The Failed Saudi-Russian Talks: Desperate Diplomacy as Syria Implodes

Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief reportedly offered Russian President Vladimir Putin a multibillion-dollar arms deal to curb Moscow’s support for the Syrian regime

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Loubna Mrie / REUTERS

A Free Syrian Army fighter takes up a shooting position at the Seif El Dawla front in Aleppo, Syria, on Aug. 4, 2013

Correction appended: Aug. 12, 2013, 2:05 a.m. E.T.

You could call it the Hail Mary pass of diplomatic relations. In a desperate attempt to find some solution to the ongoing Syria crisis, now in its third year with no end in sight, Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan reportedly offered Russian President Vladimir Putin a multibillion-dollar arms deal to curb Moscow’s support for the Syrian regime of President Bashar Assad when they met in Moscow last week. The deal was rebuffed; on Friday the Kremlin responded to news accounts about the proposal with a terse rebuttal, telling Reuters that no deal had been discussed in detail. Earlier news accounts, including the one from Reuters, quoted unnamed Arab and Western diplomats describing a deal in which Saudi Arabia would buy some $15 billion worth of Russian weapons in addition to offering assurances that Gulf countries wouldn’t threaten Russia’s dominance of the European gas market in exchange for a commitment that Moscow would not block future U.N. Security Council resolutions on Syria. The threat of a Russian veto has been the major obstacle to any U.N. actions in Syria.

But the idea that Russia could be turned from supporting Assad in exchange for a couple of arms deals and gas-distribution guarantees is laughable. “This is not a situation in which the Saudis can simply buy their way,” says Yezid Sayigh, a Syria scholar and senior associate at the Carnegie Middle East Center based in Beirut. The Russians aren’t supporting Syria simply to maintain a market for their prolific arms industry, nor do they fear Gulf competition in Europe. Russia’s biggest fear, not unlike that of the U.S., is of the Syrian state falling and leaving a dangerous vacuum in its wake. And Moscow believes the integrity of Assad’s regime is still the greatest guarantor against such chaos. Surely much more was discussed in the four-hour conversation between Putin and Prince Bandar than the mooted arms deal. But the fact that it was brought up at all, even if only in passing, indicates how intractable the situation has become.

Russia’s direct material interests in Syria are modest — an ally with a warm water port on the Mediterranean, a foothold in the Middle East. Neither of those warrants the diplomatic cover Russia has extended to Syria so far. Russia felt betrayed after it backed the U.N. resolution against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, only to see NATO military intervention a few months later. Syria, as then President Dmitri Medvedev told Russia Today last year, became a chance to draw a line in the sand. Russia, for its own internal political reasons, is allergic to the idea of regime change imposed by outsiders.

Even if Russia, for some reason, did suspend support for the Assad regime, it’s not entirely certain that it would have much of an impact. Iran has far more influence over Syria, and even with the more moderate Hassan Rouhani as its new President, Iran’s strategic interests in Syria — which it sees as its bulwark in the Arab world — preclude any shifts in that relationship.

Despite the sometimes heated rhetoric against Assad’s regime, it is unlikely that the U.S. or European countries will take any significant steps to forcibly back the Syrian rebels, points out Sayigh of the Carnegie center. The risks of backlash are simply too high. Joint Chiefs Chairman General Martin Dempsey illustrated well the U.S.’s reservations about getting too involved in Syria in a letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee last month. “We have learned from the past 10 years … that it is not enough to simply alter the balance of military power without careful consideration of what is necessary in order to preserve a functioning state,” Dempsey wrote. “Should the regime’s institutions collapse in the absence of a viable opposition, we could inadvertently empower extremists or unleash the very chemical weapons we seek to control.”

The irony is that for all the outside parties currently dabbling in the Syrian crisis, only Iran has enough of a stake in its outcome to invest more in it, says Sayigh. “Syria’s curse is that it’s not important for outsiders to do much more than what they have already done.” So for all the hand-wringing and far-fetched solutions, don’t expect to see the Syrian conflict come to an end anytime soon. Former U.S. Ambassador to Syria Ryan Crocker summed international options up best when he compared the situation in Syria to a massive forest fire in a recent interview: “You can’t put them out. All you can do is contain them … Let them burn themselves out. That’s kind of like Syria. We can’t stop that war. What we can do, or should do, is everything possible that we can to keep it from spreading.” That, and prepare for the consequences of a drawn-out civil war.

