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Friday, July 6, 2012

Hillary Clinton Bested by a Syrian General

“I don’t think Russia and China believe they are paying any price at all — nothing at all — for standing up on behalf of the Assad regime,” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said at the so-called “Friends of Syria” meeting, which took place at Paris in the E.U. on July 6, 2012. According to the New York Times, the alliance was being “shunned by Russia and China.” Holding Moscow and Beijing to account would be no easy feat, given the power of the two empires. Clinton said that every participant at the meeting would have “directly and urgently” make it clear to Russian and Chinese officials that their respective governments (and presumably economies) would pay a price forthwith should the support for Assad continue. Yet even as she made these remarks, Clinton must have known that the chances of that happening were practically nil, given the problems entailed in getting various governments to act in concert, not to mention be on the same page, even when there is general agreement.

The impotence of the diplomatic effort was made palpable by what was happening on the ground in Syria. As the meeting was in progress, General Tlass, a commander of the Syrian Republican Guard and a close friend of Assad, was on his way to Paris after having defected. “If people like him, and like the generals and colonels and others who have recently defected to Turkey are any indication, regime insiders and the military establishment are starting to vote with their feet,” Clinton told reporters. “We know that the Assad regime will fall. The question is how many more people have to die before that happens.” It is a sad commentary on the “national sovereignty” basis of international relations so favored by the Russian and Chinese governments that the question would have to be answered by events on the ground rather than by the governments then meeting in Paris.  It was as though two governments out of hundreds were being allowed to hold the world hostage, thereby enabling Assad. Unlike the world, which seemed mired in strategies out of a playbook of political realism, Gen. Tlass voted with his feet. In effect, Russia and China had won, having been given the presumed or artificial advantage wherein their respective vetoes were considered legitimate in forestalling even the "Friends" from voting with their collective feet on the ground.


Dan Bilefsky, Alan Cowell, and Neil Mac Farquhar, “General’sDefection Confirmed as Syria Opposition Meets,” The New York Times, July 6, 2012.