The Israeli Attack on Syria and John Kerry’s Visit to Russia

When you heard of the Israeli air strikes in Syria near Damascus early Sunday morning did you share my reaction?  “This Syrian thing could really get out of control.”  The attacks were reportedly  aimed at preventing the transfer of advanced Iranian-made missiles to Hezbollah in Lebanon for possible use against Israel.

Not surprisingly, the Syria government has called them acts of war, but has yet to respond and they may not do so because they have their hands full with their civil war, which may have emboldened the Israelis to make the strike.

English: Bashar al-Assad under pressure

English: Bashar al-Assad under pressure (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ironically, Israel does not seem  eager to topple the Assad regime, as they fear what might replace it.   Their goal is to stop weapons from Iran coming through Syria to Hezbollah.  Though  enemies, the two nations have co-existed quite well for decades, despite Syria’s support for terrorist attacks on Israel and an Israeli air strike on a nuclear plant in 2007.

All that just touches upon the complex nature of what one commentator called a murky situation bound to get murkier.   But now there is the possibility that the Israeli attack could prompt a regional conflict with consequences impossible to forecast.   This Washington Times article gives a fuller sense of the entanglements, for those who want more background information.

But it leaves out Russia’s role in all of this and Russia has been the biggest stumbling block to the international community’s resolving the Syrian civil war.   Amidst the murk, one thing clear is that without Russia’s backing, the Bashar Al-Assad government would fall.

Russia and Syria have diplomatic ties that go back decades.   Now Russia supplies them with the arms, oil and other economic necessities to continue their fight, the supply of which has gone up during the civil war.   Also, Russia is intricately involved in other ways,  with a naval base at a Syrian port and advisers aiding the Syrian anti-aircraft missile defense.

Which is why I am relieved that Secretary of  State John Kerry left for Russia yesterday to discuss this matter, among others.   Even if no agreements are made, it is extremely valuable that both governments understand each other and what might ignite the entire region.

Why Does Russia Support the Syrian Regime?  is a piece in About.com that provides an excellent overview of the relationship between Russia and Syria, while also linking to a piece that describes yet another reason Russia has maintained its support for Assad.

Russia firmly believes in the principle of non-interference in internal affairs of sovereign states, as does China, both wary of the interference  of other states in their internal affairs.   And both believe that principle was “blatantly ignored” by the NATO coalition in the Libyan civil war.  In turn, both have prevented the U.N. from taking a stronger stand in Syria.

Despite its profits and principals, the Russian government surely knows it is backing a loser in Assad, and that may leave room for a turnaround in policy if it can be done in a way that does not make them lose face.

Come on, John.  Help ’em find a graceful way out.

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