Posts Tagged ‘dimitri medvedev’

REPRISE: André Glucksmann, “The killing continues in Syria” (English translation (originally published August 28, 2012)

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

The following article was originally published here in English on August 28, 2012. The original version was published here in French on August 13, 2012.

The French text of André Gluckmann’s article on Syria and Vladimir Putin, published in Le Monde on August 11, has now been translated (in rather free form) into English.

See

André Glucksmann, “How Kofi Annan Allowed Putin To Become The Godfather Of Tyrants”, LeMonde/ Worldcrunch, August 14, 2012. from Le Monde, August 8).

Translation from the French, André Glucksmann, “Pendant les JO, la tuerie continue en Syrie,” Le Monde, 11 août 2012 (updated August 13, 2012).

An article by the Trenchant Observer on Glucksmann’s article, with concluding observations, was published here in French on August 13. An English version of that article (drawing on the WorldCrunch translation) is reproduced below.

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André Glucksmann, “The killing continues in Syria”—Obama’s debacle in Syria — Update #74 (August 13) (translation)

André Glucksmann, an important French philosopher and writer, writes in Le Monde of August 11, 2012, that while the Olympic Games fascinate the world’s public and the tanks and the planes of Bashar Al-Assad  “spoil, by themselves, the pleasure of sensitive souls,”

the resignation of Kofi Annan is received in a complete summer silence. Nonetheless, when the UN peace envoy to Syria threw in the towel, it marked the end of a shameful fiasco. The affable Ghanaian diplomat and Nobel Peace Laureate, who has been both number one and number two in the international organization, displayed goodwill, humanitarianism and pacifism but yielded only catastrophic results.

As the UN’s number two, responsible for peacekeeping operations in Bosnia and Rwanda, his passivity shielded the Hutu’s genocide of the Tutsi people. In 1994, 800,000 civilians were murdered with machetes over a three-month period whilst Kofi Annan refused to send 5,000 blue helmets to stop the genocide. Ten years later, he released a statement saying he could have personally done more to stop the genocide. Rather than being punished, he was promoted to UN General Secretary, a post he would assume from 1997 to 2006. During that time, he didn’t say a word as Vladimir Putin undertook to slash the living population of Chechnya by a fifth.

Were we to believe that this small people of one million inhabitants included 200,000 terrorists?

Glucksmann exlains why one should not have any hope for a change in the policy of Vladimir Putin, reminding us of his history:

Russia’s geriatric communist leaders have been replaced by a KGB member who knows neither scruples nor restraint. You have to be as naïve as a French diplomat or simply obsessed with elections, like Barack Obama and his European counterparts, to imagine for a second that the “executioner of the Caucasus” would bat an eye at the bloodshed in Aleppo, Homs or Damascus. “20,000 have died in a year!” cries the press and the NGOs. “Is that all?” Putin smirks, you can do better, Bashar al-Assad!

Don’t speculate about the charitable sentiments of the Russian leaders.  They have felt the wind of the cannonball, offended as they were by the sight of the streets of Moscow submerged by the opposition. Everything that can stop dead the liberating contagion of “the Arab springs” interests the camarilla (entourage of officials) concerned about its own survival. If Putin protects Assad, it is a potential Assad victory that will protect Putin. A bloodily repressed rebellion, like that in Chechnya, would serve as an example and a warning for the Russian people and its close neighbors.

The drama taking place in the Security Council has gone on long enough. We cannot wait forever to see if Putin (and his Chinese comrades) ever becomes a little teary-eyed or if one humanitarian fiber in his body responds to the conflict in Syria. The failure of Kofi Annan is that of an idealist international community: for twenty years it has left its fate up to the phony unanimity of the Security Council, submissive to the diktats of Saint Vladimir, patron of the Lubyanka.

***

From another quarter, Nicholas Sarkozy, former president of France and the person who provoked the world into undertaking the humanitarian intervention in Libya in 2011, has made strong statements critical of the lack of action by the new socialist president, François Hollande, in the face of the developments in Syria.

See Matthieu Alexandre (avec Matthieu Deprieck), “Sarkozy veut coincer Hollande sur le front syrien,” L’Express, 8 août 2012.

As far as the U.N. is concerned, according to reports, Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon is poised to name Lakhdar Brahimi as the new Joint Special Envoy for Syria, Kofi Annan’s successor.

See Mark Leon Goldberg “Can a New Special Envoy Move Syria Diplomacy?” UN Dispatch, August 13, 2012.

Nonetheles, it is important not to lose sight of some points which are essential for analysis of the situation in Syria:

1. The failure of Kofi Annan was at the same time a failure of Ban Ki-Moon, who has been just as responsible for Kofi Annan’s disaster as Kofi Annan himself.

2. Until now, the Secretary General of the United Nations has shown himself to be totally incapable of organizing actions aimed at putting an end to the barbarism in Syria. He wants to continue the talks of Kofi Annan, with a new chief of interviews.

3. The problem in Syria is a military problem, not a diplomatic problem. To turn it into a problem susceptible of a diplomatic solution in the future, it is necessary now to utilize methods that are more energetic than words.

4. At the present, there is no valid reason for the appointment of a successor to Kofi Annan as Special Envoy. That is the game of the Russians. One must simply not play it!

5. In the event Lakhdar Brahimi is appointed Special Envoy for Syria, (a) he should not accept the position; and (b) in the event he does, the countries which are tired of playing this game with the Russians at the U.N. should not collaborate with him, given the fact that his mission tends to attract all of the attention of the international press to his efforts and to what the Russians think, or say, or accept or do not accept. The time for this should be finished.

6. The Russians, like the Chinese, have played a role of acting in bad faith, of supporting the murderous crimes of the Bashar al-Assad regime.  Now, the West and the Arab countries and the other civilized countries of the world should search for a solution to the Syrian crisis on the path of facts, of actions, and never again on the roads of a dream world of formulations of beautiful words.

The Trenchant Observer

Russia’s Prime Minister Medvedev claims direct threat to Russian citizens, laying basis for Russian military intervention in Ukraine

Monday, February 24th, 2014

Careful note should be taken of the statements on Monday by Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian Prime Minister.

See

Friedrich Schmidt (Moskau), “Krise in der Ukraine–Medwedjew sieht Bedrohung für Russen; Der russische Ministerpräsident hat die Situation in der Ukraine als Bedrohung für die Sicherheit der Russen im Land bezeichnet. Medwedjew kritisierte die EU und nannte die Legitimität der neuen ukrainischen Regierung „zweifelhaft“,” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 24 Februar 2014.

