Propaganda, slander, and envious gossip about the effectiveness of the Russian air strikes are all part of the discussions about the operations of Russia’s Aerospace Defense Forces in Syria, although approval of «Putin’s loyalty to his allies» – compared with that «big wuss» Obama – can also be heard. But there has been no careful examination of one fairly important reason why Russia is supporting Syria’s Bashar al-Assad…
Obviously, by operating far beyond its borders Russia is preventing the arrival of jihadists onto its own shores. And well it should. The accusations that Russia is hanging on to its «naval base» in Tartus are nonsense of course. Not even John McCain has ever thought to suggest that this modest supply and maintenance installation on the Syrian coast with two floating piers that are able to accommodate only small and medium-sized vessels actually represents a threat to the US military bases that dot the Persian Gulf.
Those who are reacting to Russia’s more confident moves on the international stage with fits of irritation mixed with bewilderment write that Putin wants to «divert Russians’ attention from internal problems» and that the effectiveness of Russia’s military operations in Syria is only a reflection of the helplessness of the Obama administration. Or they inform the world – as Michael Ignatieff, a professor at Harvard’s John F Kennedy School of Government, wrote with breathless melodrama in the Financial Times, how «free Aleppo is dying under continuing Russian bombardment» and «Mr Assad is re-establishing his tyranny».
However, for some reason everyone is forgetting what seems to me to be one crucial fact: because of Russia’s mediation efforts in 2013-14, Syria voluntarily pledged not to use the chemical weapons that were in its possession.
Whether or not it was right for Bashar al-Assad to have relied on his chemical weapons must remain a separate argument. Many small states have learned from the examples of Yugoslavia, Iraq, and Libya that if they face aggression from a «global hegemon» and its allies, the United Nations will not protect them, and so they are now creating or upgrading their arsenals of weapons of mass destruction. North Korea has nuclear weapons, and other nations have chemical stockpiles. At one time Obama drew a «red line» for Damascus, threatening war if they did not comply with the demands for their chemical disarmament. Back then Russia helped America to avoid yet another war. Assad disarmed and… nevertheless still ended up with a war that is being conducted by the American clientèle in the Middle East.
Chemical weapons are not terribly difficult to manufacture, dozens of countries can do it. And mind you, seven countries have never signed the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention. So what now? Will Washington again draw a «red line» and threaten to invade?
And what if the leader of the next government that the White House decides to label a «rogue state» recalls Assad’s fate and risks using chemical weapons? The calculation is simple: 100-200 body bags from the newest «hot spot» and the American public will without question force their president to cut and run, like when the US pulled out of Somalia.
But Syria – and the world has to be able to see this – was disarmed right in front of the power that continues to threaten it. I assume that not only the seven states that have not signed the Chemical Weapons Convention, and others as well, have learned this lesson from Syria and drawn conclusions from it. In that sense, the US policy has been a real fiasco.
On June 23, 2014 the international Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons reported that the last batch of chemical weapons in Syria had been sent out of the country for destruction. And then what? Afterward, Carla Del Ponte, a member of the UN Commission investigating human rights violations in Syria testified about the evidence they had found in regard to the use of Sarin during the Syrian civil war, stating, «what appeared to our investigation was that that was used by the opponents, by the rebels».
Shouldn’t the Americans now work to disarm their own protégés, on the basis of the same Chemical Weapons Convention they used to threaten Assad? This is, of course, a rhetorical question.
But Moscow learned long ago what kind of a «partner» the US really is, and so was forced to anticipate the risks in Syria’s renunciation of weapons of mass destruction. Syria will need to be protected. And currently Russia is protecting it. So the accusations regarding «Putin’s imperial ambitions» can be reserved for the American propagandists’ domestic audience.