Archive for the ‘Ivory Coast’ Category

Imagine: The Collapse of International Order, Syria, and Berlin in 1945

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

There is nothing inevitable about international order.

The lessons of two world wars which informed the creation of the United Nations in 1945, and the maintenance of international peace and security for over 60 years, can be forgotten.

It is entirely conceivable that without decisive leadership from either Europe or the United States, the international order that has existed for many decades could start to wobble and even collapse.

And it is nearly impossible to conceive of such leadership emerging any time soon.

The rubble in Syria resembles the rubble in Berlin and the destruction in Germany in 1945, which occurred the last time the international order collapsed.

How bad could it get?

You could have wars like the one in Syria devastating countries in Africa, a nuclear attack on Los Angeles from North Korea, Iran with nuclear weapons and delivery systems within 5-10 years, and Israel surrounded by hostile Islamist states.

Things could fall apart.

Imagine a world without law, without international law governing the use of force which is generally observed and which states seek to uphold when it is violated.

Imagine a  world in which states use force without acknowledging they have acted, and without any obligation to publicly justify the legitimacy of their actions by reference to international law.

That is the direction in which we are heading.

The Trenchant Observer

The Olympic Games, and the Battle for Aleppo, Begin—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #70 (July 28)

Saturday, July 28th, 2012

The Opening of the XXX Olympic Games

It was a poignant moment, as world leaders gathered in London last night (July 27) for the opening of the XXX Olympic Games, with the performance of an extraordinary spectacle, in which at one point five Olympic rings appeared suspended in the heavens over the Olympic Stadium. Over a billion people were said to have watched the opening ceremonies on television.

Here, in the very heart of the democratic civilizations of Europe, the Olympic ideal shone brightly.

In ancient Greece, the Olympic Games were preceded by a “Sacred Truce” among the warring city-states, in which athletes were guaranteed safe passage to and from the games, and all fighting was to be halted for a period of one month. This period was eventually extended to allow the athletes and visitors to return home.

The games were held every four years from 776 BC to 393 AD, when they were abolished by the Christian Byzantine Emperor Theodosius I. The ancient Olympic Games lasted for 1170 years. The Modern Olympic Games were initiated in 1896, and have been held every four years or more often since then except for 1916, 1940 and 1944.

–“Brief History of the Olympic Games,” NOSTOS (Hellenic Information Society, UK).

Importantly, the Olympic Games today stand as a symbol for humanity’s goal of one day achieving universal peace. The alternative, it seems, is either the goal of endless war, or the resignation that goes with the sense of helplessness we feel when we reject the goal of peace.

The Battle for Aleppo, and the Response of the World

Meanwhile, in Aleppo in Syria, a country where the international community and the Security Council have been unable to reach agreement to act effectively to halt the atrocities of Bashar al-Assad’s regime, the portents of death and destruction were all too palpable yesterday and today, as the regime’s troops, tanks, artillery, helicopters and war planes began a concerted assault on the lightly armed rebels of the Syrian Liberation Army, in what a pro-Assad Damascus newspaper termed “the Mother of all Battles”.

Today, on Saturday, July 28, the battle was joined in earnest.

For news of recent developments on the ground in Syria, see

Luke Harding (in Anadan, on the Aleppo front line), “Syrian rebels near Aleppo: ‘We are besieging Assad’s army'; Regime forces have been pulverising rebel-held districts using artillery and helicopter gunships. But the rebels are upbeat,” The Guardian, July 28, 2012 (11:35 EDT).

Damien McElroy (in Aleppo), “Badly armed rebels face tanks as Syria’s mother of all battles begins,” The Telegraph, July 28, 2012 (6:57PM BST).

Álvaro de Cózar (Special Correspondent in Marea), “El Ejército sirio avanza para tomar Alepo; Las tropas de El Asad atacan con bombas y tanques los barrios en manos rebeldes; Las líneas de teléfono y el suministro de energía han sido cortados, El País, 28 Julio 2012 (23:45 CET).

Kareem Fahim and Ellen Barry, “Syrian Military Intensifies Assault on Rebels in Aleppo,” New York Times, July 28, 2012

***
Unfortunately, Americans accessing the Internet do not find it easy to gain a sense of what is actually taking place on the ground, due to “The Filter Bubble” which prevents most U.S. observers on the Internet from seeing the search results for newspapers outside of their own country (including, e.g., British and other newspapers which have correspondents on the ground in Syria).  To get around The Filter Bubble, see the directions in the bottom right-hand column on the right on our Home Page, or go here.

Thus, as the world turns its attention to the joyful spectacle of athletes from countries throughout the world competing on the basis of individual merit, as humanity comes together for its quadrennial celebration of the richness and diversity of the human family, the people in Aleppo and in Syria are left to face the absolute terror and barbarism of the Bashar al-Assad regime, alone.

Russia and China, along with the Syrian regime, are clearly to blame for this state of affairs, and populations who follow international affairs throughout the world are aware of the role they have have played in thwarting effective U.N. Security Council action. Memories of how they have backed the murderous regime of al-Assad are likely to be long indeed in the Middle East, and also in the democracies of the world.

The United States and other Western countries warn of an impending massacre in Aleppo, as if anyone but they themselves could save the day.

It is a new role for Americans: Eyewitness News reporters without an inkling of any sense of moral responsibility that might lead them to act. In this role, they are following the lead of their president.

The Americans, the Europeans, top U.N. officials and others loudly deplore the lamentable state of affairs in Syria in general, and the unfolding of the “mother of all battles” in Aleppo, in particular.

Leaderless, they stand helpless and paralyzed before the terror and barbarism of al-Assad.

They provide countless declarations of moral outrage, and call for the nations of the world to increase their “pressure” on the al-Assad regime.

The “pressure” of which they speak is a “pressure” of words, of plaintive moral appeals directed to war criminals whose moral depravity is beyond dispute. Or perhaps the “pressure” may even consist of voluntary economic sanctions, imposed by different countries outside the framework of the U.N. Security Council, whose impact is uncertain and in any event will take much time.

Neither words nor economic sanctions, however, will stop al-Assad’s armies.

These leaders are at once appalled by the terror, the barbarism, the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity before their very eyes, and caught in their own moral cowardice, impotent, helpless, with verbal reproaches the only weapons they have the courage to wield. Paralyzed by their own cowardice, they will not act—not effectively, not in time to save the thousands of additional deaths that the grinding gears of war portend to claim, and of which they so earnestly warn.

Enough with Words!

These leaders can all do the world one big favor:  Stop denouncing al-Assad’s atrocities, at least until they are willing to do something really effective to bring them to a halt.

With their moral energies thus freed, they can pay close attention to the facts on the ground, to what is actually happening to thousands of human beings in the maw of war, and then they can seek quiet solace in their churches, their synagogues, their mosques, and the other spiritual refuges in which they must, as individual human beings, come to terms with what they have seen, and what they have not done.

Enough with words!

Enough with the self-absolving declarations these leaders offer to the world, and to themselves, so they can sleep at night, knowing they were present at Srebrenice, present at Auschwitz, present in Rwanda, over a very long period of time, and did nothing.