Schmidt reports,

“The Russian Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev, has described the situation in the Ukraine as a threat to the security of Russians in the country. ‘It is incomprehensible, what is going on there. There exists a real threat to our interests, to the lives and health of our citizens,’ Medvedev said on Monday in Sochi, according to the Interfax news agency.”

(Der russische Ministerpräsident Dmitrij Medwedjew hat die Lage in der Ukraine als eine Bedrohung für die Sicherheit von Russen in dem Land bezeichnet. „Es ist uns unverständlich, was dort vor sich geht, es besteht eine reale Bedrohung unserer Interessen, des Lebens und der Gesundheit unserer Bürger“, sagte Medwedjew am Montag in Sotschi laut der Nachrichtenagentur Interfax.

These words are highly significant, as they could constitute the justification under international law that Russia might advance if it were to intervene militarily in the Ukraine. So-called “Inntervention to Protect Nationals” represents a long-standing if dubious exception in practice to the prohibition of the use of force in Article 2 paragraph 4 of the United Nations Charter, which provides:

Article 2
(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.

While the so-called right of intervention to protect nationals cannot be squared with the text of UN Charter Articles 2(4) and 51, the United States has used it to justify military intervention in the Dominican Republic (1965) and other countries, and Russia has used it recently to justify its actions in the Russia-Georgia war of 2008.

If Russia intervenes militarily in the Ukraine, it is highly likely that it would justify its actions under international law under this rubric of “intervention to protect nationals”. Consequently, the EU and the U.S. would be well-advised to call in their international lawyers and to rebut this legal argument before it is used.

The fact that Medvedev is making these claims should be taken seriously, and merits a strong and immediate response from the West, both in terms of the facts on the ground and in terms of the legal argument Russia might be tempted to use to justify any military intervention.

The Trenchant Observer

Kerry and Lavrov: Personal rapport versus facts on ground in Syria

Sunday, May 19th, 2013

The New York Times reports on May 18 on the rapport that is building between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

See Steven Lee Meyers and David M. Herszenhorn, “U.S.-Russian Diplomacy, With a Personal Touch”,” New York Times, May 17, 2013.

Yet the U.S. decision to join the Russians in organizing a Syrian peace conference, aside from having a snowball’s chance in hell of leading to peace, has undercut efforts that might have resulted in sending arms to the Syrian rebels any time soon.

Once again, the United States has acted to undercut its allies, who (with France and Britain in the lead) among other things were pushing for an end to the European Union arms embargo on Syria. Once again, the U.S. has acted to put off the day of reckoning when Barack Obama might actually have to decide to openly supply arms to the armed opposition in Syria.

See “The emperor has no clothes”: Foreign policy without a moral core—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #19, The Trenchant Observer, March 29, 2012.

Once again, the United States has decided “to act through the Russians” in search of a solution to the crisis in Syria. When this strategy was adopted a year ago, it allowed the U.S. to continue its “pressure” on al-Assad with only words, not military actions, at the cost of tens of thousands of lives in Syria. The acknowledged (minimum) death toll now stands at 80,000.

However, David Kramer, the President of Freedom House and a former high State Department official, has forcefully reminded us of who Putin is, and the fallacious nature of the illusions that might lead us to believe that Russia could be helpful in Syria.

See David J. Kramer, “No help on Syria will come from Russia, Washington Post, May 17, 2013 (10:48 PM EDT).

Once again, we are reminded of Obama’s strong belief in personal relations, his belief in his own personal charm, and how he pursued his “reset” of relations with Russia under the illusion that his “warm” relations with President Dimitri Medvedev would affect events, with disastrous results. In Syria, he simply ignored what was happening on the ground and the actual policies the Russians were pursuing.

A famous journal during the Soviet era, particularly in the glasnost period, was entitled, “Argumenty i Fakty” (Russian: “Аргументы и факты”). Arguments and Facts. President Obama and John Kerry need to attend not only to their own and Moscow’s arguments with respect to Syria, but also–and primarily–to the facts regarding what the Russians are doing on the ground in Syria, and what the United States and its allies should be doing to counter or prevent these actions.

This week we know that Russia has deployed a number of warships to the Syrian port of Tartus, is delivering or is about to deliver land-to-sea missile and radar systems to Syria, and appears to be about to deliver a new advanced air-defense system and missiles to Syria. Russia is financing the Syrian state. Iran is supplying weapons, training and personnel to Syria. Lebanon’s Hezbollah has militia members inside Syria fighting alongside al-Assad’s forces.

See Adam Entous, Julian E. Barnes, and Gregory L. White, “Russia Raises Stakes in Syria; Assad Ally Bolsters Warships in Region; U.S. Sees Warning,” The Wall Street Journal, May 16, 2013 (updated 11:07 p.m. ET).

At the same time, Kerry and Obama, in addition to derailing French- and British-led efforts to lift the EU arms embargo against Syria and to postponing–indefinitely–any U.S. decision to openly provide arms to the insurgents (despite the crossing of the chemical weapons “red line”), have not responded to Lavrov’s ludicrous argument (not new) that Russia in only fulfilling the terms of old arms contracts, which are prohibited neither by international nor domestic law. Even at this level of detail, neither Kerry nor Obama has rebutted this argument, or even demanded that the texts of such contracts be made public.

Only since Obama took office has the U.S. been deterred from acting by the contractual terms of agreements such as those alleged to exist between Russia and Syria, a state led by one of the great war criminals of this or the last century. In fact, International law has much to say about war crimes and crimes against humanity, and about complicity in the commission of such crimes.

At the end of the day, there should be no confusion over the fact that the decision- maker in Russia is Vladimir Putin, who is not going to be moved by good relations with Obama (actually their relations are abominable), or by warm, friendly relations between Lavrov and Kerry. Lavrov is a very effective diplomat in the service of the Russian state, who takes his orders from Putin. It doesn’t hurt that he has cordial relations with Kerry, and it is good that the U.S. and Russia are talking to each other directly (rather than through a UN mediator like Kofi Annan or Lakhdar Brahimi), but there should be no illusions about whether or not rapport between Kerry and Lavrov will affect Putin’s calculus and behavior.

In this context, it is extremely important to understand who Putin is, and what he has done in the past.

See, e.g.,

André Glucksmann, “The killing continues in Syria” (English translation)—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #81 (August 28), The Trenchant Observer, August 28, 2012.

André Glucksmann, “La tuerie continue en Syrie”—Obama’s debacle in Syria — Update #74 (August 13), The Trenchant Observer, August 13, 2012.

