Posts Tagged ‘editorial board’

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

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

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

“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.

Syrian forces carry out revenge attacks and targeted reprisals against those meeting with U.N. observers—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #30 (April 25)

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

Latest News and Opinion

Chilling details of reprisals by Syrian forces against those who spoke to U.N. observers are provided by Ulrike Putz, reporting for Der Spiegel from Beirut. Putz describes the targeted attacks in a neighborhood of Hama that were directed against those who had spoken with the U.N. observers or been in the neighborhood. Between 28 and 50 people were killed in Hama in the revenge attack against them following the departure of the U.N. observers.

See Ulrike Putz, “Uno-Beobachter-Mission in Syrien: Wer redet, der stirbt; Uno-Beobachter in Homs: “Sie haben den Tod mit sich gebracht”; Die syrische Bevölkerung zahlt offenbar einen hohen Preis für die Anwesenheit der Uno-Blauhelme. Das Assad-Regime attackiert von den Beobachtern besuchte Stadtteile mit gezielten Angriffen. Niemand soll es anscheinend wagen, mit den ausländischen Besuchern zu reden.”(“Whoever speaks, dies,”) Der Spiegel, 25 Abril 2012.

Putz writes,

“Die Blauhelme waren kaum weg, da fielen die Bomben: “Nachdem die Beobachter abgefahren waren, hat die Armee die Gegend rund um die Alamain- und Mazarib-Straße gestürmt”, berichtet Abu al-Huda al-Hamwi von dem, was am Montag in seiner Heimatstadt Hama im Norden Syriens geschah. “Der Angriff begann mit einem Beschuss, der die Leute mitten auf der Straße überraschte. Die Leichen lagen über Stunden herum”, sagte das Mitglied des lokalen Revolutionskomitees Später sollen Soldaten Menschen aus ihren Häusern geholt und erschossen haben. Auch Gebäude seien in Brand gesteckt worden.

“Als die Beobachtertruppe der Uno sich einen Tag zuvor mehrere Stunden in der für ihre antiken Wasserschöpfräder bekannten Stadt aufhielt, war es ruhig geblieben. Die Bürger in der Oppositionshochburg demonstrierten im Beisein der Blauhelme gegen das Regime Baschar al-Assads, einige Mutige sprachen sogar mit den Emissären der Vereinten Nationen. Die Quittung gab es prompt: “Das Regime wollte die Menschen dafür bestrafen, dass sie eine Botschaft an die internationalen Beobachter gesandt haben”, sagt Aktivist Hamwi. Die Angaben, wie viele Menschen durch den Rachefeldzug umkamen, schwanken zwischen 28 und 50.”

Analysis and Observations

Security Council Resolution 2043 provides:

“The Security Council,

“8. Calls upon the Syrian government to ensure the effective operation of UNSMIS by: …allowing it to freely and privately communicate with individuals throughout Syria without retaliation against any person as a result of interaction with UNSMIS;…”

Like everything else in Kofi Annan’s 6-point peace plan, this provision is a dead letter.

See also

Neil MacFarquhar, “U.N. Observers Prove Little Deterrent to Syrian Attacks,” New York Times, April 23, 2012.

Neil MacFarquhar and Hwaida Saad, “Violence in Syria’s Capital Even With a Cease-Fire,” New York Times, April 25, 2012.

Editorial Board (Editorial), “Where U.N. monitors go in Syria, killings follow,” Washington Post, April 25, 2012.

The Post editorial underlines the fatuous nature of the approach of the U.S. and the Security Council toward dealing with the ongoing atrocities in Syria. Unfortunately, we seem to have a U.S. administration that cannot tell the difference between words and actions. As the Editorial poignantly noted,

It’s bad enough that the Obama administration refuses to learn the lessons of previous failures. More galling is its claim that it has made the prevention of atrocities a priority — as Mr. Obama did Monday in announcing the creation of an “atrocities prevention board.” “We see the Syrian people subjected to unspeakable violence, simply for demanding their universal rights,” he said. “And we have to do everything we can.”

