Saturday, November 23, 2013


Ghassan Kadi
23 November 2013
As they say, we can only choose our friends, not our family; and this is what human relationships are based on; the choice of who we want to be our friend, business partner or even a spouse.
This is a choice that is considered to be tantamount to freedom and independence, a choice that the right of attaining is something that people fight and are happily ready to die for.

This same fact is also true for groups, tribes, communities and nations.

With their diversities in skills and resources, different nations need alliances with other nations to “complete each other’.  Very few nations have the resources and expertise to allow them to stand on their own in this highly developed and competitive world that we live in.  It is this realisation that has pushed the bandwagon of the concept of globalisation and it has probably pushed it a little bit too far. Nonetheless, that push came from a vital need.

When political and military conflicts are added to this cocktail, the issue of a nation choosing its own friends becomes very much contingent upon who its enemies are. If we relate this argument to Syria and look at the draconian alliance of its enemies which included all of the Western powers plus Turkey, the Gulf States and Israel just to name the major ones, Syria had no choice but to seek friends and partners with whom it could not only share issues of mutual interest in peace time but also in war time.

Fortuitously, when Syria was looking for friends Russia was in a very similar situation and even though Syria and Russia have had a long standing alliance that goes back all the way to the days of the USSR, this alliance had to be redefined and the boundaries had to be restructured.  After all, this is now Putin’s post USSR and post Boris Yeltsin Russia.

A lot has been said about the needs and the interests of Russia in Syria to the extent that we now see vicious and rabid attacks accusing Russia of being a colonialist holding Syria to ransom. The recent oil/gas contract that the Syrian government has granted to the Russians has been like fodder to those Russia hating cynics. What they do not see is that Syria is not rushing towards Russia. This is a natural and normal progression of a long standing alliance that has now fully matured in a time of war.

President Assad has been saying time and time again that once this war is over Syria is going to reciprocate loyalty because now it knows who its friends and enemies are.

If this means nothing to some people and if they see it as a sell-out then perhaps they should consider this other argument. Some argue why not give the contract to Venezuela because they also have the necessary technology and perhaps they might have offered Syria a better financial deal.  People who subscribe to this option seem to forget that this is the Middle East that we are talking about and if we all of a sudden have oil rigs in the sea that are owned and operated by post Chavez Venezuela, a State that is considered by the West as a rogue state, Syria would be giving Israel carte blanche to attack those installation any time, without any notice and neither Syria nor Venezuela would be able to respond to these attacks except by military retaliation.  Having Russia running these operations is an insurance policy that guarantees no scheming zealot will ever dare come near them.

Back to the issue of national alliances; the vocal cynics and critics of Syria’s foreign policies are not offering any viable alternatives. If Syria were to stand alone as some critics seem to suggest, they seem to ignore that Syria would not only have to drill its own natural resources when they don’t have the finances let alone technologies for it, but, Syria would also have to manufacture its own military hardware all the way to tanks and fighter jets and, again, Syria at this stage neither has the finances or the technology to do this.

We forgot something here didn’t we? Syria would have had to use its Syrian made military hardware to fend off a UNSC mandated resolution to attack her because it would have had no Russian Veto to avert this.

Some may rightfully be cynical about the long term viability of the Syrian – Russian alliance and whether or not this alliance will be based on a partnership of equality and mutual respect. No one can give any solid guarantees how this will all pan out in 5, 10 or 20 years from now. What we do know however, is that this alliance, at least potentially, has the hallmark of a long and mutually beneficial collaboration in which Syria will be the new regional oil and gas power and replace Saudi Arabia as a supplier and a kowtower to the West and instead be a true partner to Russia and a sovereign and independent regional power.  


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