Archive for the ‘Canada’ Category

Abrogation of 1997 NATO Partnership Agreement with Russia urgently required — With excerpts from and link to text of Foundational Act

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

The NATO-Russia partnership agreement was signed in 1997, when the Russian Federation was viewed as a post-war friend.

That was before Russia under Vladimir Putin morphed into an authoritarian state pusuing policies of military aggression and annexation of conquered territories.

Pertinent sections of the Founding Act are reproduced below:

Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security between NATO and the Russian Federation signed in Paris, France, 27 May. 1997

I. Principles

Proceeding from the principle that the security of all states in the Euro-Atlantic community is indivisible, NATO and Russia will work together to contribute to the establishment in Europe of common and comprehensive security based on the allegiance to shared values, commitments and norms of behaviour in the interests of all states. NATO and Russia will help to strengthen the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, including developing further its role as a primary instrument in preventive diplomacy, conflict prevention, crisis management, post-conflict rehabilitation and regional security cooperation, as well as in enhancing its operational capabilities to carry out these tasks. The OSCE, as the only pan-European security organisation, has a key role in European peace and stability. In strengthening the OSCE, NATO and Russia will cooperate to prevent any possibility of returning to a Europe of division and confrontation, or the isolation of any state.

To achieve the aims of this Act, NATO and Russia will base their relations on a shared commitment to the following principles:

*development, on the basis of transparency, of a strong, stable, enduring and equal partnership and of cooperation to strengthen security and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area;

*acknowledgement of the vital role that democracy, political pluralism, the rule of law, and respect for human rights and civil liberties and the development of free market economies play in the development of common prosperity and comprehensive security;

*refraining from the threat or use of force against each other as well as against any other state, its sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence in any manner inconsistent with the United Nations Charter and with the Declaration of Principles Guiding Relations Between Participating States contained in the Helsinki Final Act;

*respect for sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of all states and their inherent right to choose the means to ensure their own security, the inviolability of borders and peoples’ right of self-determination as enshrined in the Helsinki Final Act and other OSCE documents;

*mutual transparency in creating and implementing defence policy and military doctrines;

*prevention of conflicts and settlement of disputes by peaceful means in accordance with UN and OSCE principles;

*support, on a case-by-case basis, of peacekeeping operations carried out under the authority of the UN Security Council or the responsibility of the OSCE.

Russia has through its invasions of the Ukraine and annexation of the Crimea torn up this Founding Agreement.

The assumptions on which was based are no longer valid.

As NATO rubs its eyes and starts to perceive the fact that Russia has become an enemy which rejects the foundational principles of the U.N. Charter and the most basic principles of international law, it should immediately suspend all activities under the partnership agreement, and give notice of abrogation of this agreement with the Russian Federation, to take effect in six months.

NATO needs to focus on and respond to current realities, and jettison illusions based on assumptions which are no longer valid, and hopes for possibilities which no longer exist.

Putin and Russia have become the enemy of the NATO countries.

The sooner that fact is recognized, and acted upon, the sooner the citizens of NATO countries will take the steps necessary to safeguard their own security.

The Trenchant Observer

The Ukraine: Continuing Russian aggression, and the actions the circumstances require

Friday, July 25th, 2014

How the West and other civilized nations should respond–at this point–to Russian aggression in the Ukraine

Advice for foreign policy decision-makers in Europe and the United States:

1. Speak first of real “sanctions”, not “targeted sanctions”.

Jettison the illusions that the latter will change Russia’s course of action. Call the latter “targeted individual measures”, not “sanctions”– which is a highly misleading term when used to refer to “pinprick” measures in this context.

2. Immediately provide the Ukraine with military assistance.

Provide Ukraine with modern military equipment with which the armed forces can defend themselves and their country. Supply modern aircraft with advanced air-defense systems, at least one for every plane shot down by Russia or Russian-supplied missiles.

Provide other substantial military assistance, including sophisticated modern weapons.

3. Prepare contingency plans to respond to any nuclear threats by Putin.

Prepare military contingency plans to be used in case Putin resorts to threats of using nuclear weapons. He and Mededev have made such veiled threats in the past. Putin has undertaken a course which could put his regime at risk.

See Maksym Bugriy (The Jamstown Foundation) “Nuclear Deterrence in the Context of the Ukrainian-Russian Conflict,” Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 11 Issue: 135, July 24, 2014 (06:48 PM).

Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine has led to a hot war where four nuclear powers support opposite sides (Russia and the U.S., as well as NATO members Great Britain and France).

Prepare for all contingencies.

4. Immediately halt delivery of all military equipment and technology to Russia.

Immediately halt all deliveries of military equipment and training of Russian forces (e.g., on how to operate Mistral-class warships, currently underway in France).

Avoid the political temptation to block only future contracts and deliveries. This is a matter of national security for all of the countries of NATO and the EU, as well as other civilized countries.

This is not an issue of honoring contracts, but rather of implementing the peremptory government decisions necessary for national defense.

The U. N. Charter authorizes measures of collective self-defense under Article 51, in response to armed attacks in violation of the prohibition of the threat or use of force contained in Article 2 paragraph 4 of the Charter.

These norms are universally recognized as jus cogens, i.e., peremptory norms from which there can be no exception by way of agreement. They override all other treaty norms, and any penalty clauses in the French contracts for the delivery of two Mistral-class warships to Russia, for example. Consequently, an international court or arbitral panel would be unlikely to uphold the penalty provisions in these contracts.

5. Move large numbers of NATO troops to Eastern European states that border Russia.

Lead NATO in reaching firm decisions to move NATO forces to forward bases in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, and Romania. Begin initial deployments immediately.