Is sending unarmed monitors to besieged cities and shrugging when the people they visit are murdered everything the United States can do? Even in an election year, the answer has to be no.

We need an atrocities prevention program under military command, now, in real time, with our armed forces converging by land, air and sea on Syria, where this killing will be stopped. Not an advisory board focused on words. We need to focus on deeds.

One has to wonder what kind of information about what is going on in Syria on the ground U.S. offifcials are reading every day.

It is perhaps worth noting that while the Washington Post Editorial Board has demonstrated keen judgment in several key editorials, the reporting of events on the ground in Syria by the Post’s reporters has on the whole been intermittent and undistinguished. This may help explain why officials in Washington don’t seem to have any sense of what is going on in Syria on the ground.

Reading and listening to the news from Syria today, the Observer was filled with a sense of deep foreboding with respect to the future role and efficacy of the United Nations system for maintaining international peace and security. The fault lies not in the institutional architecture which was brilliantly established in the U.N. Charter in 1945. It lies in ourselves, in our current leaders.

The risk of failure is due to a lack of clarity of vision, a lack of clarity of moral purpose when it comes to issues of peace and war, and above all a lack of guts and determination to act to defend the very moral values and legal principles upon which our civilization is founded.

Much more is at stake in Syria than Syria itself.

If we don’t care about the individuals who are being killed in Syria when we could stop it, if we don’t care about stopping war crimes and crimes against humanity when every moral teaching and every bit of our own experience tells us they must be stopped, then who will care for us? Who will care for us when we face adversity? Who will join our coalitions? Who will make common cause with us in defense of our values and our civilization?

The Trenchant Observer

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

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

Limited military action to halt crimes against humanity: A new template to halt terror in Syria, and elsewhere—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #18 (March 28)

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

For the Observer’s selection of the latest news reports, click here.

***

“We are…in a historical moment in which the international community is called upon to craft a new response to regimes in crisis that cling to power against the democratic demands of their populations by the use of terror and the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

“The response that is required, however, …does not countenance long, drawn-out negotiations with a Dictator who continues to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity against his population. It does not accept a scenario in which negotiations continue in diplomatic time, as thousands are killed in real time.

“It does not accept a diplomatic dance that places the trump cards in the hands of authoritarian regimes complicit in the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and in the hands of the Dictator committing those crimes.

“It does not accept the “devil’s bargain” of negotiating with a war criminal the cessation of war crimes and crimes against humanity in exchange for his retaining power and the capability of using the instruments of state power to continue widespread and grave violations of fundamental human rights…

“…Limited military actions to halt the ongoing commission of such crimes may form a part of this international response, with the approval of the Security Council whenever possible, but without it if Security Council action is blocked by a veto and the atrocities and butchery continue.”

–The Trenchant Observer, below

The Hope

Rami Khouri of the Daily Star (Beirut) argued recently that

We may be witnessing in Syria the first example of a new global diplomatic process to end a conflict, protect civilians, and instigate democratic political reforms within a sovereign country in a manner that is at once legitimate, credible and effective.

In the past three months, a variety of countries – Arab and foreign, big and small, friends and foes of Syria – have all performed an ever-evolving diplomatic dance that last week generated a United Nations Security Council statement on Syria that is important for three reasons: It is unanimously supported by all council members, including Russia and China, who had vetoed earlier resolutions critical of Syria’s leadership; it waters down the earlier Arab League that explicitly called for President Bashar Assad to step aside; it seeks instead to halt the violence and open the way for an unspecified process of dialogue and reform leading to a democratic transition that may one day result in a new regime in Syria.

The two previous possible templates for addressing the Syrian situation – the Libyan intervention and war by NATO, and the unilateral Arab and Western demands that Assad step aside and make way for a democratic transition in the country – have both proved undesirable or unfeasible for certain key actors, primarily Russia. The past month has shown that if Russia and China decide to oppose the American-led camp, the situation will remain diplomatically frozen.

The chance of this package being accepted or implemented by the Syrian government is virtually zero, because it knows very well that if it pulls back its military and stops attacking its own civilians in urban centers, hundreds of thousands of people will take to the streets in peaceful demonstrations against the regime. The important point is that the key global actors have agreed on this approach, to open the door to a peaceful process of political transformation by which Syrians nonviolently and democratically change their regime and install a more democratic system of governance.

