Posts Tagged ‘Chapter VII’

Syria’s two problems, and Russia’s “iffy” solution to only one of them

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

President Obama’s speech to the nation tonight, September 10, was a weak speech, reflecting the confusion in his head and in the administration about what to do in Syria following the use of chemical weapons by government forces in Ghouta on August 21, 2013.

There are two problems in Syria.

The first problem is the vast amount of chemical weapons that al-Assad has amassed over the years, and the risk that they could be used by the Syrian government again against the Syrian people (or other countries), together with the very real risk that they might fall into the hands of al-Qaeda affiliates such as the al-Nusra Front or other terrorist groups.

The Russian proposal–on its face–would solve this problem, but would require al-Assad or his government successors to remain in power to implement the provisions placing chemical weapons under international control and providing for their destruction. This process would be likely to take years.

Signs that the Russians are simply engaging in one more ploy to delay international action against al-Assad include their dismissal out of hand today of a proposed French draft resolution for presentation to the Security Council with strong provisions under the authority of Chapter VII of the Charter.  The Russian foreign ministry issued a statement saying Russia didn’t think a Security Council resolution was needed. Rather, a (legally meaningless) Presidential Statement taking note of the agreement would suffice, he suggested. By these statements, Lavrov appeared to tip his hand.

In addition to Lavrov’s rejection of U.N. authorization of the use of force, a Russian Foreign Ministry statement indicated that Moscow does not want a Security Council resolution at all. Instead, the statement said, Russia envisions a statement by the council’s president — who rotates and is now an Australian representative — that would “welcome” the plan to monitor and ultimately destroy Syria’s chemical weapons and call on “interested parties” to carry out the plan.
–Colum Lynch and Karen DeYoung, “Kerry, Lavrov to meet on Russian proposal after Russia balks at plan for U.N. action,” Washington Post, September 10, 2013 (updated 6:45 p.m.).

This is the same formula (legally meaningless “Presidential statements”) the Russians used with such great success in getting Kofi Annan’s “mediation” mission up and running.  That mission bought them and al-Assad a great deal of time, at the cost of tens of thousands of Syrians killed by al-Assad’s further war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Without a binding Security Council resolution under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter deciding (ordering) that the chemical weapons’ surrender and demolition will take place, the Russian proposal is a non-starter. The United States and the West and Arab countries don’t have any more time to play the Russian game of waiting and delay while al-Assad accepts or doesn’t accept this or that provision of this or that proposal.

There is an important distinction, however, which could make a Chapter VII resolution more palatable to the Russians. There is a difference between adoption of measures by the Security Council and “enforcement acton” involving force or economic santions to ensure they are implemented.

Chapter VII gives the Security Council the authority to adopt legally binding measures necessary to maintain international peace and security which otherwise would require the consent of the nation concerned. 

These measures can include the establishment of a binding chemical weapons regime in Syria which is not dependent on al-Assad’s assent.

The fear of the Russians is that such a resolution might be used as a pretext by the West to justify a military attack on Syria, should al-Assad fail to comply with the terms of the resolution. While such a possibilty might be desirable, if it becomes a stumbling block there is always the alternative of alleviating Russian and Chinese concerns by specifically providing in the resolution that no “enforcement action” may be taken by any state without the specific subsequent authorization of the Security Council.  There, Russia and China would continue to have a veto.

Such a provision was in fact included in draft resolutions which were vetoed by Russia and China in 2012.  However, the circumstances have now changed. Whether such a concession by the West may be required to strike a deal will have to be decided within the Security Council.

The second problem in Syria is that the al-Assad government continues to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity on a massive scale (bombing civilian neighborhoods, for example), while the country is in the grip of a very bloody civil war which over time is reducing the nation to a pile of rubble similar to that in Berlin in 1945. 

Not surprisingly, President Obama said very little in his speech tonight about this second problem, and the atrocities over the last two and a half years for which the Syrian government is responsible.

The Russian solution to the first problem would solve a big problem for outside powers like Russia and the United States, but would do nothing to solve the second problem–and indeed might even aggravate it as a result of the implicit need for the Syrian government to remain in power to implement the provisions of the chemical weapons regime.

Moreover, it is important that any Security Council resolution solving the first problem of chemical weapons not establish a “safe harbor” within which al-Assad can continue with impunity the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity on a vast scale.

Ideally, in order to address the second problem as well as the first, the Security Council resolution to be adopted would contain additional provisions relating to the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity—(at least) going forward—by any of the parties, and other provisions to set in motion a process aimed at the establishment of a ceasefire at the earliest possible moment–before any discussion of final arrangements is negotiated. 

The idea of convening a Geneva II conference while the fighting continues is a bad one, and is not likely to lead to real results any time soon—as most if not all of the parties understand. 

The bottom line is that the Russian proposal is meaningless without a binding Security Council resolution. 

That resolution should also have forward-looking provisions that might lead to a ceasefire and an end to the fighting, as a condition precedent to negotiations over any final arrangements.

Obama must somehow secure Congressional approval of a plan which will allow him to vigorously and effectively pursue the objectives outlined above.

The Trenchant Observer

New strategy and accompanying military action needed in Syria; Justification under International Law

Sunday, August 25th, 2013

President Barack Obama’s strategy for dealing with Syria has demonstrably failed.

