“How do the Russians twist the facts, and what is the secret behind their stance on the Syrian revolution?”

publisher: القدس العربي

AUTHOR: د. عمار البرادعي

Publishing date: 2012-10-14


Despite a year and a half passing since the start of the Syrian revolution, many are still puzzled about the true nature of Russia’s stance and support for the brutal and internationally condemned regime. To what extent is Russia willing to support the regime and what does it mean for them to recently declare that they are not insisting on Bashar al-Assad’s staying in power, as long as he is not required to step down before engaging in any dialogue with his regime?

One might wonder if Russia is merely concerned about the alternative to Assad, or if they are primarily focused on safeguarding their own interests, regardless of who that alternative might be. On the other hand, there is also confusion about the true position of the United States. Despite several high-ranking officials condemning the atrocities of the Syrian regime and advocating for Assad’s departure, their actions have not fully matched their words.

The US has repeatedly given the Assad regime time after time, instead of taking decisive action against the ongoing bloodshed and violence. They have called for de-escalation, dialogue, and similar measures that fall short of supporting the people’s revolution wholeheartedly. There have been reports indicating secret agreements between the Iraqi and Iranian governments, who are allied with Assad, to supply weapons to the Syrian regime through Iraqi airspace with the knowledge and approval of the United States.

This contradictory behavior raises questions about Russia’s true intentions, especially considering their unwavering support for Assad, even when some aspects of their Iranian and Iraqi allies’ involvement were hidden from the public. Russia’s recent interactions with a delegation labeled the “Council of Arab and International Affairs” and the vague topics discussed during the meeting further add to the perplexity. Russia seems to carefully tread between condemning terrorism, respecting cultural and religious values, and advocating for a political and diplomatic resolution to problems without clearly distinguishing between the perpetrator and the victim.

This complex situation leaves us uncertain about what Russia might have up its sleeve, whether there are undisclosed deals made behind closed doors. The answer to this question seems to be both “yes” and “no” at the same time.

“In essence, there are details the Russians are trying to introduce as a new pretext to support their old and stubborn position stubbornly. However, all these details are confusing generalities aimed at wasting time. This is what we saw in the minutes of the dialogue that took place in Paris on September 9th last year between Mikhail Bogdanov, the envoy of the Russian president and deputy foreign minister, and Abdel Halim Khaddam, former deputy president of Syria, who is considered the architect of Syrian-Russian relations. Here is a verbatim text of the highlights of the discussion, which confirms that they have nothing new to offer and gives examples of their way of avoiding facts and facing questions:

Bogdanov (initiating the meeting): Syria is a beloved and precious country to us, but the situation there is very difficult.

Khaddam: I hope to hear from you the main reasons behind the current Russian policy. I was the architect of these relations (between us), and the Syrian and Arab people also regarded you as friends and allies. But now, I am sorry to say that the Arabs have started looking at the Americans as allies and saviors, and at you as the savior of this butcher Bashar.

Bogdanov: That is an oversimplification. We are in touch with everyone. I have been to Iraq and Kurdistan, and President Morsi called Putin today, and I am in touch with all opposition factions, including Manaf Tlass. We are not defending Bashar, and I have been to Damascus twice in August and February of the past year. Bashar makes many distinctive mistakes, but he still relies on wide and not simple segments of the Syrian people.

Khaddam: This assessment is inaccurate because despite the killings, the Syrian people take to the streets. All of Syria went out against him. Bashar commits massacres that the Nazis and Stalin did not commit, so how can there be a considerable section with Bashar? There is a certain group that represents corruption. Bashar strikes his people with planes and tanks, so how can a section of the people be with him? I believe this statement is inaccurate. Frankly, what you hear is different from what we hear. We, in the Arab street, are angry at the positions of Iran and Russia because Moscow is not supposed to stand by the killer. You refuse to take a decision to punish those who commit crimes and reject an international investigation committee.

Bogdanov: We are not defending the regime and Bashar. We support the formation of an international investigation committee. As for the Russian position, there was the G8 summit that resulted in a final statement by consensus, and there was also the Mexico summit with Obama, and the work group in Geneva to find a suitable political solution for all based on international foundations, but the Security Council rejected adopting the Geneva statement… (he continued questioning): …And what about the crimes committed by the other party? What about Chechnya and Al-Qaeda?

Khaddam: The Syrian people defend themselves, and there is no presence of Al-Qaeda. The Syrian people are moderate, but injustice, oppression, murder, and the failure of the international community to make decisive decisions in this regard have made people implore God to save them. The Geneva conference did nothing for the Syrian people. There is no solution except through a radical change and the trial of those who committed the crimes, as there is no city or village that has not been affected by destruction… (he asked): How do you see Russia’s efforts to help the Syrian people and get rid of this regime, and does Bashar deserve to continue?

Bogdanov: We did not say that Bashar is a condition for the solution, and Putin said if he resigns, we welcome that.

Khaddam: And if he does not resign, what will you do?

Bogdanov: We are in favor of changing the regime.

Khaddam: You see blood flowing, yet you continue to send him weapons.

Bogdanov: We do not send weapons, all the experts have left. (……………)

Bogdanov: We say that as an international community, we should work to create conditions inside Syria to stop the fighting, release the detainees, and hold elections as soon as possible.

Khaddam: What elections? There is no solution except through changing the regime, not dismantling the state, and then forming a technocratic government with powers. That is the way. We do not want the future of the people to be lost in conferences. We demand practical measures that help overthrow the regime. Russia’s position is clear, announcing the cessation of support to Bashar with weapons and ammunition and supporting the right of the Syrian people to determine their destiny. Syrians take this into consideration, and through it, we can tell the great powers, ‘Please, come forward, as you bear great responsibility in the end for what is happening in Syria.’ For me, two months after the outbreak of the revolution, I issued a statement calling on the international community to act and intervene because if it does not happen, Syria will become a haven for all extremists, and it will harm the interests of the Arab and major countries in the region. No one sees this perspective and takes it as a basis (in defining their position). Some opposition parties do not see things deeply and insist on rejecting international intervention to preserve Syria’s dignity. Now, where is Syria’s dignity and the dignity of its people? Now, Iran is directly intervening, and there are more than fifty officers from the Revolutionary Guard captured by the rebels. Now, after a year and a half, they are demanding military intervention. Therefore, please, we do not want Russia to be in a position of opponents to the Syrian people, and this is your responsibility in making a decisive Russian decision against Bashar that facilitates the process of the solution.

Bogdanov: Bashar knows that there is a conflict between the West and the East…

Khaddam: The East is with him, and it seems that the West is with the people. The matter will remain complicated, so the ball is in Moscow’s court. There must be a serious and practical stance towards Bashar. Can anyone dare to address the regime after what happened? The wound is deep among the people. Is there a respectable opposition that can shake hands with (such) a regime?

Bogdanov: I have met with everyone, and I might be mistaken in my assessment, but we have not seen leadership and prominent figures…. So what is the alternative?

Khaddam: In the transitional stage, a technocratic government, and this is ready. We work silently and calmly. I agree with you on continuing the dialogue… At this point, the meeting ended, and as we can see, the situation remains the same with regard to the Russians, Iranians, Chinese, and Americans as well. We return to the first question about the truth of the Russian position and its backgrounds, and what the denial and confirmation hide simultaneously in more than one case. The same applies to the American position as well. This is the hidden secret behind the ongoing procrastination and concealment, and the lack of an actual victory for the will of the rebellious people against everything that requires a revolution against it.

Syrian Writer Living in Paris”