to reach a decision in the Security Council to condemn the massacre perpetrated by Assad and to call for aid to the Syrian people, Russia used its right of veto to stop every serious decision. Russia accepted the Syrian regime’s position completely, and defined the people’ struggle against the regime as “terror.” Nonetheless, the White House and Moscow agreed that there was no military solution to the Syrian crisis – the solution had to be political. This is what enabled the agreement formulated at the first Geneva Conference on 30 June 2012, which stated that an interim government must be set up to take over from the current regime and end the fighting.
Obama’s decision in August 2013 to bomb Syria after the regime used chemical weapons in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta a-Sharqiya was a decisive moment, in which the future of the regime could have been determined. But Obama’s backing down from this decision was yet another sign of the weakening of US standing in the region. Obama’s about-turn followed British Prime Minister David Cameron’s defeat in Parliament on a vote to bomb Syria, and undermined the president’s credibility. Putin used the retreat to increase his international standing after he initiated the elimination of the Syrian chemical weapons arsenal. The agreement effectively granted the regime immunity regarding all attacks on the Syrian people by conventional weapons. There was nothing to prevent the continued massacre with the assistance of Hezbollah and the Shiite Abu al-Fadhal al-Abbas brigades from Iraq and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
Obama’s reluctance to support and arm moderate democratic forces among the revolutionaries in Syria caused the strengthening of al-Qaeda organizations which have now extended their influence over wide areas, creating anarchy in the ranks of the opposition and undermining the credibility of the revolution.
The US administration continued to cling to the diplomatic path in response to the humanitarian crisis in Syria. The Americans, with Saudi assistance, also intervened in the Syrian opposition’s policies. The US caused a revolt in the opposition, pushed the Syrian National Council to the margins, and replaced it with a coalition of revolutionary and opposition forces to prepare the way for its participation in the second Geneva Conference. This was on the assumption that the Russians would fulfill the promises they gave at the first Geneva Conference and an agreement would be reached among all the forces. This agreement was to ensure the removal of Assad while maintaining state structures and the army under an interim government made up of opposition figures as well as some regime figures who had not been involved in the crimes against the Syrian people. However, the US approach, based on cooperation with Russia, collapsed like a house of cards, taking all expectations down with it. During the conference, the regime refused point blank any suggestion of an interim government and Russia, without hesitating, stood by its side.
The failure of the second Geneva Conference was a kind of preface to the Ukraine crisis. The demonstrations in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, were supported by the West which had been deeply disappointed by Putin’s stand and had ceased to view him as a partner in solving international conflicts. The US leadership’s approach to Russia changed, and the fall of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was the price Putin paid for failing to stand with the West on the humanitarian tragedy unfolding in Syria. The West was ready to be tolerant of Putin’s undemocratic regime, for example his position on homosexuality, his curtailing of freedom of speech of all, particularly the Russian opposition, and even his takeover of parts of Georgia (Abkhazia and South Ossetia). But Syria became a fatal point of contention because of the huge extent of the catastrophe. It is a mark of Cain on human society and proof of its impotence, especially that of the US, to prevent the massacres which are unprecedented in the history of the Middle East.
Putin’s worldview versus Obama’s worldview: where does Netanyahu stand?
The current conflict between the US and Russia is not like the Cold War between two superpowers with contradictory ideologies – capitalism versus socialism. Both Russia and the US are capitalist countries who have adopted free-market principles, bending their interests to those of capital and doing their best to serve it. Nonetheless, Obama seeks to reach an understanding between neoliberal capitalism and the welfare state, while Putin tries to integrate state capitalism with a market economy. Putin tries to hold on to central economic sectors such as energy, transportation and communications, while cooperating with a private sector controlled by a very small group of major capitalists and various smaller independent businesses. Obama on the other hand relies on a wide electoral base