That strategy consisted mainly in looking the other way, providing fitful and ineffectual covert support, and actively blocking the efforts of others to mount some form of military action that might have brought the widespread commission by the al-Assad regime of war crimes and crimes against humanity to a halt. These have now culminated in the use of chemical weapons by al-Assad on a large scale against his own people.

The covert action has had minimal results, involving coordination of the supply of arms by Qatar and Saudi Arabia to the insurgents, apparently with the assistance of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The results of this policy, as long predicted here and by knowledgeable experts, has been a brutal civil war in Syria whose death toll now exceeds 100,000, according to the latest U.N. update.  However, the number is  growing by hundreds if not thousands every week, and likely to be much higher than even this appalling number.

Military action to stop the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity by the al-Assad regime in Syria has been needed for a long time, but now must be undertaken by the West and allied Arab countries in order to avoid an exploding regional conflict between Shi’a and Sunni militias and regimes, on the one hand, and to prevent Syria from becoming the first chemical weapons battleground since the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988), if not since World War I, with the concomitant acquisition of chemical WMD by al-Qaeda affiliated and other terrorists groups, on the other.

The options available to the West and the Arab states, following two and a half years of dithering and blocking actions by the Obama administration, are not enviable.

Nonetheless, what is needed is a military and diplomatic strategy that will produce results and outcomes that safeguard the vital interests of the West, the Arab countries, and other civilized nations in the world.

Before considering that strategy, it will be useful to highlight mistakes that have been made and which must not be repeated.

First, the illusion of a negotiated agreement with Bashar al-Assad should be discarded at the outset. Al-Assad has not kept a single agreement with the international community, from the Arab League peace plan of November 2, 2011, to the agreements reached with Kofi Annan regarding the cessation of hostilities in the first half of 2012. Moreover, al-Assad has proven, time and time again, that he is a master of playing off different countries one against the other, with promises of this or that, or negotiations on this or that to get his approval, all coming to naught.

The lesson is clear: The new strategy should not seek al-Assad’s agreement to any kind of peace agreement short of an agreement to hand administration of the country over to a NATO or United Nations Authority under the protection of a NATO-led or United Nations Peacekeeping Force, in a manner similar to the establishment of IFOR under the agreements reached with Slobodan Milosovich of Serbia and the leaders of Bosnia and Croatia by Richard Holbrooke and the United States in Dayton, Ohio on November 21, 1995.

Second, with over a year and a half of experience with the Russians following their and the Chinese veto of a mild U.N. Resolution on February 4, 2012, the West and the Arab states should not waste their efforts on negotiating anything with the Russians in the Security Council which does not include:

1) the immediate authorization of the International Criminal Court to investigate and prosecute the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria; and

2) immediate steps for the implementation of a binding cease-fire in Syria,  which is obligatory on Syria with or without its consent under the terms of Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter.

The use of military force should be aimed at securing these objectives, not the agreement of al-Assad to this or that proposal. Above all, no negotiation of the final political and military arrangements should be undertaken before a cease-fire takes effect. The disastrous precedent of Kofi Annan and the U.N. seeking to negotiate elements of the outcome with al-Assad in exchange for his cessation of the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity should not be repeated. Ever.

The military campaign against al-Assad’s government and its ongoing atrocities should be pressed until the commission of these crimes ceases, and a NATO-led or U.N. force and accompanying International Authority for Syria are established and put in place.

The military actions required to achieve the above strategic objectives should be publicly justified under international law, along the lines suggested here in earlier articles, as temporary measures of protection undertaken to protect the population of Syria against the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity and their effects. The justification should be very narrowly tailored to the facts of the Syrian case, as suggested previously here.

On justifications under international law for military intervention in Syria, see the following articles by The Trenchant Observer:

Syrian Options: The White House’s sophomoric understanding of International Law, June 14, 2013.

The U.N. Charter, International Law, and Legal Justifications for Military Intervention in Syria—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #83 (September 1), September 1, 2012.

Continuing massacres in Syria, at Daraya and elsewhere; legal justification for military intervention — Obama’s Debacle in Syria —Update #78 (August 26), August 26, 2012

REPRISE: Humanitarian Intervention in Syria Without Security Council Authorization—Obama’s Debacle in Syria— Update #68 (July 25), July 25, 2012

Military Intervention to establish “no-kill zones” and humanitarian corridors—Syria Update #9 (February 25), February 24, 2012

Military action without clear strategic objectives will not be effective. The sooner the West comes to grip with these harsh realities, the better the outcome will be.

When a strategy has failed, spectacularly, the most important thing is that it not be pursued further, and that it be abandoned as an approach to the solution of the conflict.

Military action is now urgently required. But it should be undertaken as a means for securing the goals of an effective strategy, not just to satisfy the demands of the press or other countries to take some action in response to the massacre of Syrian citizens by the use of chemical weapons on a large scale.

The Trenchant Observer

For previous articles on Syria by The Trenchant Observer, see the Articles on Syria Page, or click here.

U.N. Security Council should meet urgently to deal with North Korea’s nuclear threats

Friday, April 12th, 2013

The United Nations Charter is the only constitution we have for governance of the planet. It is not likely that it is going to be changed signficantly or that we are going to get a new one.

Therefore, we need to use it to deal with grave threats to international peace and security such as North Korea’s recent threats to attack neighboring countries, perhaps with nuclear weapons.

No one can deny that a grave threat to international peace and security exists.

