Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another

thescroll_header

Vetoes Embolden Syrian Regime

Civil war is next as regional actors jockey for position

Print Email
A Syrian boy near Homs carries the rebel flag.(Alessio Romenzi/AFP/Getty Images)

What’s the bigger news related to Syria this weekend? Of course, it was the failure of the U.N. Security Council to take action after Russia and China vetoed a U.S.- and Europe-backed resolution, based on an Arab League plan, that would have called for regime change (while not authorizing outside military force). But before we get to that, conscience compels that we note the upwards of 200 Syrians killed in President Assad’s shelling of the restive city of Homs—an attack whose comparison, by President Obama, to Assad’s father’s massacre of tens of thousands 30 years ago overstated the amount of dead but if anything understated the sheer brazenness of attacking rebellious civilians as the world is debating whether to tell you to stop. And why shouldn’t Assad have behaved this way? In a rare double-veto, Russia and China told him he could. The death-count is now believed to be somewhere in the mid-5,000s, if not higher.

The vetoes brought the 15-member Security Council’s votes to 13 for, two against. Russia’s foreign minister insisted his country was motivated not to protect Assad but to uphold the essence of the Security Council, which “by definition does not engage in domestic affairs of member states.” Thomas Friedman reports that Russia comes by that motive honestly, but out of selfishness: “There is a strong domestic dimension to Russian policy toward Syria,” he quotes a Russian expert. “If we allow the U.N. and the U.S. to put pressure on a regime—that is somewhat like ours—to cede power to the opposition, what kind of precedent could that create?”

The administration was firm in its condemnation of the regime—“Thirty years after his father massacred tens of thousands of innocent Syrian men, women, and children in Hama, Bashar al-Assad has demonstrated a similar disdain for human life and dignity,” said Obama—and of Russia and China: “A couple of members of this council remain steadfast in their willingness to sell out the Syrian people and shield a craven tyrant,” noted U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice. But that is, for now, all talk. What’s next?

Not direct outside intervention. This is not another Libya. More likely, the situation will turn into something more closely resembling civil war, with several outside groups—including Saudi Arabia and Qatar, who would love to pull Syria, currently ruled by Shiite Alawaites, into the Sunni camp, and also Turkey, which fears for regional stability and would like to project power more—funding and arming the opposition. Crucially, the United States will be implicitly approving of this. After all, from a geopolitical perspective this concerns Iran and its ability to go through Damascus to threaten U.S. allies Israel, Egypt, and Turkey; the tinderbox known as Lebanon; and even the precarious, U.S.-backed government of Iraq. The United States won’t be arming the Syrian rebels, much less providing them air cover, but it will be looking the other way or winking while other parties do so.

It would be something if the Syria situation brought countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Turkey closer to the United States and even Israel. As I noted last week, realpolitik considerations led Israel to be among the first to openly hope for Assad’s downfall; the Jewish state has as much if not more interest in seeing Damascus pried away from Tehran’s grip as the other countries. Israeli Vice President Moshe Ya’alon observed that the fall of the Assad regime would lead to “developments … some of which could be positive as far as Israel is concerned, like a fissure in the Tehran-Damascus-Beirut-Hamas axis of evil.” (Indeed, accounts are that Hamas has already pulled away.) But don’t bet on the Syrian campfire leading to a Kumbaya moment.

And most of all, don’t expect Kumbaya in Syria. Assad is, as they say, not going down without a fight. On the contrary: As dissidence spreads even to regime strongholds like Aleppo and Damascus, and as the opposition begins to get better arms and more experience, signs are that the regime’s crackdown will likewise grow in intensity. It has Russia’s and China’s protection—why shouldn’t it feel like it can do what it wants?

At Least 200 Reported Killed in Syrian City of Homs [WP]
Russia, China Veto U.N. Action on Syria … and the Blame Game Begins [FP Turtle Bay]
Russia: Sort of, but Not Really [NYT]
Solution on Syria Remains Elusive for White House [NYT]
Syrian Unrest After a Failure of Diplomacy [NYT]

Print Email

COMMENTING CHARGES
Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180

WAIT, WHY DO I HAVE TO PAY TO COMMENT?
Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.

I NEED TO BE HEARD! BUT I DONT WANT TO PAY.
Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at letters@tabletmag.com. Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.

We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.

2000

Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

Vetoes Embolden Syrian Regime

Civil war is next as regional actors jockey for position

More on Tablet:

11 Non-Jewish Celebrities—and 2 Jewish Ones—Show Off Their Hebrew Tattoos

By Marjorie Ingall — You don’t have to be Jewish to sport Hebrew ink. But some of these stars should have thought twice before going under the needle.