Lizzie Phelan and Kevork Elmassian

The Syrian military yesterday continued their operation to defend the Syrian population from insurgents which are most heavily concentrated in the city of Homs.

The operation expanded into the city where some reports have put the number of insurgents at up to 2,000 insurgents. The latter have made certain areas like Baba Amr and Baba Sba’a impossible for police to enter to protect residents.

Indeed thousands of police, military, security forces and civilian supporters of the Syrian government have been killed, kidnapped, terrorised, detained and tortured by insurgents from the so-called “Free Syrian Army” since the beginning of the crisis 11 months ago. This has been most comprehensively documented in video and other form by the non-governmental Syrian Centre for Documents (warning the videos published by the SYD are extremely graphic).

Despite the Arab League observers’ report verifying the threat that the Free Syrian Army (or the “Free Army” (FA) as critics prefer to call it in reference to the fact that many of the organisation’s members are of non-Syrian origin) the European Union responded to the clearly defensive military operation by threatening further sanctions against the Syrian people.

Predictably, the NATO and GCC media, in perfect unison with the warmongering stance of their states, published unsubstantiated claims from unverifiable sources that the Syrian government was committing a massacre against Homs’ civilian population.

This came following an interview with one of the Arab League observers in Syria Ahmed Manaï in Tunisian publication Nawaat where he stressed that the same media who accused the government of a massacre of 200 in Homs on February 4th (the day of the vote on the United Nations Security Council Resolution that if passed would have paved the way for military intervention in Syria) “were making fun of our intelligence”.

“Is it possible to believe for a moment, a government, whatever it is, could commit such a massacre on the day his case is brought before the Security Council?…Those who followed the TV that day have seen pictures of many victims. Most of these victims had their hands tied behind their backs and some had their faces to the ground.
The directors told us that they were the victims of the bombing of buildings and houses by tanks and even by the Syrian Air Force. Curiously these victims were not wearing injuries nor [was there] any sign of the collapse of their houses and dwellings. Each can draw the conclusions he wants. In any case throughout the 4th of February, Syrian citizens testified that they recognised among the victims, relatives and neighbours removed for a week and even months.”

The principled stance taken by Russia which has unequivocally demonstrated that it will not tolerate violations of international law against Syria like those committed against Libya, primarily the violation of Syria’s right to be free from foreign interference in its internal affairs, was reaffirmed during Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit to Damascus with Russian Foreign Intelligence Chief Mikhail Fradkov.

Sources who were at the closed meeting between the officials and President Bashar al-Assad reported that Moscow politically and militarily supported Damascus’ military operation insisting that it was essential for a political solution to be achieved.

The Lebanese publication As-Safir commented that Moscow’s backing demonstrated its confidence that the Syrian government would remain in power, because “negotiations on behalf of a powerful state are more important than negotiations over a weak state… Moscow would not have provided all this support if they have doubts about the collapse of the regime.”

The report added that the shift in Russia’s stance, from successfully pressuring the Syrian government to delay military action and maintain a flexible relationship with the Arab League in return for guaranteed support at the UNSC, came after Qatari Prime Minister (whose state Presides over the Arab League) said to his AL counterparts: “Whatever you do I will send the Syrian file to the Security Council”.

Responding to why Moscow and Beijing have taken a different stance to Syria, following its failure to veto UNSC Resolution 1973 which lead to the NATO aggression that destabilised Libya, Manaï proposed that perhaps Russia believed the Resolution would be enforced “to the letter”.

He added: “The Sino-Russian double veto has prevented …countries from becoming the next targets of the West. It is above all the affirmation of the end of a world dominated by the United States and return to a binary world. There is another reason that was explained by the head of Russian diplomacy that there was a secret clause in this resolution authorizing the use of armed intervention.”

However, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who looks set to retake the Presidency in March for a new extended term of six years, openly hit back at current President Dmitry Medvedev’s failure to ensure a veto, stressing that the entire Resolution was “flawed”.

Prior to Lavrov’s visit to Damascus, retired Colonel General and former Joint Chiefs of Staff Leonid Ivashov slammed NATO’s aggression against Libya. “What they did to Libya is nearly identical to what Hitler and his armies did against Poland and then Russia. Today therefore, Russia is defending the whole world against facism,” he said.

He warned that: “fascism is making great strides on our planet”, adding that the current uncertainty was whether the west would “try” to destroy Syria or Iran first.

“A strike against Syria is an indirect strike against Russia and its interests, Russia would lose important positions and allies in the Arab world…Therefore, by defending Syria, Russia is defending its own interests. In addition, Russia is defending the whole world from fascism,” Ivashov said.