If Russia truly has any interest in calming down the conflict that has engulfed Syria for the past 15 months, it has a funny way of showing it.
While Russia has steadfastly refused to go along with developing any plan to transition power in Syria, much less using outside forces to oust the dying Assad regime, reports surfaced Tuesday that it has sent a complement of attack helicopters to Syria.
Moscow’s reasoning behind this sort of thing? Syria doesn’t use any of the arms it acquires from Russia against government dissenters.
That position, frankly, is disingenuous. The U.S. State Department has recently noted that the Assad regime is using helicopters to kill Syrians. The idea that these new helicopters won’t be used to murder Syrians is pure flummery.
Estimates are that in the months since dissenters dared to show opposition to the four-decade rule of the Assad government, an estimated 13,000 people have died. Worry that the unrest will develop into a civil war is now more fact than worry. Syria is embroiled in a civil war, one in which its rulers are killing its citizens. It is a textbook example of an oppressive government, the murderous likes of which should not be tolerated by a civilized world.
Without intervention, the problems in Syria won’t go away, they will escalate. So far, protests have been peaceful, though the response from the government has been anything but peaceful. A more organized, armed rebellion is beginning to take shape, however, and eventually it will attempt to fight fire with fire.
For whatever reason, Russian officials appear to be OK with that.
But what should concern Moscow and the rest of the world is powder-keg nature of the region. If an all-out civil war breaks out, other nations in the region could easily be drawn in, including Iran.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton summed up the danger quite succinctly, saying the latest shipment of Russian arms will “escalate the conflict quite dramatically.”
Russia’s refusal to facilitate a transition of power in Syria is a deliberate decision by Moscow to support a government of ruthless murderers, a decision that could see violence spread throughout the Middle East.
Stalin would be proud.