Russia, Syria, and the 20th Century Mindset

Syrian Protestors in September

Journalists reporting on Syria have recently, deliberately or not, missed out a lot of context. Who exactly supports which side and why, ‘citizen journalists/bloggers’ asserting that Assad is propped up entirely by Russia’s veto, and mad accusations of who has given arms to what side. All of this deserved a decent look at.


If any nation’s foreign policy has a sense of humour, it’s that of the Russian Federation. Recently expressing insincere indignation about the state of human rights in Saudi Arabia has brought to light the absurdity of the situation in Syria where pro-democracy rebels are backed by the two most oppressive and amoral (subjectively) regimes in the Middle East – Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Reported by Reuters below:

Russian Human Rights envoy Konstantin Dolgov had expressed “great concern” about the situation in eastern Saudi Arabia following what he described as clashes between law enforcement and peaceful demonstrators in which two people were killed and more than 20 were wounded, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry website.

… “The Kingdom learned with strong astonishment and surprise about the comment by the Russian Foreign Ministry’s representative on human rights which represents a blatant and unjustified intervention … in the internal affairs of the kingdom,” SPA quoted a Foreign Ministry statement, attributed to an “official source”, as saying.

Russia has no façades concerning its foreign policy, and they turned the rhetoric of Saudi Arabia (crusader for democracy, peace and inalienable rights) right back at them. Of course, nobody cares about the fact that our strongest allies are drenched in the blood of their oppressed while making calls for freedom in other countries.

Strategically Speaking

Quite simply put, one side is Sunni and the other side is Shiite. Iran backs the Shiites and the Saudis back the Sunnis . Mark Adomanis made note that the language used by Saudi Arabia and Bahrain to describe their indigenous Shiite populations is pretty much identical to the language used to describe the ‘terrorists’ rebels by Assad in Syria.

It’s also worth saying that the situation is different from Libya, and that the rebels and pro-government forces are not divided by geography in the same way but by culture. In Libya, there was a realisation that rebels were on one side of the country and pro-Gaddafi forces on the other which made sieges and bombing campaigns not only extremely effective but easy to do without ground support. In Syria there is a vague divide between cities and the countryside and beyond that everyone lives pretty much side by side. That is one military argument against invading Syria.However, the biggest argument against invading is the fact that doing so will create an endless proxy war with an endless insurgency.

* pacific political science has a good write-up here about chemical weapons in Syria.


I should make it known that I don’t agree entirely with Russia’s stance on Syria, but that doesn’t mean I want the country to become an arena for a proxy war or even another Iraq. It would be great news to have a consistently applied approach to freedom in the Middle East, but apparently that’s not the way international relations work.

As a closing statement, I’d like to point out that there is absolutely no altruism here on a state level. I’m sure there are individuals or organisations that would back either side in one way or another, but the long-standing record is that none of the big players here care about human rights, freedom, or democracy in other countries. If any intervention is made in the name of freedom, it will not be in the intent of freedom.

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  1. Syria omg yay that’s like a totally unambiguous moral zone!

    Incidentally, apparently Assad is a fan of I’m Sexy And I Know It.

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  1. Chemical Weapons in Syria | Political Deficit

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