Two Headlines in the Huffington Post World News Section caught my attention on the 14th September and prompted me to write this piece. One was "Russia Keeps Up Support for Assad Regime" and the second was "Syrian Troops Snatch Wounded from Hospitals".
China and Russia are playing a dangerous game by backing the tyrannical regime of Syria. It escaped the notice of these two world giants that Bashar al Assad's regime is waging a brutal war against his own people. Since mid March nearly 3000 people have been killed. Thousands have been detained, beaten and tortured to death. Hundreds of injured were snatched from their hospital beds to be murdered by the much feared security thugs also known as Shabbiha. Children were murdered and their bodies were mutilated. Many of the crimes have been documented on film. The regime is saying to the Syrian people, "we have ruled you with an iron fist for more than 40 years, and we want to carry on ruling you, and if you don't like it, we kill you". This is precisely what is happening in Syria. Russia and China have decided to back Bashar al Assad against the people.
China and Russia have made a terrible mistake some months ago when they backed the murderous Gaddafi's regime in Libya. They dithered and vacillated and decided to defend the Gaddafi's regime because of oil interests and the sale of military hardware. Eventually the international community decided enough was enough. UN Security Council Resolution 1973 was passed, the NATO air-strikes helped to topple the Gaddafi regime. The international community stood by the Libyan people and supported the National Transitional Council.
Belatedly China and Russia had to eat their humble pie and accept the inevitability of the fall of their long time criminal friend Muammar Gaddafi. Understandably the Libyan people are still furious with the Chinese and the Russians. The Arab Street has been disillusioned. For the first time ever the Russian flag has been burnt by crowds in the Syria city of Houran on 9th September.
I have no doubt in my mind that the new Libya will not look favourably at China and Russia when it comes to new contracts for exploration, production of oil and gas or for major re-construction projects. The Libyans have realized who their real friends are. Libya is immensely rich. It has vast hydrocarbon deposits and ample opportunities for mega projects. China and Russia will be the losers. They backed the wrong horse and lost.
You will be forgiven if you think that China and Russia have learnt their lesson. No, they have not. They are repeating the same catastrophic errors with Syria. The Syrian regime is going to fall sooner or later. It has lost the support of its people and most of the Arab Street. China and Russia have decided to stand against the Arab Spring Tsunami and stop the clock. What China and Russia are telling the Syrian people and the Arab world is this: "Look we are friends with Bashar al Assad and we only accept his version of the situation and we support him even if he exterminates the entire Syrian population". This is a double blow coming from China and Russia as they have both managed to alienate 20 million Syrian people and 250 million Arab people not counting the one billion Muslims throughout the world. China is one of the largest investors in Syria and Russia has a naval base near Tartous on the Mediterranean. These interests can be safeguarded by a future democratic regime if the Chinese and Russians show some compassion towards the Syrian people.
China and Russia must recognize that silence is not an option. When the world stood silent in the 1940s Adolf Hitler exterminated 6 million Jews and started World War II that resulted in the death of 11 million Russian soldiers and around 7 million Russian civilians. Can the world turn a blind eye to the atrocities committed by a murderous thuggish regime just because of a few miserable business contracts or military facilities? I urge Hu Jinato the Chinese President and his Foreign Minister Yang Jechi to reconsider and think of the long term damage to China in the region. Equally Dmitry Anatolyenvich Medvedev, the Russian President, his Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and the Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov must think again and refrain from blocking a future UN Security Council Resolution calling for the protection of the Syrian people.
For many decades the accepted wisdom had been that Western powers are propping up dictatorial regimes in the Middle East. This may have been so, but when the people rose up against the ruling dictators in Egypt, Tunisia Libya and Syria the West have taken the honourable stance by standing with the people. The American President Barack Obama, the British Prime Minister David Cameron and the French President Nicolas Sarkozy have taken the lead in supporting the Arab spring. Despite having extensive investments and economic interests in the Region, they have taken the higher moral ground in favour of human dignity, liberty and freedom. Barack Obama went further when he called on the President of Syria to step down. I recognize that neither China or Russia are champions of democracy and human rights, but PR common sense demands that they take into account the world's public opinion and their own image in the eyes of Arabs and Muslims everywhere.
My guess is that in the weeks or months to come China and Russia will recognize their own folly and will eat another humble pie and reflect on the historical missed opportunities to stand with the people against the dictators.
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