Announcing he is not responsible for the safety of UN observers on their way to Syria if they don’t obey his rules, President Bashar Assad has set in motion steps for prolonging his war on the Syrian people rather than abiding by a truce. debkafile discloses he offered Moscow and Beijing $30 billion worth of government bonds for a massive injection of funds to replenish his depleted war chest.
And at the UN Security Council, while Russia’s Vitaly Churkin in a surprise turnabout voted with the West on a UN observer team to secure the Syrian ceasefire, Moscow quietly sent warships to Syrian shores to secure the Assad regime.
The heaviest outlay for keeping the massive Syrian war machine turning over is on fuel. Countless tanks, self-propelled artillery, thousands of trucks and tank transporters are constantly on the move from one rebel flashpoint to another, reinforcing embattled units and ferrying troops, equipment and ammunition.
Iran covers the payroll for military and security personnel and the government bodies keeping the regime functioning – to the tune of more than half a billion dollars a month, according to estimates. But the embargo on fuel sales to Syria puts Assad in the hands of Lebanese merchants. He has run out of funds to meet their exorbitant charges for petrol and diesel, without which his military crackdown on the opposition would grind to a stop. Russia and China have therefore been asked for the necessary funding.
Moscow, meanwhile, announced Friday, April 13, “A decision has been made to deploy Russian warships near the Syrian shores on a permanent basis.”
The communiqué did not say who made the decision, but it may be assumed that the decision-maker is at the top level of the Kremlin, President-elect Vladimir Putin.
It is the first time that Moscow has officially announced the permanent deployment of naval vessels in the eastern Mediterranean and off Syria in particular. They extend a protective shield over Bashar Assad and the continuation of his regime against outside military intervention. They also guarantee that the UN observer team, due in Damascus by Monday, April 16, never becomes the nucleus of a broader international expedition for Assad’s removal under the UN aegis, which is what happened in Libya.
Moscow is making sure that the monitors adhere strictly to their Security Council mandate, determined not to leave it Washington or NATO to set out their areas of operation and powers. Assad drove this point home Sunday when ahead of their arrival in Damascus, he warned that he would not be responsible for the observers’ safety if they failed to comply with his rules
Western and Israeli military circles therefore find it hard to understand the rationale of the US and Turkish push for international monitors in Syria, unless the initiative was nothing more than a device to save them having to intervene militarily in the conflict.
In the final reckoning, the presence of a couple of hundred UN monitors in Syria will if anything prolong the violence: the rebels will regard the observers as the vanguard of a major international intervention force to champion their cause, while Assad and Moscow will clip their wings so as to give the Syrian army a free hand to finish the job of wiping out the anti-Assad revolt. Between the two, the UN team will be rendered useless like the Arab League monitors before them.
Seeing Russia and China solidly behind him, the Syria ruler expects them also to put their hands in their pockets to help him survive.