See, e.g., Jethro Mullen, “North Korea issues new threat to U.S. bases,” CNN, March 26, 2013 (updated 7:38 PM EDT).

Unless we are to go back to the system of the great powers in 19th century, we need to use the international law and institutions that we have, which were created following World War II.

Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter provides in part:

CHAPTER VII: ACTION WITH RESPECT TO THREATS TO THE PEACE, BREACHES OF THE PEACE, AND ACTS OF AGGRESSION

Article 39
The Security Council shall determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression and shall make recommendations, or decide what measures shall be taken in accordance with Articles 41 and 42, to maintain or restore international peace and security.

Article 41
The Security Council may decide what measures not involving the use of armed force are to be employed to give effect to its decisions, and it may call upon the Members of the United Nations to apply such measures. These may include complete or partial interruption of economic relations and of rail, sea, air, postal, telegraphic, radio, and other means of communication, and the severance of diplomatic relations.

Article 42
Should the Security Council consider that measures provided for in Article 41 would be inadequate or have proved to be inadequate, it may take such action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security. Such action may include demonstrations, blockade, and other operations by air, sea, or land forces of Members of the United Nations.

The “threat to the peace” consists of North Korea’s threats to attack its neighbors, in violation of Article 2 paragrpahs 3 and 4 of the U.N. Charter, which provide:

Article 2
The Organization and its Members, in pursuit of the Purposes stated in Article 1, shall act in accordance with the following Principles.

1.The Organization is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members.
2.All Members, in order to ensure to all of them the rights and benefits resulting from membership, shall fulfill in good faith the obligations assumed by them in accordance with the present Charter.
3.All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.
4.All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.

It is time that the Security Council assume its responsibilities for the maintenance of international peace and security under the terms of the United Nations Charter.

This is the world’s constiution. It cannot be taken for granted. Great Powers may think they know what North Korea is going to do. But the time for the Security Council to act is now, not after Seoul or another city has been wiped off the map.

New and additional sanctions should be imposed against North Korea for its recent behavior of actively threatening to launch nuclear attacks on other countries.

If such threats are not sanctioned now, will they become commonplace in the future? And if they do, who can assure the world that they will never be carried out?

The Trenchant Observer

U.N. Security Council adopts Resolution 2085 authorizing political, training and military action to restore control over North in Mali; confused resolution launches international bureaucratic and decision-making monstrosity

Friday, December 21st, 2012

For those that have been following or are only dimly aware of recent events in Mali, where Tuareg revolutionaries and al-Queda linked terrorists have taken control of the northern part of the country, the news that the United Nations Security Council has acted unanimously, under Chapter VII of the Charter, to adopt a resolution creating something called the African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA) may sound like good news.

See Security Council, Press Release, “Security Council Authorizes Deployment of African-led International Support Mission in Mali for Initial Year-Long Period; Resolution 2085 (2012) Stresses Need to Further Refine Military Planning” U.N. Doc. U.N. Doc SC/10870, which contains the full text of Security Council Resolution 2085 (December 20, 2012).

See also the following:

Rick Gladstone, “U.N. Council Votes to Help Mali’s Army Oust Islamists,” New York Times, December 20, 2012. Gladstone quotes officials as saying no international military intervention is likely before September or October, 2013.

Louis Charbonneau (Reuters), “L’Onu vote l’envoi d’une force africaine au Mali,” Le Nouvel Observateur, 20 décembre 2012 (mis à jour le 21-12-2012 à 09h02).

“Evènements: Mali – Adoption de la résolution 2071 par le Conseil de sécurité (15 octobre 2012), France Diplomatie, 15 octobre 2012.

Inès OLHAGARAY (vidéo) et Gaëlle LE ROUX, “L’ONU donne son feu vert au déploiement d’une force africaine au Nord-Mali,” France24, 21 décembre 2012.

Philippe Pognan and Georges Ibrahim Tounkara, “Feu vert pour une force africaine au Mali,” DW, 21 décembre 2012.

The resolution was presented by France and followed Resolution 2071, also presented by France with other co-sponsors on October 15. Both were in response to pressures from the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for authorization of a peace-keeping force to regain territory lost to terrorists and rebels and to restore order in the country.

The resolution calls for a political process that might lead to a resolution of the crisis by peaceful means.

But it also establishes a military training process, and what looks like a potential peace-keeping force known as the African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA).

The training process and the mission of AFISMA are set forth in the text of Resolution 2085, as follows:

The Security Council,

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

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

I. Political process
(Paragraphs 1-5)

“II. Security process

7. Urges Member States, regional and international organizations to provide coordinated assistance, expertise, training, including on human rights and international humanitarian law, and capacity-building support to the Malian Defence and Security Forces, consistent with their domestic requirements, in order to restore the authority of the State of Mali over its entire national territory, to uphold the unity and territorial integrity of Mali and to reduce the threat posed by terrorist organizations and associated groups, further invites them to regularly inform the Secretariat of their contributions;

8. Takes note of the commitment of Member States and international organizations to the rebuilding of the capacities of the Malian Defence and Security forces, including the planned deployment by the European Union of a military mission to Mali to provide military training and advice to the Malian Defence and Security Forces;

“Deployment of AFISMA

9. Decides to authorize the deployment of an African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA) for an initial period of one year, which shall take all necessary measures, in compliance with applicable international humanitarian law and human rights law and in full respect of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and unity of Mali to carry out the following tasks:

