In scanning the news this morning, I found this headline:
Russia says it will help Syria deter "hot heads"
Now who could they possibly mean, I wonder…
All kidding (on the square) aside, this is a bit troubling, although part of the problem could be in translation (or not). “Hotheads” is a pretty demeaning term, and about the only action apart from McCain’s apparently unreported and foolish venture into Syria taken this weekend was taken, or rather not taken, by the European Union when they allowed the arms embargo with Syria to expire, thus allowing weapons manufacturers in the EU to openly sell to the rebels.
Already, there’s been some backlash against Russia swiping its paws at the EU.
I’ve discussed in the past some of the background between Syria and Russia, but let me sum it up quickly: Syria buys Russian arms, maintains the sole Russian naval base in the Mediterranean (at Tartus), has energy development deals with Russia in both oil and natural gas, and is closely allied with Iran, also a major Russian arms customer, but also a big customer for Russian natural gas.
There. Not too painful, right?
So there’s a definite threat from Russia in the area, unlike China and the African continent which has a negotiable position as it is strictly economic/energy. This, above everything else, is why I suspect President Obama has tiptoed carefully in Syria whereas in Libya he felt free to commit resources to the region.
Of course, all bets are off if the French find what they think they’ll find out of Syria. It will be interesting to see what Russia’s response will be if there is definitive proof that the Assad regime used chemical weapons on its own people (supplied by Russia?).
This is turning into a bigger mess than I think anyone imagined it would be. Still, if Russia is willing to back down and twist Assad’s arm a little, this could all end quietly.