Assad’s Russian Lifeline

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As the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad struggles to maintain its fleeting grip on power, it has been handed a lifeline by an obstructionist Russia that, along with China, has done all it can to save the dictatorship from collapse.

The Wall Street Journal reports in an investigative scoop this week that Syrian officials have been scheming with Russian banks to bypass the crippling sanctions on oil and financial transactions imposed on the country by Europe and the United States. Correspondence uncovered by the Journal shows, among other evasive tactics, that Syrian officials have been working to set up offshore companies and banking accounts in Russia. The goal is to help the regime pay for imports and to receive payments for oil exports while covering its steps from the EU and the U.S. and dodging sanctions.

Based on the Journal’s account, Russian companies have been all too eager to participate in this deception. For instance, some of the documents reviewed by the paper show that Russian buyers of Syrian oil made plans to sell the oil by loading it onto Russian-owned tankers in the Black Sea. It’s not clear who the ultimate buyers might be, but the intention seems to be to help Syria sell its oil in defiance of international sanctions. Since the sanctions aren’t binding on Russia, Russian companies have been free to further these oil deals with impunity.

It hardly exaggerates the value of these deals to Syria’s government to suggest that the Russian-abetted oil sales are now the lifeblood of the Syrian regime. While Syria’s daily oil production represents less than 1 percent of total global output, revenue from oil sales has become essential for the Assad government as sanctions have choked off other sources of foreign currency. Thus the roughly $380 million that Syria’s oil sales generate monthly may be the only thing that allows the regime to sustain itself and to support the military that, for the time being, keeps it in power.

It’s not clear from the Journal’s reporting whether all of the deals between Syria and Russia were actually completed. But the very fact that Russia has been willing to help the Syrian regime evade sanctions underlines the challenges of maintaining an effective sanctions regime so long as Russia is determined to keep its Syrian client state afloat. Backed by China, Russia has been the greatest roadblock to meaningful action against the Assad regime. Since the current uprising in Syria began 17 months ago, Russia has used its vote on the U.N. Security Council three times to block resolutions to pressure the regime and to end the bloodshed that has killed 23,000 people, and counting, since last May.

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  • jemaasjr

    Unfortunately, the American exercise of unilateral has been less than brilliant and only marginally successful. That leaves the borderline useless UN with some creditability and these sorts of outcomes.

  • lamamma

    I never thought that I have to praise and admire Russia, but on this I DO. Seems to be the only one to understand that THIS Tyranny is better and less dangerous than the next on…:see Egypt!

    • Rosine Ghawji

      yes I agree with you lalmama and I will add that it is time for the US to stop l ooking at Russia as an ennemy .. Maybe there is a little oil advantage… but Russia and China are much more aware of the danger of radical Islam than the US. …. Who is killing all the people in Syria…. the rebels.Who is helping the rebels?????????Hillary and her club.Our soldiers are killed overseas and our govenrment is arming the ennemy.. Wonderful…..

    • Arius

      lamamma, I agree with you.

      I can speak for the Armenians in Syria and can tell you that they are deathly afraid that the Syrian government will be overthrown by Salafi and Muslim Brotherhood connected groups. It is strange indeed when I, a staunch anti-communist American during the cold war now support Russia and China drawing a line in the sand against the West attacking the Syrian government. I have already spotted the fingerprint of Islamist massacres being blamed in the media on the Syrian government. The Western media make no mention of Christians and Churches being attacked by the groups they support but when they do mention it they blame it on the Syrian government! The West is addicted to and has descended to the level of thuggery and lies; for them the ends justify the means. I spent my whole life believing in American civilization but near the end of my life I see it for what it is – deception and lies, propelled by its self-hatred.

    • Ghostwriter

      But here's the problem,Iamamma and Arius. The Russians and the Chinese DON'T care about the Syrian people. They just want Assad's tyranny to continue. It doesn't matter to them if hundreds of Syrians die just so long as the Russians and Chinese can sell Assad more weapons. Assad is the bad guy here. It seems that you,Rosine Ghawji,and Arius seem to have forgotten that.

