Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Syria, Russia and Slow Train Wrecks

English: President Bashar al-Assad, Aleppo, Ab...English: President Bashar al-Assad, Aleppo, Abbarah square (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
To steal from Churchill, the now almost daily fighting inside Damascus, including the destruction of a major barracks and the attack on the State Security building, is not the beginning of the end, it is simply the end of the beginning.  The downfall of the Assad regime won’t come from the streets, however; it will only come when his own people determine that the status quo has changed and turn on him as they did on Qadaffi’s regime.  Stay tuned though because the military can still field thousands of tanks and artillery– all of whom are Alawite led and loyal so far.  This is not Egypt, Tunisia or Libya (where the military was essentially incinerated by NATO).  And if you think it can’t get much worse than it already is, consider that the government has begun to shift some of its chemical weapons.  If they are sent to fire units of any type, this could be very ominous, to say the least.  One hopes they are simply  being moved to more secure locations – itself an indication that the Syrian government is nervous.

Meanwhile, it is likely that the Kremlin is moving rapidly to a Plan C.  Plan A which amounted to unqualified support for the Assad regime, was modified a few weeks ago to Plan B when they announced that their purpose was not to sustain Assad in power but to bring about a negotiated settlement with no external intervention.  Like the Egyptian military who simply took advantage of the massive unrest to remove a threat to the regime itself (Mubarak and more to the point his son),  Russia is now saying that Assad is not the point.  But the optics are bad for them as they are seeming to support a regime because 1) they want to keep their wharf on the Med; 2) they want to be able to keep all the arms contracts; and, 3) they want to prevent an alternative route for oil to Europe that would open up with a change in government in Syria.  None of this has played well in the rest of the Arab world. And they, not to mention many Syrian’s who are likely to come to power, will not forget.
Nor should they.
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