Memo to Russia: Join the Syrian Opposition

Article Summary
Russia accused "external forces" of thwarting the Syrian peace plan. The remarks, largely aimed at Western and Arab countries, signaled a possible shift for Russia, which has shielded Syria from sanctions. Michel Kilo writes that it's time for the Syrian opposition to engage Russia, which, unlike the West, stands to benefit from a new, unified regime.      

Russia is not like the United States when it to comes to anything related to Syria’s existence as a state and as a society. The U.S. does not seem preoccupied with the Syrian entity in either of these regards: On the contrary, it encourages any action leading to Syria's fragmentation and destruction, as it approaches any conflict in the region through the perspective of Israel, who no doubt wants to prolong the conflict. Israel supports violence there because it knows that peaceful revolution will not be enough to destroy the Syrian state and society—especially if this revolution is based on calls for freedom and is seen as a basis for restructuring the country after half a century of failures and defeats caused by the regime. This same regime was only able to respond to the events with which it was faced by escalating violence, killing, displacing and taking revenge on its people. In doing so, it in no way took into account the interests of the country.

Two conclusions can be drawn from this situation:

  1. Russia does not have the same goals in Syria as the U.S. In fact, its aims are the opposite. Russia cannot agree to a course of action that would undermine our nation and our society. Its own interests dictate its need for our nation’s continued existence as a united and protected bloc. Russia does not support the U.S.-backed, Zionist schemes that entail tearing apart the Arab East and destroying its national and unified structure. Throughout the history of Russian-Syrian relations, Russia has never indicated such an interest. Russia’s current, unforgivable mistakes do not involve destroying Syria as a state, or the dismantling of its society.
  2. We hence should not approach Russia as an enemy that wants to destroy us. Historically, our relations do not justify such an act. It is unacceptable to hold Russia responsible for our tragedy while thinking of the United States as a country that wants to protect us—and would be ready to intervene militarily to do so—or that it is keen on the continuation of our existence. The convictions of large strata of our society regarding Russia and the United States are invalid, not only because they contradict reality and facts, but also because they have serious consequences for the future of Syrian developments, and the presence of our state and our society. Russia is not like the United States when it comes to this essential point, which determines the positions of the two countries and reveals the indifference of the latter towards Syria’s fate, as well as its minimal interest in ending the current conflict and preventing the collapse of the state’s structures and society. Russia, on the other hand, is not doing the same—its serious mistakes do not threaten our national and societal existence in the ongoing conflict that has been taking place for more than a year in our country. However, Russia wrongly believes that the current authority is the guardian of its own influence in our country and in the East, as it sees the regime as a bulwark against the establishment of an Islamic government near its southern border. If an Islamic government were established, it might endanger Russia's internal affairs.

The truth is that the tyrant Ba’ath party regime is the one driving and inciting various fundamentalist movements, including secular and atheist ones.

By resolving the Syrian crisis militarily, the Syrian army, which is storming into towns and villages and killing innocent citizens, is what really spread the fire of violence and extremism to all corners of Syria. This will lead to societal and political divisions that are prone to explosion if the regime continues to adopt security means to implement its policies. The security option opened the door for foreign interference in Syrian affairs, not to mention Iranian military interference in backing the authority. This Iranian meddling is now more direct and intense than ever, and could grant Tehran the privilege of deciding the fate of the Syrian crisis. It might effectively prevent both official and opposition Syrian figures from finding a solution, thus prolonging the fighting in our country. Iran is defending itself in the proverbial Syrian trench, out of fear that resolving the crisis politically might lead to opening a Pandora’s box of its own internal crises. Iran’s leaders themselves were the ones who mired the country in confrontation with the international world. This world is no doubt now preparing itself for battle against Iran.

Russia has ignored a long history of friendship with the Syrian people and their state the decade before the military coup that brought the Ba’ath party to power. They forget that Syria signed its first arms deal with them in 1954, months before Egypt did, and that it recognized the People’s Republic of China before Egypt did, even though recognizing China at the time was considered taboo, unthinkable by U.S. standards. They forget that the Syrian opposition does not want to remove Russia’s presence in Syria; on the contrary, it views Russia as a counterweight to the West, and a power that can help the opposition protect Syria's national independence after a regime change. The opposition also considers Russia to be a major source of military and civil aid, and believes that the latter will contribute to rebuilding Syria, even though Russia's current mistakes make it difficult for its allies to defend the necessity and importance of maintaining special relations with Syria.

The Russian stance is odd in that it supports the regime without even condemning or denouncing the crimes carried out by the regime against its own people. The latter has committed fatal mistakes in dealing with the dilemma that does not have any security aspects and should not have been addressed from a security point of view in the first place. Russia claims that the people who demand the implementation of their rights are calling for something that has never existed, and says that there are organizations operating within the people’s ranks, which is not true. Russia accuses the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood movement of holding a hidden agenda [of establishing an Islamic state in Syria], which they have denied and provided evidence that such agendas are not part of their policies. Russia should have instead established dialog with the Muslim Brotherhood to reveal their true intentions and positions, and what they are willing to accept in free Syria, as a way of reassuring Russia.

The Russian position is based on this essential idea: We would not support the family of Bashar al-Assad, or the Syrian regime, if a new Syria could provide us the same or even more—and if the new Syria establishes a stable and moderate rule that maintains balance and international relations in the region and with Mediterranean countries. If there are no guarantees that such an authority can overtake the current regime, we will uphold the status quo, and we will defend it to the best of our abilities.

That is why it is important for the opposition to engage in a deep and meaningful dialog with Russia about Syrian-Russian relations in a way that will bolster Russia's position against the U.S., and will confirm that we will not become a tool for Turkey and its regional and nationalistic strategies, and that our country will be Arab-oriented even if it builds cordial relations with the Islamic world and preserves Islamic values and perspectives at domestic and international levels. Syria’s future policies will primarily revolve around the Arab arena, though it has benefited from the Turkish experience with respect to organizing the relationship between religion and nationalistic, civil, secular, and republican trends, as well as in the fields of free market economy and openness to the world, etc.

These are Russia’s demands. They can be easily fulfilled, [especially] if the alternative is burning down our country and destroying our state and society at the hands of the regime and the West. Russia’s silence gives the impression that it accepts the current situation. Should we pay this price, even though we have been paying it for a long time and still pay it today, and even though the one who benefits from it is the regime, and not the people and the freedom project?

Because it holds special status in our country and is important to the current regime, Russia has the opportunity to play a unique role in resolving our crisis. So will we help it, or will we become a stumbling block in its path simply because it declared its intention to support the regime until an alternative is created? I wonder: Doesn’t our national duty dictate that we adopt this alternative?  

Found in: syrian opposition, syrian crisis, syrian, russian regional influence, russian influence in syria, russian-opposition relations, russian, muslim brotherhood, muslim, ba'ath party

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