America Wants Assad Out Russia Opposes
Last week’s killing of three of Bashar Assad’s close associates — Defence Minister Dawud Rajha, Gen. Assad Shaukat (his brother- in- law) and Hasna Turkamani, former defence minister led to speculation that it was the beginning of the end for the Syrian President.
In earlier weeks, there was the defection of Syria’s Ambassador to Iraq to the rebels and then the defection of Manaf Tias, a very popular General and Brigade Commander of the elite Republican Army Guard. Fierce fighting continued to the capital Damascus as the weekend approached and rebel forces claimed to have made startling gains such as the capture of two of the four border outposts of Syria into Iraq and Turkey.
However, even Western political analysts warned ‘not to be carried away’ by the events because Assad’s forces were still showing ‘cohesiveness in battle’. Syrian armed forces were remaining very loyal to Assad even though the trend appears to be on the downslide for him.
Last week’s killings claimed by the Free Syrian Army caused panic among its neighbours particularly Israel and pro-Western Jordan. Syria is said to have the biggest stockpile of chemical weapons – Sarin gas, Mustard Gas and Cyanide. Syria was also one of six nations that had not joined the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1997, two others countries being Egypt and Israel. However America was not advocating military action against Syria as long as Assad remained in power but a report said that US officials had told New York Times that ‘the option had been presented by Israel’.
While America and the West apparently want Bashar Assad removed from presidency Russia has been fighting for his survival with the assistance of China. The recent visit of US Secretary of Foreign Affairs Hilary Clinton to Cairo and her cordial meeting with new Egyptian President and Leader of the Muslim Brotherhood Mohamed Morsi may give indications of the new American policy in the Middle East after the Arab Spring.
The meeting of an American Foreign Secretary with a leader of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood – the oldest Islamic political Organisation in the World which had been banned for most of the time in Egypt – would have been unthinkable a few years or even a year ago.
Why US wants Assad out
No doubt US foreign policy makers would have noticed that whenever free elections are held in predominantly Islamic countries, parties which push for implementation of radical Islamic laws and practices have been elected in preference to pro Western and even Liberal indigenous parties. In 1989 in Algeria under the a new constitution political associations were permitted the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) won 50 per cent of all votes in the Municipal Council elections and in the first stage of the national elections was also at the forefront when the army banned the FIS and took over power. That resulted in absolute chaos and rivers of blood.
In the recent elections after the overthrow of pro Western dictatorships in Tunisia and Egypt too, parties with radical Islamic agenda were elected. The liberals that catalysed the Arab spring could hardly get a toe-hold in the elected legislatures.
It is evident that America put on great pressure on the Egyptian military to permit the Muslim Brotherhood to form the government. Hillary Clinton declared that democracy and the will of the people must prevail. The Muslim Brotherhood openly declared that the freedom of the people will not be curtailed even though it has been an organisation that pushed for Islamic Sharia Law.
America may be coming to terms of co-existing with radical Muslim governments who do not push too hard their radical objectives.
In Syria the American and Western objectives for removing Assad have been stated but what they want after that is nebulous. They want Assad out but he can only be replaced by the Syrian Free Army dominated by Sunni Muslims opposed to the minority Alawite community of Bashar Assad. Most probably America will have to go along with a hardline Sunni in case Assad is removed.
Why Russia wants Assad to remain
Russia’s determined stand for Assad stems from the continued strong relations between the Syria since the days of the Soviet Union. Russia has been the main arms supplier to Syria from days gone by and it is rumoured that Syria is about to sign a $3.5 billion arms contract with Russia. It also has interests in maintaining its Mediterranean naval base at Tartous.
Russian commentator Konstanti Von Eggart, however, suggests that Russia’s desire is also to thwart America’s and the Western attempts to dictate to weak regimes, dominate them and this is illustrated in Russia’s defence of the Assad regime.
By this action Russia is telling the UN, the US or any other group that they have no right to decide on who should or should not govern a sovereign state. Since the 1999 NATO operations in Yugoslavia which resulted in Slobodan Milosevic being ousted, Moscow deeply doubted Western humanitarian rhetoric as nothing but a camouflage for regime change. The Russian commentator says that since the Orange Revolution of 2004 in Ukraine, Russian leaders were obsessed with the idea that the US and European nations were engineering the overthrow of governments that – for whatever reasons – they find unsuitable. Putin thinks that even Russia is a target of such machinations.
Russia’s strategy of helping Assad is: Help us to help you. That was the reason why Russia backed Koffi Annan’s six point peace plan for Syria. Russian officials would like to see round table talks held like in Yemen where strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh was removed from his post and granted immunity while his Vice President was made the head of state.
With Assad tottering so is Koffi Annan’s peace plan. The deadline for UN involvement in Syria was last Friday and the US announced that they had no intention of promoting UN peace initiatives in Syria again. Meanwhile Russia and China vetoed resolutions for stronger UN sanctions against Syria once again.
Blood continued to flow in Syria and both government and anti Assad forces are responsible.