I’m a little leery of citing the UK Independent’s Robert Fisk for various reasons, but this seems right to me.
President Bashar al-Assad is not about to go. Not yet. Not, maybe, for quite a long time. …look east, and what does Bashar see? Loyal Iran standing with him. Loyal Iraq ”“ Iran’s new best friend in the Arab world ”“ refusing to impose sanctions. And to the west, loyal little Lebanon refusing to impose sanctions. Thus from the border of Afghanistan to the Mediterranean, Assad has a straight line of alliances which should prevent, at least, his economic collapse.
There’s also the small matter of the Russian naval base at Tartus, which Russia upgraded last year so that it was deep enough even for Russian aircraft carriers. The Kuznetsov was there last November for a flag-waving visit in support of the Assad regime.
Syria won’t see regime change by foreign intervention for the same reason Bahrain won’t – a Great Power has too much vested interest there. Whether or not Assad is practising genocide and should go is neither here nor there in that assessment, notice. This is the realpolitik.
Sergey Lavrov’s visit comes days after Syrian allies Russia and China vetoed a Western- and Arab-backed resolution at the United Nations that would have condemned the Assad regime’s crackdown on dissent and calling on him to transfer some of his powers to his deputy. The Syrian government had rejected the Arab plan as intervention in Syria’s internal affairs.
Thousands of Syrians cheered Russia’s foreign minister today as he arrived in Damascus.
“Necessary reforms must be implemented in order to address legitimate demands of the people striving for a better life,” Lavrov later told Assad, according to Russian state-run news agency ITAR-Tass.”
Lavrov also said Assad is ready for dialogue with the opposition.
“It’s clear that efforts to stop the violence should be accompanied by the beginning of dialogue among the political forces,” he said. “Today we received confirmation of the readiness of the president of Syria for this work.”
So far, opposition groups have refused to talk to Assad, standing firm on their demand for regime change. The U.S. and the West could probably do more good by trying to cajole them to the negotiating table – while Russia holds Assad’s hand and makes him play nice – than talking about how disgusted they are with Russia and China’s UNSC vetos.