FIRST POST – March 22, 2012 – I have friends who are aghast at Sergei Lavrov’s recent pronouncements about Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad. One said to my wife that the “Russians are changing around” and that they were abandoning Damascus. Not true.
The essence of Lavrov’s gambit is timing. All this sudden change came after two major events: the first is the beating back of the insurgents at Baba Amr where the Syrian army stripped the terrorists of daily control over the lives of Syrian citizens in that quarter. The second was the collapse of the Syrian National Council (SNC) from which many Syrian exile luminaries withdrew in protest over the “autocratic practices” of Burhan “Le Pipe” Ghalioun and his coterie of Muslim Brotherhood fanatics. With the SNC in such disarray, Lavrov reasoned that Russia can now assert dominance over the entire political and diplomatic environment as it applies to Syria.
It is hard to tell whether the Russian FM really likes Dr. Assad, shown here greeting him in Damascus before the final assault on Baba Amr.
Russia and China both don’t want to appear like spoilers and the use of the veto on two occasions might have placed them in an uncomfortable position even though their adherence to principle was justified. But now, with Dr. Assad clearly out of danger and in control, the two Syrian allies are free to maneuver politically without risk to the stability of Syria.
Basma Qudmani of the SNC is now without many of her secular supporters in the SNC. Most of the women in the SNC are aging crones. No accounting for taste.
Well, Lavrov reasons, if we can move to bring the opposition into discussions with the Syrian government, we can accomplish what no one else has been able to do: one, is oversee the dissolution of the SNC via attrition (i.e. many members will leave in protest) and two, give the appearance of actual power over the entire process once controlled by Western Europe and the U.S. This is a grand gambit. With the U.S. elections approaching, Obama wants no opportunities for failure which Syria certainly would be. Obama would just as soon default to the Russians. This leaves Sarkozy (hated by the Russians) and Cameron (pure indifference) barking at the moon. This is Russia’s greatest diplomatic moment.