HENRY GREENFIELD, Staff Writer
On Feb. 4, Russia and China vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution that would call for Syria’s President Basar al-Assad to resign because of his violent response to protests.
Non-violent protests against the Syrian government started in January 2011, around the same time as protests in other countries in the Middle East and northern Africa like Egypt and Libya, now collectively known as the Arab Spring.
In March, al-Assad responded to the protests by removing the governor of Daraa, a city where protest was especially fervent. He also replaced his whole cabinet. But protesters continued to demonstrate, demanding that al-Assad, who inherited the presidency from his father, step down.
Since late April, al-Assad’s response to protests has become increasingly violent. The army has closed in on most of Syria’s major cities, attacking civilians and cutting off the city’s water, electricity and phone lines. It is estimated that the army has killed 5,400 Syrians, but this number is hard to confirm because al-Assad has barred the foreign press from Syria. Al-Assad claims that Syrian rebels are causing the violence.
The United States, the Arab League and the European Union have criticized al-Assad. President Obama called the violence “outrageous” and has placed sanctions on al-Assad. The United States has funded opposition movements in Syria since 2006.
Russia and China on the other hand have sided with al-Assad. Through the violence, Russia has continued to sell weapons to the Syrian army. Analysts speculate that one reason Russia and China have vetoed the Security Council resolution is because of anxiety over the way Libya was handled. After an earlier resolution against Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi was passed, NATO forces attacked the Libyan army. Russia and China are not members of NATO and thus were unable to gain the same kind of influence in Libya as NATO powers like the United States or Canada.