The Syrian Stalemate


Many questions have been raised upon the stalemate situation in Syria. Any external military intervention has already caused global markets to panic.

Talks of oil to rise above $150 a barrel were rife over the last few days. However there is also strong support for leaving Syria alone, predominantly by Russia and China.

Russia’s main interest is the leasing of the port of Tartus from Syria. It is the only direct military access they have to the Mediterranean. To lose that would be a significant strategic loss for them. Furthermore the arms sales are said to be over $4bn already, half a billion spent on fighter jets alone. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimated the value of Russian arms sales to Syria at $162 million per year in both 2009 and 2010.

China’s relationship with Syria appears to be one of learning from mistake as well as economical. As China wishes to strengthen its presence on the global arena, it doesn’t want to echo what happened with Libya. “It was rather disappointed with the payoff,” said Yun Sun of the Brookings Institution, “Neither the West nor the NTC (Libyan National Transitional Council) showed much appreciation for China’s abstention (from the U.N. Security Council resolution). Rather than siding with either Assad or the opposition and standing aside to ‘wait and see,’ Beijing is actively betting on both.”

Economically, China has large stakes in Syria’s oil industry. The state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation holds shares in two of Syria’s largest oil firms and has signed multi-billion dollar deals to assist in exploration and development activities. Sinochem owns a 50 percent stake in one of Syria’s largest oil fields. China has also stepped in as a buyer of Syrian crude in the aftermath of a European Union embargo in 2011.

The markets have calmed somewhat on the back of news that the US will put it to a vote on military action. From the high of $117, there has been drop of over three dollars in the last two days.

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