It has been well documented and disseminated by the operators of the Western mass media outlets that the Russians “cynically” vetoed the joint French and Spanish resolution for a peace plan for Aleppo. It was a decision that appeared on the surface at least to confirm once more the psychopathic traits of Vladimir Putin, a man repeatedly caricatured as the archetypal modern day despot and the man who is ultimately responsible for the failure of the proposal. The Russian veto was swiftly met with an outpouring of condemnation, emanating above all from those nations associated with the military alliance NATO among whose members the US, the UK and France perhaps more than the others voiced their opprobrium.
Boris Johnson, Great Britain’s new foreign secretary went as far as to call on the British public to protest before the Russian embassy in London, a move that must be deemed as an entirely unprecedented approach in the often fraught history of UK-Russian diplomacy.
While the US ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power had previously lamented that “What Russia is sponsoring and doing is not counterterrorism… it is barbarism”. The statement was followed by calls for “a war crimes investigation”, a position underscored by John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, in a press conference conducted with the French foreign minister Jean Marc Ayrault.
Russia for her part claimed the resolution was impossible to pass. They criticised the West for using the UN as a tool by which to discredit the Russian position, for using the Security Council as a means for projecting a propaganda campaign aimed at both Assad and the Kremlin, in an accusation reminiscent of the cold war era, in which the United States often presented texts engineered with the intention of obtaining a Russian abstention, hence exposing an intrinsic obstructiveness to international cooperation that simultaneously revealed Soviet chicanery.
The hyperbolic condemnation of both Assad and Putin seems unquestionably just, given the manner by which the traditional channels of information across the United States and Europe presented the case. There was however an important omission in the West dissemination of the facts, that is, to mention that the Russians equally presented a resolution for peace that was vetoed by the US, United Kingdom, France and Japan among others. In a move that not only must be meet with equal contempt, but one that morally removes the burden of guilt for the lack of a ceasefire from Russian shoulders. Naturally the existence of a Russian text was whitewashed from Western audiences and with it any chance of moral vindication for the Russian Federation. Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s ambassador to the UN, noted that “After destroying Libya, the troika of permanent Western members of the Security Council had turned its sights on Syria”. Indeed Mr Churkin’s comments rather reflect deep suspicions that the French initiative represented no semblance of a peaceful solution to the humanitarian crisis that is unfolding in Aleppo, a claim centered on the draft’s idea of a no fly zone to be patrolled by a number of NATO members, precisely those forces that had abused the no fly zone over Libya by turning it into a de facto tool for regime change.
Equally a number of Western powers had used a no fly zone over Iraq from which to wage a war of attrition before launching operation “Shock and Awe” in 2003, an operation, culminating in the toppling of Saddam Hussein. Russian misgivings concerning such an eventuality appear to be further corroborated by one of Clinton’s released emails in which she admits “All of a sudden this intervention, that people talk about so glibly becomes an American and NATO involvement where you take out a lot of civilians”.
The amplified and dishonest media coverage that followed the Russian veto serves conveniently to beguile a passive audience from making such contemplations, but behind this wall of impromptu outrage, the West’s position is wholly untenable. For even if we were to concede that there may be some moderate rebels fighting the Assad regime, the best case scenario the West has to offer is a doomed one. For these so called moderates are so grotesquely outnumbered by fundamental Islamists that it is inconceivable they could prevent the latter acquiring power should Assad fall. Therefore, any support, financial help or militarization of such rebels only emboldens the position of ISIS and Al Nusra. Furthermore, we must recognize that Assad represents a secular form of government which is currently protecting, Christians, Jews, Shia, Sunni and Alwites from the aggressive Wahhabist doctrines embedded in both the aforementioned terrorist groupings. The idea of removing Assad only to unleash the brutality of civil war into the void that follows is merely to extend the conflict into those areas currently protected by the Syrian government. The Western path promotes more death, brutality and destruction upon the beleaguered Syrian people and this is before we even consider the worst case scenario.
For many this war has its roots in the ideas associated with the Hobbesian and the Machiavellian schools of thought. Ideas that in the Syrian context focus on a West intent on weakening the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah alliance to the merriment of Israel and US interests in the Middle East. But has the mission not achieved its objectives? Syria is after all destroyed never mind war weary. It would take decades to rebuild the nation to its former strength and subsequently decades to pose a threat to Israel, lest the scars of this very conflict should indeed heal at all.
There is a cautionary tale nonetheless that the West and Israel must heed in their strategic calculations. The Baathist regime in Syria is precisely that, it is a structure of power. The view therefore that Assad’s removal is the solution for a more peaceful Levant is superficially simplistic. To remove the state’s present bureaucracy, to remove its security forces and its military leadership in a highly tribal society is only asking for trouble. I feel it is in nobody’s interest to see hundreds of thousands of faithful Baathists security and military agents being ostracized under a new leadership, only to be swallowed up by the Hezbollah ranks in Southern Lebanon, and this is a prospect that Israel would seek to avoid at all costs. The security implications that follow from the removal of Assad therefore are double pronged.
Our interests are best met by quitting while we are ahead and pledging ourselves, once the Islamist threat has been removed, to rebuilding the Syrian nation, minus the political interference, to a brighter more prosperous future. A united gesture of good will could after all make all the difference.