An interview with Bahram Amirahmadian, university professor and Russian affairs analyst
Mr. Lavrov has said that Russia does not support Bashar Assad. Isn't twice vetoing Security Council resolutions considered as supporting the Assad government?
It seems that, according to the Russians, this support was given to safeguard the interests of the Syrian people. If the Security Council resolution had been adopted and a no-fly zone had been established over Syria's airspace or if there had been a military intervention, the people of Syria would have been damaged. But now and at this juncture, the Russians have reached the conclusion that the existing conditions in Syria are serious. None of the political solutions have been agreed upon and the circumstances in Syria are moving towards another direction. From this aspect, Russia's outlook is developing and, considering domestic pressure inside Russia, it intends to change the behavior of the Russian government with regard to the internal developments in Syria.
Thus, Russia has felt duty bound to take this position to change the behavior of the Syrian government regarding the domestic developments in this country and balance the attitude of the Syrian government towards the people, which is sometimes very severe, so that Russia's support of Syria does not cause more pressure to be exerted upon the Syrian people.
Russia has taken its citizens out of Syria. Does this measure mean that the situation in Syria is becoming more critical and Russia is more concerned?
The main point about the withdrawal of Russian citizens from Syria is that some Russian experts and advisors in Syria are active in this country. Syria is now faced with critical conditions. The consequences of these critical conditions will also affect the people who reside in this country. Shortages in food, health, and medicine will create problems for the Syrian people. Naturally, Russian citizens who reside in Syria do not feel that they should keep their families inside this country. Therefore, Russian citizens who are bound to remain in Syria for any reason have sent their family members back to their country so that they do not have to face these problems.
If Russian military experts and advisors who are present in Syria leave Syria, then it can be said that the conditions in Syria have become critical and Russia has felt threatened. But at the present time, as Russia itself has announced, only the family members of the Russian personnel have left Syria. Perhaps this will be the starting point for future developments.
In its recent positions, the government of Russia has strongly reiterated upon the opinions of the people of Syria and stresses that it respects these opinions. If the Syrians elect a person other than Assad and that person does not safeguard Russian interests, will Russia accept such a person?
It is natural that any country seeks to safeguard its own interests. In the international scene, Russia has shown that it is a country which seeks maximum interests and it is not satisfied with the bare minimum. Therefore, if Russia feels that Mr. Assad cannot be in power under the present conditions and developments might take place and if the Syrian people decide to vote for a person other than Assad in the elections, then Russia will be bound to respect people's votes and work with the future government of Syria. Iran's position is the same. Iran has also stated that it will accept the decision of the people and it would make no difference who that person would be, whether Bashar Assad or any other person. In fact, these are the minimums of the principles of international relations to which Iran is also committed.
International parties ask Russia to be active in preventing Assad from using chemical weapons. Basically, does Russia have the ability to prevent the usage of chemical weapons in Syria?
This is a fundamental question. Not only the media, but also the entire international community is now faced with this question. The reason is that in some cases the Russian officials have stated that the government of Bashar Assad does not use chemical weapons. The meaning of this statement is that Russia somehow intends to declare that these weapons are under Russia's control. In my opinion, this issue has negative points as well and that is that these chemical weapons are given by Russia to Syria and Russia feels responsible in this regard. The Russians stating that Syria will not use these weapons is not acceptable for the world community; for if these weapons get in the hands of the Salafi movements and they intend to use them against the Syrian government, then the crisis will be more expanded. Russia cannot give any guarantees in this regard and this is the real threat.