Leaders of the six Gulf Cooperation Council countries are declaring their continued support for military action against Syria even as Russia’s proposal to seize and dispose of Syria’s chemical weapons is gaining traction, Arab dailies lead off.
A headline article in the Doha-based media network Al-Jazeera, “Gulf countries: Chemical weapons control will not stop Syrian bloodshed,” explains that GCC countries are worried that new international efforts to rein in Syria’s chemical weapons will backfire and not bring an end to that country’s civil war.
“The issue is not related to one type of weapon,” said Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa at a news conference in Jeddah after the GCC meeting. “We are tired of procrastination (by the international community). We demand an end to the suffering of the Syrian people. The situation in Syria is not changing. We want to stop the bloodshed of the Syrian people.”
The GCC countries point out that the issue of chemical weapons is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s atrocities against his own people. These Arab states fear that efforts to locate and remove Syria’s chemical weapons will either fail and render a future military assault ineffective or will enable Russia to supply far more conventional weapons to Assad and entrench his regime in power.
Representatives of the Syrian opposition are also dead against what they call “a dirty deal” between Assad and the international community. General Abdul-Jabbar Aqidi, the commander of the Revolutionary Military Council of Aleppo, told the Dubai-based media network Al-Arabiya “what is happening is an attempt to remove Obama from the crisis after he found himself stuck up a tree. . . Disarming Assad’s chemical weapons only serves Israel and not the Syrian people. . . The world ignores Assad’s tactics of murder and that he has killed most of his victims using tanks and mortars.”
Regardless of Arab feelings, US President Barack Obama has decided to give Russia’s initiative a major chance. The London-based pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat reports that Obama has canceled a scheduled congressional vote on Syrian military action to give the Russians time to formulate a comprehensive proposal for removing Assad’s chemical weapons. Obama insists that if the Russian and Syrian efforts are merely disingenuous, the military option remains on the table.
However, it is fast becoming clear that navigating toward an agreement with Russia would not be easy. An emergency meeting scheduled for Wednesday night by the United Nations Security Council was canceled at Russia’s request. In televised remarks, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that before Syria put its arsenal of chemical weapons under international supervision, the United States and its allies had to agree to not use force against the Assad regime. Putin’s speech is being viewed by analysts as another means of undercutting American threats of military action.
The main editorial in the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi, called “Why is Bashar Assad backing down?” suggests that the only reason Syria so readily agreed to give up its chemical weapons is because its military is so weak that it would not successfully recover after an American attack.
“Syrians have learned during the past fifty years that a dictatorship will fall quickly if there is any serious threat of external force,” the editorial reads. “But if there is no external intervention, then that dictatorship will be ready to destroy its own country if the people demanded freedom.”
The article continues to note that the world’s acquiescence to Russia’s proposal shows its absolute rejection of the demands of the Syrian people. This is new confirmation that nothing can stop Assad if he is only forced to temporarily put a hold on his crimes.
An op-ed in the Saudi-owned A-Sharq Al-Awsat by Fouad Ajami expresses a similar attitude. Stating that Assad’s military is at the point of being completely destroyed, Ajami argues that Obama’s doubt and hesitation is sending Assad the message that no matter what his regime will be untouched throughout the fall.
“Since the beginning of this abominable war, Assad has prided himself on not allowing the rebels to be aided by any third party,” Ajami writes. “Assad is becoming strengthened by seeing that the US does not have the ability or the will to test its strength in the Middle East.”