Posts Tagged ‘Ecuador’

Intelligence Matters: Not good at chess—the U.S. pursuit of Snowden pushes him inevitably into KGB’s arms (Update — July 12, 2013)

Friday, July 12th, 2013

UPDATE
July 12, 2013

Edward Snowden will seek at least temporary asylum in Russia, confirming the prediction in the article below that by shutting off his asylum routes, the U.S. was pushing him inevitably into the KGB’s arms.

See

Will Englund, “Snowden says he will seek asylum in Russia, The Washington Post, July 12, 2013 (Updated 9:41 AM).

Ellen Barry and Andrew Roth, “Snowden Is Said to Renew Plea for Asylum in Russia,” New York Times, July 12, 2013.

The United States may have reached the conclusion that the damage Snowden is inflicting and could inflict in the future, by publishing details of its secret intelligence programs, outweighs the damage that might be done to U.S. interests by his eventually collaborating with Putin and Russia’s intelligence agencies.

However, it is far from clear, and even dubious, that the ongoing release of further information about such U.S. operations will cease once Snowden is in Putin’s absolute control (if he isn’t already). Such a conclusion would greatly underestimate the possibility that Snowden has distributed this information to a number of other persons and organizations, and that should he decide to turn the encryption key, or simply fail to deactivate an automatic mechanism, much more damning information could be released.

The Russians, for their part, need not be in any hurry. They have time to wait, until Snowden reaches that psychological point where he is grateful for their protecting him and becomes ready to collaborate.

In the meantime, further revelations are likely, even if Snowden complies with Putin’s condition that he stop harming U.S. interests. The revelations probably do not depend on him anymore.

At this point in the chess match, one would have to surmise that Putin is greatly enjoying the game, while the United States seems to be far behind.

The Trenchant Observer

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“Intelligence Matters: Not good at chess—the U.S. pursuit of Snowden pushes him inevitably into KGB’s arms”

Article originally published June 30, 2013

Food for Thought

The longer Edward Snowden is holed up in the transit area of the airport in Moscow, while the U.S. exerts pressure on Ecuador and other potential asylum refuges, the more desperate his personal situation becomes. The Russians, led by Vladimir Putin, an old KGB man, is playing a smart game from their point of view which, when it turns out there is nowhere else Snowden can go, will deliver him and all he knows into the hands of the Russian KGB (whatever its new name may be).

Like Wikileaks, the Snowden affair points to one of the greatest intelligence failures in U.S. history.

Obama, by blindly driving to get America’s hands on a whistleblower who is viewed by the administration as a traitor, has unwittingly magnified the intelligence damage Snowden will ultimately cause in the future. By closing off his asylum routes, the U.S. will have guaranteed the result that the KGB will have him, with complete control over his personal circumstances, and access to everything he knows.

Looking at the Snowden affair through this optic, it may be that much better chess moves by the United States could have been to allow him to secure exile and asylum in Iceland or Ecuador. At least in one of these countries, he would have been less likely to fall into the hands of the KGB.

Whether either of these options is still available is unknown.

The Trenchant Observer

Intelligence Matters: Not good at chess—the U.S. pursuit of Snowden pushes him inevitably into KGB’s arms

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

Food for Thought

The longer Edward Snowden is holed up in the transit area of the airport in Moscow, while the U.S. exerts pressure on Ecuador and other potential asylum refuges, the more desperate his personal situation becomes. The Russians, led by Vladimir Putin, an old KGB man, is playing a smart game from their point of view which, when it turns out there is nowhere else Snowden can go, will deliver him and all he knows into the hands of the Russian KGB (whatever its new name may be).

Like Wikileaks, the Snowden affair points to one of the greatest intelligence failures in U.S. history.

Obama, by blindly driving to get America’s hands on a whistleblower who is viewed by the administration as a traitor, has unwittingly magnified the intelligence damage Snowden will ultimately cause in the future. By closing off his asylum routes, the U.S. will have guaranteed the result that the KGB will have him, with complete control over his personal circumstances, and access to everything he knows.