“What future for UNSMIS and for Kofi Annan? Russia pushes for more of the same, with an implied military threat to dissuade all from any other options—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #61 (July 11),” The Trenchant Observer, July 11th, 2012.

Surely the United States can come up with a better policy regarding Syria than “trust the Russians” and “play the Russians’ diplomatic game”.

The Trenchant Observer

REPRISE: “Looney Toons” at the White House: New York Times article details Obama’s thinking on Syria—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #45 (May 27, 2012)

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

Introduction to the REPRISE (May 7, 2013)

So, Obama’s “red line” on the use of chemical weapons in Syria turns out to be a red line that leads directly to the Kremlin.

What American diplomacy has failed to achieve, spectacularly, Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry now think they can achieve by talking to Putin and Lavrov.

Well, maybe. But hardly likely. Lavrov and Putin now achieve their goal of holding the conference Kofi Annan conjured up as one of his last “castles in the sky” at the conference held at Geneva on June 30, 2012.

How this will stop the killing in Syria is anyone’s guess.

It is just words, words to get Obama off the hook for his “red line” comment, which have come back to haunt him now that al-Assad has used chemical weapons in Syria.

Now that Obama is once again seeking a solution by going to the Russians, who have steadfastly supported al-Assad in his commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity, we can all breathe a sigh of relief. See the following Reprise from the Trenchant Observer to understand just how pitiful this last move by Obama and “the gang who couldn’t shoot straight” is.

Sadly, our hopes in John Kerry seem to have been misplaced.  He appears now to have joined “the gang who couldn’t shoot straight”.  His role will be to do Obama’s bidding.  Obama will continue to control foreign policy from the White House, guided by assistants such as Ben Rhodes.

If this course is not corrected, the disasters of Obama’s first term are likely to be repeated, on a much grander scale with much graver consequences.

REPRISE: “Looney Toons” at the White House: New York  Times article details Obama’s thinking on Syria—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #45 (May 27)

Originally published May 27, 2012

looney-tunes
adj.
[after Looney Tunes, trademark for a series of animated cartoons] [Slang] crazy; demented: also loon’ y-tunes

***
loony
[Slang]
adj.
loon’i-er, looní-est [LUNATIC] crazy; demented
n.,
pl. loon’-ies a loony person Also loon” ey, pl. -eys

***
–Webster’s New Worl Dictionary

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In a front-page article in today’s New York Times, Helen Cooper and Mark Landler describe the thinking behind President Obama’s policy towards Syria. They report,

WASHINGTON — In a new effort to halt more than a year of bloodshed in Syria, President Obama will push for the departure of President Bashar al-Assad under a proposal modeled on the transition in another strife-torn Arab country, Yemen.

The plan calls for a negotiated political settlement that would satisfy Syrian opposition groups but that could leave remnants of Mr. Assad’s government in place. Its goal is the kind of transition under way in Yemen, where after months of violent unrest, President Ali Abdullah Saleh agreed to step down and hand control to his vice president, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, in a deal arranged by Yemen’s Arab neighbors. Mr. Hadi, though later elected in an uncontested vote, is viewed as a transitional leader.

The success of the plan hinges on Russia, one of Mr. Assad’s staunchest allies, which has strongly opposed his removal.

–Helen Cooper and Mark Landler, “U.S. Hopes Assad Can Be Eased Out With Russia’s Aid,” New York Times, May 27, 2012.

President Obama, administration officials said,

will press the proposal with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia next month at their first meeting since Mr. Putin returned to his old post on May 7. Thomas E. Donilon, Mr. Obama’s national security adviser, raised the plan with Mr. Putin in Moscow three weeks ago.

Donilon, who is not a seasoned diplomat, apparently did not impress Putin, judging by the latter’s cancellation of his participation in the G-8 summit at Camp David on May 18-19.

The biggest problem with the Yemen model, several experts said, is that Yemen and Syria are starkly different countries. In Yemen, Mr. Saleh kept his grip on power for three decades by reconciling competing interests through a complex system of patronage. When his authority collapsed, there was a vice president, Mr. Hadi, who was able to assert enough control over Yemen’s splintered security forces to make him a credible transitional leader.

In Syria, by contrast, Mr. Assad oversees a security state in which his minority Alawite sect fears that if his family is ousted, it will face annihilation at the hands of the Sunni majority. That has kept the government remarkably cohesive, cut down on military defections and left Mr. Assad in a less vulnerable position than Mr. Saleh. Even if he leaves, American officials conceded, there is no obvious candidate to replace him.

The sheer incompetence of this White House on foreign policy matters is stunning.

Paradoxically, among a number of news commentators within the Washington bubble, Obama is viewed as doing pretty well on foreign policy, particularly since taking out Osama Bin Laden. None of these commentators are foreign policy experts with any experience, however. Further, Democratic foreign policy experts have largely held their silence, probably out of concern that criticism could help the Republicans in the November elections. Moreover, Obama has since his first days in office charmed the press, and many reporters and commentators are simply unwilling to criticize the administration on foreign policy issues in any fundamental way.

Significantly, the Washington Post, which is the one newspaper read by most government officials in Washington, has simply failed to cover Syria with a reporter, usually being content to just run the AP wire story. What contributions they do make are limited in the main to stories providing information by administration officials, named and unnamed.

The Editorial Board, on the other hand, has written some clear-minded editorials on Syria. The disconnect betwee the Editorial Board and the reporting side of the newspaper is hard to understand, especially in view of the Post’s illustrious history.

Despite the reputed “successfulness” of the administration’s foreign policy leadership–which analytically does not stretch beyond the fact that it has not become an issue which hurts the Obama in the presidential race, the utter lack of serousness of Preident Obama and the White House on Syria is exposed for all to see in today’s New York Times article by Cooper and Landler.

Washington’s response to Moscow’s callous support of al-Assad as he killed thousands of people through war crimes and crimes against humanity is on a par with Éduoard Daladier’s and Neville Chamberlain’s betrayal of Czechoslovakia in October, 1938, when they signed “the Munich Pact”.

One of the first betrayals on Syria was with Turkey:

Secretary Clinton caught her Turkish counterpart off guard during their meeting in Washington last month. Clinton reportedly told Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu that the Obama Administration “preferred going through the Russians” in an attempt to achieve a political solution being shopped by the UN/Arab League’s Special Syrian Envoy Kofi Annan.
–Amb. Marc Ginsberg, “Syria Is Obama’s Srebrenica,” Huffington Post (The Blog), March 28, 2012 .

