During the last year the political landscape in the Middle East has shown some signs of change. Algeria, Libya, and Egypt were able to rid themselves of their despotic rulers. I would argue that the resistance groups waited, like a pack of wild dogs, for the leaders to be old, sick, and weak enough to take down. Conversely, Iran was able to quickly and not so quietly put down its own uprising with some people finding the government violence on social media. This is also being replayed in Syria. For six months now the Assad regime has been slaughtering its own citizens.
Since that started the world has seen the UN repeatedly call the slaughter an abominable and criminal act. The US and the EU have tried to have new sanctions levied against Assad only to be stymied by Russia and China on the UNSC.
Why has Russia stated that it will not support sanctions? Russia has invested billions of dollars in Syria, Russian investments in Syria in 2009 were valued at $19.4 billion, mainly in arms deals, infrastructure development, energy, and tourism. Russian exports to Syria in 2010 totaled $1.1 billion, Russia is also reported to have invested heavily in the strategic naval facility in Tartous; investments and work that could all be jeopardized if the Assad regime is overthrown or the country descends into violent chaos. As it is, Moscow, which has criticized the NATO-led intervention in Libya, is waiting to see if the new authorities in Tripoli will honor some $10 billion worth of business deals reached with the Qaddafi regime.
Let’s also recall the fact that Russia lost the Cold War. Moscow enjoyed wide authority in the region in the Soviet era and has watched with increasing alarm as Western pressure and a public frustration helped push veteran regional leaders from power as reported in Soviet newspapers.
Meanwhile, in trying to encourage the discourse and further talks, as required by Russia, the US diplomatic envoy is attacked, again, by regime loyalists (read as active supporters of terrorism attacking a legal and diplomatic representative of the United States).
The call for regime change is coming. This is the path which I described in earlier writings where the slaughter has to get to a level of visibility which requires the Arab League and/or OIC to say that something must be done. The UN will eventually be allowed to make that call and, when it does, you will all see Obama rushing in with boots on the ground. Such a good little lap dog for that mechanism, if only he would learn when not to bark, this would go much quieter for the OIC and Arab League. Until that call goes out, Obama gets to strategically and tactically avoid Iran, Russia, and the bad press that would inevitably come.