Dull, tired and ever so predictable was the address last week to the UN General Assembly by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem. Loyalty to his boss, Bashar Assad, or rather fear for his own life, trumped even the slightest pretense on Moallem’s part to relevance and connectivity to reality in his regime-defending remarks.
The internal, domestic scuffle gripping Syria, he said, is but a side show threatening to “shift the focus” of the world from the true, core issues standing in the way of peace, harmony and prosperity in the Middle East: the Palestinians and the Golan Heights. Sanctions against the Syrian regime, Moallem told the assembly with a straight face, serve only Israel’s “expansionist interests.”
Indeed, Israel’s current interests regarding Syria are uncomplicated: to keep a very close watch on the border and prevent the increasingly nasty developments from spilling into Israel. Mortars fired by the contending sides at each other recently fell into Israel. No one was hurt. But it was sheer luck, not the acuity of the combatants, that spared Israeli casualties.
Last week, according to Ynet, a group of some 50 Syrians, including armed individuals, approached Israel’s border. The IDF ruled out an infiltration attempt but sent forces to keep an eye on the group. Israel’s chief of military intelligence, Aviv Kochavi, noted last week that “the weakening of the Syrian regime’s grip and the increasing infiltration of global jihad elements pose a new threat, which the army is preparing for.”
Despite the best efforts of Iran – and in particular of Qassem Suleimani, the commander of the Quds Force, an elite unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, which, according to Ynet, masterminds Iranian strategy with its regional proxies, including Hezbollah and Hamas – Assad has not vanquished the admixture of “rebel” armies fighting him and his regime.
The London Times reported last week that the rulers of Iran have transferred some $10 billion to Assad to pay for the slaughter of his own people. Iran has been paying the salaries of Syrian government troops for months, as well as providing weapons and logistical support.
This report of Iranian financial complicity in this ugly, sadistic Syrian-upon-Syrian war cannot please “ordinary”, non-Assad-loyalist Syrians. It is estimated that between 28,000 and 35,000 Syrians have thus far been killed.
Nor can the Iranian people be pleased about their government’s profligate, bloodthirsty involvement in Syria when so many of them are struggling merely to support their own families. The Iranian currency fell in value to a record low. Some of the braver Iranians even took to the streets last week in loud protest against their government’s policies and its wasteful, immoral underwriting of the ongoing murder, chaos and revenge in Syria.
We applaud their courage.