On the U.S. decision to sell out its regional allies and to work through Russia instead, see

The Trenchant Observer, “The emperor has no clothes”: Foreign policy without a moral core—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #19 (March 29), March 29, 2012.

The Trenchant Observer, “Into the Abyss: Washington’s Fecklessness, Syria’s Fate—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #20 (March 30), March 30, 2012.

The reader is invited to read the Observer’s recent articles on Syria, and to draw his or her own conclusions as to whether Obama, Donilon, Clinton and the rest of the administration’s foreign policy team are conducting a competent foreign policy, first of all in Syria, but also everywhere else.

In the Observer’s opinion, this team is “the gang who couldn’t shoot straight”. For example, the Sixth Summit of the Americas, held in Cartagena, Colombia on April 14-15, was totally overshadowed by the prostitution scandal involving members of the Secret Serivce and the U.S. military. Little press attention was given to the substance of the meeting, the most important of the year with the leaders of the Latin American countries.

See Brian Ellsworth (Cartagena, Colombia), “Despite Obama charm, Americas summit boosts U.S. isolation,” April 16, 1012.

Now, on the Syrian question, by following a path of “working through the Russians”, the Obama administration has given up its last shred of moral legitimacy in the Middle East. Between al-Assad, Russia, China, and Iran, on the one hand, and the people of Syria, Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries, on the other, and in the face of immense human suffering and the ongoing commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity by the al-Assad regime, the United States is pursuing a strategy of “working through the Russians.”

Obama is incompetent as a foreign policy leader. Former Ambassador Marc Ginsberg is to be congratulated for his moral courage in speaking out on the question of Syria, in a clear voice.

What the United States needs, desperately, is for other foreign policy experts–and national leaders–to speak out with equal clarity, be they aligned with the Democratic Party in the United States, with the Republicans, or from other countries that are friends of the United States.

In the meantime, the international community would do well to look elsewhere than to the United States for leadership on the Syrian question.

See The Trenchant Observer, “At least 70 killed nationwide; massacre of 50 in Houla; U.N. International Commission on Syria Update—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update # 43 (May 25),” May 25, 2012.

The Trenchant Observer, “Chief of UN Observers confirms massacre at Houla; NGOs report 35 children and total of 110 killed—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #44 (May 26),” May 26, 2012.

The Trenchant Observer

André Glucksmann, “The killing continues in Syria” (English translation)—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #81 (August 28)

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

The French text of André Gluckmann’s article on Syria and Vladimir Putin, published in Le Monde on August 11, has now been translated (in rather free form) into English.

See

André Glucksmann, “How Kofi Annan Allowed Putin To Become The Godfather Of Tyrants”, LeMonde/ Worldcrunch, August 14, 2012. from Le Monde, August 8).

Translation from the French, André Glucksmann, “Pendant les JO, la tuerie continue en Syrie,” Le Monde, 11 août 2012 (updated August 13, 2012).

An article by the Trenchant Observer on Glucksmann’s article, with concluding observations, was published here in French on August 13. An English version of that article (drawing on the WorldCrunch translation) is reproduced below.

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André Glucksmann, “The killing continues in Syria”—Obama’s debacle in Syria — Update #74 (August 13) (translation)

André Glucksmann, an important French philosopher and writer, writes in Le Monde of August 11, 2012, that while the Olympic Games fascinate the world’s public and the tanks and the planes of Bashar Al-Assad  “spoil, by themselves, the pleasure of sensitive souls,”

the resignation of Kofi Annan is received in a complete summer silence. Nonetheless, when the UN peace envoy to Syria threw in the towel, it marked the end of a shameful fiasco. The affable Ghanaian diplomat and Nobel Peace Laureate, who has been both number one and number two in the international organization, displayed goodwill, humanitarianism and pacifism but yielded only catastrophic results.

As the UN’s number two, responsible for peacekeeping operations in Bosnia and Rwanda, his passivity shielded the Hutu’s genocide of the Tutsi people. In 1994, 800,000 civilians were murdered with machetes over a three-month period whilst Kofi Annan refused to send 5,000 blue helmets to stop the genocide. Ten years later, he released a statement saying he could have personally done more to stop the genocide. Rather than being punished, he was promoted to UN General Secretary, a post he would assume from 1997 to 2006. During that time, he didn’t say a word as Vladimir Putin undertook to slash the living population of Chechnya by a fifth.

Were we to believe that this small people of one million inhabitants included 200,000 terrorists?

Glucksmann exlains why one should not have any hope for a change in the policy of Vladimir Putin, reminding us of his history:

Russia’s geriatric communist leaders have been replaced by a KGB member who knows neither scruples nor restraint. You have to be as naïve as a French diplomat or simply obsessed with elections, like Barack Obama and his European counterparts, to imagine for a second that the “executioner of the Caucasus” would bat an eye at the bloodshed in Aleppo, Homs or Damascus. “20,000 have died in a year!” cries the press and the NGOs. “Is that all?” Putin smirks, you can do better, Bashar al-Assad!

Don’t speculate about the charitable sentiments of the Russian leaders.  They have felt the wind of the cannonball, offended as they were by the sight of the streets of Moscow submerged by the opposition. Everything that can stop dead the liberating contagion of “the Arab springs” interests the camarilla (entourage of officials) concerned about its own survival. If Putin protects Assad, it is a potential Assad victory that will protect Putin. A bloodily repressed rebellion, like that in Chechnya, would serve as an example and a warning for the Russian people and its close neighbors.

The drama taking place in the Security Council has gone on long enough. We cannot wait forever to see if Putin (and his Chinese comrades) ever becomes a little teary-eyed or if one humanitarian fiber in his body responds to the conflict in Syria. The failure of Kofi Annan is that of an idealist international community: for twenty years it has left its fate up to the phony unanimity of the Security Council, submissive to the diktats of Saint Vladimir, patron of the Lubyanka.

***

From another quarter, Nicholas Sarkozy, former president of France and the person who provoked the world into undertaking the humanitarian intervention in Libya in 2011, has made strong statements critical of the lack of action by the new socialist president, François Hollande, in the face of the developments in Syria.

See Matthieu Alexandre (avec Matthieu Deprieck), “Sarkozy veut coincer Hollande sur le front syrien,” L’Express, 8 août 2012.

As far as the U.N. is concerned, according to reports, Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon is poised to name Lakhdar Brahimi as the new Joint Special Envoy for Syria, Kofi Annan’s successor.

See Mark Leon Goldberg “Can a New Special Envoy Move Syria Diplomacy?” UN Dispatch, August 13, 2012.

