Using the language of diplomacy, the Russian foreign minister said Sunday that the United States was using blackmail to try and force Russia and China to agree to a Security Council resolution on Syria that threatens force against the regime, and “shields” the opposition.
In political terms, this means the following: Don’t expect anything that helps Syria and its people to result from the last few weeks of high-level negotiations sparked by the use of chemical weapons.
For anyone interested in following this sorry saga of diplomatic and political time-wasting, at the expense of millions of Syrians, there are really only three operative words here: something that “shields the opposition” is something that Russia cannot tolerate.
For Russia, a regime that uses mass detention, torture, artillery fire, tanks and airplanes, and most likely several doses of poison gas, against its people must be protected, while the rebels and civilians on the ground do not deserve any kind of shield raised in their defense.
This weekend, activists and average Syrians grimly marked the one-month anniversary of the chemical weapons attack near Damascus with bitter commentary as they are fully aware of what is taking place in the diplomatic realm.
Hundreds of people have lost their lives since that terrible day, but all the international community has to show for the flurry of contacts, statements and discussions in the meantime is a continuing disagreement over language. Perhaps the Obama administration and its allies thought that the best thing to do vis-à-vis the Syrian crisis was to continue to avoid getting involved. But by pursuing diplomacy in the wake of murders caused by weapons of mass destruction, all they are doing is sending a signal, loud and clear, to the Syrian people: Wait until the 2014 presidential elections in Syria, and maybe not even then, for a possible end to the nightmare.
In the interim, expect the media to follow the latest twists and turns of the Geneva peace conference, and the latest affirmations by Assad that he intends to be a candidate next year, because it’s a “new story” compared to the old story, namely horrific levels of death and destruction, day in and day out.
Some people have said the West became engaged on the chemical weapons issue in order to allow the opposition to level the military playing field, but the evidence isn’t encouraging. In the several weeks since the chemical attack, the mainstream Syrian rebels are facing even greater challenges from hard-line extremists in their midst.
The poor political performance of the Syrian opposition and its supposed backers has allowed Russia to act as an “honest broker” for Syria just as the America acts as an “honest broker” when it comes to Israel. All of this means that average Syrians can expect months and months of further carnage, and less and less hope for a solution that could salvage their bloodied country.