Looking at the Snowden affair through this optic, it may be that much better chess moves by the United States could have been to allow him to secure exile and asylum in Iceland or Ecuador. At least in one of these countries, he would have been less likely to fall into the hands of the KGB.

Whether either of these options is still available is unknown.

The Trenchant Observer

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

Saturday, August 11th, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For further details, see the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Trenchant Observer

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 use the “Search” Box or consult the information in the bottom right handcorner of the home page. The Articles on Syria page can also be found here. The Articles on Targeted Killings page can also be found here.

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

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Dictator, no authoritarian regime, has that right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Trenchant Observer

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 use the “Search” Box or consult the information in the bottom right hand corner of the home page. The Articles on Syria page can also be found here. The Articles on Targeted Killings page can also be found here.

“The League of Authoritarian States”—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #50 (June 9)

Saturday, June 9th, 2012

The proceedings of the General Assembly informal meeting on Syria on June 7, and the statements by Security Council representatives made following a closed meeting of the Security Council on May 7, 2012, can be found here (with video). Links to statements by the representatives of Russia, China, Germany, France, and the United States can also be found on the same page.).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Dictator, no authoritarian regime, has that right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Trenchant Observer

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 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.

Kofi Annan is not God—Obama’s debacle in Syria — Update #15

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

Kofi Annan is not God

At first sight, it might appear that the international community, including the three Permanent Members of the Security Council that are not directly blocking any effective action by the Council, had some mystical belief in the divine powers of former U.N. Secretary Kofi Annan to somehow forge order and reason out of the daily hell the citizens of Syria face at the hands of the Syrian Dictator, Bashar al-Assad.

But Kofi Annan is not God.

While he seems to lull the Security Council into some kind of trance, in his lugubrious speech–at a rate which could not exceed 75 or at most 100 words a minute–he does not have divine powers to succeed where all others have failed before him.

He kept the peace plan proposal which he took to Damascus secret, until it was revealed when the “presidential statement” was issued by the Security Council.  He asserted in a press conference that he should be the only person leading mediation of the conflict in Syria. Now, in the presidential statement issued by the Security Council on March 21, the Council pledges “to commit to appoint an empowered interlocutor when invited to do so by the Envoy.”

We poor chumps in the peanut galleries have no idea what “an empowered interlocutor” is or what his terms of reference will be.

Annan is now “the Envoy”. The Security Council will act, by appointing “an empowered interlocutor” when the Envoy invites them to do so. So, it is the Envoy who controls the pace of the negotiations, and the potential actions of the Security Council.

This sounds like the script from a bad Star Trek episode.

It is time to take the baton back from Kofi Annan. He is, in effect if not intention, helping the Russians play their cynical game of maintaining al-Assad in power at all costs. These costs include direct complicity in the war crimes and crimes against humanity al-Assad is committing every day. They are supplying the weapons and ammunition. They are supplying Russian military advisors on the ground in Syria to train al-Assad’s forces in the use of the weapons. These weapons are being used–every day–to commit war crimes, crimes against humanity, and widespread grave violations of fundamental human rights.

In the case of China, and the few other countries which have opposed U.N. action condemning Syria or abstained in votes in the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council, it seems that they are anxious to reserve the right to commit similar atrocities against their own people if they are “forced” to do so to retain their hold on power. In China’s case, Tibet comes immediately to mind.

We should take a close look at the interests of and human rights situations in these other countries which have voted against or abstained in votes on resolutions condemning Syria in the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council. Their votes tell us something important–extremely important–about the nature of their regimes and how they see their future.

The “mediation” of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the current U.N. process led by Kofi Annan has from the very beginning been based on a dangerous and fatally flawed concept. The international community should never “mediate” to bring to a halt war crimes and crimes against humanity. The cessation of these crimes is non-negotiable.  Discussions regarding modalities of cessation may be necessary. But mediation of the conflict itself can begin only after the commission of these crimes has stopped.

