Russia made new moves last week in its worrisome Syria policy. It is using the Kofi Annan United Nations cease-fire plan to obstruct the opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
That helps the murderous tyrant consolidate his hold on the country. Russia’s veto of U.N. sanctions on Assad and its military assistance to the Syrian regime have outflanked President Barack Obama and his European allies who have been trying to force Assad to step down.
And though the cease-fire continued to be marred by government attacks on rebels Tuesday, U.N. officials insisted that the truce is still in effect. Syrian forces have continued to shell the city of Homs, a violation U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice on Monday called “absolutely unacceptable.”
Late last week, Russia delayed for a day a U.N. resoltion to authorize sending a small unarmed team of observers to Syria, buying more time for Assad to pursue his domestic opponents. His goons have already killed more than 9,000 Syrians, according to U.N. estimates.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has dismissed any possibility of Syria’s dissidents winning a showdown against Assad’s military and security forces, which use Russian weapons and receive funding and technical support from Iran. Last week, a Russian news agency reported that the Kremlin will keep a warship on patrol off the Syrian coast. An earlier story reported that a Russian vessel docked at Latakia had Russian troops on board.
Mr. Lavrov also warned the recently formed “Friends of Syria” not to arm the Syrian opposition. On April 1, 70 nations ranging from Albania to Turkey met as “Friends of Syria” in Istanbul to discuss the next steps in ending the Syrian crisis and easing Assad from power. They included Egypt, several other Arab nations, the U.S. and leading European powers.
Moscow has aligned its Syria policy with Iran, Syria’s main international ally. This returns Russia into the Mideast on the side of militant anti-Israeli forces. The last two major Mideast wars involving Israel, in 1967 and 1973, were fought by Arab forces armed, trained and advised by the Soviet Union.
In light of that history, Russia’s recent moves to support Iran and the despotic Syrian regime are particularly alarming.