(a) To contribute to the rebuilding of the capacity of the Malian Defence and Security Forces, in close coordination with other international partners involved in this process, including the European Union and other Member States;

(b) To support the Malian authorities in recovering the areas in the north of its territory under the control of terrorist, extremist and armed groups and in reducing the threat posed by terrorist organizations, including AQIM, MUJWA and associated extremist groups, while taking appropriate measures to reduce the impact of military action upon the civilian population;

(c) To transition to stabilization activities to support the Malian authorities in maintaining security and consolidate State authority through appropriate capacities;

(d) To support the Malian authorities in their primary responsibility to protect the population;

(e) To support the Malian authorities to create a secure environment for the civilian-led delivery of humanitarian assistance and the voluntary return of internally displaced persons and refugees, as requested, within its capabilities and in close coordination with humanitarian actors;

(f) To protect its personnel, facilities, premises, equipment and mission and to ensure the security and movement of its personnel;

10. Requests the African Union, in close coordination with ECOWAS, the Secretary-General and other international organizations and bilateral partners involved in the Malian crisis, to report to the Security Council every 60 days on the deployment and activities of AFISMA, including, before the commencement of offensive operations in the north of Mali, on:

(i) the progress in the political process in Mali, including the road map for the restoration of constitutional order and negotiations between the Malian authorities and all parties in the north of Mali who have cut off all ties to terrorist organizations;
(ii) the effective training of military and police units of both AFISMA and the Malian defence and security forces in their obligations under international human rights, humanitarian and refugee law;
(iii) the operational readiness of AFISMA, including the level of staffing leadership and equipment of the units, their operational adaptation to the climate and terrain conditions and ability to conduct joint armed operations with logistical, air and ground fire support;
(iv) the efficiency of the chain of command of AFISMA, including its interaction with that of the Malian Defence and Security Forces

and further expresses its willingness to monitor closely these benchmarks before the commencement of offensive operations in the north of Mali;

11. Emphasizes that the military planning will need to be further refined before the commencement of the offensive operation and requests that the Secretary-General, in close coordination with Mali, ECOWAS, the African Union, the neighbouring countries of Mali, other countries in the region and all other interested bilateral partners and international organizations, continue to support the planning and the preparations for the deployment of AFISMA, regularly inform the Council of the progress of the process, and requests that the Secretary-General also confirm in advance the Council’s satisfaction with the planned military offensive operation;

In effect, there is going to be a European mission to Mali, an African-led mission to Mali (AFISMA), the participation of ECOWAS, and the participation of other regional states and other regional and international organizations, all providing reports to,(but not necessarily reporting to),  apparently, the Secretary General. However, the African Union will presumably be in charge of military forces.

To anyone familiar with the panoply of international actors present in Afghanistan, including those under the U.N. umbrella, this scheme may seem familiar enough, though they are likely to be amazed at the elegant simplicity of what took place in Afghanistan, as compared to the bureaucratic nightmare that is looming with a horde of international actors in Mali, under lines of command and control and accountability that can only be imagined.

The problematic nature of the enterprise is suggested by the very limitations contained in the authorization of AFISMA, “which shall take all necessary measures, in compliance with applicable international humanitarian law and human rights law and in full respect of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and unity of Mali to carry out the following tasks:…(emphasis added)”

Numerous problems could arise. For example, can AFISMA act contrary to the demands of the government of Mali without violating the country’s “sovereignty”? What if a government comes into power which doesn’t want to pursue the tasks, or all of the tasks, in AFISMA’s mandate? These issues are not just theoretical, as one paragraph of the Resolution made clear:

I. Political process

4. Condemns the circumstances that led to the resignation of the Prime Minister and the dismissal of the Government on 11 December 2012, reiterates its demand that no member of the Malian Armed Forces should interfere in the work of the Transitional authorities and expresses its readiness to consider appropriate measures, as necessary, against those who take action that undermines the peace, stability, and security, including those who prevent the implementation of the constitutional order in Mali;

Hopefully, this will all get straightened out, and effective international action will be taken to advance a political settlement, to strengthen Mali’s security forces while maintaining their allegiance to the goals of AFISMA’s mandate and Resolution 2085, and to take effective military action, if necessary, to regain control over all of the national territory of Mali.

For now, however, the resolution has all the hallmarks of a collage which has been cobbled together in the absence of agreement on core objectives, and lines of command, control, and accountability, while inviting chaotic coordination among the many national, regional and international actors who are called upon to support the initiative.

The hard truth is that the African Union and the United Nations had difficulty in lining up enough military forces to undertake an effective operation in Mali. Now, they have effectively kicked the ball down the road, hoping that somehow it will all take shape. Absent a hierarchy of control,  coordination and accountability, however, this is not likely to occur.

What is needed now is some clear thinking by the most important actors in the African Union, ECOWAS, Europe and the Security Council, so that they can come up with a well-defined operation which has some likelihood of enlisting support and achieving success. It would be a good idea to spell out the objectives and organizational requirements of that operation in a subsequent Security Council resolution.

One should recall the old adage that “The path to hell is paved with good intentions.” The good intentions expressed in Resolution 2085 require a good deal of further thought and negotiation before an operative plan with good chances of success can be put into action.