President Theodore Roosevelt, Recipient of the 1907 Nobel Peace Prize, on Words and Deeds

As for President Obama, who reportedly likes to think of himself as emulating the great American presidents, the words of President Theodore Roosevelt, recipient of the 1907 Nobel Peace Prize, come to mind. Roosevelt declared:

“International Peace”

We must ever bear in mind that the great end in view is righteousness, justice as between man and man, nation and nation, the chance to lead our lives on a somewhat higher level, with a broader spirit of brotherly goodwill one for another. Peace is generally good in itself, but it is never the highest good unless it comes as the handmaid of righteousness; and it becomes a very evil thing if it serves merely as a mask for cowardice and sloth, or as an instrument to further the ends of despotism or anarchy. We despise and abhor the bully, the brawler, the oppressor, whether in private or public life, but we despise no less the coward and the voluptuary. No man is worth calling a man who will not fight rather than submit to infamy or see those that are dear to him suffer wrong. No nation deserves to exist if it permits itself to lose the stern and virile virtues; and this without regard to whether the loss is due to the growth of a heartless and all-absorbing commercialism, to prolonged indulgence in luxury and soft, effortless ease, or to the deification of a warped and twisted sentimentality.

Moreover, and above all, let us remember that words count only when they give expression to deeds, or are to be translated into them (emphasis added). The leaders of the Red Terror2 prattled of peace while they steeped their hands in the blood of the innocent; and many a tyrant has called it peace when he has scourged honest protest into silence. Our words must be judged by our deeds; and in striving for a lofty ideal we must use practical methods; and if we cannot attain all at one leap, we must advance towards it step by step, reasonably content so long as we do actually make some progress in the right direction.

[Footnote] 2. The “Terror” is a term characterizing the conduct of power in revolutionary France by the second committee of Public Safety (September, 1793-July, 1794), sometimes identified as the “Red Terror” to distinguish it from the short-lived “White Terror”, which was an effort by the Royalists in 1795 to destroy the Revolution.

–Theodore Roosevelt, 1907 Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech, delivered May 5, 1910.

President Obama and the other leaders of the world would do well to take these words to heart, today, and every day hereafter until they find the courage to take effective action to halt the barbarism and the terror in Syria.

The Trenchant Observer

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South Africa strays from Mandela’s vision, abstaining in Security Council vote on Syria— Update #69 (July 27)

Friday, July 27th, 2012

The following article is divided into five sections or parts. Due to its length, the reader may wish to read one or more different sections at different times. The sections are:

(1) South Africa’s Abstention in the Vote on Draft Resolution S/2012/538
(2) South African Statements in Defense of its Abstention in the Vote
(3) Statement of Ian Davidson, Shadow Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Democratic Alliance
(4) The Text of Security Council Draft Resolution 538
(5) Mandela’s Vision

South Africa’s Abstention in the Vote on Draft Resolution S/2012/538

South Africa abstained in the July 19 vote on Security Council draft Resolution S/2012/538 on Syria, sponsored by France, Germany, Portugal,the United Kingdom and the United States. The resolution would have extended the UN observer mission in Syria (UNSMIS) for 45 days, and threatened but did not specify the imposition of sanctions by the Security Council (pursuant to a future vote) if the al-Assad government did not comply with key provisions of the Security Council’s 6-point peace plan (also known as the Kofi Annan 6-point peace plan).

Forgetting that its own liberation struggle had benefited from economic sanctions imposed by the Security Council, South Africa gave tacit support to Russia and China and their argument that the Security Council had no right to interfere in the domestic affairs of Syria.

South African Statements in Defense of its Abstention in the Vote

In a statement in the Security Council following the vote and South Africa’s abstention on draft resolution S/2012/538, the South African representative, Mr. Mashabane, stated the following:

Mr. Mashabane (South Africa): South Africa strongly condemns the continuing violence and the huge loss of life in Syria. It is now 16 months since the crisis began, and there is no end in sight. Instead, the security and humanitarian situations have become worse. The deteriorating situation in Syria highlights the urgency for all sides to stop armed violence in all its forms, implement the six-point plan presented by Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan, and move rapidly towards a political dialogue and a peaceful, democratic, Syrian-led transition.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has just classified the situation in Syria as meeting the conditions of an internal armed conflict. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has made a similar statement. This means that the situation has reached the threshold of a civil war, in which all parties have responsibilities and obligations under international humanitarian law.

The highest priority should be to stop the killing and end the suffering of civilians. The suicide bombing in Damascus yesterday, which killed the Syrian Defence Minister and others, coupled with frequent horrific massacres in various parts of the country, clearly indicates that there is more than one party to the conflict. This volatile situation has also become fertile ground for terrorist groups. Acts of violence committed by any party are unacceptable and a clear violation of their commitments under the six-point plan, and should be condemned. Reports of the continued use of heavy weapons by the Syrian security forces are also of serious concern to us.

South Africa strongly supports the efforts of Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan and believes that his plan is the only credible mechanism that could deliver a positive and realistic outcome. Coupled with the Annan plan is the final communiqué of the Action Group for Syria (S/2012/523, annex), adopted in Geneva on 30 June. It constitutes a significant proposal on the way forward in Syria and has been supported by all permanent members of the Security Council. We should not fail to support Mr. Annan, as his efforts may be the only branch to which to cling before the seismic currents of a bloody civil war push Syria over the brink into a state of total collapse.

South Africa is disappointed that, because of the divisions among the members of the Council, the Council has been prevented from executing its responsibilities. Differences within the Council should be addressed in a spirit of compromise and mutual respect, and with the Council’s broader responsibility in mind. All members of the Council have consistently expressed their support for the Kofi Annan plan, the Geneva action plan communiqué and the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria UNSMIS).

Yet the common cause that we affirmed when we adopted resolutions 2042 (2012) and 2043 (2012) three months ago has not seemed to prevail. We should have shown the utmost maturity in strategically executing these crucial tasks, taking into account the realities of the situation on the ground. Instead, we allowed narrow interests to destroy our unity of purpose.

We agree with the Joint Special Envoy that the Council must insist that these decisions be implemented, that a strong message should be sent to all parties involved, and that there will be consequences for their non-compliance with its decisions. We fail to see, however, how the text that was submitted today by the sponsors would end the violence or contribute to the implementation of the six-point plan. Instead, the text, in an unbalanced manner, threatens sanctions against the Government of Syria without realistically allowing any action to be taken against the opposition, which would be permitted to defy the six-point plan without consequence. In similar situations where the international community, including the Security Council, has preferred one side over the other, such bias has resulted in the polarization of the conflict. This is especially true for such fractious societies as Syria’s.

The failure of the Council today to reach a balanced agreement threatens the Kofi Annan plan and undermines the possibility of finding a peaceful political solution to the Syrian crisis. Our failure to renew the mandate of UNSMIS — the only functional tool for verifying and corroborating information on the ground and supporting the Annan plan, as recommended by the Secretary-General — is disappointing. While we are concerned about the safety of the observers, South Africa continues to believe that UNSMIS has been a critical part of our effort to find a solution to the Syrian crisis, and should therefore continue its work in one form or the other when conditions on the ground so permit. SouthAfricais therefore deeply disappointed that the future of UNSMIS is under threat because of the divisions in the Council.

It is for these reasons that South Africa abstained in the voting on draft resolution S/2012/538. SouthAfricastands ready to work with all members of the Council to achieve a strong, balanced outcome in support of Kofi Annan’s efforts and a renewal of the UNSMIS mandate.

In conclusion, for the time being South Africa supports the proposal for a possible technical rollover of UNSMIS for a very short term.

–United Nations Security Council, 6810th meeting, 19 July, 2012, U.N. Doc. S/PV.6810, at pp. 11-12.

The Deputy Foreign Minister, Ebrahim Ebrahim, made virtually the same points in a statement issued on July 20, arguing that the resolution was not balanced.

See

SAPA, “South Africa speaks out on violence in Syria; South Africa voices concern over killings of civilians in Syria as resolution that would have extended UN observer mission is vetoed,” Business Live (South Africa), July 19, 2012.

