Syria stalemate: Is Russia pushing Mideast into cold-war style conflict?
Russia is refusing to attend an Arab League-hosted meeting on Syria, and experts warn its stance could embolden Iran to stand firm against the West. The US meanwhile softened its stance on arming the opposition.
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Russia announced Tuesday it would not attend the “Friends of Syria” meeting organized by the Arab League because the Syrian government is not included. In Beijing, China said it had received an invitation but that the matter required “further studying.”Skip to next paragraph
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Arab League countries say the Tunis meeting will focus on finding ways to meet the humanitarian needs of the Syrian people, who continue to come under attack from Syrian government forces. But the question of arming the Syrian opposition is also likely to come up, analysts say.
In the US, some members of Congress are calling on the Obama administration to work with other countries to find ways for Syrians under siege from their own government to acquire arms and defend themselves.
The administration has voiced opposition to arming the antigovernment groups, but coordinated statements Tuesday by both the White House and State Department, which cited “additional measures” if Syria does not relent in its crackdown, signaled that its opposition could be softening.
The Arab League meeting will take place even as Iran and a group of world powers consider restarting talks on Iran’s nuclear program. Russia, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, would be part of those talks, as would China.
Military strikes on Iran’s nuclear installations and retaliation by Iran “would send oil prices through the roof, and who does that benefit? Russia,” says Phillips, “whose principal export is oil.”
Russia is making moves suggesting it does not want to be seen as blocking the way to some resolution of the Syrian conflict. Moscow is calling for the Security Council to have the UN name a humanitarian envoy to Syria to work with all sides to find a way to stop the fighting and resolve the conflict.
But Phillips says that any action a bitterly divided council could agree on at this point is likely to be so “cosmetic” that it wouldn’t have much impact on the ground.
“We’ll see a slow-motion implosion of the Assad regime,” he says, as the country’s economy and political structures collapse, “but while that’s happening there will be more violence, and unfortunately more casualties.”
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