An earlier version of this article misstated the name of a Senate committee. It is the Armed Services Committee, not the Armed Forces Committee.

68 comments
paramendra1
paramendra1

This is tragic. It has gone on for too long. 

jsmith01284
jsmith01284

Flame war  between  bigots on both sides  below.  Lots of misinformation,  based on what side they are on.  No one cares about  stopping all this violence. Flame on!

jsmith01284
jsmith01284

The  only reason the US  is in  this  conflict is because it is close to Israel.  we are going to go broke defending Israel and giving them money.  Then Israel will be a super power.  Our  media  contributes to pro-israel  lobbyists,  so  our news is biased.  most of our  congress is owned by these pro-israel groups.

Sibir_Russia
Sibir_Russia

In the history of Christianity Syria occupies a special place. Syria, along with Palestine and Lebanon is for all Christians of the world of the Holy land. Until recently, Syria has been famous for its religious tolerance. For centuries between Christians and Muslims here has maintained an atmosphere of good-neighborliness. However,  with the beginning of the war and the arrival in the country of radical Islamism, the situation began to change.

Sibir_Russia
Sibir_Russia

official refutation of the representative of Kremlin.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said at a meeting with the head of intelligence of Saudi Arabia Prince Bandar bin Sultan in Moscow did not discuss(!) military-technical cooperation, including in conjunction with the position of Moscow on Syria, said the presidential aide Yuri Ushakov.

Adam_Smith
Adam_Smith

Remember how France tried to prevent the Iraq war by withholding its approval on the UNSC and how it was vilified in the US for its non-cooperation? Russia is providing a similar service today with respect to Syria. Our interventionists are too obsessed with their war mongering to understand who our real friends are.

zahid1951
zahid1951

azmalhome,s comments are relevant.Soon Wahabi and Devebandi Muslims will become aware that they are being misused by Israial /America through Saudi Arabia and will be the open defeat of USA/Israel and will be back lash for Puppet Saudi Arabia Government and the Sunni Muslims with the help of Shia Muslims they will from United Islamic World this is written on the wall.     

zahid1951
zahid1951

iusa is repeating the mistake of creating Majidain/Talban /Lashkertayyba under the guidance of Saudi Intelligence and ISI which back lashed,now their collecting such fanatics in Syria to make Wahabi Government on the line of Saudi Arbia in allover the Islamic World this try of Bundar Bin Sultan is also on line thereof , The Sunni World is now awakened and they have respect for shrine of Ahlabait and Sahba Karam They will fight against such move joining hands with Shia Community.        

amaralhamdani
amaralhamdani

I think it is naive to argue that a shift in Russia's position on Syria would not have an impact. If Russia abandons Syria the Assad regime and Iran would be in in an extremely difficult situation, notably at the UNSC. While Iran is a staunch supporter of Assad regime and can help it survive longer, its leverage would be of little importance without the backing of Russia.

boulderfinfan
boulderfinfan

Saudi arabia will become the next sudan once the world stops using oil to run their cars.

WimRoffel
WimRoffel

The fierceness of Saudi King Abdullah's hatred for Assad and Nasrallah is well known. But he doesn't care about Syrians or how many Syrians have to die in order to achieve his goals.

That makes me wonder why the writer of this article describes the attempt at bribing by Saudi diplomats an attempt to get peace in Syria. 

kobethegreat
kobethegreat

The world will be a better place without the war monger Saudi the real evil who control the Democraps in the US. I wish Russia just nuke these mopheads Saudis! without oil these smelly stpd Saudis are nothing but cow dng

arvay
arvay

Russia has made some offers of weapons to Egypt, and these are likely to have riled US and Saudi leaders, nervous that Russia will reassert its Cold War role of armorer to the regional Muslim states. The comical Saudi "offer" measures the level of their panic. 