A ceasefire is nowhere in sight. Each day Annan continues his mission, al-Assad kills more opponents. Annan has failed. His mission should be terminated.

Washington Post Editorial of March 22, 2012

The Washington Post, in an editorial on March 23, 2012, has also noted that Annan’s mission is ill-conceived and bound to fail. The Editorial stated,

AFTER THE U.N. Security Council endorsed a six-point diplomatic plan for Syria by former secretary general Kofi Annan on Wednesday, U.S. ambassador Susan Rice sounded almost jubilant. “Annan’s proposal,” she said, “is the best way to put an end to the violence, facilitate much-needed humanitarian assistance and advance a Syrian-led political transition.” We can only hope that the envoy does not take her own words too seriously.

In fact, there is virtually no possibility that the new initiative will accomplish any of those aims — as the Obama administration should know by now. Instead, it will likely provide time and cover for the regime of Bashar al-Assad to continue using tanks and artillery to assault Syrian cities and indiscriminately kill civilians. That’s exactly what the regime was doing Thursday — pounding the city of Hama, where at least 20 people have been reported killed in army attacks in the past two days.

The Annan plan won’t work because, like the Arab League plan before it, it calls for the Assad government to take steps that would lead to its swift collapse — and the regime has no intention of capitulating. It says that Syrian forces should stop using heavy weapons in cities, begin a pullback of troops, permit a daily “humanitarian pause” for the delivery of aid and accept a U.N.-supervised cease-fire, while allowing freedom of assembly and the free circulation of journalists. To buy time last year, the regime accepted nearly identical demands by the Arab League, admitted its monitors — and then proceeded to ignore its obligations completely.

What the Annan mission does not offer is “the best way to put an end to the violence.” It is just the opposite: a guarantee that the bloodshed will continue, and probably worsen. The fighting in Syria will end only when Mr. Assad is forced to stop — or he succeeds in killing his way to victory.

–Editorial Board, “The Post’s View: The U.N.’s unworkable plan for Syria,” Washington Post, March 22, 2012.

Human Rights Council Resolution of March 23, 2012

The U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva adopted a further resolution (A/HRC/19/L.38/Rev.1) condemning Syria today, March 23, 2012.

–Reuters, UN rights forum extends Syria investigators’ mandate; [Human Rights] Council adopts EU resolution on widespread crimes by Syrian forces, says perpetrators must be brought to justice; China and Russia vote against text; mediator Annan going to Moscow and Beijing this weekend”, The Jerusalem Post, March 23, 2012.

The vote tally or breakdown was as follows:

The result of the vote was as follows:

In favour (41): Angola, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chile, Congo, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Djibouti, Guatemala, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Nigeria, Norway, Peru, Poland, Qatar, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, United States and Uruguay.

Against (3): China, Cuba and Russian Federation.

Abstentions (2): Ecuador and Uganda.

A summary of the resolution and statements made before or after the vote are found here.

Developments on the Ground

See

“Mass protests and fresh violence in Syria; Mortar fire and clashes between security forces and opposition fighters as activists report mass rallies around country,” Al Jazeera, March 24, 2012 (04:10 h).

Rakan al-Fakih and Antoine Amrieh, “Thousands take part in anti-Syria protests across Lebanon,” The Daily Star, March 24, 2012 (01:52 AM).

Antonio Pampliega (Binnish) “Binnish será un infierno; La ciudad del norte de Siria aguarda el asalto de las tropas leales a Bachar el Asad, El País, 23 de marzo de 2012 (11:50 CET).

For an overview of the responsibility to protect since 2005, see Andreas Ross, “Pyrrhus-Durchbruch; Von Ruanda bis Syrien: Legitimiert die Schutzverantwortung auch Regimewechsel? Der designierte UN-Vizegeneralsekretär Eliasson hält etwa den Libyen-Einsatz weiterhin für richtig,” Frankfurter Allgemeine, den 23 März 2012.