      • Arius

        By helping the Syrian regime to survive the Russians and the Chinese (in spite of themselves) help the Syrian people (including the Christians in Syria) to avoid a terrible bloodbath by the agents of the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis. Assad is not the bad guy here; the 'bad guys' are the US, Turks, Saudis, and Qatar, that want Syria to descend into a sharia hell for women and Christians. The Western media is reporting murders by the agents the US supports as done by the Syrian government, nothing more than agitprop and disinformation. The more the Christians in the Middle East suffer the more happy you are in the West. Assad is good to minorities in Syria compared to the rest of the Islamic dominated world.

        • Ghostwriter

          Do you hear yourself,Arius? You sound like an agent of Assad! Did you know that in one city where Assad's forces butchered women and children? I'm no fan of Assad. He is as great a monster as Qaddafi was. I don't pretend to know a whole lot about the Middle East,but I doubt that the "Sharia hades" that you describe is what many in the U.S. want. It's hard to know what's going on in the Middle East but I do know one thing. Assad is a thuggish monster and he needs to be dealt with.

          • Drakken

            The problem with your thought proccess is that you trade Assad for a a islamic theocracy, the Russians have their warm water port in the Med and will do anything to keep it. It is that simple, as for those muslims slaughtering each other? Good riddance to bad rubbish, the more they kill each other the less we have to deal with later.

  • Marty

    Even the incompetent and biased cnn and npr have admitted that atrocities are being committed by both sides in syria. It won't matter to the United States or any other democracy which side ultimately controls syria since each is odious, but for different reasons. The best we can and should hope for is that syria will be partitioned between alawite and sunni. Perhaps the partition will provide an opportunity for the kurds to successfully secede and begin a chain reaction that results in the dismemberment of turkey, iraq, and iran as well. That would be a positive and helpful development for the United States and Israel and probably for the world.

  • http://iamiranaware.wordpress.com/ IranAware

    The fact of the destruction of Syrias weapons and military cuts off Hezbollah from Iran must always be looked at as well. Let them fight it out on the ground, but destroy the military and knock them outa the picture for decades, like Iraq who is now a danger only
    to themselves for the most part. And it will be easier than they say it will be, Israel has knocked them around twice now and done it safely

    • Arius

      Israel can and will take care of itself (unless the US stabs it in the back which is not unimaginable considering the Obama regime). We don't and shouldn't be doing anything in Syria. The Syrian regime is good to its minorities and should be left alone. The only reason that fighting in Syria hasn't ended is because the US has given the Turk government the OK to feed weapons and personnel into Syria.

  • butpygmies

    Russia does not support Assad. Russia supports perpetuating the war in Syria because it serves their purpose — the purpose being not to allow the natural gas pipeline from Iran & Iraq that goes through Syria to get to the Mediteranean so that Russia can perpetuate its gas monopoly, and therefore its political stranglehold, on Europe. Hard to believe an Al-Jazeera writer got, but he's right.
    http://www.israpundit.com/archives/48319

    • Arius

      More confusion. The fighting in Syria is not continuing because of Russia, it is continuing because the US is behind Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar feeding money, weapons and personnel into Syria to assist the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis there to take power.

  • Drakken

    Good for the Russians, this incompetent administration thinks that a muslim brotherhood and islamist takeover is a good thing, I say let the Russian give all the arms the Syrians want, let them slaughter each till the cows come home, it is better for us and maybe the Kurds will start to be a pain in the azz of Turkey,Iraq and Iran as well. What is bad for those savagesis good for us.

    • Arius

      Drakken, thank you for some sanity.

  • flowerknife_us

    Syria does not share a border with the Black Sea. SOOOOOOOO somebody(s) with pipe lines must be playing ball as well. Gee- who are their neighbors?