Khadija Patel, “Analysis: Tracking South Africa’s Syria policy,”
Daily Maverick (Johannesburg), July 23, 2012.

Mandy Rossouw, “Pretoria takes soft stance on Syria,” City Press (Pretoria), July 22, 2012.

Oluwaseun Oluwarotimi (NewsWorld), “Syria; UN Security Council, A Failure- South Africa,” Leadership (Abuja), July 23, 2012.

However, the statements of the South African Security Council Representative and the Deputy Foreign Minister seeking to justify South Africa’s abstention do not stand up to close scrutiny, in the light of the actual text of Security Council draft resolution S/2012/538.

This is evident from a comparison of their remarks and the actual text of the draft resolution itself.

The full text of Ebrahim’s statement follows:

Statement by the Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Ebrahim Ebrahim, on the UN Security Council vote on the extension of the mandate of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS), 20 Jul 2012

South Africa deplores the violence and the tremendous loss of life in Syria, which is spiraling out of control. I reiterate that our highest priority is to stop the killing. We feel that the only way to achieve this is through the Annan plan for a political transition.

The bomb in Damascus earlier this week, which resulted in the death of senior government officials including the Defence Minister, Daoud Rajha, coupled with the many horrific massacres that have taken place over the past few weeks, clearly shows that there is more than one side to the conflict. It is also obvious that all sides are heavily armed.

We have noted the International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent’s classification of the escalating situation in Syria as meeting the conditions of an internal armed conflict. The United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights also stated that: “there are indications that the situation in Syria, at least in certain areas, may amount to a non-international armed conflict thus entailing obligations on both sides under international law”.

This confirms that the situation has reached a threshold of a civil war in which all parties have responsibilities and obligations under international humanitarian law.

It is therefore essential that the Security Council address this dire situation in line with the United Nations Charter. The Charter determines that the Council should make recommendations for conflict resolution and take account of failures of implementation with its decisions: “without prejudice to the rights, claims and positions of the parties concerned”. Chapter VII of the UN Charter therefore mandates the Security Council to address the conduct of all parties to a conflict equally.

During the past week, Kofi Annan, in response to the escalating violence and lack of movement in the peace process, requested the Council to send a strong message to all parties that there would be consequences for their non-compliance with the Annan plan.

It has been incorrectly reported that South Africa was opposed to sanctions on the Syrian government. I wish to emphasise that South Africa fully supports the request of the Joint Special Envoy for stern action. Our problem with the resolution voted on yesterday was not the issue of sanctions on the government per se, but the fact that the text did not provideformeasures against the opposition for non-compliance with the Annan plan. (emphasis added).

It was on this basis that South Africa made recommendations to balance the text. These proposals were rejected by the drafters of the resolution, leaving South Africa no option but to abstain in the vote

This was not merely an issue of language. South Africa takes it responsibility as a member of the Security Council extremely seriously, because its decisions impact the lives of ordinary people. Our view is that a one-sided resolution would only make the situation on the ground worse, pushing the government to further pursue the military option and emboldening the opposition to continue to reject talks. In a complex, divided society such as Syria, there can be no military solution.

We saw this clearly in Iraq. Ultimately, the parties in Syria will have to negotiate a settlement. The question is whether they do so now or after a bloody and protracted civil war. We are therefore deeply disappointed that the Council was not able to apply pressure to both sides to bring an end to the violence.

The outcome of the vote reflects the deep divisions and narrow interests of the five Permanent Members of the Security Council. These divisions and the inability of the Security Council to address the realities of the appalling situation on the ground in a balanced and mature manner, is a failure by the Security Council to execute its primary mandate, namely the maintenance of international peace and security.

South Africa continues to call for a Syrian-led negotiated all-inclusive dialogue to establish a politicaltransitionthat will reflect the will of the Syrian people. This is the ultimate aim of the Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States, Mr Kofi Annan, and the only hope for the Syrian people.

While we are concerned about the safety of observers, South Africa continues to believe that UNSMIS plays a critical role in supporting the efforts of Mr Annan, including through verification and facilitating local-level cease-fires. The withdrawal of UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) will only result in the conflict on the ground spiraling into an all-out war, which will have a severe impact on the stability of the entire region. South Africa is deeply concerned about such a prospect.

Currently there are two competing resolutions before the Security Council to extend the mandate of UNSMIS, which South Africa supports. We hope the Security Council will be able to rise above its deep divisions and adopt the extension unanimously.

(Statement issued by Department of International Relations and Cooperation, July 20, 2012)

Statement of Ian Davidson, Shadow Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Democratic Alliance

Ian Davidson, the shadow minister for foreign affairs of the Democratic Alliance, expressed his disagreement with the Zuma government’s abstention in the Security Council in a statement issued on July 20, 2012.

See “DA: Statement by Ian Davidson, Democratic Alliance Shadow Minister of InternationalRelationsand Co-operation, on the Department of International Relations and Co-operation’s stance on Syria, Polityorg.com, July 20, 2012.

The full text of Davidson’s statement follows:

While the death toll in Syria continues to rise, South Africa’s representatives in the United Nations (UN) Security Council have once again abstained from voting in support of decisive UN action in Syria. Once again, the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (DIRCO) is allowing autocratic regimes with poor human rights records to dictate South Africa’s foreign policy.

After recognising yesterday that the violence in Syria is “spinning out of control”, South Africa has yet again abstained from voting on the UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolution aiming at de-escalating conflict in Syria.

UN action was effectively neutered by vetoes from Russia and China. By abstaining from the vote, South Africa has sided with its fellow BRICS members. While the Syrian people are being bombed by their own government and the increasing armament of both the government forces and rebel groups has turned the Syrian conflict into an international security crisis, South Africa chose to remain on the fence.

DIRCO defends this decision by claiming that the world requires a “balanced” intervention which recognises the wrongdoings of all parties to the conflict and paves the way for negotiation.

The proposed UN resolution stipulated a deadline for an end to the use of heavy weapons, called for the withdrawalofSyrian forces from towns and cities and proposed sanctions should this deadline not be met. The dream of a negotiated settlement will never be realised without more decisive initial steps to de-escalate the violence.

South Africa should not be caught on the wrong side of history again, as with our infamous flip-flop on Libya. In abstaining from this vote, we are losing credibility as a country which believes in human rights and a just international order and we are alienating the West and Arab League nations more directly affected by the Syrian conflict.

Instead of using our position as a member of BRICS to encourage China and Russia to do the right thing, we are being caught in the slipstream of their bad decisions. Our association with China and Russia in this regard will undermine our legitimacy in the UN Security Council and could derail our efforts to reform this structure to the benefit of smaller and developing nations.

DIRCO fence-sitting raises questions about our capacity to make tough decisions that may offend some of our more dubious friends.

