(MENAFN - Jordan Times) Russia has been roundly criticised for continuing to supply arms to Syria since the escalating revolt erupted last March, but little or nothing has been said about US and European suppliers that have sold arms to Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain and Yemen.
According to a press release issued last Monday by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the US remains "a major supplier to both Tunisia and Egypt".
In 2011, the US delivered 45 M-1A1 tanks to Egypt and agreed to deliver 125 more without knowing what sort of government would emerge from the turmoil of the Arab Spring. Furthermore, in 2011, the US, the world's largest arms exporter, received an order from Saudi Arabia for 154-15SA combat aircraft, which, SIPRI said, "was not only the most significant order placed by any state in 2011 but also the largest arms deal for at least two decades".
Russia supplied 78 per cent of Syria's weapons imports during the 2007-2011 period. Last year, Russia sold Syria Buk-ME SAM systems (air defence) and Bastion-P coastal defence missile systems, and won an order for 36 YAK-130 trainer aircraft.
SIPRI calculated that these deliveries "contributed to a 580 per cent increase in the volume of Syrian arms imports", as compared to the previous four-year period.
Russia responds to critics of its arms sales to Syria by saying that the weapons it is now providing are for defence and are not being used to crackdown on either protesters or rebels. It may be significant that the boost in sales of SAMs and coastal defence systems followed the 2006 Israeli war on Lebanon, the September 2007 Israeli raid on an alleged clandestine nuclear site near Deir Al Zor, in eastern Syria, and the Israeli onslaught on Gaza, in late 2008-early 2009. Syria's leaders would have been remiss if they had failed to strengthen their defences following these Israeli military aggressions.
Instead of trying to deter Israeli military adventures, the US has fuelled them. In 2007, the US increased the 2.4 billion in military grants to Israel to an average of 3 billion per year over a 10 year period. Seventy-five per cent of this grant is tied to Israeli purchases of US-made arms and equipment, while 25 per cent is spent on Israeli domestic military projects.
Weapons, especially aircraft, supplied to Israel have been used for attacks on Lebanon, Syria and Gaza. The Lebanon and Gaza campaigns generated a great deal of criticism of Israel for its disproportionate and brutal offensives against heavily built-up civilian urban areas and, in the case of Gaza, Israel's indiscriminate use of phosphorous bombs.
The massive and continuous supply of arms to Israel by the US and, to a lesser extent, European powers not only sustains the illegal occupation of Palestinian territories seized by Israel in 1967 but also encourages Israel to aggress neighbours and forces Israel's enemies to arm themselves to defend their territory.
Therefore, Western policy makers and politicians should keep quiet about Russia's sale to Syria of defensive weapons enabling the country to both deter aggression and protect itself.
With this in mind, it is ironic that US military intelligence has warned the Obama administration that Syria's recently acquired Russian air defence systems could be a danger if Western/NATO powers that took out Libya's air defences and waged a war on the Qadhafi regime decide to mount a similar campaign against the Assad government.
US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey adopted a cautious approach to the Syrian crisis. Dempsey has argued that Syria has five times more air defences than Libya had. Therefore, establishing a no-fly zone would require "an extended period of time and a great number of aircraft". This would mean that the US would have to take the leading role.
Both Dempsey and Panetta predicted civilian casualties and pointed out that the Syrian opposition is divided. Consequently, it is difficult to identify rebels to whom arms should be provided and leaders who could assume control of the country if the Assad regime is overthrown.
In spite of their assessment of the situation, under instructions from President Barack Obama, the Pentagon has begun contingency planning for humanitarian airlifts, naval surveillance and the creation of no-fly zones.
The war clique is being led by Republican Senator John McCain, who also favours bombing Iran to destroy or disrupt its nuclear programme. McCain's co-conspirators are Senator Lindsey Graham, another Republican, and Joe Lieberman, an independent and strong supporter of Israel, the chief instigator of the disastrous US war on Iraq. But Obama is unlikely to order military action against Syria: he faces reelection in November.
According to a Pew poll, almost two-thirds of US citizens oppose US military intervention in Syria; 62 per cent are against bombing the Syrian military, as proposed by McCain; and 63 per cent oppose providing weapons to the rebels.
Democrats, members of Obama's party, and Republicans, generally more hawkish, have almost the same views on intervention. Without Obama, Europe will not take the lead.
This being the case, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have reportedly been financing and arming rebel factions, risking all-out civil war and sectarian cleansing in cities and towns where members of Syria's 18 communities have lived together in harmony for as long as citizens can remember.