Syrian demonstrate against Assad 390 R.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Protesters at Syrian embassies in European and Arab capitals, after the weekend
showdown at the UN Security Council, missed the mark. The Russian embassy would
have been the more appropriate place to show their outrage.
vote was the closest the UN has come to taking meaningful action against the
bloodthirsty Syrian regime. While the resolution passed overwhelmingly, 13 to 2,
the two opposed, China and Russia, exercised their veto power as promised. It
was a repeat of what happened in October, when the same dual veto dashed the
hopes of the Syrian people for international support to end President Bashar
What was new this time was that Arab countries were
urging Security Council action. The Arab League lost all patience with Assad
months ago. Arab leaders warned him repeatedly to end his campaign of violence
against his own people.
Assad’s unresponsiveness earned him a series of
rebukes from the Arab League, which expelled Syria as a member, imposed
sanctions, and adopted a plan – which Assad initially accepted in early November
– that would have him withdraw his troops from Syrian cities and then step down
For the Arab League, the final straw prompting its appeal
for UN action was the regime’s murder of hundreds more even while the league’s
human rights monitors were visiting Syria.
Adding to the painful
frustration, it took most of last week to reach the shameful
From the beginning of deliberations on the resolution introduced
by Morocco, the only Arab country on the Security Council, Moscow defiantly
warned against any attempt to take any action against Assad.
Reuters, Assad was dining calmly at a popular Damascus restaurant a week before
the Security Council vote. He is apparently unmoved by the carnage his regime
has wrought across the country, which in recent days had reached the suburbs of
Russia, Assad’s staunchest ally, has been similarly unmoved by
the endless ferocity of the Assad regime, which decided to launch a merciless
assault on Homs, Syria’s third largest city, precisely as the Security Council
got ready to vote on a watered-down version of the
Concessions to Russia intended to secure its affirmative vote
included removing references to Assad giving up power, an arms embargo and
sanctions. The revised version, negotiated between US Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as the death toll in Homs
rose to more than 250, eviscerated the Arab League recommendations.
turns out that Moscow, as well as Beijing, was playing the same game as Assad,
ignoring the will of the international community to resolve the Syrian crisis.
Russia stood firm in opposing what it, and Assad, view as outside interference.
Let the “Syrians decide themselves,” Lavrov declared. But in Assad’s view, there
is only one Syrian decider, himself.
Despite Russia’s appearance of
openness to negotiating the terms of a UN resolution, it has never wavered in
its unconditional support for Assad. Fouad Ajami, writing in The Wall Street
Journal, calls the Syrian crisis “the last battle of the Cold War.” Syria is
critical to Russian interests. For one thing, Tartus is home to the only Russian
naval base outside the FSU. “The base is derelict, but it is better than
nothing,” says Ajami. And while Syria never will pay for the massive amounts of
Russian arms it receives, the uninterrupted supply both deepens the treacherous
relationship and emboldens Assad’s forces.
What will be written, in just
another month, on the first anniversary of the Syrian uprising? Will the most
deadly and destructive so far of any of the upheavals across the Arab world
finally be over? Or will Assad enjoy many more fine dining experiences as the
death toll rises far above 6,000, with no end in sight? Moscow holds the golden
key. All eyes will focus on the visit this week of Foreign Minister Lavrov to
Damascus. Assad and Lavrov have together so far ignored the US, EU, Arab League
and the UN secretary-general, all of whom pursued a UN Security Council
resolution to press for an end to the Syrian regime’s brutality.
protesters, deeply disappointed with Russia’s posture, are not holding their
Neither, for sure, are the 13 countries that voted in favor of
the vetoed Security Council resolution, or the many other governments that have
supported measures against Assad.
What Lavrov tells Assad, and what
Moscow does afterward, will largely determine the direction of this
tragedy.The writer is the American Jewish Committee’s director of media