The Text of Security Council Draft Resolution 538

Draft Resolution 538 was in fact quite balanced, in view of the events of the last year and the atrocities Bashar al-Assad has committed and is committing against his opponents, who began their protest peacefully in March, 2011. The actual text of draft resolution 2012/538 follows:

Security Council: Text of draft resolution on Syria
Jul 19, 2012
(France, Germany, Portugal, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and United States of America: draft resolution)

The Security Council,

Recalling its Resolutions 2043 (2012) and 2042 (2012), and its Presidential Statements of 3 August 2011, 21 March 2012 and 5 April 2012,

Reaffirming its strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Syria, and to the purposes and principles of the Charter,

Reaffirming alsoits support to the Joint Special Envoy for the United Nations and the League of Arab States, Kofi Annan, and his work, following General Assembly resolution A/RES/66/253 of 16 February 2012 and relevant resolutions of the League of Arab States, aimed at securing full implementation of his six-point plan in its entirety, as annexed to resolution 2042 (2012),

Condemning the Syrian authorities’ increasing use of heavy weapons, including indiscriminate shelling from tanks and helicopters, in population centres and failure to withdraw its troops and heavy weapons to their barracks contrary to paragraph 2 of resolution 2043 (2012),

Condemning the armed violence in all its forms, including by armed opposition groups, and expressing grave concern at the continued escalation of violence, and expressing its profound regret at the death of many thousands of people in Syria,

Condemning the continued widespread violations of human rights by the Syrian authorities, as well as any human rights abuses by armed opposition groups, and recalling that those responsible shall be held accountable,

Condemning the series of bombings that have made the situation more complex and deadly, some of which are indicative of the presence of well-organised terrorist groups,

Deploring the deteriorating humanitarian situation and the failure to ensure timely provision of humanitarian assistance to all areas affected by the fighting contrary to point 3 of the Envoy’s six-point plan, reiterating its call for the Syrian parties to allow immediate, full and unimpeded access of humanitarian personnel to all populations in need of assistance, in particular to civilian populations in need of evacuation, and calling upon all parties in Syria, in particular the Syrian authorities, to cooperate fully with the United Nations and relevant humanitarian organizations to facilitate the provision of humanitarian assistance;

Condemning the continued detention of thousands of Syrians in networks of Government-run facilities and deploring that there is no freedom of assembly contrary to points 4 and 6 of the six-point plan, and recalling the urgency of intensifying the pace and scale of release of arbitrarily detained persons, and reiterating the need for Syrians to enjoy the freedom to assemble, including to demonstrate peacefully and freedom of movement for journalists throughout the country, as part of the necessary conditions for a political transition,

Having considered the Secretary-General’s report on UNSMIS dated 6 July 2012, commending United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) personnel for their continued efforts in a dangerous and volatile environment, and deploring that, due to the failure of the parties to implement the six-point plan and to the level of violence, monitoring access restrictions and direct targeting, the Mission’s operational activities were rendered unworkable, and supporting the Secretary-General’s recommendation that a shift in Mission structure and focus should be considered,

Stressingthat rapid progress on a political solution represents the best opportunity to resolve the situation in Syria peacefully, welcoming in this regard the Final Communiqué of the Envoy’s 30 June Action Group meeting, and noting that progress towards an atmosphere of safety and calm is key to enabling a credible transition,

Welcoming the Syrian Opposition Conference held under the auspices of the League of Arab States in Cairo on July 3, 2012, as part of the efforts of the League of Arab States to engage the whole spectrum of the Syrian opposition, and encouraging greater cohesion among the opposition,

Noting the Secretary-General’s 6 July 2012 call on the Security Council to provide the necessary support and ensure sustained, united and effective pressure on all concerned to ensure compliance with its decisions and create conditions for the success of a political solution envisaged by the Action Group,

Determining that the situation in Syria constitutes a threat to international peace and security,

Acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations,

1. Expresses grave concern at the escalation of violence, and the failure of the parties, in particular the Syrian authorities, to implement the Envoy’s six-point plan as annexed to resolution 2042 (2012), thus not permitting the creation of a political space that would allow for meaningful political dialogue, and calls upon all parties to recommit immediately and without waiting for the actions of others to a sustained cessation of violence in all its forms and implementation of the six-point plan;

2. Endorsesin full the 30 June Action Group Final Communiqué and its underlying guidelines and principles (Annex);

Enabling Transition: Immediate implementation of the Envoy’s six-point plan

3. Demandsthe urgent, comprehensive, and immediate implementation of, all elements of the Envoy’s six-point proposal as annexed to resolution 2042 (2012) aimed at bringing an immediate end to all violence and human rights violations, securing humanitarian access and facilitating a Syrian-led politicaltransitionas outlined in the Annex, leading to a democratic, plural politicalsystem, in which citizens are equal regardless of their affiliations, ethnicities or beliefs, including through commencing a comprehensive political dialogue between the Syrian authorities and the whole spectrum of the Syrian opposition;

4. Decidesthat the Syrian authorities shall implement visibly and verifiablytheir commitments in their entirety, as they agreed to do in the Preliminary Understanding and as stipulated in resolution 2042 (2012) and 2043(2012), to (a) ceasetroopmovements towards population centres, (b) cease all use of heavy weapons in such centres, (c) complete pullback of military concentrations in and around population centres, and to withdraw its troops and heavy weapons from population centres to their barracks or temporary deployment places to facilitate a sustained cessation of violence;

5. Demands that all parties in Syria, including the opposition, immediately cease all armed violence in all its forms, thereby creating an atmosphere conducive to a sustained cessation of violence and a Syrian-led political transition;

6. Expresses grave concern at the increasing numbers of refugees and internally displaced persons as a result of the ongoing violence, and reiterates its appreciation of the significant efforts that have been made by the States bordering Syria to assist those who have fled across Syria’s borders as a consequence of the violence, and requesting UNHCR to provide assistance as requested by member states receiving these displaced persons,

Transition

7. Demands that all Syrian parties work withthe Office of the Joint Special Envoy to implement rapidly the transition plan set forth in the Final Communiqué in a way that assures the safety of all in an atmosphere of stability and calm;

Accountability

8. Recalls that all those responsible for human rights violations and abuses, including acts of violence, must be held accountable;

9. Decides that the Syrian Government shall provide the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic and individuals working on its behalf immediate entry and access to all areas of Syria, decides that the Syrian authorities shall cooperate fully with the Commission of Inquiry in the performance of its mandate;

UNSMIS

10. Decides to renew the mandate of the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) for a period of 45 days, on the basis of the Secretary-General’s recommendation to reconfigure the Mission to increase support for dialogue with and between the parties, and enhance attention to the political track and rights’ issues across the six-point plan;

11. Requests the Secretary-General to retain the minimum military observer capacity and requisite civilian component necessary to promote forward steps on the six-point plan through facilitation of political dialogue and to conduct verification and fact-finding tasks;

12. Condemns all attacks against UNSMIS, reaffirms that perpetrators of attacks against UN personnel must be held to account, demands that the parties guarantee the safety of UNSMIS personnel without prejudice to its freedom of movement and access, and stresses that the primary responsibility in this regard lies with the Syrian authorities;

13. Demands that the Syrian authorities ensure the effective operation of UNSMIS by: facilitating the expeditious and unhindered deployment of its personnel and capabilities as required to fulfil its mandate; ensuring its full unimpeded, and immediate freedom of movement and access as necessary to fulfil its mandate, underlining in this regard the need for the Syrian authorities and the United Nations to come rapidly to an agreement on appropriate air transportation assets for UNSMIS; allowing its unobstructed communications; and allowing it to freely and privately communicate with individuals throughout Syria without retaliation against any person as a result of interaction with UNSMIS;

Compliance

14. Decides that, if the Syrian authorities have not fully complied with paragraph 4 above within ten days, then it shall impose immediately measures under Article 41 of the UN Charter;

Reporting and Follow-Up

15. Requests the Secretary-General to report to the Council on the implementation by all parties in Syria of this resolution within 10 days of its adoption and every 15 days thereafter;

16. Expresses its intention to assess the implementation of this resolution and to consider further steps as appropriate;

17. Decides to remain seized of the matter.

Curiously, the text of draft Security Council resolution S/2012/538 is not yet available on the United Nations web site. The link to the document does not lead to the document. All of which reminds the Observer of a story once told him by a former American high official in the United Nations during the early years of the Cold war. The Soviets, he recounted, had always placed a high value on controlling the printing presses at the U.N., through the appointment of the offical with authority over them. This gave them considerable leverage within the organization. Could there be a vestige of this old Cold War strategem still at work in the bowels of the U.N.?

