Editorial: Assad ally

February 01, 2012 - 12:12:22 am

Russia has been adamant in its support for embattled Syrian President Bashar Al Assad. Moscow is an ally Damascus can rely on, and an ally that stands by you even when the entire world is teaming up against you is a true ally. So Assad should be grateful to Russian leader Vladimir Putin and his team, and must be wondering what his plight would have been had it not been for this support.

But Russia must realize that such blind and unwavering support for a regime hated by its own people, neighbours and the international community, is not in its interests. It is true that Russia enjoys a veto power at the UN Security Council and can thwart attempts to impose sanctions against Syria in the short-term, but gradually Moscow will find itself getting overtaken by events.

The Arab League plan was probably the best solution to avoid a full-scale civil war and stop further bloodshed. But that mission failed because the Assad regime didn’t take it seriously. Since the failure of the League’s observer mission last week, violence has increased, piling more pressure on Arabs and the Western governments to stop the bloodshed. They are planning to go via the UN. Nabil El Araby, the secretary general of the Arab League, was scheduled to present a plan at the UN yesterday to end the swelling violence by calling for Assad to step down and be replaced by a coalition government that will organize elections. The League has the support of US and other western governments in its plan, while Russia opposes any action, saying a UN intervention would tantamount to crossing the red line.

One reason Assad has been able to hold on to power is Russian support – both material and diplomatic. For the same reason, the battle in Damascus can be won only through Moscow.

The reasons for Russian support are understandable and date back to the days of Soviet Union. Syria is one of its few allies in the region and has business interests to the tune of billions of dollars in arms sales. But the time has come for Moscow to realise that this is a relationship that can’t be sustained. As Syria descends into civil war and the international community moves forward with determination, Russian opposition will be swept away. A combined, high-level lobbying by the rest of the world will force Moscow to step back and lead to its isolation. History has shown us that dictators are thrown out by their own people. Outside support for any regime cannot thwart people power.