Nonetheles, it is important not to lose sight of some points which are essential for analysis of the situation in Syria:

1. The failure of Kofi Annan was at the same time a failure of Ban Ki-Moon, who has been just as responsible for Kofi Annan’s disaster as Kofi Annan himself.

2. Until now, the Secretary General of the United Nations has shown himself to be totally incapable of organizing actions aimed at putting an end to the barbarism in Syria. He wants to continue the talks of Kofi Annan, with a new chief of interviews.

3. The problem in Syria is a military problem, not a diplomatic problem. To turn it into a problem susceptible of a diplomatic solution in the future, it is necessary now to utilize methods that are more energetic than words.

4. At the present, there is no valid reason for the appointment of a successor to Kofi Annan as Special Envoy. That is the game of the Russians. One must simply not play it!

5. In the event Lakhdar Brahimi is appointed Special Envoy for Syria, (a) he should not accept the position; and (b) in the event he does, the countries which are tired of playing this game with the Russians at the U.N. should not collaborate with him, given the fact that his mission tends to attract all of the attention of the international press to his efforts and to what the Russians think, or say, or accept or do not accept. The time for this should be finished.

6. The Russians, like the Chinese, have played a role of acting in bad faith, of supporting the murderous crimes of the Bashar al-Assad regime.  Now, the West and the Arab countries and the other civilized countries of the world should search for a solution to the Syrian crisis on the path of facts, of actions, and never again on the roads of a dream world of formulations of beautiful words.

The Trenchant Observer

André Glucksmann, “La tuerie continue en Syrie”—Obama’s debacle in Syria — Update #74 (August 13)

Monday, August 13th, 2012

André Glucksmann, philosophe et écrivain français important, écrit, dans Le Monde du 11 août 2012, que tandis que les JO à Londres fascinent le public mondiale et les chars et les avions de Bachar Al-Assad “gâchent, sans plus, le plaisir des âmes sensibles,

“(L)a démission de Kofi Annan est accueillie par un silence tout estival. Pourtant, quand le médiateur de l’ONU en Syrie jette l’éponge, toute une époque s’achève en fiasco honteux. Ce Prix Nobel fut tour à tour numéro 1 puis numéro 2 de l’organisation internationale, diplomate ghanéen affable, il afficha des sentiments bienveillants, humanitaires et pacifiques récompensés par des résultats catastrophiques.

“En tant que numéro 2, responsable des opérations de maintien de la paix en Bosnie et au Rwanda, sa passivité couvrit le génocide des Tutsi par les Hutu. Pour les oublieux : 1994, 800 000 civils assassinés à la machette en trois mois. Kofi Annan refusa d’envoyer au général Dallaire 5 000 casques bleus pour stopper le génocide. Il publia après coup ses regrets. Plutôt qu’une sanction, notre homme reçut une promotion et evint secrétaire général de l’ONU (1997-2006). Il ne pipa mot lorsque Vladimir Poutine entreprit de rayer du nombre des vivants un Tchétchène sur cinq.

“Fallait-il croire que ce petit peuple d’un million d’habitants comptait 200 000 terroristes?”

Glucksmann explique pourquoi on ne doit pas garder de l’espoir pour un changement dans la politique de Vladimir Poutine, nous rappellant de son histoire:

“Aux rouges et gâteux conducteurs de peuples succède un éternel KGBiste, sans scrupule et sans retenue. Il faut être aussi naïf qu’un diplomate du Quai d’Orsay et de la maison de verre new-yorkaise, ou tout simplement obsédé d’élection locale, comme Barack Obama et ses semblables européens, pour imaginer, une seconde, que le bourreau du Caucase puisse s’horrifier de la liquidation d’Alep, Homs et Damas. “20 000 en un an !”, s’offusquent la presse et les ONG democratiques. “Seulement ? !”, sourit Poutine, Bachar Al-Assad, encore un effort !

“Ne spéculez pas sur les sentiments charitables des dirigeants russes. Ils ont senti le vent du boulet, offusqués qu’ils furent par la vue des rues moscovites plusieurs fois submergées par la protestation. Tout ce qui peut stopper net la contagion émancipatrice des “printemps arabes” intéresse la camarilla soucieuse de sa propre survie. Si Poutine protège Assad, c’est qu’une potentielle victoire d’Assad protège Poutine. Une rébellion écrasée dans le sang, façon Tchétchénie, aurait valeur d’exemple et d’avertissement pour le peuple russe et les “voisins proches”.

“La comédie du recours ultime au Conseil de sécurité a assez duré. On ne peut indéfiniment attendre que la paupière de Poutine (et celles de ses camarades chinois) s’humecte, ou qu’une fibre d’humanité palpite dans la poitrine du tchékiste. L’échec de Kofi Annan est celui d’une communauté internationale rêveuse, qui depuis vingt ans abandonne son destin aux unanimités bidons d’un Conseil de sécurité soumis aux diktats de saint Vladimir, patron de la Loubianka.”

–André Glucksmann, “Pendant les JO, la tuerie continue en Syrie,” Le Monde, 11 août 2012 (mis à jour le 13 août 2012 le 13.08.2012 à 10h11).

If faut y réflechir, et bien, avant de nommer un successeur à Kofi Annan come Envoyé Spéciale de l’ONU pour la Syrie.

On doit jamais entrer dans un processus de médiation, qui suppose d’ailleurs que le médiateur soit neutre, lorsque l’une des parties est en train de commetre des crimes de guerres et des crimes contre l’humanité, comme dans le cas de Bachar Al-Assad en Syrie.

Arrêtez! Cessez les crimes! L’heure de la médiation arrivera seulement après la cessation des crimes et le cessez-le-feu.

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Pour d’autres articles sur la Syrie par l’Observateur Incisif, cliquez ici.
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D’autre côté, Nicholas Sarkozy, ancien président de la France et celui qui a provoqué le monde a entreprendre l’íntervention humanitaire en Libye en 2011, a fait de fortes déclarations contre l’inaction du nouvel président socialiste, François Hollande, face aux évènements en Syrie.

Voir Matthieu Alexandre (avec Matthieu Deprieck), “Sarkozy veut coincer Hollande sur le front syrien,” L’Express, 8 août 2012.

En ce qui concerne l’ONU, selon les rapportages, le Secrétaire Général Ban Ki-Moon est prêt a nommer à Lakhdar Brahimi comme le nouvel Envoyé Spécial pour la Syrie, successeur de Kofi Annan.

