A Greek choir of the “disgusted” and the “outraged” predictably greeted BRICS members Russia and China double veto to the United Nations Security Council resolution imposing regime change in Syria. The resolution was backed by that haven of democracy, the GCC League, the organization controlled by the six monarchies/emirates of the Gulf Cooperation Council formerly known as the Arab League.
United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the double veto a “travesty”. Then Clinton duly incited “friends of democratic Syria” to keep working for regime change, which was the object of the resolution. The copyright for this idea is held by the liberator of Libya, neo-Napoleonic French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who said Paris was already working to create a NATOGCC “Friends of the Syrian People Group” in charge of implementing the Arab League’s regime change plan.
Right on cue, Paris puppet Burhan Ghalyun, the head of the Syrian National Council (SNC) – the opposition umbrella group – also summoned these countries “friendly to the Syrian people”. Everybody knows who they are; the US, Britain, France, Israel and GCC members Qatar and Saudi Arabia. With “friends” like these, the “Syrian people” certainly don’t need enemies.
Those ‘disgusting’ BRICS
United States ambassador to the UN Susan Rice – a top cheerleader of R2P, also known as humanitarian bombing – called the double veto “disgusting”.
Even the venerable stones of the Umayyad mosque in Damascus know that only Washington has the right to wield veto power at the UN – overwhelmingly to protect the state of Israel’s right to kill Palestinian men, women and children with tanks and shelling without bothering about pesky UN resolutions.1
Russia, vocally – and China, silently – had been adamant for weeks; forget about a UN resolution for regime change in Syria, or worse yet, opening the doors for a Libya-style NATO humanitarian bombing.
Russia has its own geopolitical reasons to consider Syria a red line; Syria hosts Russia’s only naval base in the Mediterranean, in the port of Tartus; and Syria buys Russian weapons. But, in fact, all the five BRICS – plus the overwhelmingly majority of the developing world – are in synch; forget about regime change-enabling UN resolutions, promoted by the usual suspect Western trio US-Britain-France and – the summit of hypocrisy – devised by the “democratic” House of Saud and Qatar.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will be in Damascus this Tuesday to meet with President Bashar al-Assad and discuss a serious plan to try to end the bloodshed. Lavrov has calmly explained the reasons for the Russian veto.
He had sent Russian amendments to the draft resolution directly to Clinton; “The rationality and objectivity of these amendments should not cause anyone’s doubt.” But to no avail; the resolution remained “unilateral” – demanding nothing from Syrian anti-government armed groups. Lavrov stressed, “No president with self-respect, no matter how treated, will agree to surrender inhabited localities to armed extremists without resistance.” Imagine if Homs was in Texas.
Still, the SNC now holds Moscow and Beijing “responsible for the escalating acts of killing and genocide”, and facilitators of a “license to kill”. Lavrov is imperturbable; “We have repeatedly said that we are not protecting Assad but international law. The prerogative of the UN Security Council does not envision interference in internal processes.”
Homs: Who’s killing whom?
Syria’s UN ambassador Bashar Ja’afari strongly denied the opposition’s accusation of regime forces bombing the Khadiliya neighborhood in Homs with tanks and artillery and killing over 200 people – arguing that “no sensible person” would launch such an attack the night before the UN Security Council was discussing a resolution. Without any preliminary investigation, France called it a “massacre” and a “crime against humanity”. Like France’s performance during the Algerian war?
To understand what’s at stake, it’s crucial to keep in mind who’s defecting from the Syrian army. Syria’s top military – also members of the Ba’ath Party – are almost all Alawis, the folk Shi’ite sect (10% of the overall population). They are not defecting.
The defectors are overwhelmingly Sunni troops (70% of the overall population); they are forming militias, Libya-style, heavily infiltrated by mercenaries weaponized by the GCC, and fighting government troops. The government’s response has been to target the neighborhoods where the families of these defectors live. The center of Homs nowadays is controlled by the rebels.
So what’s really happening on the ground in Homs? Here are sections from a crucial e-mail sent by a trusted Syrian Christian source:
Many Syrians are ecstatic about the double veto but Homs is very worrying. The opposition spread news about a massacre just before the vote and they quoted numbers in the hundreds … unbelievably quoted by all news channels (all based on “activists”) without any verification, only to bring the number down to something like 33 later. They never showed any bombing or taking people under rubble or any injured people … just clean-bodied men with their hands and feet tied up and shot mostly once and only in their underwear. Whatever the Syrian government has in its arsenal it seems there are very intelligent bombs that can strip and tie up people then shoot them in the head!!
The thing that we know fully well is that there are no army presence in Homs. My parents left the city then came back Saturday morning on the day of the alleged massacre and there was nothing. They usually call a hotline (115) and ask if the roads are safe and security operator will tell you to come to Homs or not. This time they told them to come and indeed there was nothing to be seen or heard. This of course doesn’t mean that most of the city and particularly the old city is under the control of the gunmen. Our old neighborhood where I grew up (the Christian Bustan al-Diwan) was completely taken over by the gunmen. YouTube videos show how the FSA cleared the army roadblock in the previous neighborhood (Bab al-Dreib) and then proceeded to destroy the one guarding our neighborhood.
People in my neighborhood did not complain of any major harassment or problem, however the “revolutionaries” did indeed break into a couple of homes that their people left either days earlier or at the time, also into a school, Homs Newspaper (operated by the Orthodox church for more than 100 years) and a few other restaurants but no other complaints. I mean, considering what these FSA do to Alawites, then the Christians are really getting very fair treatment so far.
What many believe now is that the bodies shown tied up and shot in Khalidiya and which are alleged to be “men, women and children” killed by a bombardment of the Syrian army were nothing but kidnapped Syrian soldiers. Add to them kidnapped Alawites who were not liberated (or actually exchanged). When the FSA kidnap some people, Alawites started to kidnap in return to exchange the prisoners. This doesn’t always work and some people who weren’t “exchanged for” turned up dead in Khalidiya.
All in all up to this point there really isn’t any offensive by the Syrian army on the city. The rebels continue to attack other checkpoints. People are completely in the dark as to what the government is thinking regarding Homs. It’s devastating for me to see my neighborhood become another battleground and many of my friends leaving.
All this dovetails with an explanation by fine journalist Nir Rosen, author of the indispensable Aftermath: Following the Bloodshed of America’s Wars in the Muslim World; Homs is essentially a question of rebels seizing government checkpoints – and government forces shelling a few neighborhoods with mortars. According to Rosen:
There was no fighting in Homs, just shelling from these safe locations (from the point of view of the regime), suggesting they are unable to actually attack Khalidiya with regime fighters … No opposition fighters were killed in the attack. And up to 130 people in Khaldiyeh were killed and 800 wounded (like I said not fighters). Now that’s a lot of people but if you were watching the news … you would think that Homs was destroyed while in fact this attack can also be seen as a sign of the regime’s weakness in the city.
Compare this with my Syrian source worried that “people are completely in the dark as to what the government is thinking regarding Homs”.
Imagine an armed insurrection in a mid-sized city in the US; the whole world saw how peaceful Occupy Wall Street was dealt with by billionaire mayor Michael Bloomberg. The “disgusting” BRICS have made it clear; there will be no NATOGCC humanitarian bombing of Syria. But NATOGCC may be succeeding in its plan B: to plunge Syria into civil war.
• First published at Asia Times.