South Africa’s Leadership of Democratic Forces in Africa, and Beyond

As pointed out in a previous article, with Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma now heading the African Commission, it is even more important than it was before that South Africa take seriously its responsibilities as a leader of the democratic forces in Africa–and beyond.

See The Trenchant Observer, “Security Council adopts Resolution 2059 extending mandate of UNSMIS for 30 days (with text); fighting and risks intensify—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #67 (July 20),”
July 20, 2012.

Ironically, on July 22 it was reported by News24 that the staff of the South African embassy in Damascus had been forced to flee the fighting in Damascus, and that the embassy was moving its personnel to Lebanon for safety. According to an earlier SABC report, Shaune Byneveldt, ambassador to Syria, had arrived back in South Africa as fighting intensified in Damascus.

See

“SA embassy staff flee Syria,” News24 (South Africa), July 22, 2012.

Karl Gernetskysa, “SA moves staff to Lebanon as violence worsens in Syria; Observers have questioned if South Africa’s lack of a firmer stance on Syria could lead to embarrassment similar to that caused by indecision over Libya,” Business Day, July 24, 2012.

The bottom line is that South Africa adopted the position of Russia and China, even though it “abstained” on the resolution instead of voting against it. The argument that draft Resolution was unbalanced because it threatened sanctions only against the Syrian government and not against the rebels is specious, as a close reading of operative paragraphs (4) and (5) of the resolution makes clear.

Paragraph 4 calls on the government to “(a) cease troop movements towards population centres, (b) cease all use of heavy weapons in such centres, (c) complete pullback of military concentrations in and around population centres, and to withdraw its troops and heavy weapons from population centres to their barracks or temporary deployment places to facilitate a sustained cessation of violence.”

Operative paragraph 5 states clearly that the Security Council:

5. Demands that all parties in Syria, including the opposition, immediately cease all armed violence in all its forms, thereby creating an atmosphere conducive to a sustained cessation of violence and a Syrian-led political transition;

There is absolutely nothing unbalanced about the draft resolution, and to argue otherwise is to argue in generalities that depend for their persuasive force on the ignorance of those to whom they are addressed. That not only Russia and China could make such arguments, but also South Africa (and Pakistan) is shameful and defenseless.

In the context of events in Syria, the fact that Russia and China had blocked effective Security Council action since vetoing a Security Council resolution in October, 2011, and after four months of Kofi Annan’s “six-point plan” producing absolutely nothing in terms of results, South Africa’s vote (like that of Pakistan, which also abstained) can only be interpreted as supporting the Russian and Chinese position.

This vote of abstention represented a complete abdication of South Africa’s responsibilities, as a democratic nation and leader of the democratic forces in Africa, and beyond, to support concrete action by the Security Council to deal effectively with the Syrian crisis.

Draft Resoluiton 538 was in fact quite balanced, in view of the events of the last year and the atrocities Bashar al-Assad has committed, against opponents who began their protest peacefully in March 2011.

Nelswon Mandela’s Vision

July 19, 2012 was a shameful day for South Africa.

One day after Nelson Mandela’s 94th birthday, which was celebrated throughout the country by schoolchildren singing “Happy Birthday” to him, South Africa deviated sharply from Mandela’s vision, articulated in his 1993 Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech as follows:

We live with the hope that as she battles to remake herself, South Africa, will be like a microcosm of the new world that is striving to be born.

This must be a world of democracy and respect for human rights, a world freed from the horrors of poverty, hunger, deprivation and ignorance, relieved of the threat and the scourge of civil wars and external aggression and unburdened of the great tragedy of millions forced to become refugees.

The processes in which South Africa and Southern Africa as a whole are engaged, beckon and urge us all that we take this tide at the flood and make of this region as a living example of what all people of conscience would like the world to be.

We do not believe that this Nobel Peace Prize is intended as a commendation for matters that have happened and passed.

We hear the voices which say that it is an appeal from all those, throughout the universe, who sought an end to the system of apartheid.

We understand their call, that we devote what remains of our lives to the use of our country’s unique and painful experience to demonstrate, in practice, that the normal condition for human existence is democracy, justice, peace, non-racism, non-sexism, prosperity for everybody, a healthy environment and equality and solidarity among the peoples.

Moved by that appeal and inspired by the eminence you have thrust upon us, we undertake that we too will do what we can to contribute to the renewal of our world so that none should, in future, be described as the “wretched of the earth”.

Let it never be said by future generations that indifference, cynicism or selfishness made us fail to live up to the ideals of humanism which the Nobel Peace Prize encapsulates.

Let the strivings of us all, prove Martin Luther King Jr. to have been correct, when he said that humanity can no longer be tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war.

Let the efforts of us all, prove that he was not a mere dreamer when he spoke of the beauty of genuine brotherhood and peace being more precious than diamonds or silver or gold.

Let a new age dawn!

Thank you.

–Nelson Mandela, 1993 Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance and Nobel Lecture, December 10, 1993.

The Trenchant Observer

observer@trenchantobserver.com
www.twitter.com/trenchantobserv

For links to other articles by The Trenchant Observer on this topic, and others, click on the title at the top of this page to go to the home page, and then consult the information in the bottom right hand corner of the home page. The Articles on Syria page can also be found here.

Security Council adopts Resolution 2059 extending mandate of UNSMIS for 30 days (with text); fighting and risks intensify—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #67 (July 20)

Friday, July 20th, 2012

The U.N. Security Council adopted a draft resolution sponsored by the United Kingdom, France, and Germany on Friday morning, July 20, 2012, extending the term of the UNSMIS for a final period of 30 days. The resolution provided, further, that this extension should not be renewed unless the Secretary General reports and the Security Council confirms “the cessation of the use of heavy weapons and a reduction in the level of violence by all sides sufficient to allow UNSMIS to implement its mandate.”

See

“Security Council resolution 2059 on UNSMIS,” UN REPORT, July 20, 2012.

“Security Council Renews Mandate of Syria Observer Mission for 30 Days, Unanimously Adopting Resolution 2059 (2012),” U.N. Security Council Press Release (Doc. SC/10718), July 20, 2012.

The resolution was adopted by a unanimous vote. The full text of resolution 2059 (2012) reads as follows:

The Security Council,

Commending the efforts of the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS),

1. Decides to renew the mandate of UNSMIS for a final period of 30 days, taking into consideration the Secretary-General’s recommendations to reconfigure the Mission, and taking into consideration the operational implications of the increasingly dangerous security situation in Syria;

2. Calls upon the parties to assure the safety of UNSMIS personnel without prejudice to its freedom of movement and access, and stresses that the primary responsibility in this regard lies with the Syrian authorities;

3. Expresses its willingness to renew the mandate of UNSMIS thereafter only in the event that the Secretary-General reports and the Security Council confirms the cessation of the use of heavy weapons and a reduction in the level of violence by all sides sufficient to allow UNSMIS to implement its mandate;

“4. Requests the Secretary-General to report to the Council on the implementation of this resolution within 15 days;

“5. Decides to remain seized of the matter.”

Significantly, the United States was not a co-sponsor of the resolution, in view of the fact that it initially opposed an extension for UNSMIS.

