By Arab News
By Tariq Alhomayed
A dangerous statement, or gaffe, was made by the Russian Foreign Ministry, by its minister Sergey Lavrov, in which he said: “If the current Syrian regime collapses, some countries in the region will want to establish Sunni rule in Syria.” It is very strange that a foreign minister would issue such a statement, particularly the Russian foreign minister.
This statement, or gaffe, was not made by Hassan Nasrallah or Nuri Al-Maliki or Muqtada Sadr or even Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi or Bashar Assad himself, rather it was made by a secular state that is not known for falling into sectarian quicksand, particularly with regard to the language that “mullah” Lavrov used; and when we say “mullah” here, we mean one of the mullah’s of Khomeinist Tehran! However, can we look at Lavrov’s statement solely from this sectarian standpoint? I think not, for it is clear that Lavrov’s statement reflects confusion, more than fears of Sunnis!
Over the past days, the Russian foreign minister has issued an excessive number of statements about the situation in Syria, however, all of these statements have been contradictory, with one statement criticizing Bashar Assad and holding him accountable for inflaming the situation by reacting wrongly to what was carried out by the Syrian people, another statement revealing that Russia wants to cooperate with the UN Security Council and others, and finally the latest statement, or gaffe, which I repeat is difficult to imagine any foreign ministry issuing, let alone the Russian foreign minister! Issuing a statement saying that some countries in the region want to establish Sunni rule in Syria is not just dangerous, this also lacks the diplomatic judgment expected from a Russian foreign minister. Therefore, Lavrov’s statements about Sunni rule represents evidence of Russia’s frustration at the Gulf Cooperation Council GCC states — and particularly Saudi Arabia — ignoring Lavrov’s contradictory statements on Syria, namely the statements that claim that Moscow has opened the door to “pressing’ the Assad regime — at least to those willing to believe this — however this, of course, is not true; all the while time is running out and Moscow is becoming increasingly embarrassed (of its relationship with the Assad regime).
I previously wrote an article summarizing the need to sit down with the Russians “Time to sit down with the Russians” (March 11), particularly following Lavrov’s meeting with Arab foreign ministers in Cairo, however, even if the Gulf States — or Saudi Arabia, in particular — have failed to sit down with Russia, this does not explain this shameful statement about Sunni rule in Syria. This statement serves to fuel sectarianism in an unprecedented manner, whilst it will also be difficult to erase this statement from the region’s memory on all levels, even if Moscow secures Assad’s departure from Syria. In this case, what is the difference today between what Sheikh Al-Arour is saying about the Assad regime, and what Lavrov said about the Sunnis? Is Moscow paying attention to this?
What is certain is that even if Russia becomes aware of this, the damage — which is significant — has already been done, as it has become clear that there is no difference between the mullah dressed in red and the mullah dressed in black in Iran, for each is more dangerous than the other, because they are pouring oil on fire in a region that is surrounded by dynamite! Unfortunately, this is precisely what Mullah Lavrov did.
— The author is editor in chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Write to him at [email protected]