As we watch atrocities unfold in Syria, some are asking why we don’t intervene there as we did in Libya. Part of the answer is that there isn’t a rebel group in control of territory whom we could support with airstrikes. The Syrian military is much better armed than the Libyan military was because of the Russians.
And that’s the big difference and the real story here — Russia. Syria has been consistently and closely allied with Russia going all the way back to 1955, when Russia was part of the Soviet Union. So that relationship of Syria as Soviet/Russian client state and major arms recipient predates the rise of the Assad family to power, which began with Hafez al-Assad in 1971.
Right now, Syria is Russia’s main source of influence in the Middle East. Putin is going to do everything he can to maintain that power, and as long as he thinks Bashar al-Assad is good for Russia, Putin will support him and keep sending him weapons.
This isn’t a situation where Russia is on our side or is neutral, they are on the other side, and they don’t want anyone messing with their 67-year alliance.
Iran is also involved here. Syria is Iran’s only Arab ally. In general, the Arabs don’t like the Persian Iranians. Iran uses Syria to provide support for Hamas and Hezbollah.
We wanted to get rid of Qaddafi? Russia and Iran said, Knock yourself out. We want to get rid of al-Assad? Different story.