For en måned siden lovte Russland å stanse våpeneksporten til Syria. Men løftene viste seg tomme. Vestens holdning til Syria undergraves derfor også av Russlands politikk. Assad-regimet styrkes, og Vesten virker enda mer maktesløs.
Storbritannia skal ha ønsket å væpne opprørerne, men står alene. Frankrike skal ha blitt enda mer betenkt etter å ha funnet libyske våpen hos opprørerne i Mali.
The flow of arms has, however, continued unhindered with the Russians stressing that there was no United Nations prohibition on supplies and it was simply fulfilling its contractual obligations. As well as air- and naval-defence systems, the Kremlin may now be preparing to send Yak-130 jets which can be fitted with missiles to carry out ground attacks, according to American and European officials.
The Syrian regime has extensively used warplanes to carry out raids on heavily populated areas, leading to dozens of civilian casualties. Russia’s state arms agency holds a $550m contract to supply 36 of the Yaks, which are trainers but can also be used on combat missions. Last year, a Russian-operated ship carrying helicopter gunships and air-defence missiles was forced to turn back to Russia, after its British insurers withdrew coverage. The aircraft were subsequently sent through a different shipping company.
While the Assad regime continues to receive weapons, from Iran as well as Russia, a British attempt to provide military aid to the Syrian rebels failed at a European Union meeting in Brussels today.
There was agreement, instead, on an amendment which would allow more «non-lethal» assistance to the opposition. But the outcome of the meeting in Brussels made it very clear that David Cameron’s Government had been isolated in its efforts to strengthen militarily the moderate revolutionary factions, who have been increasingly sidelined by jihadist groups receiving arms and money from backers in the Gulf states.
Russia has insisted that it is within its rights to keep arming the regime as there are no UN resolutions prohibiting this. Anatoly Isaikin, the director of Rosoboronexport, said: «In the absence of [UN] sanctions, we are continuing to fulfil our contract obligations. We are mostly shipping air-defence systems and repair equipment intended for various branches of the military.»
However, it is the Syrian regime’s air defences, overhauled and upgraded with Russian help, which have been a powerful deterrent against the West declaring a «no-fly zone» of the type which, after it became a bombing campaign, brought down Muammar Gaddafi in Libya.
Western officials also claim that Moscow has refused to provide full details of the contractual obligations they have to fulfil and there is also evidence that the regime is getting further Russian arms through third parties.