What is interesting is the emerging lineup of Russia, Iran, Hizbollah and Syria vs. the US, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel. Wither Egypt?

In the larger scheme of things, the US and the European former colonial powers are reaping the rewards of their interference in this region. They created created four artificial, incoherent states -- Jordan, Israel, Syria and Lebanon -- meant to assure their continued influence. 

Many of the groups assembled into these national fictions despise each other, and all the indigenous Arabs hate the Israelis as aliens and agents of a Western enclave in their midst. What we call "the Arab spring" is the dissolution of foreign definitions and the release of all the pent-up passions of decades.

Syria, like Yugoslavia, no longer exists.

How the parts will re-assemble is not yet clear, but the  emergence of an al Qaeda "nation" seems underway. Both Russia and the US will want to see this entity destroyed, so I think we can count on continued war -- and more pointless whining about all the killing from both the idiot and Israel uber alles wings of our bought-and-sold Congress.

America's interests would be served by standing aside and let Russia do the killing via the Alawite rump state. However, our leaders may be apprehensive about the de facto alliance mentioned above. 

No one knows how all of these deeply unsettling events will affect Lebanon and Jordan.

But their impact will for sure be far more profound and long-lasting than John Kerry's little road to nowhere.


Sibir_Russia
Sibir_Russia

For those who do not know, or had forgotten…

G8 Leaders' Lough Erne Communique, 2013

The G8 leaders met in the U.K. during June 17–18, 2013, for their thirty-nineth summit. They released a joint communique, which focuses on foreign policy challenges, particularly in Syria. 

 From the Foreign Policy section of the communique: 

86. We are deeply concerned by the growing threat from terrorism and extremism in Syria, and also by the increasingly sectarian nature of the conflict. Syria must belong to all Syrians, including its minorities and all religious groups. We call on the Syrian authorities and oppositi on at the Geneva Conference jointly to commit to destroying and expelling from Syria all organisations and individuals affiliated to Al Qaeda, and any other non-state actors linked to terrorism. We will support UN planning for Syria's transition, recovery , and reconstruction needs, in particular by maintaining continuity of state institutions during transition and helping to ensure that the security forces are effective, accountable and able to deal with the threat of terrorism and extremism.

Sibir_Russia
Sibir_Russia

Carnegie center
The Carnegie Moscow center is the American branch and financed from the Fund of Soros - this is one of the branches scattered all over the world. They do not represent the position of Russia. This does not mean that they lie at each word, it means that they hinder the truth with falsehood.
Carnegie reflect a propaganda point of view bilderberg group  - is their mouthpiece.
D. Johnson is a member of the management Committee bilderberg group  masons and supervisor Carnegie. In the 90-ies Michael McFaul headed the Carnegie Moscow center. I wouldn't trust the masons. These sectarians conduct rituals in which they have to kiss the live goat under the tail, then they do different dirty tricks in the world.

Sibir_Russia
Sibir_Russia

Aryn Baker: «The threat of a Russian veto has been the major obstacle to any(???) UN actions in Syria»  - this is full nonsense. Double-veto of Russia and China prohibits the NATO and the USA launch a war against Syria.

arvay
arvay

@azmalhome 

I think Iran has the weapon it needs to destroy the Saudi royals -- proving that they are actually an Israeli ally. 

Please -- spread this information widely! You will be helping my country to detangle itself from the mess our leaders have created as well. 

jsmith01284
jsmith01284

@kobethegreat you  are  completely  confused.  The  Israeli  lobby  controls  both  the  democrats and  republicans.  It is not a secret.  The saudis are our b!tches. 

roknsteve
roknsteve

@kobethegreat All you people believe in is killing each other like it's 1000 BC.  What a bunch of primitives.

Sibir_Russia
Sibir_Russia

@arvay

«Syria no longer exists.»???

Don't try to pass the desirable for reality

 

Sibir_Russia
Sibir_Russia

@arvay 

Relations between Russia and "the United States, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel," interlaced so much that it is very difficult to put "vs.". At least, it is "vs." is rather conditional. Sometimes Israel has more to do with Iran, than with the USA. 