The Trenchant Observer

Draft Security Council Resolution S/2012/538 vetoed by Russia and China (text of resolution and video link)—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #66 (July 19)

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

Draft Resolution S/2012/538 on Syria, sponsored by France, Germany, Portugal, the United Kingdom and the United States, was put to a vote this morning in the U.N. Security Council. The text of the draft resolution is found here.

The draft resolution received 11 affirmative votes, two negative votes (Russia and China), and two abstentions (Pakistan and South Africa).

Because of the Russian and Chinese vetos, the resolution was not adopted.

Those voting in favor of the resolution included the following countries:

Azerbaijan
Colombia
France*
Germany
Guatemala
India
Morocco
Portugal
Togo
United Kingdom*
United States*

*Permanent Member

See the press release on the meeting and vote, and the video of the 6810th meeting of the Security Council, including the vote on the draft resolution and statements by Security Council members explaining their votes, at the links below:

“Security Council Fails to Adopt Draft Resolution on Syria That Would Have Threatened Sanctions, Due to Negative Votes of China, Russian Federation,” U.N. Press Release (Doc. SC/10714), July 19, 2012.

“The situation in the Middle East (Syria) – Security Council, 6810th meeting,” UN Webcast, July 19, 2012 (video of meeting).

Signficantly, Pakistan and South Africa abstained in the vote. Pakistan fatuously justified its abstention saying it would not support the resolution because the other members had been unable to reach a consensus. Pakistan previously voted in favor of the February 4, 2012 draft resolution on Syria which was vetoed by Russia and China.

South Africa’s abstention, coming one day after the national celebration of Nelson Mandela’s 94th birthday, reflected poorly on Jacob Zuma’s government and Mandela’s legacy in the struggle for freedom around the world. It is surprising, moreover, in view of South Africa’s vote in favor of the draft Security Council resolution vetoed by Russia and China on February 4, and its vote on February 16, 2012 in favor of General Assembly Resolution A/66/L.36 condemning Syria.

Do Pakistan and South Africa have secret thoughts of joining the League of Authoritarian States?

Attention in the Security Council now turns to the question of whether or not to extend UNSMIS for 30 days, without imposing any consequences on al-Assad for continuing his atrocities. The U.S. has stated that it is opposed to an extension.

In a very heartening development, the United States has now shifted its policy away from focusing on the illusory prospect of effective action by the Security Council given Russian and Chinese intransigence.

Regarding the issue of a temporary extension of UNSMIS, there is an argument to be made that, in view of present circumstances in Syria, it may be useful to have the UNSMIS arrangements in place to deal with whatever may happen in the future, particularly if the al-Assad regime starts to collapse.

On the other hand, two counter-arguments are persuasive. First, UNSMIS can perform no useful function in Syria under current conditions, and it is time to get the valiant members of the observation mission out of harm’s way before they are injured or killed in some Götterdämmerung spasm of the al-Assad regime.

The second counter-argument is that the presence of the UNSMIS observers reduces the pressure on Russia and China to adopt measures under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter, while they form a kind of human shield against military action by outside powers. If and when it becomes possible for the observers to monitor a truce, a new authorization for UNSMIS under Chapter VII and with a much stronger mandate can be made.

The idea that the members of UNSMIS might mediate local ceasefires is fanciful, and appears to be but one more last-ditch effort by Kofi Annan to remain at the center of attention and to keep his mediation mission going. The UNSMIS observers are not trained mediators. Attempting to mediate, moreover, would expose them to even greater danger.

Kofi Annan has failed. His boondoggle of setting up a second Secretary General’s office in Geneva with 17 high-ranking diplomatic and other supporting staff should be ended at the earliest opportunity. He should be sent home, and removed from the center stage of efforts to resolve the Syrian crisis. For four months, he has absorbed the media attention of the world, acted to protect Russia’s interest in delay with no consequences for al-Assad, and constantly manipulatd expectations so as to keep his mediation mission going. He has achieved nothing. Absolutely nothing. Thousands have died as a result of the constant hopes, illusions and delays he has caused. He should now exit the stage.

On balance, the big advance that is possible today, in the light of the Russian and Chinese vetoes, is to shift the world’s attention away from the Security Council and Kofi Annan’s castles in the sky, and to pursue urgently other alternatives in preparation for al-Assad’s departure.

To produce such a shift in attention, Kofi Annan’s mission should be halted, or at least downgraded to something approaching the irrelevance that it has achieved on the ground. Allowing UNSMIS to lapse will help achieve this objective.

The Trenchant Observer

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REPRISE: Goals to guide the international community in Syria—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #62 (July 11)

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

Originally published May 29, 2012

With talk of orchestrating a Yemen-style transition in Syria through agreement between Russia and the United States, it may be useful to address the question of what the legitimate goals of the international community in Syria should be.

To start the discussion, the following goals are suggested:

1. Immediately halt the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity;

2. Ensure that any transitional regime fully respects the international “responsibility to protect” as set forth in U.N. Security Council Resolution 1674 (2006).

3. Establish an interim government committed to immediately respecting the fundamental human rights of the citizens of Syria, of all sects including Alawites, Christians and other minorities.

These fundamental human rights are set forth in the U.N. Declaration on Human Rights, and further articulated in the U.N. Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the U.N Convention Against Torture, and other international human rights treaties.

(The Security Council, through adoption of a mandatory resolution under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter, could provide that even those of these norms that have not become customary international law will be binding on Syria.)

