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Terrorism & Security

With little to show in Syria, Arab League turns to UN

The Arab League wants to raise Syria's violent crisis at the United Nations – but it faces Russian reluctance.

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The UN Security Council has so far been blocked from taking strong action against Syria because of opposition from Russia, which holds a veto vote on the council and has remained a staunch defender of Syria, calling only for dialogue.

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The Christian Science Monitor reported earlier this week that Moscow signed a contract to supply Syria with $550 million worth of warplanes, the latest in a series of gestures to show that it intends to "carry on business as usual" with Syria. 

On Tuesday, Mr. Moualem reminded the Arab League and international community that even though "half the universe is against us," Russia would never allow foreign intervention, Reuters reports. 

As the Monitor reported earlier this month, Russia's opposition to UN action has toughened since last spring, when it abstained from the vote on Libya so that authorization of intervention could pass. It has become more suspicious of Western intentions and more concerned about losing its most important Middle Eastern ally to regime change.

Recent protests have also hardened Moscow's resistance to interfering in another country's uprising – it is reluctant to set a precedent for interference in a country's internal affairs.

According to The New York Times, tensions were high at the UN on Tuesday, where US, British, and French diplomats criticized Russia for its arms deal with Syria. Mark Lyall Grant, the British ambassador to the UN, called the move "irresponsible." The Russian ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, accused Western nations of seeking to use the demonstrators to bring to power a government more aligned with their interests.

The Arab League's call for Assad will put pressure on Russia to justify why it is still blocking UN action, Reuters notes. The Arab League's support for intervention in Libya was a critical factor in eroding Russian opposition to the NATO intervention there.

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