ElliotGordonCharlesSlack
ElliotGordonCharlesSlack

@azmalhome The region would be doomed without America, just look at Iran when it is separated from Western capitalism and has to rely on the capitalism of China, Japan, and South Korea, that is going to happen to the entire middle east when we leave.  Israel is nicer to Muslims than other Muslims are to each other.  How often and how much do Israeli kill Muslims compared to Shiite and Sunni militants and countries.  Blaming America and Israel for all your problems has never worked and never will.

arvay
arvay

@Sibir_Russia @arvay 

I think the evidence on the ground supports this conclusion. I don't consider it desirable -- a more intelligent response by Assad to demonstrations might have avoided all this. 

But the inherent instability of the mess left by the former colonialists and the neocolonial US was bound to be unstable -- and I suppose less likely to be as well handled as the breakup of the Czechs and Slovaks. 

In the larger scheme of things, the Cold War might be returning, driven by national interests rather than ideology (I think for some time the USSR was cynically  using its revolutionary rhetoric as a cover for Russian nationalist goals).

 China is still a truly revolutionary nation, and has adapted to developments rather than collapsing as the old Soviet leadership did. Right now, they are not interested in playing an internationalist revolutionary role, but that may change as the US trie to "contain" it. 



jsmith01284
jsmith01284

@Sibir_Russia @arvay That  is anti-american! I  don't know what more Israel wants from us.  you get  more money,  weapons,  and political assistance than any other country and still complain.  You want us to fight your wars with our money.  You  control our media,  politicians,  and  our people.  we have anti-nazi  movies and shows all the time.  There wire other people in this world that were killed,  not just jews, because of their  religion or race.  Do you just want us to give you the keys to the white house and the nuclear launch codes  so  you can continue with your own genocide? Israel  is apartheid South Africa.  They don't want you there like the africans  didn't want the  British.  It'd you want too stay there,  we,  the US,  should notsupport  you.  we should look out for  our own citizens, not yours.  you don't pay taxes here!

JohnAlport
JohnAlport

@Sibir_Russia@arvayThis clip is not only off-topic, but it is blatant anti-U.S. propaganda --- consider the source.  How long were these people waiting in the weeds with this bit of BS?

The U.S. decision not to support this resolution is consistent with its long-held view, by its constitution, that you don't combat things like racism by outlawing free speech.  Think KKK at Skokie, IL, for you real history buffs.  When one curtails his neighbor's free speech today, the neighbor will trample upon one's own free speech tomorrow.  

Here is the official U.S. response to the U.N.  It is both expected and logical:

"Explanation of Vote by Teri Robl, U.S. Deputy Representative to ECOSOC on "Glorification of Nazism: Inadmissibility of certain practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, xenophobia" in the 3rd Committee of the GA

Teri Robl
United States Deputy Representative to ECOSOC 
U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
New York, NY November 27, 2012


AS DELIVERED

The United States supports many elements of this resolution. We join other members of the Third Committee in expressing revulsion at any attempt to glorify or otherwise promote Nazi ideology. The United States has a deep commitment to honoring the memory of the millions of lives lost in the Holocaust, and has been a strong supporter of the UN's efforts to remember the Holocaust. We also condemn without reservation all forms of religious intolerance or hatred.

The United States shares the concern expressed in this resolution regarding the frequency of racist views expressed in any medium or forum, including on the Internet. We remain concerned, however, as in previous years, that the resolution fails to distinguish between offensive expression, which should be protected, and actions, such as discrimination and violence motivated by bias, which should always be prohibited.

We do not consider curtailing expression to be an appropriate or effective means of combating racism and related intolerance. Rather, it is our firm conviction, as reflected in the U.S. Constitution and laws of the United States, that individual freedoms of expression and association should be robustly protected, even when the ideas represented by such expression are offensive or hateful. We encourage States to refrain from invoking Article 4 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and Article 20 of the ICCPR to limit freedom of expression or as an excuse for failing to take effective measures to combat racism or intolerance. In a free society, hateful ideas will fail due to their own intrinsic lack of merit. The best antidote to intolerance is not criminalizing offensive speech, but rather a combination of robust legal protections against discrimination and hate crimes, proactive government outreach to minority religious groups, and the vigorous defense of both freedom of religion and freedom of expression."