6. Select a strong EU foreign minister who can lead responses to Russian aggression.

Eschew normal political bargaining and elect Radoslaw Sikorski, or someone with his qualities (extensive experience as foreign minister, strong record on standing up to Russia and of successful negotiations) to be the new EU foreign relations chief. The Italian candidate, Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini, is hopelessly compromised because of her dealings with Russia after the invasion of the Crimea, in addition to her lack of experience, and should not receive further consideration.

Avoid selection of a compromise candidate who represents the lowest common denominator in Europe.

Sikorski was taped in a private conversation allegedly speaking disparagingly of American relations with Poland. U.S. Assistant Secretary od State State Victoria Nuland in a much more significant official though private communication, said, “F… the EU!” Call it even, and elect Sikorsky. He has demonstrated great abilities as foreign minister of Poland, and is uniquely qualified to lead the EU in meeting the challenge of Russian aggression in the Ukraine.

7. Stop threatening and start implementing sectoral sanctions.

Stop threatening serious sanctions in illusory attempts to influence Putin’s and Russia’s actions, and start implementing sectoral, stage-three sanctions immediately.

The threats have not worked, and they are extremely unlikely to work in the future. Empty threats only confirm Putin’s belief that he can “outfox” the West, and that he can continue to act with virtual impunity.

The “rational actor fallacy” should be avoided. The authoritarian state of Russia, caught up in the extreme emotions of xenophobic nationalism and unchecked military aggression, is not likely to act as a single rational mind calculating both long-term and short-term benefits. What drives Putin and his coterie is greed and the unquenchable thirst to remain in power.

Instead of talking about imposing “additional costs” on Russia, a formulation which implicitly rests on “the rational actor fallacy”, the West should be speaking of halting Russian aggression and reversing its effects.

The focus should not be on attempting to change Putin’s behavior through threats of future sanctions, but rather on changing NATO and EU minds so that forceful actions can be taken now to stop Putin and Russia.

8. Publish detailed white papers.

Publish detailed white papers detailing Russian acts of aggression in the Crimea and in the eastern Ukraine.

9. Publish detailed legal memoranda.

Publish detailed legal memoranda setting forth Russian violations of international law, including in particular Article 2(4) of the U.N. Charter, and justifying measures taken in response under Article 51 of the Charter and other provisions of international law.

10. Lobby governments not to abstain on votes in the General Assembly.

Actively lobby all governments, including in particular the BRICS and other countries which abstained on General Assembly Resolution A/RES/262 approved on March 27, 2014. Make it clear to these countries that their votes in the General Assembly affect the vital national security interests of Europe, NATO, and the United States, and that they will weigh heavily in considering bilateral issues and concessions. In short, make it clear to them that they will pay a significant price in the future if they vote against or abstain on resolutions such as G.A. Resolution 262 (March 27, 2014).

11. Stop “telephone diplomacy” and meeting publicly with Russian officials.

Stop the constant telephone calls to Putin, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and other Russian officials, and stop public meetings with them. These actions have led to an excessive informality, and the cutting out or by-passing of other officials and experts in government decision processes. These two consequences have undermined the interests of the Western countries. Such informal conversations and meetings allow Putin to finely gage the resolve of leaders from different countries, and to use this information to divide them, particularly whenever the threat of the imposition of really serious sectoral sanctions becomes real.

In a word, get serious and take forceful action in response to the Russian aggression in the Ukraine. Take actions that are commensurate with the gravity of Russian violations of international law that have been committed and are still underway.

These violations constitute grave threats to peace and the national security interests of each nation concerned.

The Trenchant Observer

Not indexed by Google: Trenchant Observer article with text of Security Council Resolution 2118; the unregulated power of a totalitarian instrument of thought control (updated November 27, 2013

Saturday, September 28th, 2013

One would think that a post containing the text of the first U.N. Security Council decision on Syria mandating anything—here, the destruction of chemical weapons—would be a timely subject for very quick indexing by Google and other search sites. This is even more true for a foreign policy blog that has followed Syria closely for the last two and a half years).

But this is not the case. It hasn’t happened.

The fact that Google is in effect censoring the blog by not indexing it in a timely fashion reveals the incredible power Google has achieved to affect the public discourse in many countries, including the United States. We now know that Google has cooperated with the NSA in violating Americans’ privacy rights, and that it cooperates with foreign governments in filtering content.

Several important points need to be stressed.

The technology created by Google and its dominant market position in the search industry has resulted in the existance of a totalitarian instrument with incredible power to shape political discussion by not indexing certain pages, or not doing so in real time. It systematically filters out the content of foreign newspapers, and news articles with which your previous searches indicate you would not agree.

It is like a newspaper distributor which has absolute power to unilaterally decide if you will get the New York Times the day it is published, or next week, or maybe a week after a critical debate in Congress–or even after the elections.

It is absolutely clear that “net neutrality” must be maintained to protect the free and timely exchange of ideas and opinions in a democratic state, with one exception: web pages of blogs and other pages containg commentary and comment or analysis of current events must be given priority over all other traffic.

And it is equally clear that the Congress must enact legislation that regulates the use of what is in effect a totalitarian instrument of thought control. The government in the U.S. and the European Union should be monitoring Google’s cooperation with authoritarian regimes to filter the free expression of ideas, and also its filtering in the U.S. and Europe.

The power of Google is far too great to be left to the unchecked discretion of a company which gathers and sells the personal information of its users in a manner which would permit a totalitarian dossier about every user in every country to be created.

Google’s motto of “Do no evil” is in urgent need of goverment regulation and enforcement, in the U.S, Europe, and other democracies in the world.

Following is a list of articles by the Trenchant Observer not indexed, or not indexed in a timely or thorough manner, by Google:

The real problem with U.S. policy toward Afghanistan: Hamid Karzai and the CIA,November 26, 2013 (11;47 p.m.)

Russian economic pressures and actions to force Ukraine not to ratify EU treaty violate international law principle of non-intervention, November 26, 2013 (22:13), (Updated November 27, 2013)

Karzai moves to get U.S. to guarantee his hold on power after 2014 elections, November 22′ 2013.