A key element in this approach is that President Bashar Assad and his family who run the country will remain in power for now, and are the key party with whom the opposition negotiates. This is understandably distasteful to the opposition, given the extreme cruelty and near barbarism that the regime’s military forces have used against unarmed Syrian civilians for the most part.
..
The Assad regime’s ability to hide behind its own sovereignty is now exhausted. This week the world has started to craft a legitimate diplomatic mechanism that shatters the shield of this abused sovereignty, and demands certain actions that improve conditions inside Syria, and perhaps provide a slow-motion means of changing the regime for the better over a period of months or years.

The diplomatic dance continues, seeking to resolve the Syria crisis, but also to craft a new international diplomatic order.

–Rami G. Khouri, “A new world order is born in Syria,” The Daily Star (Beirut), March 24, 2012.

The Reality

Khouri’s optimism regarding the U.N. initiative led by Kofi Annan is noteworthy, particularly in view of the earlier pessimism expressed by the Editorial Board of The Daily Star.  On March 9, 2012, they wrote:

The scene around Syria overflows with talk. The world’s big players proffer big words, which amount to zero in their impact on the Syrian regime – if anything they are utilized in their propaganda campaign.

The international community is attempting to save face, and by doing so is exhibiting its hypocrisy in every step and every word. This is hypocrisy of the worst kind, not only uncovering the ulterior motives of the world powers, but also serving as an eye-opener as to the intentions of the small, medium and super powers. God help any downtrodden party who takes the words of those powers at their face value. In this, the international community’s reaction to the crisis in Syria should be a lesson for many nations that look to it for support.

In the meantime, help for Syria is still at square one and none of the steps currently being taken are going to eradicate the shame of the international community.

–Editorial, “We procrastinate,” The Daily Star, March 9, 2012.

Correction: Earlier versions of this article mistakenly atribributed this text to Rami G. Khouri, to whom we apologize for the error.

A New Template to Halt Terror in Syria, and Elsewhere

While the Observer has the highest respect for Khouri and his judgment, the available evidence in the public domain suggests that the March 9 Editorial of The Daily Star remains much closer to the mark than his March 24 column on “the birth of a new world order.”

We are indeed in a historical moment in which the international community is called upon to craft a new response to regimes in crisis that cling to power against the democratic demands of their populations by the use of terror and the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The response that is required, however, and which may yet emerge–if not in this crisis perhaps in the next–does not countenance long, drawn-out negotiations with a Dictator who continues to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity against his population.  It does not accept a scenario in which negotiations continue in diplomatic time, as thousands are killed in real time.

It does not accept a diplomatic dance that places the trump cards in the hands of authoritarian regimes complicit in the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and in the  hands of the Dictator committing those crimes.

It does not accept the “devil’s bargain” of negotiating with a war criminal the cessation of war crimes and crimes against humanity in exchange for his retaining power and the capability of using the instruments of state power to continue widespread and grave violations of fundamental human rights, including the right to life and physical integrity of the human person, the right of assembly, the rights to free speech, freedom of the press, and to receive and impart information and ideas, and the right to due process and a fair trial by an independent judiciary.

Instead, the response that is required, for both moral and political reasons, is an insistence on the cessation of crimes against humanity and war crimes as a condition precedent to negotiations betwen the dictatorial regime, its democratic opposition, and the international community.  Limited military actions to halt the ongoing commission of  such crimes may form a part of this international response, with the approval of the Security Council whenever possible, but without it if Security Council action is blocked by a veto and the atrocities and butchery continue.

Any such military action without Security Council authorization should be strictly limited to defending populations which the offending state has a “responsibility to protect“–in situations where it is failing to do so, and even actively orchestrating the commission of the crimes which are to be defended against. Further, it should be limited to halting the atrocities, and undertaken as provisional measures of protection of the victims until such time as the Security Council is able to act–without a veto–to implement “the responsibility to protect”.

The Trenchant Observer

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

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

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

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