It is simply not credible to argue that the mere continuation of an unarmed observer mission in the midst of these threats and spiraling violence can or will fundamentally change anything. Everyone in this room knows that. The United States has not and will not pin its policy on an unarmed observer mission that is deployed in the midst of such widespread violence and that cannot even count on the most minimal support of this Security Council. Instead, we will intensify our work with a diverse range of partners outside the Security Council to bring pressure to bear on the Assad regime and to deliver assistance to those in need. The Security Council has failed utterly in its most important task on its agenda this year. This is another dark day in Turtle Bay.

One can only hope that one day, before too many thousands more die, that Russia and China will stop protecting Assad and allow this Council to play its proper role at the center of the international response to the crisis in Syria.

–Explanation of Vote by Ambassador Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, At a Security Council Session on Syria, July 19, 2012.

Pakistan, in collaboration with Russia, had sponsored a competing draft resolution for the extension of UNSMIS for 45 days, with no conditions.

Analysis

This weeks’ negotiations and votes at the United Nations represented highly significant developments.

The sponsors and supporters of draft resolution S/2012/538, vetoed by China and Russia on July 19, made very significant progress in spelling out the conditions that will be necessary for the Security Council to act effectively in Syria in the future. The adoption of Resolution 2058 today, with stringent conditions for any future renewal of UNSMIS, demonstrates their resolve not to continue passively as Kofi Annan creates endless illusions regarding “agreements” which have no teeth and no consequences for violating their provisions. In this sense, the Kofi Annan-Russia-Syria game of endless delay while atrocities continue, is over.

The focus of attention will now shift to the actions of nations outside the famework of the Security Council. This is a highly positive development, and represents the only way the kind of real pressure that can stop al-Assad can be organized and brought to bear on the ground.

At some point in the future, when Russia and China realize that by their vetoes they have marginalized themselves from the efforts of the civilized nations of the world to bring the atrocities in Syria to a halt, and to manage the transition that will follow al-Assad’s inevitable departure, the Security Council may play a constructive role.

Vladimir Putin, who increasingly seems to emulate the foreign policy brilliance of Leonid Brezhnev, has dictated a Russian policy on Syria for which in the end Russia will pay dearly.

Russia, as a result of its bull-headed obstinacy in the Security Council proceedings on Syria, has lost something of inestimable value: the trust and goodwill of the American political leadership class.

There are signs that not only Secretary of State Hillary Clinton now understands the necessity of tougher action toward Russia, but that even Barack Obama is beginning to awake from his dream and illusion of a “reset” of U.S. relations with Russia. His meeting with Putin in Los Cabos, Mexico on the sidelines of the G-20 summit may also have helped in this regard.

Further, the United States House of Representatives has adopted a draft law which would ban U.S. government business with Russia’s arms manufacturers. It will now be sent to the Senate. The significance of this development is very great: Russia has lost the goodwill and the trust of a large segment of the American population, including the Republican party. This is likely to have long-lasting and far-reaching repercussions, from throwing into doubt the repeal of the Johnson-Vanik amendment and the approval of permanent most-vavored-nation treatment status (now called PNTR status), to making it very difficult if not impossible to achieve ratification of any future START or other arms agreement between and Russia and the United States.

See

Kate Brannen, “Legislation Would Limit U.S. Business With Russian Arms Dealer,” Defense News, July 19, 2012.

Josh Rogin, “House votes to cut off Pentagon deals with Russian arms exporter,” Foreign Policy–The Cable, July 20, 2012.

The bill provides in part, “the Defense Department may not “enter into a contract, memorandum of understanding, or cooperative agreement with, make a grant to, or provide a loan or loan guarantee to Rosoboronexport.”

“House Passes Defense Bill With Nuclear Policy Restrictions,” NTI
Gobal Security Newswire (produced by the National Journal), July 20, 2012 (regarding attitude of Republicans and House).

In the Middle East itself, Russia’s short-sighted policies in Syria are likely to cause resentments that become crystallized into a template of anti-Russian feeling that could last for a generation or more. Not only are they likely to lose Syria as an ally, but also to find it increasingly difficult to exercise influence among the other Arab nations of the region.

China, too, will pay a price over the long term for having acted to block Security Council action on Syria. While it may calculate that its foreign assistance to Africa will win the favor of African states, to the extent necessary to extract the natural resources that it seeks, as the democratic revolution spreads throughout Africa China’s defense of the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity will be remembered. It will be remembered elsewhere as well.

To be sure, the fact that China is in a year of political transition during which the leadership of the country for the next 10 years will assume power may cause all of the leaders in China to exercise extreme caution. In this context, they may calculate that hiding behind Russia is the safest course, politically, within China. But just as the United States may pay a high price for an inept and non-responsive foreign policy, however “good” it may be judged in terms of the domestic political and electoral dynamic, China too is likely to pay a significant cost abroad for its obstruction of Security Council action.

Pakistan’s and South Africa’s Abtentions on July 19

The two countries that abstained on the draft resolution vetoed on July 19 deserve special mention. Pakistan’s abstention, wholly aside from its fatuous justification for its vote, signals even greater alienation from the U.S., and a willingness to cooperate with the Russians when the interests of the superpower and the former superpower collide. The collaboration with Moscow was quite evident in the draft resolution Pakistan sponsored for an extension of UNSMIS with no conditions, i.e., on Russian terms.

This development is worrisome, because together Pakistan and Russia could have a decisive influence over the way things go in Afghanistan. It is also troubling because Pakistan is still a democracy of sorts, with nuclear weapons, and its alignment with the League of Authoritarian States would cause very significant problems down the road.

As for South Africa, given its previous support for the February 4, 2012 draft resolution in the Security Council vetoed by China and Russia, what are we to make of its abstention on the vote on the draft resolution vetoed on July 19?

South African Deputy Foreign Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim has offered a not very persuasive defense of South Africa’s vote. Governments voting in the Security Council are sophisticated, and they do not approve or oppose a resolution of such great importance because some phrase or wording they proposed was rejected. The South Africans knew very well what was at stake in their vote on this resolution, and their abstention is deeply worrisome.

See Ebrahim Ebrahim, “Why SA abstained on UNSC Syria vote – Ebrahim Ebrahim, PoliticsWeb, July 20, 2012.

Significantly, it should be noted that at the time of the vote on July 19, South African President Jacob Zuma was in Beijing attending a conference of Chinese and African leaders at which China pledged some $20 billion of economic assistance to Africa over the next three years. Did Zuma abstain out of deference to his hosts, or is there more to it?

South Africa’s shift from supporting U.N. resolutions condemning the al-Assad regime to abstention in voting on the draft resolution of July 19 is a matter of great concern, both to countries supporting transitions to democracy and the rule of law in Africa and in general, and to the many countries in Africa which look to South Africa as a shining example–exemplified by Nelson Mandela–of the kind of democracy that Africans can achieve.

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, current Home Affairs Minister and former foreign minister of South Africa (and also a former wife of president Jacob Zuma), has just been elected as the head of the Commission of the African Union, underlining the fact that South Africa’s influence is and will be felt far and wide on the continent.

See
Aaron Maasho, “Dlamini-Zuma elected to head AU Commission, The Mail and Guardian (Johannesburg), July 16, 2012.

Institute for Security Studies (Tshwane/Pretoria), “Africa: The Implications of Dr Dlamini-Zuma’s Election As Head of the African Union Commission,” AllAfrica, July 18, 2012.

Paradoxically, one of the first questions Dr. Dlamini-Zuma will have to address, will be the position of the African Union in requesting (or not) U.N. Security Council intervention in Mali to help stabilize the country after an out-break of civil war there. What the South African vote of abstention on July 19 says about the Mali question, if anything, is of great importance.