When societies cannot be bothered by mass murder occurring elsewhere, then a perilous threshold has been crossed, November 20, 2013.

Obama’s foreign policy incompetence, and what to do about it, November 1, 2013 (posted at 23:12 MDT)

Not indexed by Google: Trenchant Observer article with text of Security Council Resolution 2118; the unregulated power of a totalitarian instrument of thought control, September 28,2013 (published at 18:23 MDT).

U.N. Security Council unanimously adopts Resolution 2118 establishing regime for the elimination of chemical weapons in Syria, September 27, 2013 (published at 22:32 MDT).

(List updated regulalrly)

The Trenchant Observer

New authoritarian states in Latin America seek to weaken regional human rights commission and court; Venezuela gives notice of withdrawal from Inter-American Court of Human Rights

Saturday, August 11th, 2012

In Latin America, a concerted effort has been underway to weaken the effectiveness of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights established under the terms of the American Convention on Human Rights, which most of the countries of the hemisphere have ratified–except for the United States.

In June, the 42nd General Assembly of the Organization of American States, which both the Commission and the Court depend on for their budgets and administrative support, was held in Cochabamba, Bolivia. The host nation was joined by Venezuela, Ecuador and Nicaragua in pushing for reforms that would weaken the timeliness and effectiveness of actions by the Commission and the Court, e.g., by imposing delays on publication of their reports and findings. These efforts and proposed reforms were not approved in Cochabamba, but rather referred back to the Permanent Assembly of the OAS for further study and action.

Still, it is important to recognize clearly the assault on these institutions which is being led by newly authoritarian states in Latin America. They are opposed to these human rights institutions because they themselves appear to violate, and to intend to violate, the fundamental human rights of their citizens.

The case of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela is perhaps the best known. But Evo Morales in Bolivia, the host country, has also led an assault on the independence of the judiciary which, though cloaked in legal formality, is essentially authoritarian in nature. Rafael Correa in Ecuador recently attempted to shut down one of the two leading newspapers in the country, El Universo in Guayaquil, and in the end was only persuaded not to by the threat of action before the Inter-American Commission and the Court. Daniel Ortega, in Nicaragua, who will be remembered as the leader of the Sandinista government of that country in the 1980’s, has reportedly also undertaken actions violating fundamental human rights.

On July 25, Chávez announced that Venezuela would withdraw from the compulsory jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The withdrawal, unless rescinded, will take effect in one year.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was too busy with her other travels to attend the General Assembly meeting in Cochabamba.

These developments bear close monitoring. For while Washington has been busy fighting insurgents in Afghanistan and terrorists in the Middle East, it has not been giving a high priority to developments in countries in the hemisphere which are culturally and historically much more closely linked to the United States.

For further details, see the following:

Catie Duckworth, “The Dangers of the Hemisphere Operating without the IACHR’s Guidance,” July 25, 2012.

Caracas withdraws from regional rights court; Venezuelan leader counters IACHR ruling with criticism. El País (English), July 26, 2012.

“IACHR Takes Case Involving Venezuela to the Inter-American Court, IACHR Press Release,” July 13, 2012. Details in the Press Release included the following:

Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) filed an application with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Case No. 12.606, Brothers Landaeta Mejías, Venezuela.
The facts of this case refer to the extrajudicial execution of brothers Igmar Alexander Landaeta Mejías and Eduardo José Landaeta Mejías, 18 and 17 years of age respectively, by officers of the Security and Public Order Corps (Cuerpo de Seguridad y Orden Público) of the state of Aragua. After threats and harassment against them, on November 17, 1996, Igmar Alexander Landaeta Mejías was extrajudicially executed. A month-and-a-half later, on December 30, 1996, his brother, the adolescent Eduardo José Landaeta Mejías, was illegally and arbitrarily deprived of his liberty, and the next day, in the context of a supposed transfer, he was extrajudicially executed.

These facts unfolded in a more general context of extrajudicial executions in Venezuela, with special incidence in the State of Aragua. The Commission has closely monitored this situation through different mechanisms. In particular, the Commission has referred to this problematic situation in its 2003 Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Venezuela; in the annual reports corresponding to 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008; and in its 2009 Report on Democracy and Human Rights in Venezuela.

The case was sent to the IA Court HR on June 10, 2012, because the Commission considered that the State had not complied with the recommendations contained in its Report on the Merits. In that report, the Inter-American Commission recommended the State to conduct a complete, impartial, effective, and timely investigation of the human rights violations described in the report, in order to establish and impose punishment for the intellectual and material responsibility for the facts described; to conduct these investigations in such a way as to establish the links between each of the events covered in this report, as well as between those events and the more general context of violence andextrajudicial executions committed by the regional police; to provide appropriate administrative, disciplinary, and criminal measures to address the actions and omissions of the State officials who contributed to justice denied and impunity surrounding the facts in this case; to make adequate reparations for the human rights violations in material and moral terms; andto provide mechanisms to prevent repetition, including training programs directed to the Aragua State Police on international human rights standards and with respect to children and adolescents, among others.

–Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Press Release, July 12, 2012.

Jim Wyss, “OAS rights body slammed at annual meeting; The Organization of American States’ human rights commission came under siege at the General Assembly, saying the body needs to reform or risk being replaced,” The Miami Herald, June 5, 2012.

Wyss reported that the attack on the IACHR came mainly from Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua. He also noted that at the meeting, “Bolivia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Nicaragua announced they are pulling out of a regional defense treaty [“The Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance or “Rio Treaty”, also known by its Spanish acronym “TIAR”), which considers an armed attack against one member as an attack against all.”

Juan Forero, “Latin America’s new authoritarians,” Washington Post, July 22, 2012.

