I cannot understand this constant insistence in trying to persuade the Russians to abandon Assad’s regime in Syria, when the Kremlin’s stubbornness has been clear throughout this past year and a half. Why has Russia been the center of Arab focus in their efforts to stop the genocide in Syria?
The master of the Kremlin, Vladimir Putin, clearly exposed a persistent stance that completely supports Bashar al-Assad, through weapons and defending him at the Security Council and other international forums. Russia has even printed Syrian currency when the European printing house refused to.
At first, we did not know the exact reasons; the Gulf delegations and the opposition forces were constantly visiting Moscow, trying to decrypt the Russian enigma from one side, and bearing promises and gifts from the other. We probably thought that the Russians believed Assad’s arguments, worried about their own interests, feared the Islamic extremists, or loved the material interests: all the mentioned issues were raised and secured but in vain.
Now, after more than a year on these visits and meetings, gifts and deals, it has become clear that the reason is not important. The only remaining conclusion is that Russia will stand with Bashar al-Assad till the end, even if it has started using some watered down phrases to justify its stance.
Even if Russia changes its stance now, it will be too late to be appreciated. The Russians have helped in prolonging the war and have played a part in the bloodshed, which has resulted in 50 thousand deaths so far, has destroyed most Syrian cities, and has caused the upheaval of more than three million people. What is the value of the Russian stance today? Actually nothing. If the Russians abandon Assad, the embattled leader will fall within a month and the rebels will pay a heavy price. If the Russians do not abandon him, it will take the regime longer to fall. It is too late to think about minimizing losses, the case has now reversed: stopping the war will reduce the losses of Assad and his group.
We had hoped that the Russians would intervene during the past 20 months and be partners in the Syrian peace process, but they have chosen, alongside Iran, to be partners with Assad in his crimes. We looked forward to stopping the bloodshed earlier to avoid any revengeful acts and to establish a civil state that represents all Syrians, but the prolongation of the conflict by Bashar al-Assad’s allies has prepared the country for the rise of terrorist groups and internal divisions. The time for a peaceful and smooth transition, as hoped by U.N. peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, does not exist anymore.
So what are the reasons behind the attention and the constant visits to Moscow if Russia has helped in leading Syria into a swamp of blood? Because we know very well that Assad’s regime was set to collapse since more than a year ago; it did not even have enough fuel to provide thousands of tanks to demolish houses, nor did it have sufficient ammunition to supply its fighter planes to ruin the cities on a daily basis for the past 8 months. We knew, and the Russians knew too, that it was impossible for the regime, however immune its troops were, to linger within a country when most of its people revolted against it. The outcome of this is known but the timing is still unknown.
This is why we no longer want to continue begging the Russians. The dead, the widowed, the orphans, the wounded and the angered will not accept any of solution backed by the Russians.
(Abdelrahman AlRashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya. This article was first published in Asharq Alawsat on Dec. 29, 2012)