More broadly, whether South Africa aligns with democratic movements and reformers stuggling for the rule of law will, over time, have a very large impact on events on the continent, both outside and within South Africa itself.

In Syria the fighting intensifies, as do the risks in the region

Meanwhile, back on the ground in Syria, it was reported that over 300 people were killed on Friday, July 20.

See Albert Aji and Zeina Karam (AP), “Syria Conflict: Deadliest Day Of Fighting Since Start Of Uprising,” Huffington Post, July 20, 2012 (updated 8:34 p.m. EDT).

Events are moving quickly, and the crisis in Syria is not getting better. The United States is, however belatedly, now examining military options for protecting the chemical weapons in al-Assad’s control in the event he uses them or his control over them breaks down, as well as how to deal with the possibility that Israel might undertake attacks against chemical weapons facilities.

See David Axe, “Syria’s Ballistic Missile Arsenal Looms As Assad Regime Buckles,” Wired, July 19, 2012 (4:12 p.m.).

Jennifer Rubin, “What was Obama waiting for in Syria?” The Washington Post, July 19, 2012 (” Right Turn” column).
By Jennifer Rubin

With the issue of Iran’s development of a nuclear weapons capability in drift, and earlier threats by Israel to bomb Iran’s nuclear sites before their window of inevitability closed, the question of Syria lies at the heart of the cauldron of interests that are now engaged in the Middle East. Presidents Obama and Putin would do well to reread Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August on the events in 1914 that accidentally set off World War I. In a recent column, David Ignatius has made the same point.

See David Ignatius, Can diplomacy succeed with Iran and Syria?” Washington Post, July 11, 2012.

It is time for President Obama and the key members of his team, including in particular cabinet secretaries, to pay close attention, day by day, to what is going on in Syria and the region. He has been slow to appreciate the significance of developments in the past, or we would never have reached this point. He must now support those who can understand the requirements of the critical situations we face and act decisively to achieve clear and coherent objectives. Paying attention, and making sure others pay full attention, is one task he cannot delegate, whatever the demands of the electoral cycle.

The Trenchant Observer

observer@trenchantobserver.com
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REPRISE: “The League of Authoritarian States”—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #65 (July 19)

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

REPRISE: “The League of Authoritarian States”—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #50 (June 9)
First published June 9, 2012


Responses to events in Syria have etched in sharp relief the emergence of a new coalition of states, which might be termed “The League of Authoritarian States”.

Their Charter Members include Russia, China, Iran, and Cuba, in addition to Syria. Other states drifting within their orbit, or in and out of their orbit, include Uganda, Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia.

Where they have votes, they have consistently voted against U.N. resolutions addressing the crisis in Syria, including the Human Rights Council’s resolutions condemning the atrocities by the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria, and the Security Council draft resolution on Syria of February 4, 2012, which endorsed an Arab League peace plan, called for end to the crimes being committed, and promoted a peaceful transition. The February 4 draft resolution explicitly ruled out the use of force, and contained no economic sanctions. Still, it was vetoed in the Security Council by Russia and China, who had blocked all action by the Security Council since the demonstrations in Syria began in March, 2011.

By supporting Kofi Annan’s 6-point peace plan, the League’s members have diverted members of the international community from taking effective action to stop the killing in Syria. They now call for “an international conference” and a continuation of Kofi Annan’s “mediation” process to further delay or avoid any such action. In their hard-nosed diplomacy, Russia has even made a veiled threat of nuclear war in the region, to which President Obama and the West have not responded in any way.

The fact that Russia and China have a veto in the Security Council gives the League of Authoritarian States enormous leverage in shaping the Security Council’s responses to situations in countries, like Syria, where authoritarian regimes use terror to repress movements pressing for respect for human rights and transitions to democratic governments.

It remains to be seen how many other authoritarian states will now go on the record in supporting the League of Authoritarian States. There is a cost associated with repression, and the avowed intention of blocking any action to halt war crimes and crimes against humanity in any country where violent repression is the government’s response to demands for human rights and democracy.

The key Founding Members of the League, Russia and China, have made it clear where they stand. They will use their vetoes in the Security Council to block effective action by the international community to halt war crimes and crimes against humanity, and to water down any resolutions which are adopted (such as Resolutions 2042 and 2043). Moreover, their true intentions and bad faith are revealed in their propaganda, which mirrors that of Syrian officials and state-controlled media.

They justify their actions by reference to the principles of sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of any state, as guaranteed in the U.N. Charter.

They ignore, however, that in the 21st century “sovereignty” does not include the right to commit genocide, ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity, war crimes, torture, or even the violation of other fundamental human rights. The growth and development of international law has led to treaties and state practice interpreting international law that limit the sovereignty of a nation to undertake acts such as those referred to above.

We no longer live in a world (if we ever did) in which, to pose a hypothetical example, Adolf Hitler could set up extermination camps inside of Germany and exterminate millions of German citizens, so long as he did not invade other countries. If he lived today, he would not have that right.

No Dictator, no authoritarian regime, has that right.

The battle is joined, between the international community which supports human rights and international law, including international criminal law, on the one hand, and the League of Authoritarian States, on the other, whose members believe a Dictator should have such a “right”, and who are willing to block the effective responses of the international community by vetoing resolutions in the Security Council.

The rest of the nations of the world are looking, at least in public, to a future in which fundamental human rights are observed and effectively protected throughout the world. That is the aim of the Responsibility to Protect Resolution (Resolution 1674) adopted by the Security Council in 2006. That is the purpose of the Human Rights Council and all of its work to uphold observance of international human rights protected in U.N. and other treaties, and under customary international law.

Undoubtedly other governments will join the League of Authoritarian States, in order to protect their own ability to use terror including war crimes and crimes against humanity to retain their hold on power.

However, the trend in recent years, has been toward a consolidation of the principles espoused by the United Nations Charter, international treaties, international law, and the organs of the U.N. such as the Human Rights Council.

The League of Authoritarian States is determined to buck that trend, and indeed to reverse it so that they will not have to face the possibility of intervention by the international community in their own “internal affairs” in the future.

The verdict is still out on which group will prevail. Much will depend on the willingness of members of the international community to act in cases such as Syria, even by the use of force if necessary. In extreme cases, willingness to act must extend to military action to halt atrocities, notwithstanding obstruction of effective Security Council action by a League member’s veto.

We live in a world of seven billion people. Through the internet, satellite channels, and mobile telephones, we are all connected now. We can all talk to each other now, today by video on Skype, and tomorrow on smart phones with video call capabilities.

The world has changed, and the speed of that change is accelerating.

Who will prevail, the League of Authoritarian States, or those members of the international community who aspire to a world governed by international law, including U.N. treaties and customary international law guaranteeing the observance of fundamental human rights? These not only prohibit genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and torture, but also protect rights such as freedom of the press and the right to participate in government.

The answer depends not on the United States or Europe or NATO or the Arab League alone. It depends of each of us, and what each of us does to shape the policies and actions of our own respective governments.

The outcome of the struggle is not determined. Whatever it is, it will decisively affect the course of history.

In that struggle, it will be important to bear in mind that one thing, however, has changed: We are all connected now.

The Trenchant Observer

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If Russia vetoes a Security Council resolution on Syria, then what? — Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update # 64 (July 17)

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

We are at a potential decision point on Syria. A draft resolution presented by France, the U.K., the United States and Germany, extending the UNSMIS observer mission for 45 days and calling for sanctions under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter if al-Assad does not withdraw his heavy weapons from towns within ten days, appears headed for an up or down vote.