The Trenchant Observer

For links to other articles by The Trenchant Observer, click on the title at the top of this page to go to the home page, and then use the “Search” Box or consult the information in the bottom right handcorner of the home page. The Articles on Syria page can also be found here. The Articles on Targeted Killings page can also be found here.

U.N. General Assembly adopts resolution condemning Syria by vote of 133-12 with 31 abstentions (vote tally and full text)—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #72 (August 3) Revised

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

Updated at 02:15 a.m. EDT, August 4, 2012

Today, August 3, 2012, the U.N. General Assembly approved a resolution on Syria by a vote of 133-12 with 31 abstentions.


(1) “CNN Wire Staff, U.N. resolution on Syria slams regime, upbraids Security Council,” CNN, August 3, 2012 (updated 3:29 PM EDT).

CNN reports: “Russia, China, North Korea, Iran and Syria were among those voting against the resolution. Algeria, India and Pakistan were among those abstaining.  Of Syria’s neighbors, Lebanon abstained and Iraq, Jordan and Turkey voted for the resolution.”

(2) United Nations General Assembly, “The Situation in Syria, Webcast,” August 3, 2012.

At 4:30 p.m. EDT, the webcast was providing live coverage of representatives’ statements explaining their votes. Archived video will soon be availabe for viewing.  A number ofthestatements, such as that by New Zealand, are quite eloquent.

(3)  “General Assembly, in Resolution, Demands All in Syria ‘Immediately and Visibly’ Commit to Ending Violence that Secretary-General Says Is Ripping Country Apart,” U.N. General Assembly, Press Release (U.N. Doc. GA/11266, August 3, 2012.

The Press Release contains a summary of the resolution and also quotes extensively from the interventions of over thirty representatives explaining their votes in support or opposition to the resolution.

Vote Tally: Breakdown of the Recorded Vote on the Resolution on the Situation Syria (U.N. Doc. /66/L.57).

The Press Release also provided the vote tally or breakdown of the vote:

The draft resolution on The Situation in Syria (document A/66/L.57) was adopted by a recorded vote of 133 in favour to 12 against, with 31 abstentions, as follows:

In favour: Afghanistan, Albania, Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, Colombia, Comoros, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Egypt, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Latvia, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia (Federated States of), Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Nauru, Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Palau, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Zambia.

Against: Belarus, Bolivia, China, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iran, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Russian Federation, Syria, Venezuela, Zimbabwe.

Abstain: Algeria, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Armenia, Burundi, Ecuador, Eritrea, Fiji, Ghana, Guyana, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lebanon, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mali, Namibia, Nepal, Pakistan, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania, Viet Nam.

Absent: Cambodia, Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dominica, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Kiribati, Malawi, Philippines, South Sudan, Swaziland, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uzbekistan, Yemen.

Full Text of the Resolution

The full text of the resolution adopted is found here. See United Nations General Assembly, Doc. A/66/L.57, 31 July 2012, reissued 3 August 2012.

The operative paragraphs of the resolution are reproduced below:

The General Assembly,

1. Condemns the increasing use by the Syrian authorities of heavy weapons, including indiscriminate shelling from tanks and helicopters, in population centres and the failure to withdraw its troops and the heavy weapons to their barracks, contrary to paragraph 2 of Security Council resolution 2042 (2012) and paragraph 2 of Council resolution 2043 (2012);

2. Strongly condemns the continued widespread and systematic gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms by the Syrian authorities and pro-government militias, such as the use of force against civilians, massacres, arbitrary executions, the killing and persecution of protestors, human rights defenders and journalists, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, interference with access to medical treatment, torture, sexual violence, and ill-treatment, including against children, as well as any human rights abuses by armed opposition groups;

3. Condemns all violence, irrespective of where it comes from, including terrorist acts;

4. Demands that all parties immediately and visibly implement Security Council resolutions 2042 (2012) and 2043 (2012) in order to achieve a cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties, thereby creating an atmosphere conducive to a sustained cessation of violence and a Syrian-led political transition that meets the aspirations of the Syrian people;

5. Fully supports the demand of the Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States that the first step in the cessation of violence must be made by the Syrian authorities, and therefore calls upon the Syrian authorities to fulfil immediately their commitment to cease the use of heavy weapons and complete the withdrawal of their troops and heavy weapons to their barracks;

6. Calls upon the Syrian authorities to immediately put an end to all human rights violations and attacks against civilians, protect its population, fully comply with its obligations under applicable international law and fully implement all relevant Human Rights Council resolutions as well as General Assembly resolutions 66/176 and 66/253;

7. Demands that the Syrian authorities strictly observe their obligations under international law with respect to chemical and biological weapons, including Security Council resolution 1540 (2004) of 28 April 2004 and the Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare, signed at Geneva on 17 June 1925,[citation: (3) League of Nations, Treaty Series, vol. XCIV, No. 2138] and further demands that the Syrian authorities refrain from using, or transferring to non-State actors, any chemical or biological weapons, or any related material, and that the Syrian authorities meet their obligations to account for and to secure all chemical and biological weapons and any related material;


8. Stresses again the importance of ensuring accountability and the need to end impunity and hold to account those responsible for human rights violations, including those violations that may amount to crimes against humanity;

9. Encourages the Security Council to consider appropriate measures in this regard;

10. Demands that the Syrian authorities provide the independent international commission of inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic and individuals working on its behalf immediate entry and access to all areas of the Syrian Arab Republic, and demands also that all parties cooperate fully with the commission of inquiry in the performance of its mandate;

Humanitarian situation

11. Deplores the deteriorating humanitarian situation and the failure to ensure safe and timely provision of humanitarian assistance to all areas affected by the fighting, in violation of point 3 of the six-point plan, which, therefore, is contrary to Security Council resolutions;