4. Within this context of the interim government’s guarantee of respect for fundamental human rights, provide for the organization of political parties, the election of a constituent assembly to draft a constitution, and the subsequent holding of elections to a National Assembly followed by presidential elections to select a new, legitimate government to replace the interim transitional government.

5. Establish a Truth and Reconciliation process through which those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity will be held morally, and potentially legally, responsible for the crimes they have committed. This process could involve creation of a National Truth and Reconciliation Commission, with optional referral to domestic judicial authorities or to the International Criminal Court, depending on the whether the individual concerned cooperated fully with the Commission and acknowledged the crimes he or she may have committed. (The South African and Argentine models might be taken into account in designing the appropriate truth and reconciliation process.)

6. Establish a United Nations Authority in Syria with a mandate to assist Syria in developing mechanisms designed to ensure observance of “the responsibility to protect”, and with residual powers to ensure compliance with the goals set forth in paragraphs 1-5 above.

7. Establish a United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Syria for an interim period of 1-2 years to ensure the safety and security of all citizens of Syria, incuding in particular the members of all ethnic and religious groups in Syria.

Any discussion of a possible Yemen-style “solution” to the situation in Syria should be measured against the 21st century goals set forth above.

The outcome of the actual negotiated, transitional “solution” in Yemen is far from evident, with al-Qaeda operating through large portions of the country’s territory and a revival of earlier civil wars between diferent regions of the country remaining a realistic threat.

Moreover, Syria obviously represents an entirely different political and social reality than Yemen, with a recent history of barbarism on a wholly different order of magnitude than anything done by the Saleh regime in Yemen.

The goals of the international community do not include maintenance of Russian control of the port of Tartus, just as they do not include agreement with the U.S. that it can conduct drone strikes on targets in Syria. These issues can only be decided by the interim government and then the elected government of Syria.

Instead of giving al-Assad more time to commit atrocities against his opponents as diplomatic negotiations continue, and to help focus his mind and those of his inner circle on what is to come, it will be essential to develop and if necessary undertake vigorous military actions to halt the crimes referred to in paragraphs 1-3 of the list of suggested goals above.

These options should be developed–and if necessary exercised–even in the absence of Security Council authorization. Russia must not be allowed to use negotiations as a cover for supporting al-Assad’s continued commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

It is time for the international community to act on an urgent basis to halt the atrocities in Syria, and to commence the transitional process that will lead to a future government based on respect for fundamental human rights, implementation of the “responsibility to protect”, and the establishment of a process that will lead to a government that reflects the aspirations and desires of the Syrian people.

The Trenchant Observer

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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 consult the information in the bottom right hand corner of the home page. The Articles on Syria page can also be found here.

Goals to guide the international community in Syria—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #47 (May 29)

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

With talk of orchestrating a Yemen-style transition in Syria through agreement between Russia and the United States, it may be useful to address the question of what the legitimate goals of the international community in Syria should be.

To start the discussion, the following goals are suggested:

1. Immediately halt the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity;

2. Ensure that any transitional regime fully respects the international “responsibility to protect” as set forth in U.N. Security Council Resolution 1674 (2006).

3. Establish an interim government committed to immediately respecting the fundamental human rights of the citizens of Syria, of all sects including Alawites, Christians and other minorities.

These fundamental human rights are set forth in the U.N. Declaration on Human Rights, and further articulated in the U.N. Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the U.N Convention Against Torture, and other international human rights treaties.

(The Security Council, through adoption of a mandatory resolution under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter, could provide that even those of these norms that have not become customary international law will be binding on Syria.)

4. Within this context of the interim government’s guarantee of respect for fundamental human rights, provide for the organization of political parties, the election of a constituent assembly to draft a constitution, and the subsequent holding of elections to a National Assembly followed by presidential elections to select a new, legitimate government to replace the interim transitional government.

5. Establish a Truth and Reconciliation process through which those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity will be held morally, and potentially legally, responsible for the crimes they have committed. This process could involve creation of a National Truth and Reconciliation Commission,  with optional referral to domestic judicial authorities or to the International Criminal Court, depending on the whether the individual concerned cooperated fully with the Commission and acknowledged the crimes he or she may have committed. (The South African and Argentine models might be taken into account in designing the appropriate truth and reconciliation process.)

6. Establish a United Nations Authority in Syria with a mandate to assist Syria in developing mechanisms designed to ensure observance of “the responsibility to protect”, and with residual powers to ensure compliance with the goals set forth in paragraphs 1-5 above.

7. Establish a United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Syria for an interim period of 1-2 years to ensure the safety and security of all citizens of Syria, incuding in particular the members of all ethnic and religious groups in Syria.

Any discussion of a possible Yemen-style “solution” to the situation in Syria should be measured against the 21st century goals set forth above.

The outcome of the actual negotiated, transitional “solution” in Yemen is far from evident, with al-Qaeda operating through large portions of the country’s territory and a revival of earlier civil wars between diferent regions of the country remaining a realistic threat.

Moreover, Syria obviously represents an entirely different political and social reality than Yemen, with a recent history of barbarism on a wholly different order of magnitude than anything done by the Saleh regime in Yemen.

The goals of the international community do not include maintenance of Russian control of the port of Tartus, just as they do not include agreement with the U.S. that it can conduct drone strikes on targets in Syria. These issues can only be decided by the interim government and then the elected government of Syria.

