The stances of Russia and Iran, which are waging a battle to prolong the life of the Syrian regime in a game of arm-twisting with western states, continue to generate surprise because of the many contradictions involved, and their lack of cohesiveness.
This week’s Arab Summit decided to grant the opposition Syrian National Coalition the country’s seat, and allow any Arab state to arm the Syrian rebels, generating responses from Moscow and Tehran – but their reactions only cemented the impression that the two countries are not acting in concert with each other.
At the outset of the crisis in Syria, Moscow said that it rejected western intervention in Syria, and that it supported dialogue between the warring sides. It supported the road map set down by the Arab League, which included dialogue and the sending of Arab observers to Syria. But when the leading members of the Arab League decided to suspend Syria’s membership in this body because President Bashar Assad refused to cooperate with the provisions of this agreement, which was issued in November 2011, the Russian leadership considered the decision to be unhelpful.
Over the last two years, Moscow has played a vacillating role; it said it was not concerned with Assad personally, but rather with the future of Syria, as declared by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Then, it would say that the political solution based on the Syria Task Force plan agreed to in Geneva did not mean that Assad would step down.
When the Arab Summit’s decision was issued this week, Russia said that awarding Syria’s seat to the opposition was illegitimate. Moscow is using its veto power in any international body against decisions aimed at pressuring Damascus, in order to facilitate a political solution, and it wants to prevent any regional body, such as the Arab League, from exercising such pressure. Russia does not want to remain neutral and allow Arab countries to test their ability to push in the direction of a political solution. Also, it does not want to see foreign intervention, which it arrogates to itself by arming the regime and its people, while turning a blind eye to the intervention of other sides, led by Iran and Hezbollah, and denying this right to Arab states.
Meanwhile, since the beginning of the crisis Tehran has opposed American and western intervention, urging “cooperation among the countries of the region” in order to arrive at a political solution. Every time the “countries of the region” – whether via the Arab League or cooperation between Arab countries and Turkey –put forward the political solution, which would lead to Assad’s departure, Iran would declare, on behalf of Assad, that he was remaining in power and would run for president again in 2014. Then, it would adopt Assad’s condition that Arab states stop supporting the opposition with weapons and money, while making light of the facts indicating the Iran’s Revolutionary Guards were fighting in a number of places in Syria, along with Hezbollah, and that Iran was funding Assad’s war against his people. It was as if this would be a “dangerous precedent,” and the Arab League decision was classified in this manner, according to Iran’s Foreign Ministry.
The contradiction in the stances of Russia and Iran has been characterized by making light of the stances of other countries, and this applies to their position on the situation in Lebanon. This is understandable in the case of Iran, but not in the case of Russia, because such behavior is dangerous.
On Tuesday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said that instability in Lebanon was due to a number of factors, such as tension on the borders, “which are being used by the Syrian opposition and its supporters in Lebanon to transport fighters and weapons” into Syria. The ministry failed to mention that Hezbollah fighters are crossing the border and are taking part in the military conflict inside Syria. In saying this, does Moscow justify the use of Syrian warplanes and artillery to bomb Lebanese territory? This stance contradicts Russia’s approval of the March 14 Security Council resolution that expressed “ grave concern over repeated incidents of cross-border fire which caused death and injury among the Lebanese population, incursions, abductions and arms trafficking across the Lebanese-Syrian border.” The statement concluded with a call to the Lebanese to adhere to their policy of disassociation, avoid involvement in the Syrian crisis, and implement the Baabda Declaration, which stipulates neutrality.
But the Iranian stance is suspicious in terms of what the country intends to see happen in Lebanon following last week’s resignation of the Cabinet, whose formation and whose majority of members were dominated by Hezbollah. The party maintains that governments do not create stability; rather, national consensus determines the form and content of governments and their performance. Hezbollah affirmed its insistence on the formula of “army-people-resistance,” which is exactly the opposite of the basis upon which this government was formed.
In 2010, Hezbollah brought down the “national consensus” government headed by Prime Minister Saad Hariri on the pretext of bringing in a Cabinet headed by Najib Miqati, because in the view of Tehran, it would “achieve stability and protect the resistance, which is more important than national consensus,” as it informed those concerned. Does this imply giving up on forming a new government and keeping Lebanon in limbo, if Hezbollah’s rivals do not reach consensus in the way desired by Hezbollah and Iran, at the peak of the crisis underway in Syria?
The danger of the contradiction in the Russian and Iranian stances lies in the fact that they are revealing that the situation in Lebanon is fully involved in the crisis in Syria.
The views expressed by the author do not necessarily represent or reflect the editorial policy of Arabstoday.