World Approach to “Peace” in Syria: Arm Both Sides

The carnage in Syria continues unabated, with government forces shelling citizens, especially in the city of Homs. Qatar’s minister for international cooperation described Sunday’s veto of the UN Security Council resolution by Russia and China in this way:

Khaled al-Attiyah, Qatar’s minister for international co-operation,  said the vetoes sent “a very bad signal to Assad that there (is a) license to kill.”

Russia claims they are working for a peaceful settlement in Syria, with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Damascus now to speak to Assad:

Lavrov told Assad, according to Russia’s RIA news agency: “Every leader of every country must be aware of his share of responsibility. You are aware of yours. It is in our interests for Arab peoples to live in peace and agreement.”

Lavrov, whose government wields rare leverage in Syria as a major arms supplier to Damascus, said Assad assured him he was committed to halting bloodshed by both sides and that he was ready to seek dialogue with all political groups in Syria.

But the arms that Russia has been supplying to Assad are still being put to use against Syria’s citizens. From the same Reuters article:

Opposition activists said the fresh assault on Homs came after 95 people were killed on Monday in the city of one million, Syria’s third biggest. More than 200 were reported killed there by sustaining shelling on Friday night.

“The bombardment is again concentrating on Baba Amro (district of Homs). A doctor tried to get in there this morning but I heard he was wounded,” Mohammad al-Hassan, an activist in Homs, told Reuters by satellite phone. “There is no electricity and all communication with the neighborhood has been cut.”

A further 19 people were killed and at least 40 wounded in Tuesday’s barrage, activists said. Some reported fighting between army defectors and government forces trying move into areas the rebels hold in Homs.

Reflecting the total failure in what passes for world “diplomacy”, the response from the West is to arm the citizens of Syria to fight back against government forces who were armed by Russia. The approach starts out positively, as an attempt to prevent the arming of the Syrian government, but by the time Joe Lieberman gets involved, it goes terribly astray:

The United States has vowed to block funding and arms supplies to Syria after Russia and China vetoed a UN resolution condemning the government’s crackdown on dissent.

“We will work to seek regional and national sanctions against Syria and strenghten the ones we have. They will be implemented to the fullest to dry up the sources of funding and the arms shipments that are keeping the regime’s war machine going”, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told journalists in Sofia on Sunday.

That part is fine. Working to stop the arming of Syria is a fine effort. But then Lieberman shows up:

Senator Joe Lieberman, a former Democratic presidential candidate, went further than Clinton and talked of the military option.

“If Russia and China don’t change their minds about the veto … then the world will not allow us to say there’s nothing we can do about it,” Lieberman said.

“So we should begin thinking about what we can do, particularly with the Arab League,” he said. “I think it begins with support for the Free Syrian Army.”

The senator said a “range of support” could be given to the rebels, from medical supplies to intelligence and reconnaissance surveillance.

“And then ultimately it is providing them with weapons,” he said during a panel discussion on the Middle East.

But if a report from PressTV today is true, Lieberman’s “warning” about arming the Free Syrian Army has proceeded all the way to action:

Lebanon’s security officials say a suspicious cargo containing huge amounts of US dollars, guns, special passports and credit cards have been seized upon arrival in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, from the US and Brazil.

The items, packed in a number of chests and delivered via airmail, were discovered at Beirut’s airport, the Lebanese security officials said.

The chests also contained a list of both well-known and ordinary Lebanese citizens including a figure related to Salafi extremist groups. The security officials have summoned a number of the individuals, whose names were on the list, arresting some of them.


Over the past few months, reports have circulated that caches of weapons have been smuggled to armed gangs in Syria through the Lebanese border.

I realize that I’m an idealist, but I can’t stop wondering what the world would be like if “diplomacy” put as much effort into preventing the arming of nations and dissident groups as it now puts into arming them. The current situation in Syria has one side much more strongly armed than the other, so there likely is no solution that doesn’t involve more violence and more weapons, but when will weapons stop being the currency of diplomats? And when will the diplomats realize that their current concentration on weapons always results in the deaths of innocent civilians?