12. Calls upon the Syrian authorities to immediately and fully implement the agreed humanitarian response plan, including by granting immediate, safe, full and unimpeded access of humanitarian personnel to all populations in need of assistance, in particular to civilian populations in need of evacuation, as well as safe, full and unimpeded access for affected civilians to humanitarian assistance and services, and also calls upon all parties in the Syrian Arab Republic, in particular the Syrian authorities, to cooperate fully with the United Nations and relevant humanitarian organizations to facilitate the provision of humanitarian assistance;

13. Calls upon all parties in the Syrian Arab Republic, in particular the Syrian authorities, to ensure the safety and security of personnel, installations, material, units and vehicles involved in humanitarian assistance in accordance with applicable international law;

14. 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 requests the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for
Refugees to provide assistance as requested by Member States receiving these displaced persons;

15. Invites Member States to provide all support to the Syrian people, and encourages Member States to contribute to the United Nations humanitarian response efforts;

Political transition

16. Reiterates its call for an inclusive Syrian-led political transition to a democratic, pluralistic political system, in which citizens are equal regardless of their affiliations or ethnicities or beliefs, including through the commencement of a serious political dialogue between the Syrian authorities and the whole spectrum of
the Syrian opposition;

17. Demands, in this regard, that all Syrian parties work with the Office of the Joint Special Envoy to implement rapidly the transition plan set forth in the final communiqué issued by the Action Group on 30 June, in a way that assures the safety of all in an atmosphere of stability and calm, notably through the establishment of a consensus transitional governing body, the review of the constitution on the basis of an inclusive national dialogue, and free and fair multiparty elections held in the framework of this new constitutional order;

18. Welcomes, in this regard, the Syrian Opposition Conference held under the auspices of the League of Arab States in Cairo on 3 July 2012, as part of the efforts of the League of Arab States to engage the whole spectrum of the Syrian opposition, and encourages greater cohesion among the opposition;

19. Encourages Member States to provide active support to ensure implementation of the transition plan set forth in the final communiqué of the Action Group, and requests the Secretary-General to provide support and assistance to Syria, at the appropriate time, as it transitions;

20. Requests the Joint Special Envoy to focus his efforts towards a peaceful mechanism for the implementation of the transition to a pluralistic, democratic civil State with equality in citizenship and freedoms;


21. Requests the Secretary-General and all relevant United Nations bodies to provide support for the efforts of the Joint Special Envoy to reach a political solution to the Syrian crisis;

22. Also requests the Secretary-General to report on the implementation of the present resolution within fifteen days.


1. Kofi Annan has resigned from his position as Joint Special Envoy for the Arab League and the United Nations. This is a welcome development, as his mission has failed.

Still, the usefulness to the Russians of Kofi Annan’s mediation mission, as a means of continuing delay and blocking effective action, while concentrating attention on the Security Council where Russia and China have vetoes, has been great. It should not come as a surprise that Russia is now pushing, vigorously, for a replacement for Kofi Annan to be named quickly.

See David Alandete, “Kofi Annan anuncia que a fin de mes dejará la mediación en Siria,” El País, 3 Agosto 2012.

Alandete reports that U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, following a request by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that a worthy successor to Annan be appointed soon, has already begun the search. The text of the resolution, which was initially distributed on July 31, does not take into account Kofi Annan’s resignation.

2. While Kofi Annan was indeed a flawed mediator, he is not entirely to blame for the failure of his mission. The permanent members of the Security Council, each for their own motives, supported his initiatives, and his endless conjuring of illusory agreements or “castles in the sky”.  Indeed, it appears that they more or less imposed the idea of his appointment on Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.

What was fundamentally flawed was the whole concept of a joint Arab League-United Nations mediation mission, as it was clear after the failure of the Arab League mediation effort in the fall that Bashar al-Assad’s “signature” on any agreement was worthless. It was also clear that Russia and China were utterly unyielding in their opposition to effective Security Council action, demonstrated vividly by their vetoes of the October 2011 draft Security Council resolution, and the relatively bland draft Security Council resolution of February 4, 2012. The Arab League, moreover, needs to speak for itself–even when it has nothing to say.  With the Joint Special Envoy, its voice could not be heard.

3. It is now of fundamental importance and great urgency that the mediation mission which Kofi Annan headed be completely dismantled, and that Ban Ki-Moon’s search for a successor be immediately halted. The “second secretary general’s office” Annan managed to get set up in Geneva to support his mediation effort was a terrible idea, and it should be disassembled as soon as possible. Certainly its funding should not be extended. The last thing the world needs now is a group of well-paid U.N. diplomats, interested in perpetuating their own mission, running around on their own initiative stirring up more trouble than actually helping the situation in Syria.  Kofi Annan’s last visit to Iran, trying to enlist the Iranians in saving his mission, makes the point. Further, the creation of an unneeded bureaucratic entity in Geneva, a kind of office of a second secretary general, with its own  bureaucratic and budgetary momentum, should be opposed at all costs, for budgetary reasons, to be sure, but more importantly because it introduces even more dysfunctional dynamics into U.N. decision-making. Ban Ki-Moon’s search for a successor, as noted above, should be stopped.

4. A new mediator would not help the situation. Any agreement between Russia and France, the United Kingdom, and the United States will best be achieved by direct negotiations between them. Once a ceasefire has been established, the naming of a new U.N. coordinator for international assistance to Syria may make sense. Before, then, no successor to Annan should be named, at the risk of giving a second life to the utterly abortive mediation mission that all now recognize was a total failure.

5. What is urgent at the moment is to stop the raging civil war that is underway in Syria from claiming more lives. This requires fresh thinking, and fresh approaches. Military intervention outside the framework of the Security Council, without Security Council authorization, should remain under urgent and active consideration by all countries interested in halting the killing, and avoiding an escalation of the conflict that might draw other countries into a regional war.