Voir Mark Leon Goldberg “Can a New Special Envoy Move Syria Diplomacy?” UN Dispatch, August 13, 2012.

Pourtant, il est important de ne pas perdre de vue quelques points essentiels pour l’analyse de la situation en Syrie:

1.  L’échec de Kofi Annan était à la fois l’échec de Ban Ki-Moon, qui a été autant responsable pour le désastre de la géstion de Kofi Annan que Kofi Annan lui-même.

2. Jusqu’à maintenant, le Secrétaire Générale des Nations Unies s’est montré totalement incapable de organiser des actions visant à mettre fin à la barberie en Syrie.  Il veut poursuivre les pourparlers de Kofi Annan, avec un nouveau chef d’entretiens.

3.  Le problème en Syrie est un problème militaire, et pas un problème diplomatique.  Pour le rendre un problème susceptible à une solution diplomatique dans l’avenir, if faut maintenant utiliser des moyens plus énergiques que les mots.

4.  Dans ce moment, il n’y a aucune raison valable pour nommer un successeur à Kofi Annan comme Enyoyé Special.  Ça, c’est le jeu des Russes.  Il ne faut pas y jouer!

5.  Dans le cas où Lakhdar Brahimi sérait nommè Envoyé Speciale pour la Syrie, (a) il ne doit pas accepter le poste; et (b) dans le cas écheant, les pays qui sont las de jouer ce jeu avec les Russes au sein de l’ONU ne devraient pas colaborer avec lui, donné que sa mission tend à attraire toute l’attention de la presse internationale sur sa gestion et sur ce que les Russes pensent, ou disent, ou acceptent ou n’acceptent pas. Ce temps doit être fini.

6. Les Russes, ainsi que les Chinois, ont joué un role de mauvaise foi, de appui aux crimes meutrières du regime Bachar al-Assad, et maintenant l’Oest et les pays Arabs, et les autres pays civilisés du monde, doivent chercher une solution a la crise en Syrie par le chemin des faits, des actes, et jamais plus par les routes chimères des formulations de mots jolis.

L’Observateur Incisif
(The Trenchant Observer)

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

Friday, July 20th, 2012

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

See

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

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

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

The Security Council,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Analysis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Trenchant Observer

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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 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.

What future for UNSMIS and for Kofi Annan? Russia pushes for more of the same, with an implied military threat to dissuade all from any other options—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #61 (July 11)

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

For a long-time student of diplomatic history and international politics, it is painful to watch the amateurism of Barack Obama’s foreign policy and foreign policy team.

In the case of Syria, where the interests of Russia, China, Iran, and the al-Bashar regime stand in sharp opposition to the interests of the United States, Europe, NATO, and members of the Arab League, who oppose repression through the use of terror including war crimes and crimes against humanity, following Obama’s foreign policy actions over the last year has been painful indeed.

Russia and China have stood, together with Iran, in stalwart support of the murderous regime of Bashar al-Assad, vetoing Security Council resolutions in October 2011 and on February 4, 2012.

Russia, with a very experienced foreign policy team lead by Sergei Lavrov, a veteran diplomat, has acted with great clarity of vision in pursuit of its goal of maintaining Bashar al-Assad in power and deflecting or neutralizing all efforts to bring force to bear in order to halt al-Assad’s terror. Under President Medvedev (with Putin as Prime Minister, but hardly in the background), and now under Putin as president again, Russia has been unwavering in seeking and achieving its objectives.

On the first level, Russia has simply blocked any Security Council resolution that might work to the disadvantage of al-Assad and his regime of war criminals. It has watered down the two resolutions (2042 and 2043) adopted by the Security Council on April 14, and 21, ensuring that the illusory peace plan and cease-fire that they promised were embodied in resolutions with no teeth–with no consequences for al-Assad for violating them. Similarly, it has blocked adoption of any resolution by the Security Council conferring jurisdiction on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to prosecute those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria.

On the second level, Russia has brilliantly played the weakly-led states of the West and the Arab League for fools–knowing fools, perhaps, but fools nonetheless.

The Russians’ willing tool and instrument has been Kofi Annan, with his 6-point peace plan and mediation mission. Annan’s mediation effort, interestingly, was already well underway before it was informally endorsed by the Security Council in a Presidential Statement on March 21 (which itself had no legal force).

Resolution 2042 formally endorsed the plan on April 14, and authorized Kofi Annan and his mission to “mediate” resolution of the Syrian crisis with al-Assad, who continued to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity even as Annan sought to mediate their cessation.

Resolution 2043 was adopted by the Security Council on April 21, expanding an observer mission authorized on April 14 to a 300-member mission known as UNSMIS to observe the cease-fire called for in the 6-point plan and Resolution 2042.

Al-Assad never complied with any of the peace plan’s provisions, and following numerous incidents where its observers were fired upon and threatened by crowds, UNSMIS was forced to stand down, confining its observers basically to their hotels in Damascus.

At various key decision points throughout this saga, Russia has raised the possibility of military engagement with them if the U.S., NATO, and the Arab states intervened in Syria.

One such threat was extraordinary: President Medvedev explicitly raised the possibility of a nuclear war in the region if there were military intervention against a state in the region (definitely Syria, possibly Iran).

At each decision point, the United States–without acknowledging the threat–went along with what the Russians wanted.

Now we are approaching another important decision point, to decide whether the UNSMIS mission should be extended when its initial 90-day authorization expires on or about July 20, and whether Kofi Annan should be authorized to continue his mediation effort.  And, at precisely this moment, Russia has sent a group of warships including Russian soldiers to the Syrian port of Tartus, just in case anyone had forgotten the threat.

The UNSMIS mission and Kofi Annan’s mediation efforts clearly provide cover for al-Assad and his continuing efforts to exterminate his armed and unarmed opposition through the use of terror.

Russia and Iran, which Annan has tried to bring into the diplomatic muddle, and presumably China, strongly support both of these proposed actions.

Will the U.S., NATO, Europe and the Arab League blink again, and in effect accede to the Russian demand that al-Assad be given as much time as he needs to annihilate his opponents–without military opposition from those who would use military force, if necessary, to halt the commission of crimes against humanity and war crimes?

Will the countries which support a transition toward democracy in Syria, and an immediate halt to al-Assad’s crimes have the clarity of vision and the guts to oppose the Russians, the Chinese, Iran, and the Syrian regime? Stay tuned.

In the meantime, see the following article which offers a profound analysis of how Syria has divided the world, into what we have dubbed “The League of Authoritarian States,” on the one hand, and those supporting democratic transitions in Syria and elsewhere, on the other.