Instead of giving al-Assad more time to commit atrocities against his opponents as diplomatic negotiations continue, and to help focus his mind and those of his inner circle on what is to come, it will be essential to develop and if necessary undertake vigorous military actions to halt the crimes referred to in paragraphs 1-3 of the list of suggested goals above.

These options should be developed–and if necessary exercised–even in the absence of Security Council authorization. Russia must not be allowed to use negotiations as a cover for supporting al-Assad’s continued commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

It is time for the international community to act on an urgent basis to halt the atrocities in Syria, and to commence the transitional process that will lead to a future government based on respect for fundamental human rights, implementation of the “responsibility to protect”, and the establishment of a process that will lead to a government that reflects the aspirations and desires of the Syrian people.

The Trenchant Observer

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

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 consult the information in the bottom right hand corner of the home page. The Articles on Syria page can also be found here.

COULD U.N. TAKE CONTROL OF AFGHAN ELECTIONS TO STOP SECOND ROUND FRAUD?

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

Summary

–Another Fraud and Then Five More Years of Karzai?
–The United States, NATO and the UN have several options, as
does Abdullah
–Advantages of the U.N. Taking Over the Elections
–Final Thoughts
–ANNEX–Elements of a Draft Security Council Resolution Authorizing
Immediate UN Control of the Electoral Process in Afghanistan

Another Fraud and Then Five More Years of Karzai?

With Afghan President Hamid Karzai refusing to replace members of the Independent Electoral Commission which certified the fraud in the first-round elections on August 20, prospects for a fair runoff election appear greatly diminished. Moreover, recent attacks on UN facilities in Kabul on October 28 and deteriorating security conditions elsewhere will now make it even more difficult for U.N. electoral officials and foreign observers to monitor the voting process. Seeing the U.S., NATO countries, and even the U.N. failing to take vigorous action to stop preparations for another fraud, some voters may conclude there is not much point in voting since the outcome is already clear. Against this background, it is quite possible that Abdullah will boycott the elections.

In any event, a second round election run by the same people who openly sanctioned the massive fraud in the first round cannot, and will not, produce credible results. A Karzai regime that is the product of fraudulent elections will not restore legitimacy to the government of Afghanistan.

But without a government seen as legitimate and offering real hope for meaningful change in the way the government operates, the advances of the Taliban are not likely to be halted.

What can be done, at this late hour?

The United States, NATO and the UN have several options, as does Abdullah

1) The U.S., NATO and the U.N. can proceed in supporting a runoff election which appears to be headed again for massive fraud, and which will have no credibility. Karzai may indeed emerge as the most powerful warlord in Afghanistan, with the most powerful allies (the U.S., NATO, and the U.N.).

Western countries may well believe that the “legitimacy” questions will fade away, or can be overcome by building up a stronger government under Karzai’s direction and control. Detailed knowledge of the last five years of experience with Karzai and how numerous similar hopeful expectations have been dashed might temper such a view, but curiously resurgent optimism–or willful forgetfulness–obscures these facts from public debate.

On the other hand, maybe Karzai will build a new kind of government with the capabilities the U.S. and NATO view as so essential. All one can say, as Afghanistan slips increasingly under the sway of the Taliban, is that the evidence supporting this proposition is slim.

2) Abdullah withdraws, with assurances brokered by the Americans that he will have an important role in the next (Karzai) administration

Abdullah could withdraw from the second round, with assurances brokered by the Americans that he will be brought into the Karzai government with important posts. The key fact here is that Karzai will be calling the shots, for the next five years, and if he finds reason to revise any such understandings, there is nothing the Americans, NATO or the U.N. will be able to do about it. He will remain in control. They will remain dependent on him.

3) Abdullah withdraws or boycotts the runoff on the ground that the election is already tainted by fraud, because officials responsible for the fraud in the first round have not been replaced.

Abdullah would have strong arguments to support such a withdrawal, as the Independent Electoral Commission members who certified the first round fraud have not been replaced, and indeed appear to be preparing another massive fraud (e.g., by increasing the number of polling stations in the South). Under this scenario, a period of prolonged political uncertainty would be likely to ensue, further weakening the authority of the government in Kabul.

4) The United Nations could assume immediate control over the elections in Afghanistan, and postpone the second round if necessary.

A fourth option would be for the United Nations to intervene, acting under the authority of a Security Council resolution adopted under Chapter VII of the Charter. Such resolutions have binding effect. This option would depend on gaining the affirmative vote or abstention of the five permanent members of the Security Council. They have worked in harmony on issues relating to Afghanistan in the past.

Given the utter disarray following the attacks on the U.N. guest houses in Kabul on October 28, and the practical impossibility of putting adequate security measures into place before November 7 that would allow U.N. personnel and European observers to actively deploy to assist in and observe the elections, the U.N. could well decide to postpone the second round until the spring.

Such an option would reassert the authority of the U.N. precisely at the moment when many expect it to withdraw or greatly curtail its activities in Afghanistan. In 2003, when the U.N. headquarters in Bagdad were blown up, killing a potential future Secretary General, Sérgio Vieira de Mello, the world organization withdrew from the country. Assertion of a more vigorous U.N. role now would serve to counter that unfortunate precedent.

Advantages of the U.N. Taking Over the Elections

A number of advantages would flow from pursuing the fourth option.

