While Europe and the U.S. hem-and-haw about finding ways to support Syria's rebel army—and get threatened for even considering it—Iran appears to have no reservations about funneling money to their enemies. On Wednesday, Russia's foreign minister, Sergei Larov, went to London to meet with his British counterpart, William Hague. But after the meeting Larov warned the UK that any attempt to send weapons to "non-governmental actors" would be considered a violation of international law. They seem less concerned about the laws Bashar al-Assad might be breaking by bombing his own cities with SCUD missiles.
Russia also doesn't seem to have a problem with Assad apparently getting most his weapons from Iran. Reuters reports today that the Iranians have increasingly become the Syrian government's military "lifeline" in its ongoing civil war. The report says that Iran has been using civilian aircraft to fly personnel and weapons to Assad, while also funneling arms through their Shi'ite proxy groups in Lebanon and Turkey, like Hezbollah. That actually would be a violation of international law, since Iran would be breaking U.N. sanctions that bar them from trading weapons.
Iranian support for the Assad regime has only grown in recent months, as the Syrian civil war morphs into a more sectarian battle, with Shi'ites aligning with Assad's Alawite sect to target Sunni militant groups (as well as minority Christians) and vice versa.
Meanwhile, Russia's concern about the West is mostly misplaced. Britain and the United States have made a lot of noise about supporting the rebel effort, but have shown few signs that they're willing to actually give weapons to the rebels. So while Russia and Iran remain free to pump up the Assad regime, the rebels are left mostly to their own devices, buying arms on the black market, stealing them from the Army, and crafting their own makeshift weapons—like this very real howitzer being towed by a Chinese-made smart car. Effective, even it's not very intimidating.
(Howitzer picture via Reuters)
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.