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Hichem Karoui: Moscow fighting Arab Spring
April 07, 2012
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Exclusive to The Gulf Today

Apparently, it is not Bashar Al Assad and the Baath Party that are ruling what remains of Syria today, but Vladimir Putin and Russia. From the moment Moscow decided that the protesters in the streets of the Syrian cities are a threat for its stranglehold on this Arab country, it became obvious that the struggle is not opposing Al Assad to the Syrian revolt any more, but opposing the latter to Russia.

Russia has no solution for the crisis. It simply wants the Syrian protesters to give up their claims, to forget their dead, and to accept the man Russia imposed on them. Left to himself, without Russian political and military support, how long could he survive? Is Assad more powerful than Ben Ali, Hosni Mubarak, Muammar Al Qadhafi, or even Ali A. Saleh? All of these men were professional military officers. They relied on a complicated intelligence and security apparatus. They had powerful allies among the most powerful nations of this world. Until the eve of the revolution that toppled them, they were downright untouchable. Moreover, they have accumulated the experience of a very long rule that made them believe they were uncrowned kings who could leg their “conquered territories” to their offspring or relatives. How could a greenhorn, with no political experience, no military or intelligence knowledge, no particular talent, outrun them and stay in his palace despite the raging country outside? Is that possible thanks to his own resources and talents? Would anyone of those reasoning bass-drums who relay on the TV channels the voice of their master, explain to us, by the power of what mystery, what magic, Al Assad is still “triumphing” on his people, while much more powerful and experimented Arab presidents were unable to resist the same groundswell that devastated their respective countries?

I’ll tell you what! This “mystery” is not a secret anymore: it is Russia. Putin took over the country that gave the Arabs their first and greatest revolution against the Ottomans during the First World War; the country that has always been the hub and the cantor of the Arab dream; the heart of the Arab world...Russia is using Al Assad as a pariah for its own strategic interests, not giving a single thought to the consequences of this dangerous policy, not caring about the thousands of victims falling in this madness full of violence and blood. Russia thus revealed to be the enemy of the Arab people. The enemy of its dream of honourable life.

In its thirst for power and conquest, Russia seems ready to crush millions of Syrians if necessary, as it had crushed their brothers in the Caucasus. There is not a single statement made by the Russian officials, from the beginning of the revolt, which did not defend Assad while condemning the protesters labelling them “armed gangs.” Russia sided with Assad, although he is a criminal, and gave up any compassion, any sympathy for his victims among the population. Is Russia still neutral? Is Russia still objective and credible?

What is all this “love” for Assad? How did Russia decide that the “ruling family” in Damascus deserves to sacrifice for its safety and survival the population of the country, and to lose any respect, any credibility among the Arabs? How could you imagine even for a second that such madness is for the sake of Assad and his regime, not for the sake of the Russian desperate ambition in the Middle East? For sure, Russia has nothing to lose anymore.

It had already lost every Arab country where it had imagined its foothold would stick forever: beginning with Egypt (a shameful and blatant expulsion); Yemen (a normal collapse in the wake of the world communism crumbling); Iraq (the wrong country to bet on); Libya (the wrong dictator to support); and now... Syria? No, No... It is too much to bear for the progeny of Ivan the terrible!

Decidedly, a bad luck had struck Russia in the Arab world. It has always bet on the wrong horse. It has always lost. True, Russia can pretend that, unlike some Western nations, it has never occupied an Arab country; it has no colonial past. Nevertheless, despite their deceitful policies since Sykes-Picot (revealed by the Russians!), their hypocrisy and double-dealing, their blind support to the Israeli occupation of the Arab territories, the Western powers are more accepted in the Arab world than Russia! This is a truth. An incomprehensible truth for the Kremlin, which watches the West applauding the Arab Spring, with the same easiness, the same hypocrisy used in applauding the “dictators” who were its “friendly allies.” There is indeed in this Arab ambivalence and in this Western luck, something that drives Moscow mad.

However, the Western powers, although no less interested than Russia and, regarding the problem of Israel and Iran, showing more stupidity in their positions than the Russians, have also managed to keep an honourable exit, when they understood that this revolt wind crossing the Arab world is not to be calmed easily. They made a choice. They have always made the same choice by the way. Remember other “friendly dictators” they dumped when the population could no longer bear them. The West, specialised in selling “freedom” for whoever wishes to buy, and supporting “young would-be dictators” until they become useless old rugs, proved to be enough flexible, enough wily to get himself a seat in the locomotive of any revolution against the autocrats he had himself supported during long decades.

This is called strategic interests. Seemingly, it does not exist in Russia. For if it existed, Russia would not cling with nails and teeth to a crumbling dictatorship at a time a wind of liberty is changing the whole scene of the Arab world. I said, in the beginning of this paper, Russia is apparently ruling Syria. Well, I apologise. Now I think that Russia is not exactly ruling Syria, but ruling itself out of Syria and the Arab world for an inestimable period of time. An old Arab dictum says: time will tell...
 
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The author is an expert in US-Middle East
relations at the Arab Center for Research
and Policy Studies (Doha Institute)

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