First, the decision on U.S. strategy and the deployment of some 40,000-45,000 additional U.S. troops could be decoupled from the second round election results. Deployments could begin as quickly as feasible, without the delay that review of alleged fraud and decisions on complaints might entail. In the first round, this process took two months, and the ECC’s decision was accepted by Karzai only under extraordinary pressures from the U.S., NATO and the U.N.

Second, Karzai would be given a chance to demonstrate that he actually could strengthen his government, and both attack corruption and end any complicity in the drug trade. He might be persuaded to bring Abdullah into a “transitional ” national unity government. His own legal mandate, which expired in August, could be extended until the final results of the second round were in and a new government, based on those results, was formed.

Third, Abdullah would have an opportunity to make his case to the Afghan people that he should be elected President in a free and fair election. He would have time to do this, as would Karzai, in a more stable atmosphere and under electoral arrangements established by the U.N. that are transparent and fair. Indeed, elections run by the U.N. for president n 2004 and for the National Assembly in 2005 were widely viewed as fair.

Fourth, the United Nations could recover from the terrible attacks that cost the lives of five U.N. staff on October 28, and have time to fully develop and deploy the appropriate security arrangements in light of the fact U.N. staff are now being targeted by the Taliban. Many move about in unarmored vehicles and are soft and easy targets. The U.N. would have time to protect its staff more effectively, and avoid asking idealistic young workers–who did not volunteer to be soldiers–to risk their lives to carry out their tasks during the next few weeks.

Fifth, the U.S. and NATO could proceed with plans to increase the number of troops deployed to Afghanistan, not only to avoid the collapse of major cities to the Taliban but also to protect the Afghan population going to the polls in the runoff election, as well as the international observers that need to be deployed throughout the country to ensure that a fair vote is held.

Sixth, while there would be many challenges in pursuing such an option, the payoff would be big–a government viewed by the population as the product of a fair electoral process, and therefore a government that represents them.

Final Thoughts

Many officials and observers assume that Afghanistan’s future will inevitably be like its past, with power controlled by warlords and tribes on a local basis. However, the world has changed and is changing, and the rate of change is accelerating. 44.5% of the population of Afghanistan is 14 years old or younger. They hold the key to the country’s future.

The future of younger Afghans, with cell phones and internet access, will not be like that of the past. The number of internet users in the country, 500,000 in 2008, is growing rapidly, as is that of cell phones. In 2008, there were 460,000 main line telephones and 8.45 million cell phones, in a country of 28.4 million inhabitants. The number of television satellite dishes is growing. Afghanistan is getting connected, and Afghans are becoming increasingly aware of what is going on in the world. Surely they observed the three million people who clogged Tehran’s streets following the June 12 elections in Iran, which were also characterized by massive fraud. Afghans and Iranians speak the same language, and share the same cultural heritage. Educated Pashtuns speak Dari as a second language, and Dari is the first language of 50% of the country. Dari is a dialect of Farsi, and educated speakers understand each other easily. Afghans know what is going on in Iran, and vice versa.

We should not be so condescending or naive as to believe that international human rights have no appeal to the people of Afghanistan, including the leading elites. The United States insists on absolute fidelity to democratic forms in Honduras, fosters the new democracies of West Africa, supports the democratic government of Pakistan, and proclaims its democratic ideals in President Obama’s speech to the Arab and Islamic world in Cairo. Still, American decision makers should never forget that people in the region and around the world are not only listening to what they say, but also watching what they do.

The Trenchant Observer

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*****************************************************
ANNEX

Elements of a Draft Security Council Resolution Authorizing
Immediate UN Control of the Electoral Process in Afghanistan

The United Nations Security Council, acting under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter, should adopt at the earliest opportunity a binding resolution which provides, inter alia, the following:

1. The United Nations, acting through the Security Council, shall immediately assume direction and control of the timing and conduct of the second round in the Presidential elections in Afghanistan, which are currently scheduled for November 7, 2009.

2. The Security Council, acting through the Secretary General, shall replace the current Afghan members of the Independent Electoral Commission with international elections experts of outstanding and unquestionable qualifications, impartiality and integrity.

3. The reconstituted IEC shall conduct the elections under procedures established by Secretary General to ensure transparency and fairness in the conduct of the elections, the collection of the ballots, and the tabulation of votes cast for each candidate.

4. The Security Council, acting through the Secretary General, may determine that it is not feasible to hold a free and fair second round of elections on November 7, and may postpone the second round to a date by which it expects such free and fair elections can be held. Such date may be postponed until the spring of 2010 or such other date as the Secretary General may decide.

5. The mandate of the current President of Afghanistan, which under the terms of the March decision of the Afghan Supreme Court expired in August, is extended until such time as the second round elections are held, complaints are heard and decided by the Electoral Complaints Commission, and the corrected results are announced by the ECC. The decision of the ECC shall be final, immediately binding, and not subject to judicial review.

6. The Security Council may encourage both parties to participate in the transitional government until the elections are held, and the final corrected results are announced by the ECC.

7. International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) forces and other international forces should be augmented by further contributions from the respective members states and NATO countries, in order to ensure, inter alia, that the second round in the Presidential elections are held in a transparent, free and fair manner, resulting in the transfer of power to a new government that expresses the will of the people of Afghanistan.

The Trenchant Observer

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