Syria: Russia Takes Care Of Its Own


February 2, 2012: Government violence against demonstrators and armed rebels continues. On most days there are several hundred casualties country-wide. Pictures get out to the world media but this has been going on for a year now and no outside nation has been able to aid the opposition. The majority of Syrians want a new government but the dictatorship has powerful foreign friends, especially Iran and Russia. Iran provides cash, weapons, and terrorism specialists. Russia provides a veto in the UN, to prevent the organization of a UN military aid operation for the Syrian opposition. This prevents the kind of aid that the Libyan rebels got. The Russians lost a lot of money when the Libyan dictatorship was overthrown. For decades, Libya had been a major customer for Russian weapons. The new Libyan government will not buy any more Russian weapons and will not honor unpaid bills for past deliveries. Russia is determined not to lose Syria in the same way. This Russian opposition sends a message that a dictatorship can openly (via the Internet and cell-phone photos) slaughter their people and maintain tyrannical rule in spite of most UN members condemning this sort of misbehavior. If a tyrant has one of the few UN nations with a Security Council veto on their side, bloody repression can be used without fear of armed intervention. Most of the world doesn't like this but Russia is a nuclear power and determined to use its veto to serve Russian interests. For the moment, the Syrian majority are under fire and on their own. But not entirely because this is seen as a battle between Shia (the ruling minority in Syria and their Iranian patron) and Sunni (most of the Moslem world, led by Saudi Arabia). The Sunni neighbors (especially mostly Sunni Turkey and largely Sunni Western Iraq) are quietly providing weapons and sanctuary for Syrian Sunnis fighting the Shia Syrian dictatorship. But the Sunni nations are unwilling to do more without the blessing of the UN.

The Syrian opposition has used their wide popular support to create an urban guerilla force. While thousands of soldiers have deserted they got away with few, often no, weapons. Arms smugglers will provide weapons but prices are four or five times what they were a year ago because the army and police are guarding the borders more energetically. The guerilla activity encourages more desertions and foreign Sunni allies are providing more and more cash for weapons. Government military and police power shrinks each day, but the population suffers more economic and physical losses each day as well.

Despite their difficulties, the rebels are fighting on the outskirts of the capital and energetic efforts by the army and secret police to quiet things down have been only partially successful. Several other cities, like Homs, are in open rebellion. The security forces have to move around there in armed groups and are an occupying, not a controlling, force. So far, over the last ten months, about 6,000 people have died in Syria

January 28, 2012: The Arab League suspended its observer team in Syria because of Syrian government interference. The observer team was created and allowed on the understanding that the team could travel anywhere to see that the government forces had stopped killing civilians. In return the Arab League would lift sanctions. The killing continued (averaging nearly fifty a day for the last week) and the observers were restricted by the security forces. The Arab League has asked the UN to help stop the killing but Russia has a veto which it is using to support the Syrian government.  The Arab League will increase sanctions and the Syrian government and the population will suffer economic damage. The struggle is an endurance contest.

January 25, 2012: The head of the Syrian Red Crescent (Moslem Red Cross) was shot dead on a highway while travelling in a car marked as belonging to Red Crescent. The government blamed this on terrorists, the opposition blamed it on the government. The UN openly condemned whoever did it.




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