Matthew Brunwasser, “Is Syria’s Idlib Like Srebrenica?” PRI’s The World, March 23, 2012.

The Trenchant Observer

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

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Diplomats founder: Military action, not “mediation”, required to halt crimes against humanity—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #1 (February 29, revised March 1)

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Revised March 1, 2012

For earlier articles on Syria by The Trenchant Observer, see the Articles on Syria page.


Syrian tank firing in Homs

“So, is the world helpless? Must we simply stand by and watch the slaughter, and accept a future world where we are comfortable with the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity, because we don’t have the will and the courage to use military force to stop it?”

Mediation with war criminals during ongoing commission of war crimes?


Francisco Goya, Saturn devouring his son

Look carefully at Goya’s painting of Saturn devouring his son. Feel the horror. That is the horror that exists today in Syria.

The Future for Opponents of the Al-Assad Regime

Human Rights Council Receives Special Commission Report; Adopts Resolution on Escalating Grave Human Rights Violations and Deteriorating Humanitarian Situation in Syria (March 1, 2012)

The commission of crimes against humanity, war crimes, and other grave violations of fundamental human rights continues in Homs and other cities and towns in Syria. See

Report of the Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry on Syria, February 22, 2012.

–Alan Cowell and Steven Lee Myers, “U.N. Panel Accuses Syrian Government of Crimes Against Humanity,” New York Times, February 23, 2012.

For the full text of the 72-page report, see “Report of the independent international commission of inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/19/69 (22 February 2012).


Human Rights Council in Geneva

March 1, 2012 Human Rights Council Resolution

Beginning February 28, the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva debated a new resolution (A/HRC/19/L.1/Rev.1) on the the escalating grave human rights situation and deteriorating humanitarian situation in Syria. See

Statement by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay at The Urgent Debate on the Human Rights and Humanitarian Situation in the Syrian Arab Republic at the Human Rights Council 19th Session, February 28, 2012.

Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, “Council adopts resolution on escalating grave human rights violations and deteriorating humanitarian situation in Syria,” March 1, 2012.

The text of Resolution A/HRC/19/L.1/Rev.1 is found here.

The Resolution was approved on March 1 by a vote of 37 in favor, 3 against, with three abstentions. The vote tally or breakdown was as follows:

In Favor

Austria
Bangladesh
Belgium
Benin
Botswana
Cameroon
Chile
Congo
Costa Rica
Czech Republic
Djibouti
Guatemala
Hungary
Indonesia
Italy
Jordan
Kuwait
Libya
Malaysia
Maldives
Mauritania
Mauritius
Mexico
Nigeria
Norway
Peru
Poland
Qatar
Republic of Moldova
Romania
Saudi Arabia
Senegal
Spain
Switzerland
Thailand
United States of America
Uruguay

Against

China
Cuba
Russian Federation

Abstentions

Ecuador
India
Philippines

Not voting, with explanation (absent from room)

Burkino Faso – would have voted in favor
Kyrgyzstan – would have voted in favor
Angola – would have abstained

Not Voting, without explanation

Uganda

The actual vote tally sheet is found here.

Obama: “We can’t stand on the sidelines” [but let me think it over while I have a latté]

Obama has reportedly vetoed a plan to take military action to set up a secure zone within Syria by the use of air power.  See  “Obama rules out military intervention in Syria, weighs humanitarian corridors,” DEBKAfile, February 29, 2012.

Secretary of State Hilary Clinton muses aloud, on camera, that if we call Al-Assad a war criminal, it may make it harder to get him to resign.  Well, he is a war criminal, and is committing war crimes and crimes against humanity as we speak.  The Nuremberg Charter was not about convenience.  The dilemma is real.  But that is no reason to hide in an Orwellian world in which the Secretary of State and the President are afraid to describe a horrific reality with real words.

See Richard Spencer, Syria: “Bashar al-Assad could be regarded as a war criminal, says Hillary Clinton; The Syrian president Bashar al-Assad could be regarded as a war criminal, Hillary Clinton suggested as the United Nations said 100 people were dying in his country every day,” The Telegraph, February 28, 2012.

