By Arab News
In claiming that the Syrian uprising is a covert attempt by other Arab countries to overthrow the Allawite Assad regime and establish a Sunni state, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is being both provocative and inflammatory. This is an outrageous insult.
Indeed, the statement is all the more outrageous because in the same interview, Lavrov insisted that Assad’s security forces are being challenged by Al-Qaeda. This therefore suggests that he believes that the whole Arab League, united in its utter condemnation of the Syrian blood-letting, is merely a tool of a terrorist organization whose immoral tactics are every bit as ruthless as those deployed by Assad.
Perhaps this is why the Foreign Ministry in Moscow later went on to protest summary executions and torture which, it alleged, had been carried out by the Free Syrian Army. Yet where have been protests from Moscow against the mass slaughter being perpetrated on a regular basis by Assad’s forces?
In spouting this specious nonsense Lavrov chooses to ignore the grievous damage that Al-Qaeda and its offshoots have caused in Iraq, Yemen and other countries, including the Kingdom. He also chooses to ignore the dogged campaign that every Arab state has waged against these terrorists who, by their appalling and immoral cruelties, so defame the name of Islam in which they claim to act.
At best, Lavrov’s ludicrous assertion demonstrates a woeful misunderstanding of what is happening in Syria or a blunt refusal to accept that this is a popular revolt against a ruthless and pitiless dictatorship by a people who could simply stand no more.
However at its worst, it reveals some unpleasant truths about Russia itself. Under Vladimir Putin, Russians have seen the return of a dictatorial strongman who brooks no opposition. Certainly during his first two terms as president, Putin struck a chord among ordinary men and women, who missed the smack of firm government during the old Soviet Communist era, and were appalled and widely impoverished by the economic chaos of the Yeltsin years.
Like his bloody predecessor Stalin, who in 1940 refused to accept clear and mounting evidence of an imminent attack by Hitler’s Nazis, Putin appears to have become locked into a deeply unwise policy over Syria. Because he himself is becoming increasingly dictatorial, Putin does not see the evil of the Assad regime and the enormity of its bloody response to initially peaceful protest. Nor does he understand the horror that is motivating Arab opinion in the face of the slaughter of thousands of Syrians.
The Arab world stood up to Iraq’s Saddam Hussain because he was a dictator whose mad ambitions led him to invade and occupy his friendly neighbor Kuwait. It is this same motive which has now impelled the League to condemn Assad and seek ways to bring his regime and the bloodshed to an end. The Kremlin demonstrates no respect for the fact that Syria is an issue that has brought the Arab world together to speak with one voice as only a few others, such as Palestine and Iraq have done.
By trying, so crassly, to turn the Syrian revolt into a sectarian issue, Russia is not only seeking to muddy the waters in a further attempt to protect its Syrian client dictatorship, but it is also displaying utter contempt for the rest of the Arab world. It is an affront that will not be easily nor quickly forgotten.
It is quite clear that Lavrov thinks that is something inherently bad about Sunni Islam and Sunnis. He clearly thinks we are dangerous terrorists. Not even the American neocons went this far. Russia insults the vast majority of Arabs and the vast majority of Arab states, not least Saudi Arabia, with his vicious notion.
Lavrov must apologize unreservedly. If he does not, Russia, which already by its support of a wicked regime has made itself hated in the Arab world, must be made to feel the Arab wrath. There is no point calling for an Arab boycott of Russian products. It would not have any effect. There are not many Russian products in Arab shops to boycott. The only way to make Moscow understand the deep anger that Lavrov’s nastiness has created is if Arab ambassadors are brought home and Russian ambassadors told to leave. That is the language Moscow understands.