Why is Russian FM Lavrov angry?

This was the first time we heard Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergei Lavrov complain about the Syrian opposition’s supporters. He said for very opposition there are countries supporting it and that Russia knows the countries supporting the Syrian opposition.

He is right. We all know who is supporting the Syrian revolution. Saudi Arabia supports the Free Syrian Army which represents the backbone of the armed opposition. Meanwhile, extremist groups, like al-Qaeda, are managed by Iran and the Syrian regime.

But what is interesting about Lavrov’s comment is that he addressed regional countries that support the Syrian revolution by saying: “Those who have direct influence on different opposition groups in Syria must [prevent those groups] from committing any provocations that may obstruct [the dismantling of] chemical weapons and, once again, raise the necessity of foreign intervention.”

The Russian minister wants to blame the opposition in case the plan to dismantle Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile fails.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

The Russian minister wants to blame the opposition in case the plan to dismantle Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile fails. But what is more important is that he refers directly to the armed opposition, which is still standing on its own feet as it fights against Russian experts, Syrian regime forces and Iranian, Iraqi and Hezbollah fighters in support of the regime.

As to why he requested countries in support of the opposition - he means Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and others - to prevent the armed Syrian opposition from obstructing the dismantlement of Syrian chemical weapons, it is because the plan is the first international test to reveal who is really in control on the ground.

Chemical weapons dismantling

In principle, the Syrian opposition cannot mind the dismantling of chemical weapons. It is in its interest that the stockpile is dismantled as soon as possible so the regime does not use such weapons to annihilate residents of opposition-controlled areas, or to destroy Syrian opposition bases. If these weapons remain in Syrian they may also be used by people against each other if the war expands into a civil one. Therefore, getting rid of weapons of mass destruction is in Syria’s best interest.

However, it also serves Syria’s interest that the Russians do not exploit the dismantling of chemical weapons in order to stop the fighting and thus improve Bashar al-Assad’s position or to reward him at the Geneva II conference.

It does not make sense that Assad’s regime is invited to the conference, along with Tehran, and is allowed to remain in power just because it gave up its chemical weapons. This regime is supposed to be punished and not rewarded for the crimes of murdering hundreds of women and children using Sarin gas.

The Russian game

We are aware of the Russian game to use the dismantling of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile to preserve Assad’s position and his security regime. This gives them an excuse to besiege opposition fighters and obstruct political change in the country. Therefore, when Assad and the Russians failed to halt the fighting, Lavrov made an appearance to frankly and publicly talk about the countries which support the opposition and asked them to deter the Syrian opposition from making any real gains.

He also appealed to Washington to pressure these countries to, in turn, pressure the Syrian opposition to stop its activities on the ground. Doesn’t this remind us of what we used to say before? That Russia must pressure its ally, the Assad regime, to stop its attacks.

The Gulf countries will not accept to interfere in managing the armed opposition as long as the international community is silent over the regime’s crimes and its continuous murder of thousands of innocent people.

It is no one’s right to tell the opposition to clear the way for international inspectors as they pass by besieged cities and towns whose residents are eating cats and dogs to stay alive. This sounds as if using chemical weapons is the only red line and that forcing people to starve is acceptable! Assad is no longer fighting the opposition. He has instead resorted to besieging cities and towns while carrying out massive destruction using long-range artillery and other heavy weapons.

This article was first published in al-Sharq al-Awsat on Oct. 31, 2013.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:41 - GMT 06:41
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