The Smoking Gun in Syria
Everyone morning when I turn on the television, I get a new episode of the Syrian story, relating more data on how many the government has killed of its own people. The survivors call for international help, but relief doesn’t come. The United Nations failed to stop the war. (Thanks to Russian and Chinese vetos) The lack of response only affirmed Israel’s belief that the UN cannot be counted on to prevent war and make peace. So, putting my newspaper aside, I ask myself, “Who owns the smoking gun in Syria?”
Surprise ! Surprise! It’s the Russians!
Like a chapter straight out of the old Cold War days, the Russians are once again standing behind the curtains, trying to act anonymous but not able to pull it off. The spot light is on Moscow.
Here’s the bottom line.
The Russians have been providing arms to Syria for years. Soviet-designed truck-mounted rocket launchers, rifles, self-propelled howtizers, etc. come in the front door everyday from Russia. During the attack on Homs, the American state department released statellite images of Soviet-era tanks and rocket launchers aiming at the city. Sure enough, Ivan the Terrible was at work again.
The fact is now clear that without Russia’s backing, including food, medical supplies, and equipment, the Assad regime would essentially be finished. Russian armaments are prolonging the war. Deputy Defense Secretary Anatoly Antonov insisted no Russian weapons were used against the resurgents in Syria, but of course he offered no proof. Another old Cold War tactic.
What do the Russians get out of the struggle? Rosoboronexport, a Russian state-owned weapons trading company, has been shipping to Syria while raking in a hefty income for Russia. Whether you call it rubles, dollars, or whatever, it’s big income for Russia. A veteran security specialist at the Congressional Research Service noted that the value of Russian Arms more than doubled from 2007-2010 returning of $4.7 billion to Russia. No small potatoes there! More than two million Russians are employees in the arms production business. Can’t afford to offend that huge section of the electorate either!
We might note in passing that the only remaining military installation outside of the former Soviet territory is a naval station at Tartus in Northern Syria. Interesting.
Why have the Russians so forcefully resisted an arms embargo against Syria? That one’s not hard to figure out! Ivan doesn’t want anyone toying with his bank account. What raises the ante is that the Russians lost billions of dollars of arms business because of the sanctions against Iran and the fall of Libya. However, after the fall of Qaddafi, Syria increased purchases including buying Yak-130 light attack planes for $550 million.
What do we have here? That old smoke-filled backroom where the good old boys make deals is alive and well. Unfortunately, for Russia and Syria the world is fundamentally united against them. Even the Arab League opposes Assad’s actions. What’s next? I’m certainly not sure and I know of no one who is. However, you can bet the Russians will keep cranking the cash register.
The Soviet Union is gone, but the Russians remain the Russians. Smoking-gun and all.
Should the United States intervene and begin arming the rebels? If Russia continues to back the Syrian government, can we allow this balance of power to continue?