Russia seems to be edging away gradually, imperceptibly from its earlier stance that it won’t be party to a UN Security Council resolution on Syria, similar to that on Libya, which NATO used to mount the military intervention. In an interview Thursday, President Dmitry Medvedev urged Syria’s Bashar Al-Assad to go for reforms lest Russia is compelled to make “some kind of decisions”. He didn’t elaborate but the drift was clear. Meanwhile, Russia’s envoy to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, who is a prescient diplomat and often doubles up as an AWACS aircraft of Russian diplomacy, told today’s Izvestia in an interview that NATO is already in the planning stage for an operation in Syria and that it forms part of an agenda to ultimately attack Iran. He said: “The noose around Iran is tightening. Military planning against Iran is underway. And we [Russia] are certainly concerned about an escalation of a large-scale war in this huge region.”
Rogozin earlier said while on a visit to Ankara recently that the US’s ABM deployments in the Black Sea region is a prelude to attacking Iran. Syria is indeed on the radar. The issue is coming up before the UN SC next week once the secretary-general’s report becomes available. India is finding itself in the thick of the big-power shadow-play since it is occupying the presidency through August. The president has little leeway in swinging the UN SC decisions, which ultimately depend on the P-5, but Ambassador Hardeep Puri still has an important role to play.
In the case of Syria, apart from shepherding the UN SC’s backroom processes onto centre-stage, Puri also needs to weigh in that Syria is India’s old, steady pal. (Syrian DyFM paid a visit to Delhi last week.) But Puri’s main problem will be that US ambassador Susan Rice will be closely watching his performance. Syria falls in the first circle of US’s Middle East project and a regime change in Damascus opens all sorts of possibilities to break Israel’s acute regional isolation. Israel can be trusted to pull all its strings within the top echelons of the Indian foreign policy establishment in the coming days. (It so happens that both NSA and FS are old ‘Israel hands’.) This show is going to be vastly more dramatic than India’s IAEA vote on Iran in 2006 and it is going to be played out in the open.
The Syrian situation is doubtless aggravating. The UN SC statement on Wednesday saw only Lebanon abstaining in the 15-member UN SC. Interestingly, statement said UN SC is “deeply concerned about the deteriorating situation in Syria” and it “deeply regrets” the death of “hundreds of people”. But it also maintained that “the only way to regulate the current crisis is through an organised Syrian initiative and a political process open to all the interested parties.” Now, this may appear to be the Russian position, too, although Medvedev’s remark indicates prevarication. Xinhua has a transparent analysis of what is happening behind the shadow play by the West and Russia.