How Many Will Die Before the International Community Stops Al-Assad–With Force if Required?

Meanwhile, United Nations Under Secretary General for Political Affairs, Lynn Pascoe, told the Security Council on Tuesday, February 28, that the U.N. now estimates that 7,500 civilians have died in Syria, up from 4,500 estimated in December.

The Urgency Is to Act Now, Today

Kofi Annan has been given a mandate to “mediate” with Al-Assad and others, and has demanded that his mediation process be the sole mediation process to resolve the dispute. This is a major mistake by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.  Annan’s mission should be limited to a week, in the initial phase. Other mediation efforts should continue.

Annan is no Richard Holbrooke with the full military might of the United States standing behind him, which enabled Holbrooke to broker a peace in Dayton with Milosovic in 1995, after three years of devastating war in the former Yugoslovia. Then, as now in Syria, the international community didn’t want to get involved militarily.

There is absolutely no reason to expect that Annan will succeed where the Arab League and the major Western and Arab powers failed. This is Al-Assad’s game, which he played masterfully with the Arab League sanctions, which were postponed as a result of his acceptance of their November peace plan and the Arab League observer mission, gaining months of time, for months of repression. He never complied with the peace plan’s terms, and in retrospect appears never to have intended to.

He wants more time,  more time to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity to eliminate his opponents in Homs, and everywhere else. He will always play for more time.  The question is, “When will the international community, led by the U.S. or France, tell him that his time is up?”

He should not be given more time. He should be stopped, by force if necessary.  In the next few days.

Obama must face the harsh realities in Syria. This is not a “kumbaya” moment in history.  The Russians are willing to play for time so Al-Assad can finish killing off the opposition.  They are providing munitions including weapons and ammunition, and probably intelligence, money and other support to assist him.

Obama must understand that the hour is now late.  In the end, no U.N. resolution will, in and of itself, stop Al-Assad from slaughtering his opponents. At this point, only a resolution authorizing military action–and the ensuing military action–could do this. But such a resolution is not going to be approved by the Security Council any time soon.

So, is the world helpless?  Must we simply stand by and watch the slaughter, and accept a future world where we are comfortable with the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity, because we don’t have the will and the courage to use military force to stop it?

The civilized world has stopped crimes against humanity before, without Security Council authorization, in Kosovo and Serbia. It is now time to act, militarily, to stop Al-Assad. There is no imaginable scenario whereby he can remain in power with a license to hunt down and execute his opponents, without other outside powers being drawn into an ever-widening civil war and regional conflict.

Iran is watching.  This conflict is in important respects a conflict also with Iran. Obama has spoken of having all the options on the table with Iran if they don’t agree to stop the development of a nuclear weapons capability or nuclear weapons. He will have no credibility with Iran, and no credibility that he will in fact stop an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, if he does not show some decisiveness now. Netanyahu is coming to Washington next week, in all likelihood in an effort to get a green light to launch such an attack.  Things are not going to get any easier for Obama as time goes by.

Obama is known for his words, and the fact that they are frequently not backed up by actions. In fact, in foreign policy, he is seen by many as lacking leadership skills and “resolve”.  

Netanyahu defied him early on with respect to settlements, and Obama backed down. Obama gave the Russians their greatest objective in arms control talks, by withdrawing plans to base defensive missiles in Poland and Czechoslovakia–and got nothing in return. He didn’t even tell the Poles and the Czechs in advance. He did nothing to support the Green Revolution in Iran in 2009, which subsequently was crushed–like the Syrian opposition will be crushed if there is no outside help. The Iranians are advising Al-Assad. He stood on the sidelines in Egypt when the Arab Spring arrived, and even cut back on support of civil society programs through foreign assistance in the years leading up to those events. He was opposed to getting involved in Libya for a long, long time, and only got involved when pushed to do so by the French and the Bristish. He oversaw the disastrous failure of American diplomacy in failing to negotiate a status of forces agreement with Iraq, leading to the precipitous withdrawal of the U.S. in a manner that puts the entire Iraqi enterprise in doubt. His policies in Afghanistan have manifestly failed. Above all, he lacks any strategic vision. He doesn’t see a connection between halting Al-Assad’s butchery in Syria and halting Iran’s drive to obtain nuclear weapons. Outsiders have serious doubts he can stand up to Netanyahu and prevent an Israeli attack on Iran. The list could go on.

