FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Syria: How Strong Are Russian Ties?

by PATRICK COCKBURN

The expulsion of diplomats always looks like a weedy response to an atrocity, particularly one as outrageous as the murder of children at Houla. Unsurprisingly, news reports  about kicking out the diplomats yesterday often concluded mournfully that the move wouldn’t do much good.

This is true, but the presence or absence of diplomats is always symbolic. It increases the isolation of Syria, which will not in itself lead to the overthrow of the regime but will weaken it. Probably its most significant impact will be to sow doubts in the minds of Russian, Chinese and Iranian leaders about how much more political capital they want to spend to protect President Bashar al-Assad.

Before Houla, Syria was making some progress in persuading other powers that it was going to survive at least for the moment. The accusation that the ceasefire agreement reached by Kofi Annan was a smokescreen for doing nothing very effective in Syria was largely true. The Syrian authorities blithely ignored provisions about releasing detainees and allowing peaceful protests, but a military ceasefire left President Assad in control of much of the country.

It was in his interest to avoid any atrocity that would draw international attention. It is a measure of the lack of effective decision-making within the regime that they could not restrain their own forces. “Within the regime, there are divisions between the civilians, military and security,” believes one commentator in Damascus. “There is not a single authority ruling the state but clusters of authority within the leadership.”

Expulsion of diplomats ratchets up Syria’s pariah status. It may persuade Syrians and the rest of the region that President Assad is not going to last beyond the short term. The lack of diplomatic representation will not doom the leadership. But certain changes will take place. De-legitimisation at home and abroad will be greater; it be will easier for Saudi Arabia and others to arm the opposition.

Russia, meanwhile, is visibly uncomfortable at being portrayed as the crucial support of child killers. Opponents of President Assad hope that the Houla massacre will be the turning point, but this is not wholly certain.

PATRICK COCKBURN is the author of “Muqtada: Muqtada Al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq.

 


More articles by:

Patrick Cockburn is the author of  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

January 23, 2018
Carl Boggs
Doomsday Panic in Hawaii
Mark Ashwill
If I Were US Ambassador to Vietnam…
Nick Pemberton
The Inherent Whiteness of “Our Revolution”
Leeann Hall
Trump’s Gift for the Unemployed: Kicking Them Off Health Care
Dean Baker
Lessons in Economics For the NYT’s Bret Stephens: Apple and Donald Trump’s Big Tax Cut
Mitchell Zimmerman
Law, Order and the Dreamers
Ken Hannaford-Ricardi
The Kids the World Forgot
Dave Lindorff
South Korea Slips Off the US Leash
Ali Mohsin
Extrajudicial Murder of Pashtun Exposes State Brutality in Pakistan
Jessicah Pierre
Oprah is No Savior
John Carroll Md
Keeping Haiti in Perspective
Amir Khafagy
Marching Into the Arms of the Democrats
January 22, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
It’s Time to Call Economic Sanctions What They Are: War Crimes
Jim Kavanagh
Behind the Money Curtain: A Left Take on Taxes, Spending and Modern Monetary Theory
Sheldon Richman
Trump Versus the World
Mark Schuller
One Year On, Reflecting and Refining Tactics to Take Our Country Back
Winslow Wheeler
Just What Earmark “Moratorium” are They Talking About?
W. T. Whitney
José Martí, Soul of the Cuban Revolution
Uri Avnery
May Your Home Be Destroyed          
Wim Laven
Year One Report Card: Donald Trump Failing
Jill Richardson
There Are No Shithole Countries
Bob Fitrakis - Harvey Wasserman
Are the Supremes About to Give Trump a Second Term?
Laura Finley
After #MeToo and #TimesUp
Howard Lisnoff
Impressions From the Women’s March
Andy Thayer
HuffPost: “We Really LOVED Your Contributions, Now FUCK OFF!”
Weekend Edition
January 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Dr. King’s Long Assassination
David Roediger
A House is Not a Hole: (Not) Caring about What Trump Says
George Burchett
How the CIA Tried to Bribe Wilfred Burchett
Mike Whitney
Trump’s Plan B for Syria: Occupation and Intimidation
Michael Hudson – Charles Goodhart
Could/Should Jubilee Debt Cancellations be Reintroduced Today?
Marshall Auerback – Franklin C. Spinney
Boss Tweet’s Generals Already Run the Show
Andrew Levine
Remember, Democrats are Awful Too
James Bovard
Why Ruby Ridge Still Matters
Wilfred Burchett
The Bug Offensive
Brian Cloughley
Now Trump Menaces Pakistan
Ron Jacobs
Whiteness and Working Folks
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Keeper of Crazy Beats: Charlie Haden and Music as a Force of Liberation
Robert Fantina
Palestine and Israeli Recognition
Jan Oberg
The New US Syria “Strategy”, a Recipe For Continued Disaster
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
The Return of the Repressed
Mel Gurtov
Dubious Partnership: The US and Saudi Arabia
Robert Fisk
The Next Kurdish War Looms on the Horizon
Lawrence Davidson
Contextualizing Sexual Harassment
Jeff Berg
Approaching Day Zero
Karl Grossman
Disaster Island
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail