Russia and violation of human rights
After the political and moral bankruptcy of Russia vis-a-vis the Syrian regime's bloody crackdown is exposed Moscow turned to Tehran to hatch a conspiracy for stirring sectarian tension in Syria. Russia seeks an Iranian role for destabilizing the region. If the Russian Foreign Ministry or the Russian Embassy in Riyadh had the ability to show diplomatic courtesy or respect for the sentiments of the people, they would have known what is happening in the Awamiya region in the Eastern Province. They could have learned through news and watched video clips that might have helped them in knowing the reality.
Riyadh never takes action against anyone unless law is violated. Russia should have known that what happened in Awamiya was the result of an Iranian conspiracy. This is true as Nimr Al-Nimr, one of the instigators of Awamiya riots, has been criticizing the state for the last few years. He cursed officials and that showed an Iranian overtone. He was involved in sedition and offended the Saudi society. For several years, the Saudi officials did not touch him. The Saudi patience enraged Iran as the latter sought to create tension in the region.
Previously, Saudi sources expected that Iran and Syria might try to cause anarchy in the Gulf countries. Nonetheless, the vigilance of the security apparatus and the solidarity of the people of the Gulf region foiled the Iranian plots. The events in Bahrain and the call of for the desert shield have also thwarted Iranian designs against the region.
This also exposed the powerlessness of Iran and accordingly Iran focused on creating tension in the region to divert attention from its internal crisis. For this reason, Iranians turned to Russia to voice criticism over human rights issue as if human rights are respected in Russia.
Look at Russia’s human rights record in Chechnya and Caucasus. What has the Russian government to say about killing people by toxic gases that is banned internationally? Needless to mention other forms of genocide or forced migration.
The consequences of the Arab Spring on the national security of Russia has been a source of concern for Moscow. The Russian intelligence came to the conclusion that Arab Spring will reach Moscow and that Russia should take a firm stand on this issue. There are reasons for that. First, Moscow is afraid of protest movements especially after the change of power that has put Putin at the helm and the detention of more than 850 opposition activists.
Moscow also fears the consequences of the downfall of Assad, which may lead to the downfall of Iran and revival of a religious awakening in Russia. It may also trigger protests against Putin's position toward the killings and daily massacres in Syria.
Russia feels that the changes in the region are not working in its favor and President Putin seems to have adopted the communist ideology in his political thinking. He is still a hostage to the past and has a lot of apprehensions about Islamists' taking over in some places in the Muslim and Arab world. He believes that these movements are anti-Russia and they could curtail its economic and political influence. Therefore, Moscow believes that a change in Syria and Iran may lead to the emergence of an alternative pipeline for Russian gas. This will cause a decline in trade that can weaken Russia politically. Additionally, Lebanon may strike a gas deal with Israel in the Mediterranean — a move that may render Russia insignificant.
Russia realizes that change in Syria is imminent. Therefore, Moscow is manoeuvring to strike a comprehensive deal with the West so that a possible change in Syria does not affect its interests. Russia also wants Iran not to be affected by the change. That is the reason why Iran is flexing its muscle in the Gulf, conducting military drills on the Afghan border and calling for the departure of American troops. Tehran tries to scuttle the strategic understandings between Afghanistan and NATO that it thinks can affect its security.
However, Moscow has looked through the prisms of Iran and Syria but does not realize where its real interests lie in the region. Neither does it realize that the world is changing and this will lead to a change in balance of power. Egyptian President Muhammad Mursi’s visit to Saudi Arabia reveals the grand alliance between Cairo and Riyadh. Damascus has now become the axis on which Arab policies will be framed. Hence, the external impact of Russia and Iran in the region will eventually fade away.
Moscow thinks it can frustrate the American role in the world as it looks at Syria as a gateway for geopolitical arrangements internationally rather than at the regional level. Russia also believes that the West tries to find a solution to its economic crisis through a series of wars and that the Arab Spring is an outcome of that. But the Arab world realizes that the Western-Russian contradictions are not substantial and not ideological. Also the military base in Tartous is not of any strategic importance for Russia as it is for maintenance and can be used by Russia even in case of a change of regime in Syria. Nonetheless, the Russian intelligence was able to brainwash Russian intellectuals that what has been taking place in Syria targets Russia.
Unfortunately, some well-respected Russian intellectuals are selling the illusion that Washington is retreating and will sell out Israel and is ready to ally itself with Islamists in the region. And that Russia's fears of the consequences of the events in the region are justified. This only reflects a mindset that the West is conspiring against Russia.
Moscow did not use its veto power during the Libyan crisis though it expressed its reservation. Today, it talks about morals at the international level. And yet freedom in Russia is exactly as it is in Somalia. There is a token opposition. Therefore, the country is awash with financial corruption. Interestingly, Putin himself is a partner in these projects. In the Arab world, revolutions took place in protest against corruption and the misuse of power. The Arab spring therefore came against marginalization, detention of opposition figures, and misuse of public spending.
Finally, I expect that there will be a deal sooner than many can think of. Moscow is not going to be the defender of international law. Additionally, Russia is neither the place for freedom nor democracy. It has been using the crisis as a bargaining chip in dealing with the West. The situation in Syria is most likely to be decided by the Syrian people. Therefore, the current race is between reaching a deal or missing it. The latter will for sure create a guilty feeling on the part of the Russian leadership and will pose new challenges.
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