arvay
arvay

@Sibir_Russia @arvay 

The clip, of course, has nothing to do with the subject matter but is nevertheless very informative. And the commentators are right -- the American press is not covering this. 

jsmith01284
jsmith01284

@ElliotGordonCharlesSlack @azmalhome If Hitler  killed  Germans,  it would not be as popular.  compare stalin  to  Hitler.  when you kill others,  it is more noticeable.  we have murders here in the US  all the time;  that does not mean another country can come here and kill us.

arvay
arvay

@jsmith01284 @arvay @azmalhome 

The Saudis are CLEARLY acting in Israel's interests in stoking the Sunni-Shia conflicts, they have a de facto arrangement to combat Iran, which is the only major Muslim nation that poses a danger to israel. The Saudis are fat, corrupt royalist degenerates who divide the national liberation struggle to preserve their own existence. 

LOL -- my "goal." You reveal yourself as an amateur, incompetent analyst. 

Israel is where it is because the military/industrial complex wants it there. We can and should label the Israel lobby as a foreign influence, but they are the tool, not the tool-maker. 


jsmith01284
jsmith01284

@arvay @jsmith01284 @azmalhome what are  you even saying? I  don't get your reference. The Saudis are  not israels allies.  They need the US  to  buy new,  expensive  cars  and  stuff. The US  is  controlled by pro-israel  lobbyists.  that i's the closest connection. Iran  hates Israel  and  any of its  allies.  Your goal is to further the sunni and shiite  conflict.  I'm not  falling for it,  and I  will call  out  your attempt at inflaming people and furthering  conflict.  What were  need is  to label pro-israel lobbies as  foreign  and get  back  control of the country so we can actually protect rights and save our money.

arvay
arvay

@jsmith01284 @arvay @azmalhome 

I always welcome these kinds of content-free, childish attempts at abusive retorts from the hasbara peanut gallery. Please, more!

Sibir_Russia
Sibir_Russia

In Syria there is a war on terrorism, this means that for the Syrian Army in Syria, there is no place where the army could not go. The problem is that the army has excessive force for fighting in urban areas. Terrorists do not want to fight in the field. This imposes some restrictions. Destroy the militants is being done very carefully.

The FSA is not army.


arvay
arvay

@Sibir_Russia 

LOL

As though these papers change reality.

Syria as previously defined has been broken into several pieces. If Assad can recapture all of them and impose his government, then you will be correct.

Unlikely.

However, the foreign invaders and their Syrian allies are being defeated in their larger goals -- i say goals because they are not a united force and some of them are at war with the others -- and that's good.

"Syria" will probably end up lie pakistan, with a segment of territory like Waziristan, ungovernable. If Assad is smart, he'll let the Israelis mire themselves there trying to respond to the inevitable attacks. 

Sibir_Russia
Sibir_Russia

No such evidence on the earth.  And in heaven no.

Syrian sovereignty is not subject to doubt. This follows from the UN resolution on Syria, Geneva communique, the G8 Leaders' Lough Erne Communique, 2013  and other international agreements. This also follows from the real picture fights where the Syrian army continues to win a convincing victory over the armies of foreign mercenaries who continue to arrive in Syria from different countries.

Geneva FULL TEXT: Action Group for Syria Final Communiqué 30/06/2012

http://un-report.blogspot.com/2012/06/action-group-for-syria-final-communique.html

3.Action Group members are committed to the sovereignty, independence, national unity and territorial integrity of Syria. They are determined to work urgently and intensively to bring about an end to the violence and human rights abuses and the launch of a Syrian-led political process leading to a transition that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people and enables them independently and democratically to determine their own future.

jsmith01284
jsmith01284

@arvay @JohnAlport @Sibir_Russia yes.  because we value our freedom of speech over some law to authoritativly  control opinions.  we protect the rights of all,  not just 2%  of the population. The kkk  can  say what they want because freedom is more important than protecting  one  group that seems to just complain  even when they get special treatment. That does not apply to Jewish  people,  just those crazy pro-Israel  ones.  you like Israel  so  much,  then go there.  We don't need people who care more about their racial ties than our nation.  Don't let the  door  hit ya...

arvay
arvay

@Sibir_Russia @JohnAlport @Raja1 @arvay 

Personally, I think Putin should do more about the Slavophile/NeoNazi thugs running around Russia, with the enthusiastic support of the Orthodox Church. 

