It is not as if the Syrian regime opened its arms to the Arab League and the mission to monitor the implementation of the agreement to put an end to the violence. But in the end the regime had no choice, but still it is playing for time as noted in this post. One major factors has been the effect of the sanctions – economically as well as politically – from EU, USA, Turkey and the Arab League; the economy of Syria is expected to contract with as much as 12-20%. Another is the ghost of Ghaddafi.
To avoid what they perceive is a similar fate as the regime of Ghaddafi the Syrian regime have invested time and energy in two crucial interlinked venues – the Arab League and the United Nations Security Council. In both these venues the Libyan regime failed and actions taken by the Arab League and United Nations Security Council became the doom of Ghaddafi. The Arab League suspended Libya and requested that the Security Council act to protect the civilian population. The result was UNSC resolution 1973/2011 authorizing Member States to take …all necessary measures,
notwithstanding paragraph 9 of resolution 1970 (2011), to protect civilians and
civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya,
including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any
part of Libyan territory..[.] This is what the Syrian regime fears – a similar resolution calling for outside intervention.
In the United Nations Security Council Syria is/has been protected by Russia and China. These countries have blocked any resolution criticizing the Syria regime’s crackdown against the protests. In China’s case we are told that Russia has put considerable pressure on them to line up against any draft resolution from EU and USA. China’s main interest is stability. The flow of oil and other commodities from the Middle East are not to be hampered. But they would not by themselves veto a resolution against the Syrian regime.
So this leaves us with Russia. Their raison d’être is to avoid the setting of precedent of UN resolutions against, what they consider, internal matters and sovereignty of states. Russia has, as we all know, had certain problems in federal republics in the Caucasus. Russia has also a vested interest in the naval base in Tartus and in keeping whatever foothold they have in Middle East.
But Russia’s protection (and that of China) is contingent on the Arab League, that the Arab League does not ask the UN Security Council to act on the situation in Syria as they did with Libya. If that where to happen China would not want to risk their commercial interests in the Arab League member states. And Russia alone would not veto. The best Syria could hope for is a resolution water down by the Russians.
But up until recently nothing indicated an outcome in this direction. That is, until the Arab League suspended Syria as a result of their unwillingness to implement the agreement to stop the violence. A body blow to the regime who fears that they will endure a similar fate to that of the late Libyan regime. The first step had, in the mind of Bashar al-Assad and his advisors/relatives, now been taken towards a UN resolution calling for the end of the regime.
The next step from the Arab League was to threaten with sanctions if Syria did not open up for Arab League monitors overseeing the agreement Syria had signed on for. At first Syria refused to let in monitors from the Arab League.
That was when the second body blow delivered, this time by Russia when they circulated a UNSC draft resolution that (among other) condemned the Syria regimes disproportionate use of force against protesters. Without the protection of Russia in the UN Security Council the Syria regime would, in their mind, be wide open to whatever far going resolution that USA and EU might introduce.
Russia is also effected by the ghost of Ghaddafi. They where outflanked and humiliated by UN res. 1973/2011 and as I wrote in this post from 29 April they seemed intent on payback at France, the UK, USA and the rest of the EU. The effect has been blocking of all resolutions aimed at the Syrian regime. From this perspective what can we make of the latest Russian draft resolution? A game changer?
No. The Russian draft resolution is aimed at blunting any resolution or diplomati initiative that might push the Arab League to ask the UNSC to act and protect the civilian population in Syria (i.e. as they did with Libya). Another reason is to show the members of the Arab League that Russia takes the situation in Syria seriously (they do, but from a totally different perspective…). Finally the resolution might also have been signal to the Syrian regime that Russian patience has reached its end. This is when the Syrian regime caved in.
The question now is only what will come out of the Arab League monitor mission? The mission will go on for a month. If the Syrian regime where to implement the agreement with the Arab League that would be the end of the Syrian regime as I mentioned before. So the only answer I can come up with is one of buying more time, hide the evidence, whitwash and orchestrate actions, such as the bombings in Damacus, to ‘prove’ to the Arab League that what is happening in Syria are nothing but foreign backed terrorists.
Next: The Damascus Bomb Blasts part 3 – Syria, a narrative of bombs