6. These actions can be justified under international law, and should be. Nonetheless, great care should be taken to avoid setting any broad precedents that would undermine the central role of the Security Council in resolving international disputes and halting the widespread commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity in other countries in the future.

The case of Syria is very special, and humanitarian intervention would be limited to a situation where 1) the government of Syria has utterly failed to fulfill its “responsibility to protect” its own citizens; 2) the government is itself actively engaged in campaigns involving the widespread commission of crimes against humanity and war crimes; 3) the Security Council has voted by large majorities to take steps to halt the killing in Syria and been blocked only by the vetoes of Russia and China; 4) the General Assembly has by overwhelming majorities condemned the atrocities and barbarism of the al-Assad regime; 5) the Human Rights Council has by overwhelming majorities condemned the al-Assad regime for its barbarity, including crimes against humanity as reported by its own Commission of Inquiry and confirmed by Navi Pillay, the U. N. High Commissioner for Human Rights; 6) humanitarian intervention, even involving the use of force if necessary, is urgently required to stop the continuing massacres now underway in Syria, primarily by government troops and militias, but also by rebel groups in some instances; and 7) such humanitarian intervention can be justified under international law as temporary measures of interim protection taken on an emergency basis to protect civilian populations until such time as the Security Council can act effectively to control the situation.

7. Intense pressures, including the adoption of unilateral economic measures, should be brought to bear on Russia by many countires, to bring Putin to understand he cannot continue to block effective action by the Security Council without paying a very high price in his bilateral relations with others.

8.  Fresh thinking should substitute for the kind of mind-numbing repetition of diplomatic formula which are employed only because they have been repeated in countless resolutions.  One example is the call for “a Syrian led, all-inclusive” process of negotiations for transitional arrangements and solutions to the problems in Syria.  Diplomats and other foreign-policy decision-makers need to stop and think, to think on their feet, because that is what the situation requires.  It is evident that the negotiation process that may be required in the future will not be Syrian-led.  This formula has from the beginning only strengthened Bashar al-Assad’s hand.  (Happily, there is some progress on this point in today’s resolution.) Or, to cite another example, instead of mindlessly condemning the recent bombing in Damscus by the rebels which killed al-Assad’s top defense officials as an act of terror, diplomats should stop and reflect on the fact that there is civil war raging in the country, think about who is mainly responsible for that, and then come up with a different formulation.

9. There is an untold story about the circumstances under which General Robert Mood, UNSMIS commander, departed from his assignment after insisting that his observers stand down due to safety concerns and the fact that they could not carry out their mandate. His replacement, variously referred to as the “acting” head of UNSMIS or the “new” head of UNSMIS, Lieutenant General Babacar Gaye, arrived up in Damascus on July 31, held a news conference, and immediately started sending his monitors out on missions. Whether the security of the monitors is being given full consideration, or being outweighed by the political calculus of trying to keep UNSMIS going beyond its current “final” 30-day authorization, remains to be determined. The failures of the U.N. on security issues in Iraq, leading to the bombing which killed Sérgio de Mello and 20 others, should be borne in mind.

10. The General Assembly’s adoption of the Resolution on the Situation in Syria on August 3 is a positive development, having required nations to take a stand on issues of transcendental importance. The overwhelming majority of members of the U.N. have taken a clear stand on Syria. Meanwhile, Russia and China stand against the world in continuing to support al-Assad’s murderous regime.

11.  Nonetheless, it is actions, not words, that are now urgently required to stop the killing in Syria.

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

For links to other articles by The Trenchant Observer, click on the title at the top of this page to go to the home page, and then use the “Search” Box or consult the information in the bottom right hand corner of the home page. The Articles on Syria page can also be found here. The Articles on Targeted Killings page can also be found here.

“The Magician” draws eyes away from the ball in Afghanistan–again!

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

Once again, on the eve of a major meeting of U.S. and NATO foreign and defense ministers on October 14, the “Magician” in his green cape with a wide-sweeping gesture says, “Look over there!” And everyone takes their eyes off the ball, to be entralled once again by the Magician’s magic.

This magic causes them to forget nine years of dealing with the Magician, the rational and analytical factors that are relevant to the situation on the ground, and strategic thinking on how to manage and overcome the obstacles those realities pose, including the goals to be pursued.

The latest gesture is really a series of actions, including the recent formation of a peace negotiation council and culminating in the well-timed news report, based on an interview with a NATO official, on background, announcing that ISAF is facilitating preliminary discussions–not negotiations–aimed at reconciliation of the Taliban and reintegration of their members into Afghan society.

The NATO official confirmed that “there has been outreach by very senior members of the Taliban to the highest levels of the Afghan government.” But the official cautioned that these have been only preliminary discussions about reintegrating insurgent fighters and reconciling with the militant movement’s leadership.

Even so, the official said, prospect of a cease-fire and peace pact as a path to ending the war, now nine years old, is deemed sufficiently tantalizing that personnel from NATO nations in Afghanistan “have indeed facilitated to various degrees the contacts (emphasis added).

The NATO official…spoke in advance of a NATO meeting in Brussels on Thursday that will include alliance ministers of foreign affairs and of defense. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates are scheduled to attend.

Thursday’s meeting of NATO foreign and defense ministers comes a month before an alliance summit in Lisbon to discuss strategy in Afghanistan.

–Thom Shanker, “NATO Helping Afghan-Taliban Talks, Official Says,” New York Times, Oct. 13, 2010

In January, at the London Afghanistan International Donors Conference, Hamid Karzai used a similar ploy with great success. There, he moved attention to excitement about reconciliation with the Taliban, away from the massive electoral fraud in the August 2009 presidential elections which he had just overseen (the climactic moments of which came in early November, 2010), and away from the continuing and massive corruption in Afghanistan, from the top down.