Michael Ignatieff, “How Syria Divided the World,” NYRblog (New York Review of Books), July 11, 2012.

Russia, China, Iran, and Syria share one bedrock principle: they will use “all necessary measures” in order to repress domestic opposition in their own countries, and will support others who do so abroad. These measures include terror, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other grave violations of fundamental human rights. Importantly, this support now includes the veto by Russia or China of any Security Council resolution that would confer on the International Criminal Court (ICC) jurisdiction and a mandate to prosecute those responsible for such crimes.

The battle lines are clearly set. Whether Obama will wake up from his illusion of a “reset” of U.S.-Soviet relations with Medvedev, and now with Putin, is an open question.

Obama is also reported to have a dream of concluding, in his second term, a significant new START treaty with Russia that would dramatically reduce the number of nuclear weapons in the world. Given his fecklessness on Syria, and the consequences that are likely to flow from the policies and actions he has adopted, it may be doubtful that he could ever secure the two-thirds vote in the Senate needed for ratification of such a treaty. Having watched Obama being outmaneuvered by Putin in Syria, Republicans would likely be skeptical if not outright hostile to any arms control agreement concluded between the two.

Democrats in the United States have for decades had the reputation of being unwilling to use the military when necessary to protect national interests. Obama clearly seeks to overcome the image of Democrats as being weak on defense through his hard-line policies on civil liberties in the war on terror, and his use of targeted executions by drones and other covert means against those perceived as posing a threat to the United States.

Whether these policies will in fact overcome longstanding doubts about the Democrats being weak on defense, in the heat of an election campaign, is an open question.

Certainly, allowing the Russians to roll over the West and the Arab countries in defending Syria and al-Assad’s crimes, will not strengthen the Democrats’ reputation of being unwilling to use military force to stand up to the military challenges of our opponents in the world.

Obama risks being seen, once the voters focus on the issues and hear the Republicans’ arguments, as being all talk, and no action–no guts, no intestinal fortitude, no resolve to act to defend the nation’s vital interests.

The Trenchant Observer

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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 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.

New massacre, some 140 killed in Syria; U.N. General Assembly meeting, Security Council consultations on Thursday—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #49 (June 7)

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

The BBC reports,

Syrian pro-government forces have killed at least 86 people in Hama province, many of them women and children, activists say (emphasis added).

The opposition said government-backed militia stabbed and shot their victims in the villages of Qubair and Maarzaf.

Syrian state TV said troops found some bodies after attacking “terrorists”.

Neither account could be confirmed, but activists said 140 had been killed nationwide on Wednesday - one of the bloodiest days of the uprising (emphasis added).

It comes less than two weeks after 108 people were killed in a massacre in Houla.

Activist groups reported that Qubair and Maarzaf, about 20km (12 miles) north-west of the city of Hama, had come under heavy bombardment from security forces backed by tanks.

But they said much of the killing in Qubair was done by accompanying groups of pro-government militiamen known as shabiha, who had come from nearby pro-government villages.

The activists said they shot at close range and stabbed many people, and that some of the bodies were later burnt in houses that were set on fire.

“They executed [nearly] every person in the village. Very few numbers could flee. The majority were slaughtered with knives and in a horrible and ugly way,” one activist in Hama told the BBC’s World Tonight.

–BBC News: Middle East, June 7, 2012.

See also

Mariam Karouny and Erika Solomon (Beirut), “Syria accused of new massacre as U.N. council meets,” Reuters, June 7, 2012 (3:23 a.m. EDT).

Maria Antonova (AFP/Beijing), “Russia, China-led bloc opposes Syria intervention,” The Daily Star, June 7, 2012 (last updated: 10:23 AM).

Analysis

The United States has shaped the battlefield in Syria, by ruling out the use of force.

Meanwhile, a Syrian Milosovic slaughters his people, setting a torch to an incendiary ethnic conflict like that in the Balkans in the 90s, or the Lebanese civil war.

Kofi Annan will propose some further consultative process, building on his 6-point plan. If adopted, it will further strenghten the cards in the hands of Bashar al-Assad of Syria, and of Vladimir Putin of Russia and Hu Jintao of China, who will back the Syrians no matter what crimes they commit.

The United States, the West and the Arab countries just don’t get it. Or maybe it is just that Obama doesn’t get it, and no one else will lead.

Nothing will stop al-Assad short of the use of force.

What is to be done?

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon should just resign and call for the re-election of Kofi Annan as Secretary General if his mediation process, which to date has been a total fiasco, is allowed to continue and even given a new mandate.  Annan has become the center of attention and diplomatic activity, instead of Ban Ki-Moon. 

Nothing would focus the attention of al-Assad and his Alawite regime like the launch of 10 well-targeted cruise missiles against his homes and key command and control targets. This is what is needed.

But Russia has already raised the threat of nuclear war in the region, perhaps referring to Iran instead of Syria, but who knows? Obama has pretended he didn’t hear the threat.

How is it possible that Putin (through Medvedev) has raised the threat of nuclear war, and there has been no response from Washington?

Without military intervention in Syria to halt the killing now, and quickly, rapid descent into full-scale civil war and ethnic conflict in Syria, spilling into Lebanon, seems inevitable. Al-Assad, by mobilizing the Shabiha to commit crimes of ethnic cleansing (or, hypothetically, simply failing to bring them to a halt), has thrown down the gauntlet before the international community.

See AFP, “Syria at risk of ‘genocide'; Bashar al-Assad’s policies in Syria risk creating a genocide in Syria unless there is “rapid intervention,” Giulio Terzi, the Italian foreign minister has warned,” The Telegraph, June 6, 2012.

Force will be required later, on a much greater scale, if al-Assad is not stopped now.

Europe, the United States and the international community cannot just walk away from the Syrian conflict, as if it were Somalia, however much they might wish they could.  They have tried to do so for 15 months, with results for all to see.

They now face a disaster that is growing larger by the day.  It is time to act.  Military force is required to bring al-Assad’s atrocities to a halt.  No more time should be lost.

What America, Europe, and the international community stand for, in the 21st century, is directly at stake.

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.

“Looney Toons” at the White House: New York Times article details Obama’s thinking on Syria—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #45 (May 27)

Sunday, May 27th, 2012

looney-tunes
adj.
[after Looney Tunes, trademark for a series of animated cartoons] [Slang] crazy; demented: also loon’ y-tunes

***
loony
[Slang]
adj.
loon’i-er, looní-est [LUNATIC] crazy; demented
n.,
pl. loon’-ies a loony person Also loon” ey, pl. -eys

***
–Webster’s New Worl Dictionary

**************************************************

In a front-page article in today’s New York Times, Helen Cooper and Mark Landler describe the thinking behind President Obama’s policy towards Syria. They report,

WASHINGTON — In a new effort to halt more than a year of bloodshed in Syria, President Obama will push for the departure of President Bashar al-Assad under a proposal modeled on the transition in another strife-torn Arab country, Yemen.

