Blame falls on Moscow as West avoids taking action against Damascus

By Zeina Karam, AP

BEIRUT — The U.S. has spent months disparaging Russia for blocking strong U.N. action against Syria and standing by President Bashar al-Assad as his forces lay waste to rebellious cities.

But in many ways, Russia’s stance is convenient for Washington and its allies which have their own reasons for avoiding direct intervention in yet another Arab nation in crisis.

Not the least of them is the impending U.S. presidential election in November. Others are the uncertain outcome of a military commitment and the war-weariness of the U.S. public.

“The fact that Russia is not budging on Syria certainly helps Washington in its efforts to justify its inaction,” said Bilal Saab, a fellow and Syria expert at the Monterey Institute of International Studies.

For all the tough rhetoric over the carnage in Syria, Washington and its Western allies remain deeply reluctant to engage in any kind of military action such as the NATO-led mission that helped oust Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi in Libya.

The American domestic political situation is also a factor. President Barack Obama faces a tough re-election battle, and his people are focused on their economic woes. Many are clamoring for an end to the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan after the American pullout from Iraq and would oppose yet another military adventure.

The U.S. would rather deflect blame for the bloody conflict onto its old Cold War foe.

Russia’s continued support for Assad “is going to help contribute to a civil war,” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton warned last month.