The Allies fell for it, and ignored the electoral fraud for all intents and purposes. Now, as another massive electoral fraud is underway, the allies talk of the “magic” solution of negotiating a deal with the Taliban and exiting the country, which is, in the words of the NATO official quoted above, “sufficiently tantalizing” to lead NATO to facilitate safe passage of Taliban members to Kabul.

But there are hard fracts on the ground. The Taliban has the momentum, and according to most reprts is gaining ground. Good governance, according to U.S. counterinsurgency (COIN) doctrine is the sine qua non , i.e., absolute prerequisite, for any success against the Taliban.

So, here is the agenda which should form a central focus of discussions among leaders of the NATO countries and also among the more broadly-based donors conferences to be held in the future:

1. What is Hamid Karzai doing to build good governance–i.e., constitutional government and the rule of law–in Afghanistan?

2. Will he reverse the blocking of the two anti-corruption bodies that had been established, and allow prosecution of high-ranking officials in his government for graft or other corrupt activities?

3. What is he doing to ensure that the counting of votes in the September 18 national assembly elections is conducted fairly, and that all complaints of electoral fraud be fully investigated with their results being reflected in the vote totals?

4. What is he doing to establish good governmence and the provision of government services in the Kandahar region, as the U.S. moves to clear the Taliban from the area?

These are not, of course, the only questions that need to be taken up in allied discussions. However, they require a central, serious and sustained focus, both at meetings and in ongoing discussions between coalition officials.

If a central requirement for Taliban reconciliation and reintegration is that they accept the Afghan constitution, the allies should also insist that Hamid Karzai accept the Afghan constitution and the rule of law, even when it comes to the prosecution of his cronies.

Will it hapen? I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Karzai has “rolled” President Obama on the corruption issue, and there now appears to be little inclination to hold him to account. In fact, with the dismissal of the deputy attorney general in charge of the anti-corrupion efforts, the whole allied anti-corruption policy is in a shambles.

Let the leaders of the allies and the donors group focus on that, not the Magician’s latest ploy. Without good governance, which by definition appears to be impossible in a lawless state, the U.S. and its allies are not likely to prevail in Afghanistan.

General David Petraeus is quoted by Bob Woodward in his new book, Obama’s Wars, as saying, I understand the government is a criminal syndicate.” (p. 220).

American, ISAF and other coalition soldiers should not be asked to risk their lives to maintain in power “a criminal syndicate” headed by Hamid Karzai. The central task for decisionmakers, in the U.S. as in allied countries, is to move the government of Afghanistan toward observing the rule of law. That appears to be the only path to establishing good governance.

The alternative, in theory but not really on the ground, is to fall for the Magician’s ploys about reconciliation and reintegration of the Taliban, and just hope the whole problem of Afghanistan and Pakistan will simply go away.

We should bear in mind that even the negotiated withdrawal of U.S. forces from Vietnam took five years of negotiations in Paris (1968-1973). In that case, the consequences for the U.S. of withdrawing from Vietnam and the ensuing defeat of the South Vietnamese government in 1975 were very minor, when compared to what would happen in South Asia if a negotiated peace with the Taliban led subsequently to the fall of the Afghan governmet to the Taliban.

The Magician’s ploy is “tantalizing”, particularly to those with no memory or who see no way out of the morass in Afghanistan.  But all concerned should keep their eyes on the ball, the realities on the ground, and discuss in earnest a strategy that can overcome them.

Since the U.S. strategy appears to be in disarray, perhaps NATO foreign and defense ministers can come up with some useful ideas, particularly with respect to the establishment of  “good governance” and the rule of law, including effective prosecution of individiuals at the top of the power structure in Afghanistan.

The Trenchant Observer

Comments are invited.

After McChrystal: Obama, Petraeus, and Fixing a Failed Strategy in Afghanistan

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

The newspapers will be filled for days with information and views regarding Obama’s June 23 firing of General Stanley McChrystal and his replacement by General David Petraeus as commander of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan.

McChrystal’s negative comments about his colleagues as reported in Rolling Stone magazine reflected very poor judgment, as McChrystal himself and also Secretary of Defense Robert Gates admitted. There were also previous instances of very poor judgment by McChrystal since he assumed command in Afghanistan.

A number of questions arose which Obama may have taken into account in reaching his decision to replace McChrystal.

One of the most important was the question of how McChrystal could be an effective team member on a team about whose members he or members of his entourage had spoken in such disparaging terms.

How could he lead the ISAF coalition, or keep France on board with the coalition? Did McChrystal bear any responsibility for the fact that some of our closest allies (e.g., Canada) are withdrawing their forces from Afghanistan?

Even more fundamental questions were raised, however, which now will have to be considered anew and with fresh eyes by Petraeus, Obama, and the new team.

Perhaps the most important is what the strategy of the United States and coalition forces is going to be going forward, after the abject failure of the current strategy led by McChrystal.

The official U.S. counterinsurgency strategy for Afghanistan is to secure and protect the population rather than focus on killing the enemy. The real policy as it is currently being implemented is one that focuses on killing leaders of the Taliban through predator drone strikes and assassination by special operations forces.

The lack of progress in Marja reveals that the much-touted concept of a “government in a box” to be installed following the military’s flushing out of the Taliban is a cruel illusion.

It is not going to happen, not under the government of Hamid Karzai.

The real policy is one of beating down the enemy through the use of the U.S. killing machine that couples real-time intelligence with the capabilities of drone aircraft and special operations forces on the ground. Reports that half the U.S. forces being deployed to Afghanistan are special ops and similar troops underlines this point.

The real policy, led by McChrystal, has not worked. The situation in Afghanistan has not improved since he assumed command. To the contrary, there are many indications that it has continued to deteriorate.

