Moscow Should Help Syria, Not Assad

Writing in the Moscow Times, Omar al-Issawi of Human Rights Watch pleads his case to Moscow to show stronger support for the Syrian protesters. His article is well intentioned and filled with a number of reasonable and feasible policy suggestions, but it’s as though the author is living within a different reality.  Russia has been calling for more time for Assad to implement reforms, and appears quite reluctant to condemn the government for the killings of protesters.

But Moscow should not let the Libyan situation taint its outlook or decision making on Syria. The Syrian people’s quest for dignity and liberty has been sustained and unflinching for the five months since the civil unrest began. They have no armed forces or organized militias, nor have the people received outside support to help their cause. An estimated 2,000 people, including children, have been killed by their own government and more than 10,000 have been detained, many of them tortured, for peacefully demanding an end to repression. Tanks also are being deployed against civilians. (…)

The Kremlin’s position has gone from threatening to veto any Security Council resolution condemning the Syrian regime to voicing concern over human rights violations in Syria. Moscow has much to gain by continuing to support international efforts aimed at ending human rights abuses in Syria. Moscow should use its influence with its own friends and allies to curb its support for the authorities in Damascus, starting with Iran. (…)

It is in Russia’s interests to support Syrians who want a democratic country — one that values human rights and upholds the dignity of its own citizens. Russia’s wisdom on this issue will be the whole world’s gain.

The only problem here is that Al-Issawi presumes that Russia has influence in Iran.  Further, the concept of “international humanitarian intervention” is not exactly in Moscow’s vocabulary … unless of course you are talking about South Ossetia.