Many years ago, Jim got a BA in Radiation Biophysics from the University of Kansas. He then got a PhD in Molecular Biology from UCLA and did postdoctoral research in yeast genetics at UC Berkeley and mouse retroviruses at Stanford. He joined biosys in Palo Alto, producing insect parasitic nematodes for pest control. In the early 1990’s, he moved to Gainesville, FL and founded a company that eventually became Entomos. He left the firm as it reorganized into Pasteuria Biosciences and chose not to found a new firm due a clash of values with venture capital investors, who generally lack all values. Upon leaving, he chose to be a stay at home dad, gentleman farmer, cook and horse wrangler. He discovered the online world through commenting at Glenn Greenwald’s blog in the Salon days and was involved in the briefly successful Chris Dodd move to block the bill to renew FISA. He then went on to blog at Firedoglake and served a brief stint as evening editor there. When the Emptywheel blog moved out of Firedoglake back to standalone status, Jim tagged along and blogged on anthrax, viruses, John Galt, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is now a mostly lapsed blogger looking for a work-around to the depressing realization that pointing out the details of government malfeasance and elite immunity has approximately zero effect.
8 replies
  1. eCAHNomics says:

    First two segments after headlines on democracynow this morning featured Patrick Seale, author of a bio of Asad (his spelling) pere. I’ve read half the book but Syria & Asad are so star-crossed, I couldn’t finish it.

    Seale has good grasp of complexities within Syria & within region. Well worth 40 minutes of your time.

    Permalinks to today’s show not up yet.

  2. rugger9 says:

    The Russians and PRC government will not be amused about the FSA arming, and LIEberman’s statement just put the bullseye on the USG as the source, even though it might really be some AIPAC op [they have money, one way or another, and fewer scruples, plus JoeLIE is their buddy]. This is important for resolving the Iran situation [good luck getting any more resolutions, boys] as well as Syria, and seems to set up a hot-war scenario in the Megiddo region [also known as Armageddon] as well as something in the Gulf, just what the war profiteer chickenhawks want. If anyone thinks that there will be useful dialogue any time soon after this between East and West they’re kidding themselves. Way to go, Joe.

  3. sona says:


    right, we are headed back to that cold war except the enemy is not so defined as communistas – it’s not just those

    war profiteer chickenhawks

    but sudis and the gccs wanting to maintain a sunni regional hegemony

    it was a relief that china and russia vetoed ‘humanitarian military kinetics’ and US-nato-australian poodle fury is just saving face when they are incapable of extending the parameters of diplomacy beyond bags of cash, arms twisting and spying on foreign diplomats – the wider world doesn’t pay much attention to all that

    the rebels in syria are very well armed and are equally guilty of civilian casualties – they don’t need overt western/covert saudi intervention to wreak havoc they have already unleashed

    as to lieberman’s concerns that russian and chinese vetoes mean that

    the world will not allow us to say there’s nothing we can do about it

    well, that’s an irrelevant comment from someone whose time has passed – the world will not accept the US-nato-australian complex to repeat lybia or that canard that forcible regime change is an acceptable foreign policy for any civilised country

  4. rugger9 says:

    @sona: #4
    Evidence with links, please, about the Sunni hegemony, as well as FSA atrocities.

    It could be that the cold war is back on, I’ve been seeing signs of it for a while now, in particular with the competition with the PRC in Pakistan, the tacit help from the PRC as well as more overt help from the Russians in Iran, the long-term Russian involvement in Syria dating to the UAR days [early Hafez Assad, a tripartite linkage with Iraq and Egypt] while we helped the Israelis.

    LIEberman is indeed washed up, but the observation is correct when applied to the UN. Since both the PRC and Russia are permanent members of the Security Council their veto is binding as much as ours were defending Israeli statehood and policies since. In practical terms it means very little chance of a negotiated finish for Syria and Iran, and it’s literally bombs away. One thing to look for is activity by the North Koreans [DPRK] since they have a new leader who will have to exert some muscle, and the PRC wants the USA tied down away from the ME.

    I’ll stand by the war profiteer chickenhawks point, it is where the money really comes from and goes. After all, the ones who PROFITED from Iran are the contractor companies, with no consequences for failures like the electrocuting showers or civilian atrocities [among many many other sins].

  5. sona says:


    the reference to saudi desire to shore up a sunni hegemony is my own analysis having watched them in action in bahrain, eagerness to isolate iran, a shia rival who they cannot ignore and yet fear as a rival, unwillingness to cultivate warmer relations with iraq, treating lebanese political set up with hizbollah as part of its governing elite with disdain, etc – you do not need links for this beyond al jazeera

    al jazeera had very clear footage of so called rebels with heavy military guards – the rebels are not all unarmed civilians though some are and the syrian troops are not firing at themselves

  6. wendy davis says:


    That’s exactly what I was referencing to ondelette; the short leaked report seemed to blame both sides, but I did wonder why the report evaporated so completely. Thanks for saying, Tuttle.

    And the discrediting of the monitors began before they even got into the country.

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