As for our counter-insurgency strategy, the strategy laid out by David Petraeus and his colleagues in the U.S. Army Counterinsurgency Manual in December 2006, it is submitted, requires the presence of troops on the ground in numbers that far exceed the number of troops now in Afghanistan, even after the so-called “surge”. Should the U.S. begin to withdraw troops in mid-2011, as promised, the idea that we are implementing Petraeus’ counter-insurgency strategy as enunciated in U.S. military doctrine would become even more divorced from reality than it is today.

To be sure, the 2011 date for “the commencement” of a process of withdrawal, subject to conditions on the ground, was never more than a political fiction used to make the increase in American troops politically palatable back home in the U.S.

Now, things are going really badly in Afghanistan.

The principal men that permitted the U.S. to have some independence from Ahmed Karzai’s control of intelligence provided to the U.S. military in the South, Amrullah Saleh, the former Afghan intelligence chief, with longstanding and close ties to the CIA, and Hanif Atmar, Minister of the Interior, are gone. Saleh was fired by Karzai several weeks ago, when the Minister of the Interior in charge of the police was also sacked. These were two men viewed by U.S. officials as able counterparts.

The end result of their dismissal was that Ahmed Wali Karzai, President Karzai’s half-brother, has an even firmer grip on the flow of intelligence shared with the Americans and the allies in Kandahar and the South. Without that intelligence, it is likely that U.S. forces would be operating largely in the dark, at least in strategic terms.

The Karzai brothers had, in effect, “rolled” McChrystal, which may help to explain why Hamid Karzai came out so strongly in support of McChrystal, the “best” U.S. commander Afghanistan has ever had, in his view. One need hardly ask who he thinks the worst has been (hint: he has a German name).

General McChrystal had earned a new assignment. The stress had obviously gotten to him, or he would not have been making colossal errors in judgment. If he made these poor judgments in speaking about his colleagues and allowing those around him to speak about his colleagues in a disparaging manner, what other errors of judgment might he have made?

His judgments affected the lives of thousands of U.S. and allied troops.

It is clear now, if it wasn’t last fall, that President Obama made a deeply flawed decision when he handed control over our policy in Afghanistan to the military in general and McChrystal in particular.

The much-touted policy review on Afghanistan represented no more than a delaying tactic designed to generate political support and gain time, for what in the end was an approval of McChrystal’s planned “surge” of 40,000 men. Obama authorized “30,000” which with logistical and other support became a much larger number, and with 10,000 additional promised allied troops, McChrystal’s demand was essentially satisfied.

Our nation’s strategy in Afghanistan has become twisted and distorted beyond recognition. We say we are implementing Petraeus’ counterinsurgency doctrine, when in point of fact half of the forces we are sending to the country are Special Ops and similar forces, to assist in the project of decapitating the Taliban while proving our killing machine is more effective than theirs.

We have abandoned the democratic project which the U.S., allied governments and the U.N. had as their stated objective for eight years, leaving Afghan police and military and ordinary Afghan citizens with no ideal to fight for.

The war has become about how to get the U.S. forces out, even if this means returning the people of Afghanistan to the power of the warlords, and the women of Afghanistan to the warlords and the repression and abuse of a very backward traditional and tribal society.

Instead of leading the people of Afghanistan into the 21st century, we have decided that it is sufficient for our exit purposes to allow them to return to the 19th (or 13th) century.

Nonetheless, Obama now has an opportunity to begin to correct the bad decisions he has made in the past on Afghanistan.

He should immediately reconstitute his circle of advisers to ensure that his Afghanistan team includes sufficient civilians of sufficient experience and stature to counterbalance the strong concentration of military advisers in his inner circle. These should include top U.S. diplomats with experience working in the region.

The first task of this reconstituted group should be to reread Karl Eikenberry’s cables from last November, and to devise a strategy for going forward.

That strategy must recognize that Hamid Karzai is not, and never will be, a reliable partner.

It must focus on ensuring to the maximum extent possible that the elections to the National Assembly to be held on September 18, 2010 are free and fair elections.

We must reconsider the democratic project in Afghanistan, so quickly abandoned by Obama, but which may alone contain the seeds of motivation that could one day lead to an effective national Afghan army and police force.

It must address the urgent need to prevent the further alienation of present and former members of the Northern Alliance, including Abdullah Abdullah, Amrullah Saleh, and others. Little will be gained if a reconciliation between Karzai and the Taliban in the South (should it ever occur) leads to renewed hostilities between the North and the South.

Presumably, Petraeus and Obama, with input from Eikenberry, Holbrooke, and others, can take steps to improve the types of and deployment of troops going to Afghanistan, in view of the limited force levels available from the U.S. and other allies.

It will be important for Obama, Gates and Petraeus to lead a process of reshaping our strategy in Afghanistan that reflects Petraeus’ own, fresh understanding and vision, and that of other key team members including in particular Karl Eikenberry, instead of simply trying to continue to implement the current strategy.

This reexamination should be done as soon as possible. In particular, McChrystal’s accommodations with the Karzai brothers with respect to the Kandahar campaign should be revisited.

The decisions faced by Obama are much bigger than the decision of whether or not to fire McChrystal. The deeper questions include the following:

When will the United States reconcile the total contradiction between the facts on the ground in Afghanistan and our real strategy there, with the requirements of official U.S. counterinsurgency strategy as enunciated by David Petraeus and the U.S. military?

When will the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan shift from trying to out-kill the Taliban with our incredible killing machine to a more nuanced, informed and broad-gauged strategy?

When will the United States have a military and civilian team in place in and for Afghanistan that can work effectively with each other, and with our allies?

When will President Obama pay enough sustained attention to Afghanistan to get it right?

What is needed now is not eight afternoons over a number of months, but two weeks at Camp David with a small group of advisers.

Obama could also spend a day a week working alone, without aides, on getting his own thinking straight on Afghanistan.

The United States and the world need his leadership, not his acquiescence in the failed policies of the past.

The Trenchant Observer
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Comments are invited.