrian opposition. France hopes that the 13 states which voted for the Security Council resolution against Syria to become a member of this group. However, it’s not clear whether India, Brazil and South Africa are interested in going along with this plan.
The group purported by France will be something like the “international contact group” which was formed to support the Libyan people. The experience of Libya preceded by Iraq, allows the US and other Western states to find ways to interfere in Syria outside the framework of the UN Security Council. Similar to Libya, the US will not lead the raid and will leave it to the European and Arab countries. Israel will also prefer to hide its enthusiasm for regime change in Syria in order to prevent Bashar Assad’s opposition from being accused of cooperating with a regime which has occupied part of their country.
The important mission of the group formed by France and other Western countries is to prevent the Assad government from attacking the armed opposition. Various plans are already on the table. Any measure can be taken under the cover of providing humanitarian aid to the Syrian people, including establishing a safety zone in Adlib province or enforcing a no-fly zone over Syria and even sending paratroopers in. The attack will be spearheaded by Turkey which is trying to pave the way for the raid by holding an international meeting.
On the opposite side, there are Russia, China, Iran, the Lebanese Hezbollah and some Palestinian groups. Hamas has kept its distance. The survival of the present Syrian regime is of importance to Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah as it is a pillar of the resistance against Israel. Obviously, any profound change, foreign intervention, or civil war in Syria will immediately leave its mark on Lebanon and further disturb its fragile security.
It is also important for China and Russia to prevent more domination of the United States over the Middle East and its valuable oil reserves. China has emerged as the world’s second biggest economy and needs Middle East’s oil to fuel its economic development without political oversight of the United States. Russia has clearly announced that it will provide Syria with new weaponry, including advanced MiG-29M2 warplanes whose contract was signed between Damascus and Moscow in 2007. This stride will convey the message that Russia is, by no means, ready to lose its superior and strategic position in Syria, and subsequently in the entire Middle East.
Russia’s deputy defense minister, Anatoly Antonov, recently announced that Russian military advisors are present in Syria’s military facilities as this region is of high importance to international military cooperation.
The Russian web-based newspaper, Pravda.ru, also wrote that Moscow’s insistence on defending Syria and bolstering its military strength is part of Russia’s comprehensive plan to counter Washington’s efforts to besiege Russia through establishment of its missile defense system in Europe and Turkey. Moscow, in return, is planning to reactivate its monitoring station at Mount Kassioun near Damascus, in order to monitor the West’s activities in the region. Damascus is only 160 km away from the border with Turkey.