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article imageOp-Ed: Risk vs Reward — Is the Human Cost Worth Potential Profit

By Greta McClain     Aug 17, 2012 in Politics
As the violence continues to spread throughout many parts of Syria, countries around the globe are condemning the Syrian government for their continued attacks on neighborhoods.
The Arab states of Jordan, Morocco, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia are joining Germany, Great Britain and France to sponsor a draft to be presented to the UN human rights committee. Muslim leaders meeting in Mecca yesterday held an emergency meeting regarding the continued violence and revoked Syria’s membership in the Organization of the Islamic. Kuwait and Bahrain have both recalled their Syrian Ambassadors and demanded an immediate end to the violence. Most if not all “Western” countries have deplored the violence and have called for UN sanctions against Syria.
It would seem that with so many outcries, and with even fellow Arab states and Muslim leaders resoundingly criticizing Syria, that passage of a sanction resolution would be fairly mundane. Things are not always as they seem however. Two permanent members of the United Nations Security Council voted today to once again block any effort by the council to impose sanctions against Syria. It was not a fellow Arab country, it was not even a primarily Muslim country, nor was it a country that depends on Syria’s modest oil production that blocked the resolution. The countries that prevented passage are China and Russia.
Child found under the destruction of his home in Azaz  Aleppo.
Child found under the destruction of his home in Azaz, Aleppo.
The obvious question that comes to mind is why China and Russia would block a resolution aimed at trying to force the Syrian government to stop the violence and bloodshed. Syria was an ally of Russia during the cold war, so it seems natural that they still feel some loyalty to each other. However, the cold war ended nearly 30 years ago. Russia sells arms to Syria, but could the cost of the arms sales truly outweigh the potential investment loss that would be seen if the nearly 90 industrial facilities and infrastructure Russia invested in and helped to build are destroyed in the violence? One-third of Syria’s oil-processing facilities and electric power capacity were also funded by the Russians. If those are destroyed or damaged heavily, Russia may perhaps believe that Syria would come to them for assistance once again. However, if much of the infrastructure and one of the prime resources that Syria depends upon is destroyed, how does Russia think Syria will be able to pay Russia for assistance? How do they expect them to pay for arms?
A couple sits to survey the destruction of the neighborhood.
A couple sits to survey the destruction of the neighborhood.
Clearly, there is always information that is not available to the majority of us. There are always plans, strategies, and back room deals that come into play. But thinking in the short term, even when you take the idea of simply being a compassionate human being that does not want to see innocent civilians murdered, you have to wonder if it is really a good economic strategy to risk the destruction of investments, especially at a time when the world’s economy is so fragile.
The same argument holds true for China. Yes, China has become heavily invested in Syria, and it is understandable there is some loyalty and friendships that come into play. But, the same question arises. If the oil refineries, the infrastructure and other industrial investments are destroyed because of the on going civil war, how does China plan on recouping its investments?
There are certainly concerns many countries are pondering regarding having a new regime in power. One concern would be will the new regime want to remain allies. But again, if you use common sense, it would seem that no matter who is in power, they are still going to have a need to depend on stronger, more affluent countries to rebuild what has already been destroyed, and it would seem logical to ask those countries that have shown a willingness to help in the past.
When large investments are in jeopardy, and when the lives of innocent civilians are being snuffed out on an hourly basis, the question remains; what do Russia and China have to gain by blocking sanctions, and, can those gains really outweigh the toll the conflict is taking on the innocent people of Syria?
Nora Basha
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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