Thursday, 9 February 2012


The people of Homs (and the rest of Syria) continue to pay the price for the Peoples Republic of China and Russia giving the green light to Syria's rulers to slaughter its opponents. Russia and China have now twice vetoed UN action on Syria. President Assad and his government used the veto as an effective licence to kill those Syrian people who oppose them. Human rights groups and activists say more than 7,000 people have been killed by Syrian security forces since the uprising began last March.

The UN actually stopped estimating the death toll in Syria after it passed 5,400 in January, saying it was too difficult to confirm the figures. Syrian Government forces have been battering the rebel stronghold of Homs since last week. It has been estimated at least 95 people died in the city last Monday alone. The Syrian government has publicly vowed to pursue the offensive until "order" is restored and state television has denied that there had been any bombardment.

Russia may persist in maintaining its relationship with the Syrian dictatorship; sue to a combination of arms sales, strategic desire for a warm water port and a lingering resentment in the corridors of the Kremlin to having lost the Cold War. It has been estimated that some 10% of Russia's global arms sales go to Syria, with current contracts being possibly worth as much as $1.5 billion (£950 million). Aside from ammunition, recent sales have included military training aircraft, air defence systems and anti-tank weapons. The icing on the cake though is the fact that the Assad regime provides the Russian navy with a navy base at the port of Tartus (which is Russia's last base outside of the former Soviet Union).

It's entirely natural for the Peoples Republic of China itself a brutal repressive dictatorship to side with the Syrian Government. The PRC’s behaviour towards ethnic minorities (and the peoples of Tibet and Xinxiang / East Turkestan to name but two) within its own border is a matter of record. China has other concerns and anxieties, spreading democracy definitely is not among them, stability at any price may be a key factor here as well as potential arms sales.

Syria's slightly more fair weather friends Venezuela, South Africa, Brazil and India, abstained on previous UN resolutions have been pretty quiet of late (as has the old traditional ‘left’). Its a little odd that some of the states indirectly supporting the Syrian dictatorship have themselves been involved in liberation struggles themselves, perhaps they might well have once had a degree of sympathy for the Syrian people who are laying down their lives for freedom and liberty or perhaps they are stuck in the vice like grip of the past or enjoying the trappings of power.

However, you spin this, its yet another pretty blatant diplomatic rebuff to the West, perhaps signalling a much stronger stance from Beijing and Moscow who are unhappy to see the weight of the Security Council ranged against the Syrian authorities. Perhaps all of this signals the end of the new era of intrusive diplomacy brought about by the UN Security Council resolution 1973 on Libya last March, overwhelmed by Russia and China's self-interest.

It is entirely naive to think that that President Bashar al-Assad will go peacefully or any time soon. A brutal leader can kill as many of his people as he likes when there are no real consequences for him or his regime over the short time and stay in power. Assad's brutal murderous regime continues to rocket and shell its own citizens and to bring buildings crashing down on top of women and children in Homs.

The West and the Arab League invested a great deal of time and effort in putting together the UN Security Council resolution – which if not vetoed would have condemned the violence and called for a transition to democracy. Such a resolution would have sent a powerful signal not only to Assad but also to those around him that the world had taken note and a potential coalition forming against him. Although the wording of the resolution was weak, making no reference to sanctions or even the specific removal of Assad – both Russia and China quickly used their veto to kill it stone dead.

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