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This squabbling among the permanent members of the Security Council all took place before the bombing incident in Damascus that killed Assad’s brother-in-law and Syria’s current and former defense ministers. That incident is now being used as a pretext by different permanent members of the Security Council to advance their respective agendas.
The United Kingdom’s foreign minister William Hague, for example, said: “This incident, which we condemn, confirms the urgent need for a Chapter VII resolution of the UN Security Council on Syria.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov declared, “Adopting a resolution against this backdrop would amount to a direct support for the revolutionary movement. If we are talking about a revolution then the U.N. Security Council has no place in this.” He also accused the West of inciting the Syrian opposition, which may well be true.
The Chinese UN Ambassador was quoted as telling the investigative blog Inner City Press that what happened in Damascus was nothing less than a “terrorist” act.
The permanent members of the Security Council are going through the motions of negotiations to try to come to an agreement on what Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called “collective action with a sense of unity.” But as usual, it’s all for show. As France’s UN Ambassador Gérard Araud strode into the Security Council chamber on July 18th, for example, and told the press that negotiations with Russia and China on a compromise have not been ruled out, I asked him whether keeping authorization for Chapter VII enforcement in the resolution submitted for a vote by the Security Council was a red line for its proponents. “Yes,” he responded. In other words, a stalemate is lurking that will likely to lead to a veto when the Chapter VII resolution finally comes to a vote.
In a rare bit of candor for a UN diplomat, the current president of the Security Council, Columbian Ambassador Néstor Osorio, conceded in response to my question that there wasn’t really very much that the Security Council or the United Nations could do in any event to solve the Syrian crisis.
If the Chapter VII sanctions resolution were to miraculously pass the Security Council when it comes to a vote, they won’t be enforced. Russia and Iran will continue to arm the Assad regime as long as they think it is in their interests to do so.
If, as is more likely, the resolution is vetoed, there will be finger-pointing by all sides. For her part, Susan Rice can be expected to spare no words in her condemnation of Assad’s supporters at the UN who blocked punitive action. And the Russian ambassador can be expected to retort that the West is interfering in a civil war to bring about regime change. That’s been the back-and-forth school yard brawling pattern all year long.
But whatever happens at Turtle Bay, one thing is for sure. It won’t make any difference in the lives of the Syrian people.
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