[Marxism] Rats jump from sinking ship?
lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Dec 7 06:20:22 MST 2012
In Syrian war's end game, Moscow maneuvers away from Assad
By Carol J. Williams
December 7, 2012, 2:00 a.m.
As concerns mount that Syrian President Bashar Assad could unleash
chemical weapons against his opponents, the Kremlin appears to be
recalibrating its support for a desperate ally.
Russia three times has wielded its veto power in the U.N. Security
Council to shield Assad from international condemnation for brutality
against Syrians fighting for his ouster, a 21-month-old siege that by
some accounts has taken 40,000 lives and displaced 2.5 million.
Russian President Vladimir Putin signaled the first step back from
ardent defense of Assad after a meeting with Turkish Prime Minister
Recep Tayyip Erdogan this week. Putin and Erdogan left their Istanbul
meeting still occupying opposite positions on the need for Turkey to
defend itself from stray Syrian rocket fire with NATO-supplied Patriot
missiles, according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. But they also
agreed to pursue “some new, fresh ideas” in hope of resolving the
intractable conflict, Peskov said.
Pentagon chief Leon E. Panetta said Thursday that Western intelligence
agencies had been warning in recent days that the increasingly isolated
Assad may be positioning missiles to fire payloads of sarin gas against
Though Moscow and Washington have been bitterly divided over a potential
role for Assad’s loyalists in a post-war Syria, the erstwhile
superpowers share concern about the potential for horrific escalation if
Assad turns to his poison gas arsenal for a last blast at the rebels or
the neighbor states he accuses of supporting them.
Jolted out of their diplomatic standoff by the prospect of chemical
warfare, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of
State Hillary Rodham Clinton met twice Thursday on the fringes of a
human rights gathering in Dublin, Ireland. In the second meeting, they
were joined by the special U.N. and Arab League envoy on Syria, Lakhdar
“We haven’t taken any sensational decisions,” the Associated Press
quoted Brahimi as saying after the meeting. “But I think we have agreed
that the situation is bad, and we have agreed that we must continue to
work together to see how we can find creative ways of bringing this
problem under control and hopefully starting to resolve it.”
The U.S. State Department issued a brief statement saying that the next
step would be a meeting of Brahimi and senior U.S. and Russian officials
in the next few days to discuss "taking this work forward."
As the chief U.S. and Russian diplomats huddled in Dublin, Deputy
Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov was sending positive messages via
Twitter about reports that the United States was about to declare the Al
Qaeda-linked Al Nusra Front a terrorist organization. Russia has long
accepted Assad’s assertions that the rebellion in Syria is driven by
foreign enemies, and the U.S. branding of Al Nusra, which is allied with
the rebellion, gives Moscow another patch of common ground on which to
stand with Washington.
Russian officials are now modifying their stance toward Assad because it
is becoming increasingly obvious that he will eventually be toppled,
international security experts say.
“Russian officials certainly sound as though they've downgraded Assad's
survival chances,” said Stephen Sestanovich, senior fellow for Russian
and Eurasian studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.
It remains to be seen, Sestanovich said, whether Moscow is just
repositioning itself diplomatically ahead of Assad’s fall or seeks to
play a direct role in negotiating an end to the conflict, perhaps
persuading Assad to take up one of the rumored offers of foreign exile.
Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad recently visited the
Venezuelan capital of Caracas, triggering speculation that the leftist
leadership of ailing President Hugo Chavez was open to giving refuge to
the embattled Assad and his top lieutenants. The Guardian newspaper of
Britain and Israel’s Haaretz have also reported alleged asylum offers
from Cuba, Ecuador, Tunisia, Qatar, Belarus and Russia.
Andrew Tabler, Syria expert at the Washington Institute for Near East
Policy, dismisses the notion that Assad would be safe in foreign exile
from assassination by angry countrymen, with the possible exception of
Iran. He holds out the prospect that Assad could live up to his promise
never to abandon his Syrian homeland, especially if the civil war is
ended by breaking the country into sectarian components. Assad is of the
minority Alawite population, a Shiite Muslim-aligned sect concentrated
in the mountainous coastal region of Latakia.
Assad’s fall would be a blow to Russia, no matter how Syria’s chief ally
scrambles in the civil war’s 11th hour to put itself on the right side
of history, Tabler said. Opposition forces will dominate any post-Assad
leadership, and many will hold a grudge against the country that propped
up their nemesis through the long bloodletting.
“The Russians don’t want him. Anyone who takes him in is going to be the
target of a lot of anger,” Tabler said.
Moscow wants to avoid becoming the object of bitter resentment, Tabler
said, as the United States did by sheltering the shah of Iran after the
Islamic Revolution, setting in motion an adversarial relationship that
persists more than three decades later.
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