The Russian Bear in the Geopolitical Woods
Has anyone bothered to consider that perhaps the Russians have several good reasons for standing solid as an ally to Syrian strongman, Hafez Assad? Certainly they must have a strong interest in keeping the lid on their key role in assisting the movement of weapons of mass destruction from Iraq to Syria in the prelude to the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Numerous sources have charged that WMD were being surreptitiously transported to Syria from Iraq during the months leading up to the invasion. Now we are receiving warnings from no less than the King of Jordan that substantial chemical weapons stockpiles may fall into the hands of Al Qaeda should Syria collapse into chaos. Think the Russians want those weapons and their role exposed now? Think Washington Democrats do? Remember the mockery of Bush by liberal Democrats when no WMD were found in Iraq following the invasion? There would be egg on many faces.
Next, has anyone bothered to Google a map of the area and ponder the fact that if Israel and Cyprus have discovered a bonanza of fossil fuels offshore in the Mediterranean, perhaps some of that good fortune may extend into waters claimed by Syria? Oil and gas fields don't tend to have hard-lined demarcations. Russia, with its decades-long support of Syria, would certainly be at the head of the line to provide their close Syrian allies with the technology and expertise to develop any offshore resources. Observe the time-proved wisdom: Follow the money.
Third, the Russian bear has historically looked for a warm place in the woods, er, oceans, to perform its nautical functions. The Soviet-era naval facility at Tartus, on the Syrian coast, has long provided the Russians with an asset that is in short supply to the Russian navy, a warm water port, which means Russian navy vessels don't have to return through the Black Sea to Mother Russia for resupply and replenishment. Assuredly that counts for something in this geo-political chess board where America's navy has multiple ports in the Mediterranean.
Lastly, consider that the Russians don't want the Assad government to fall simply because of the tainted history that may be exposed even beyond the WMD complicity, such as connivance by the former Soviet Union in the wars against Israel and endless other Middle East intrigues. Vladimir Putin was recently in Israel schmoozing the powerful, obviously with his eye to the potential of those Mediterranean gas and oil deposits. Think Bad Vlad wants the Israelis to now have proof of how his nation has long plotted the destruction of their own? Of course not, and he will do his scheming KGB best to see that all such Syrian secrets remain so.