Nonetheless, despite these weaknesses and shortcomings, he must act now to lead the civilized world in halting the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria. He needs to put military action on the table as an option, and immediately take overt steps to put that option in place so that it can be executed on short notice.

That could help diplomacy produce the desired concrete results–an immediate cessation of hostilities–an immediate halt to the firing of tanks, anti-aircraft weapons, and artillery against civilian neighborhoods, and an immediate halt to the ground sweeps of opponents that are taken out and shot.

It goes without saying that attacks on medical personnel and facilities, which constitute war crimes, must immediately halt. 

Humanitarian assistance must be allowed, but it will have no durable meaning if Al-Assad’s onslaught against his own civilian population is not stopped now.

The Trenchant Observer

observer@trenchantobserver.com
twitter.com/trenchantobserv

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U. N. General Assembly condemns Syria by by vote of 137 to 12, with 17 abstentions (text of resolution and updated vote breakdown)—Syria Update #6

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

Today, February 16, 2012, the United Nations General Assembly approved by an overwhelming margin (137 in favor, 12 against, with 17 abstentions) a resolution (Doc.A/66/L.36) strongly condemning “widespread and systematic human rights violations by Syrian authorities.”

A press release summarizing the resolution and the interventions by various delegations is found here.

The text of the resolution, which has been made available by the Los Angeles Times, is found here.

The Washington Post provided one of the earliest reports on the vote tally.  Colum Lynch has provided a more complete breakdownn of the vote. See Colum Lynch, “The Syria List of Shame”, Turtle Bay: Reporting from Within the United Nations (Foreign Policy blog), February 17, 2012.

For some reason, the United Nations appears to not yet have published the official vote tally. In the meantime, Lynch’s breakdown of the vote, including the “no shows” is the most authoritative the Observer has ben able to find. That breadkdown is as follows:

Voting Against

Belarus
Bolivia
Cuba
China
Ecuador
Iran
Nicaragua
North Korea
Russia
Syria
Venezuela
Zimbabwe

Abstaining

Algeria
Angola
Armenia
Cameroon
Comoros
Fiji
Lebanon
Myanmar
Namibia
Nepal
Sri Lanka
St. Vincent and Grenadines
Suriname
Tanzania
Tuvalu
Uganda
Vietnam

No Shows (Not Present)

Burundi
Cambodia
Cape Verde
Dominica
Dominican Republic
Equatorial Guinea
Eritrea
Ethiopia
Gabon
Gambia
Guinea-Bissau
Kiribati
Kyrgyzstan
Laos
Madagascar
Mali
Palau
Philippines
San Tome Principe
Sierra Leon
Swaziland
Tajikistan
Tonga
Turkmenistan
Uzbekistan
Vanuatu
Yemen

Melissa Bell of the Washington Post observes, “It’s striking to note that aside from Syria and Iran, no other Middle East country voted no. Two, however, did abstain: Lebanon and Algeria.

Five countries from the Western Hemisphere voted against the resolution:

Bolivia
Cuba
Ecuador
Nicaragua
Venezuela

Two additional countries from the region abstained:

St. Vincent
Suriname

From Africa, one country voted against the resolution:

Zimbabwe

In addition, the following 6 African countries abstained:

Angola
Cameroon
Comoros
Namibia
Tanzania
Uganda

***

Hopefully, the official vote break-down should become available from the United Nations within a few more days.

The Trenchant Observer

trenchantobserver.com

www.twitter.com/trenchantobserv