The plan calls for a negotiated political settlement that would satisfy Syrian opposition groups but that could leave remnants of Mr. Assad’s government in place. Its goal is the kind of transition under way in Yemen, where after months of violent unrest, President Ali Abdullah Saleh agreed to step down and hand control to his vice president, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, in a deal arranged by Yemen’s Arab neighbors. Mr. Hadi, though later elected in an uncontested vote, is viewed as a transitional leader.

The success of the plan hinges on Russia, one of Mr. Assad’s staunchest allies, which has strongly opposed his removal.

–Helen Cooper and Mark Landler, “U.S. Hopes Assad Can Be Eased Out With Russia’s Aid,” New York Times, May 27, 2012.

President Obama, administration officials said,

will press the proposal with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia next month at their first meeting since Mr. Putin returned to his old post on May 7. Thomas E. Donilon, Mr. Obama’s national security adviser, raised the plan with Mr. Putin in Moscow three weeks ago.

Donilon, who is not a seasoned diplomat, apparently did not impress Putin, judging by the latter’s cancellation of his participation in the G-8 summit at Camp David on May 18-19.

The biggest problem with the Yemen model, several experts said, is that Yemen and Syria are starkly different countries. In Yemen, Mr. Saleh kept his grip on power for three decades by reconciling competing interests through a complex system of patronage. When his authority collapsed, there was a vice president, Mr. Hadi, who was able to assert enough control over Yemen’s splintered security forces to make him a credible transitional leader.

In Syria, by contrast, Mr. Assad oversees a security state in which his minority Alawite sect fears that if his family is ousted, it will face annihilation at the hands of the Sunni majority. That has kept the government remarkably cohesive, cut down on military defections and left Mr. Assad in a less vulnerable position than Mr. Saleh. Even if he leaves, American officials conceded, there is no obvious candidate to replace him.

The sheer incompetence of this White House on foreign policy matters is stunning.

Paradoxically, among a number of news commentators within the Washington bubble, Obama is viewed as doing pretty well on foreign policy, particularly since taking out Osama Bin Laden. None of these commentators are foreign policy experts with any experience, however. Further, Democratic foreign policy experts have largely held their silence, probably out of concern that criticism could help the Republicans in the November elections. Moreover, Obama has since his first days in office charmed the press, and many reporters and commentators are simply unwilling to criticize the administration on foreign policy issues in any fundamental way.

Significantly, the Washington Post, which is the one newspaper read by most government officials in Washington, has simply failed to cover Syria with a reporter, usually being content to just run the AP wire story. What contributions they do make are limited in the main to stories providing information by administration officials, named and unnamed.

The Editorial Board, on the other hand, has written some clear-minded editorials on Syria. The disconnect betwee the Editorial Board and the reporting side of the newspaper is hard to understand, especially in view of the Post’s illustrious history.

Despite the reputed “successfulness” of the administration’s foreign policy leadership–which analytically does not stretch beyond the fact that it has not become an issue which hurts the Obama in the presidential race, the utter lack of serousness of Preident Obama and the White House on Syria is exposed for all to see in today’s New York Times article by Cooper and Landler.

Washington’s response to Moscow’s callous support of al-Assad as he killed thousands of people through war crimes and crimes against humanity is on a par with Éduoard Daladier’s and Neville Chamberlain’s betrayal of Czechoslovakia in October, 1938, when they signed “the Munich Pact”.

One of the first betrayals on Syria was with Turkey:

Secretary Clinton caught her Turkish counterpart off guard during their meeting in Washington last month. Clinton reportedly told Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu that the Obama Administration “preferred going through the Russians” in an attempt to achieve a political solution being shopped by the UN/Arab League’s Special Syrian Envoy Kofi Annan.
–Amb. Marc Ginsberg, “Syria Is Obama’s Srebrenica,” Huffington Post (The Blog), March 28, 2012 .

On the U.S. decision to sell out its regional allies and to work through Russia instead, see

The Trenchant Observer, “The emperor has no clothes”: Foreign policy without a moral core—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #19 (March 29), March 29, 2012.

The Trenchant Observer, “Into the Abyss: Washington’s Fecklessness, Syria’s Fate—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #20 (March 30), March 30, 2012.

The reader is invited to read the Observer’s recent articles on Syria, and to draw his or her own conclusions as to whether Obama, Donilon, Clinton and the rest of the administration’s foreign policy team are conducting a competent foreign policy, first of all in Syria, but also everywhere else.

In the Observer’s opinion, this team is “the gang who couldn’t shoot straight”. For example, the Sixth Summit of the Americas, held in Cartagena, Colombia on April 14-15, was totally overshadowed by the prostitution scandal involving members of the Secret Serivce and the U.S. military. Little press attention was given to the substance of the meeting, the most important of the year with the leaders of the Latin American countries.

See Brian Ellsworth (Cartagena, Colombia), “Despite Obama charm, Americas summit boosts U.S. isolation,” April 16, 1012.

Now, on the Syrian question, by following a path of “working through the Russians”, the Obama administration has given up its last shred of moral legitimacy in the Middle East. Between al-Assad, Russia, China, and Iran, on the one hand, and the people of Syria, Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries, on the other, and in the face of immense human suffering and the ongoing commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity by the al-Assad regime, the United States is pursuing a strategy of “working through the Russians.”

Obama is incompetent as a foreign policy leader. Former Ambassador Marc Ginsberg is to be congratulated for his moral courage in speaking out on the question of Syria, in a clear voice.

What the United States needs, desperately, is for other foreign policy experts–and national leaders–to speak out with equal clarity, be they aligned with the Democratic Party in the United States, with the Republicans, or from other countries that are friends of the United States.

In the meantime, the international community would do well to look elsewhere than to the United States for leadership on the Syrian question.

See The Trenchant Observer, “At least 70 killed nationwide; massacre of 50 in Houla; U.N. International Commission on Syria Update—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update # 43 (May 25),” May 25, 2012.

The Trenchant Observer, “Chief of UN Observers confirms massacre at Houla; NGOs report 35 children and total of 110 killed—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #44 (May 26),” May 26, 2012.

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.