• A daily summary of global reports on security issues.
A meeting between Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and opposition group leaders from the Syrian National Council took place in Moscow today to discuss a new UN resolution drafted by Russia, underscoring the importance of Russia's role in helping to ameliorate the Syrian crisis.
Russia, along with China, has been a firm opponent of international efforts to push Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad out of power. The two powers have twice vetoed UN Security Council resolutions condemning the Assad regime, despite 17 months of conflict between Syrian authorities and the opposition that has claimed close to 17,000 lives. Russia has long stated it won’t support military intervention in the country.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said yesterday that Russia isn’t “clinging” to Mr. Assad, but that Syria should be left to decide his fate, according to Bloomberg News. "We try to move the Syrian opposition figures toward realistic and constructive positions that can help end the bloodshed," Mr. Bogdanov said, according to Ahram Online.
Russia’s new draft resolution calls for a three-month extension of the UN mission in Syria, but does not call for sanctions. The US and European members of the Security Council are not likely to be satisfied by this proposal: They have long called for the enactment of Chapter Seven of the UN Charter, which allows for the use of sanctions and military intervention (though US officials say they only want to implement on sanctions).
The Security Council has remained starkly divided throughout the course of the Syrian conflict. The UN mission's 90-day mandate ends on July 20, by which point the Security Council must reach a conclusion as to its future before then, according to the Guardian.
Though Russia is not expected to publicly abandon its support for Assad, the Syrian National Council traveled to Moscow in an effort to convince Russia to reconsider its support for the Syrian leader. Russia “is one of the fundamental countries for Syria and plays a big role for us,” said Basma Kodmani, a member of the SNC leadership, according to Russian media outlet RIA Novosti. Ms. Kodmani said the SNC hopes Russia can help “to turn the page of the old regime and transform to the new democratic order,” reports RIA.
“We are discussing a political mechanism for the solution of the Syrian crisis that was proposed by the Arab League and this mechanism should be adopted by the UN Security Council,” [Kodmani] told a news conference in Moscow, adding that SNC is against “the talks with the ruling authorities,” but favors “talks for the implementation of this mechanism under the UN supervision.”
Kodmani said it is necessary to immediately pull out all troops from urban centers in Syria and implement a cease-fire, according to Bloomberg. “We think it’s going to be difficult to have a bilateral process,” she said in Moscow, indicating the need for the continued presence of the United Nations as a third-party facilitator.
But not everyone believes UN Special Envoy Kofi Annan is the right person to continue shepherding negotiations.
Yesterday, Mr. Annan met with leaders in Iran, a longtime Syria ally. He urged Tehran to “be part of the solution,” according to the Associated Press. Annan has criticized Western powers for focusing on Russia as the main obstacle to reaching a peaceful solution in Syria, despite the role that other countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia have played in providing arms and funding, according to an interview with French newspaper Le Monde. But a Wall Street Journal editorial casts a cynical eye on Annan's mission.
Mr. Annan won the [Nobel Peace] prize having already praised Saddam Hussein, in 1998, as a man of "courage, wisdom, flexibility," with whom he could "do business." Now he's in Tehran finding new despots to praise in his role as the U.N.'s Special Envoy on Syria.
[...T]he role Iran is currently playing in Syria involves sending snipers and tactical advisers from the terrorist Quds Force to assist Bashar Assad in murdering opponents of his regime. Other assistance is believed to include cash transfers to pay Assad's army, unarmed drones to monitor protestors from the air, electronic monitoring tools to track the opposition online, as well as rifles, ammunition and other military equipment.
We guess it's possible that behind closed doors Mr. Annan is demanding that his Iranian hosts start behaving differently. Somehow we doubt it.
Today’s meeting in Russia follows on the heels of Moscow’s deployment of 11 warships to the eastern Mediterranean. Some of the boats docked in Syria, an act that not only represents Russia’s desire to stay in the center of the decisionmaking process on the Syrian conflict, but also represents the country’s largest display of military might in the region since the Syrian conflict began, according to The New York Times. Syria houses Russia’s only military base outside the former Soviet Union.