Oh, to have Stalin back for just one week, and a division of firing squads!

arvay
arvay

@JohnAlport @Sibir_Russia @arvay 

Of course, you then oppose all those laws on the books of many nations, including Canada, that criminalize Holocaust denial? 

Yes?

Sibir_Russia
Sibir_Russia

@JohnAlport@Raja1@Sibir_Russia@arvay

Freedom of speech the United States has a selective character.

Two young children in Pennsylvania were banned from talking about fracking for the rest of their lives under a gag order imposed under a settlement reached by their parents with a leading oil and gas company.
http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/aug/05/children-ban-talking-about-fracking?INTCMP=SRCH
The children's father, Chris Hallowich, went on to tell the court it might be difficult to ensure the children's absolute silence on fracking – given that their ages and that the family lives in the middle of a shale gas boom.
The Hallowichs' lawyer, Peter Villari, told the court he had never seen a gag order imposed on children in his 30 years of practicing law, according to the released transcript.

 

Sibir_Russia
Sibir_Russia

@JohnAlport@Raja1@Sibir_Russia@arvay

This is the second time

The UN at Russia's initiative, adopted a resolution on the inadmissibility of the glorification of Nazism, which calls not to forget about the monstrous crimes committed during the World War II.
http://vz.ru/news/2012/11/27/608983.html

The project of the document, prepared by Russia in co-authorship with delegations from 42 countries, voted 120 member States of the United Nations. Voted against the 3 countries: the USA, Canada, and the Marshall Islands
 

JohnAlport
JohnAlport

@Raja1@JohnAlport@Sibir_Russia@arvay 

 "yet this is not consistent to US policies when in regards to anything to do with Israel in fact it is illegal to even talk about boycotting Israel let alone talk negative (and true) things about it all of which is labeled as "anti semitism"

You couldn't be more wrong if you tried.  Millions of Americans are against U.S. policy regarding Israel.  Some were not in favor of the establishment of Israel in the first place.  Many Americans side with the Palestinians.  Some want to boycott Israel and some do that.  

It is not illegal or immoral to do so.  Nobody is ever labeled an "anti-semite".  It so happens that my wife is pro-Israel and I am not; we are both Americans.  I speak and write as freely as I want anytime I want.

Newspaper editorials take every possible side of the Israel/Palestine issue.  Americans vote for elected officials however their conscience tells them to.  

It so happens that a democratic majority of Americans favor the continued existence of Israel and the establishment of a 2-state solution.   I assume you do not agree with that.  Fine.  But don't attack America's great freedoms because the majority of Americans don't happen to agree with you.  We don't denigrate you for the opinion you hold.  That is the American way.

But I would add that if you truly believe what you are writing, somehow you have become terribly mis-informed and brainwashed by propoganda about life in America. I suggest you seek out a wider variety of sources of information and news, or come to America to see for yourself.  I take the liberty of assuming that you are not in America, because anybody who is here would see how a variety of opinions on Israel/Palestine are both held and encouraged.


Raja1
Raja1

@JohnAlport @Sibir_Russia @arvay "The U.S. decision not to support this resolution is consistent with its long-held view, by its constitution, that you don't combat things like racism by outlawing free speech"

This was your point regarding USA decision not to endorse this anti Nazi proposal yet this is not consistent to US policies when in regards to anything to do with Israel in fact it is illegal to even talk about boycotting Israel let alone talk negative (and true) things about it all of which is labeled as "anti semitism" yet here you are saying that USA believes in freedom of speech and protects someones rights for hate speech based on those principles yet when someone tells the truth about Israel it is labeled as hate speech anyway and thrown away.

USA as the "biased" news report states is to cover USA behind it is well known America supported fascism to combat communism after WW2 

RT is more balanced than CNN,Fox<MSNBC,ABC and any other American news agency