See Ruth Sherlock (Beirut) and Adrian Blomfield (Middle East Correspondent), “Syrian rebels launch campaign to ‘liberate’ Damascus; Syrian rebel commanders on Tuesday night claimed to have launched a military campaign to “liberate” Damascus as the city echoed to the sound of gunfire for a third day and fighting came close to the country’s parliament building,” The Telegraph, July 17, 2012.

Alex Spillius (Diplomatic Correspondent), “Syria United Nations vote delayed; A crucial vote on Syria at the United Nations has been delayed as Western countries make a last ditch bid to persuade Russia to threaten Bashar al-Assad with tough sanctions,” The Telegraph, July 17, 2012.

Russia has said it will block the resolution.

It may well do so, as President Putin proceeds to ride the Bashar al-Assad regime down to flaming defeat, helping to set a template in the Arab world in which Russians will be viewed as the enemies of the Arab Spring and all it stands for, for generations.

It is absolutely important that the sponsors of the resolution not back down, and not cave in to Russia’s demand for an extension of UNSMIS and Kofi Annan’s mission with no consequences for al-Assad if he displays continued defiance.

Over 10,000 people have been killed since Russia and China vetoed a relatively bland draft resolution on February 4, 2012. Weakening the current draft resolution to get Russia and China on board should not be done if they are only to board a still-sinking ship.

Another toothless resolution will, like the last five months of Security Council paralysis and illusions, serve no purpose other than allowing thousands more to die.

Should the Russians (one almost writes “Soviets”) veto the resolution, what should its proponents and supporters then do?

The Observer offers the following suggestions:

1.  Let UNMIS lapse.

It is not capable of providing widespread observation of what is going on in Syria, due to its limited numbers, the government’s ability to control its movements, and its inability to operate to monitor a truce when there is no truce but rather a raging civil war–when it has been targeted and fired upon repeatedly and subjected to the actions of hostile mobs orchestrated by al-Asad.

2.  Do not extend or expand Kofi Annan’s mandate as Joint Special Envoy.

The Arab League should speak to the members of the Security Council, the General Assembly, and the civilized nations of the world with its own voice.  It should not surrender its role in history, for another day, to Kofi Annan or anyone else.  The Arab states need a voice, and have much to bring to the table.  They cannot do this with Annan speaking for them.

The sooner Kofi Annan is shown the exit, the better.  His mega-personality and vainglorious view of himself sucks up all of the attention of the world’s media, drowning out other potentially constructive voices as well as those of witnesses to the atrocities al-Assad is committing–every day.

If his mission is to continue at all, it should be conditioned on his not speaking to the press or the media.

If it continues, his mission should be a silent one.  Let him mediate and report to the Security Council, without manipulating world opinion at every step of the way for the benefit, as it turns out, of the Russians and the Bashar al-Assad regime.

Let his efforts to build another bureaucratic empire in Geneva for himself, as a kind of second Secretary General’s office, lapse when the funding lapses, or sooner if a method can be found to halt this boondoggle.

Send Kofi Annan home.  His efforts as a mediator have produced nothing.  Absolutely nothing.

3.  Let attention turn away from the Security Council, where effective action is blocked by Russia.  Develop and pursue alternative strategies outside of the framework of the Security Council.

4.  Such alternate strategies should include, as a high priority, the formulation of an economic aid package, including humanitarian assistance, which the civilized countries of the world will provide to the people of Syria, once the leaders currently committing atrocities have been removed from the scene.

These leaders should be brought to justice, whether sooner or later–whether through a referral to the International Criminal Court, prosecution within Syria in the future, or through prosecution in individual countries exercising “universal jurisisdiction” over international crimes, in accordance with their own domestic legislation.

5.  A second alternate strategy would be to begin developing a “truth and reconciliation process” which may offer some prospect to soldiers and even officers that, in exchange for full cooperation with a “truth and reconciliation commission” and admission of their wrongful actions, they might be pardoned or receive lighter punishments than would otherwise be possible.

This effort (including both points 4 and 5) could be pursued within and with the support of the United Nations General Assembly. Detailed plans and sequences could be developed, with pledges of financial support from different countries–and other institutions. The idea would be to develop a concrete vision of the reconstruction of Syria, including sources of funding and specific measures to revive the economy. As this vision including the corresponding pledges of financial support takes shape, it is likely to become an attractive alternative to the al-Bashar regime, which promises only destruction and ruin.

It will be useful to shift the world’s attention, and that of those caught up in the struggle in Syria, to the future–to a future which lies on a path leading to atonement and reconciliation.

Somehow, some day, the Syria which Bashar al-Assad has done so much to destroy will have to be put back together, and rebuilt–both in material and in human terms  It is not too early to focus on this aspect–the construction of the future.

Thinking about the construction of the future, and taking concrete steps towards its realization, may in fact serve as critically important means of moving forward through and beyond the terrible present.

Of course, miltary action may at some point also be required, e.g. if al-Assad were to start using chemical weapons or other WMD–or to start selling such weapons to terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda and its affiliates. It is also possible that once outside countries focus on the realities of Syria and its risks, instead of the illusions and castles in the sky generated by Kofi Annan, they may decide to use military force to halt the killing and to organize an orderly transition–with or without Security Council authorization.

The Trenchant Observer

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Words and Deeds: Obama’s Defense of Democracy in Africa, 2011

Monday, August 1st, 2011

In comments on July 29 following meetings with President Yayi of Benin; President Conde of Guinea; President Issoufou of Niger; and President Ouattara of Ivory Coast, President Barack Obama stated the following:

“Despite the impressive work of all these gentlemen, I’ve said before and I think they all agree, Africa does not need strong men; Africa needs strong institutions. So we are working with them as partners to build effective judiciaries, strong civil societies, legislatures that are effective and inclusive, making sure that human rights are protected.”
–President Barack Obama, West Africa: Remarks By Obama After Meeting With Four African Presidents”, July 29, 2011, reprinted in TheNigerianDaily.com, July 30, 2011.

As we have learned in other contexts, it is important to examine carefully not just what President Obama says but also, and most importantly, what he does. When he speaks of working with these and presumably other African leaders “to build effective judiciaries, strong civil societies, legislatures that are effective and inclusive, making sure that human rights are protected,” one must ask, “What are the specific programs, in which countries, and at what level of funding is he referring to?”

Again, how does this level of funding, per country, compare to the cost of deploying one American soldier to Afghanistan for one year?

Africans struggling to establish or strengthen democracy in their countries need not just words, but deeds. They need specific and meaningful programs that provide financial assistance for the strengthening of civil society organizations, including NGO’s working to ensure observance of fundamental human rights, and judicial reforms that not only improve the functioning of the courts but also expand access to justice among broader sections of the population.

See The Trenchant Observer, “Obama and Democracy in Africa, 2011,” July 16, 2011

Also worth noting in passing is the level of sophistication regarding Africa revealed at the White House, when the President refers to “Cote d’Ivoire” as if no one in the State Department knows the name of the country in English (Ivory Coast). If we are to start using the native languages for the names of different countries, we will have to refer to Egypt as Misr, Algeria as Jaza’ir, and Germany as Deutschland. It’s probably better to stick with English.

Or, to cite another example, when the Deputy National Security Adviser for Africa speaks of the president trying to find ways to speak directly to “the African people,” he is referring to the diverse peoples of the 54 countries of Africa as one people. It as if he were referring to people in Asia as “the Asian people” or the people in Latin America as “the Latin American people”. India, China and Brazil, to cite but a few examples, would not be pleased.

Details count, and are revealing.

The Trenchant Observer

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