Posts Tagged ‘Reuters’

“F… the EU!” — U.S. diplomat Victoria Nuland reveals—once again—the incompetence of the Obama administration

Friday, February 7th, 2014

When Stanley McChrystal spoke disrespectfully of U.S. and French leaders, and was caught unexpectedly by now-deceased Rolling Stone reporter Michael Hastings (The Operators), when he published McChrystal’s and his team’s dismissive comments, McChrystal was fired. See

“McChrystal, Petraeus, COIN, and Fixing a Failed Strategy in Afghanistan,” The Trenchant Observer, June 23, 2010.

After McChrystal: Obama, Petraeus, and Fixing a Failed Strategy in Afghanistan
Wednesday, June 23, 2010.

Now a U.S. diplomat, Victoria Nuland, has been taped in a telephone conversation with the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, in the Ukraine, discussing in great detail the efforts the U.S. was making to influence the flow of events within that country, including an extremely vulgar statement (“Fuck the EU!”) to dismiss Europe’s approach and diplomacy aimed at resolving the current crisis.

In the greatly coarsened culture of America in 2014, the use of the “F___” word, however disappointing in the mouth and thoughts of the Assistant Secretary of State and Special Ambassador for Europe and Eurasia, probably has a meaning more or less equivalent to that which “Screw the EU” might have had 10 or 20 years ago.

It’s not so much the language that is offensive, as the hubris revealed in Nuland’s statement about the weight to be given to Europe’s diplomatic efforts, and indeed in the entire recorded conversation, that gives offense.

Posting of the conversation on YouTube has also revealed, once again, the incompetence of the State Department’s administration, the same one that was responsible for the fiasco at Benghazi. Nuland, incidentally, played an important role in the drafting of the “talking points” for Susan Rice. See

Siobhan Hughes, “Nominee Nuland Takes Heat Over Benghazi at Hearing,” Wall Street Journal, July 11, 2013.

Guy Taylor, “Benghazi talking points not shared with Clinton, Nuland says,” The Washington Times, July 11, 2013.

How is it possible that Nuland was either speaking on an unsecured line to the Ambassador to the Ukraine, in the Ukraine, about such delicate matters of state, or speaking on a secure line whose encryption could be cracked? Secretary of State Kerry or President Obama owes the nation an explanation of which of these two possibilities was the case.

At the same time, one should take note of the deep-felt appreciation of Nuland’s skills and experience expressed by Stefan Kornelius in his op-ed in the Süddeutsche Zeitung. Kornelius stresses that Nuland knows Europe better than any other top U.S. official, and has been a stalwart supporter of Europe within the Obama administration.

See Stefan Kornelius, “US-Diplomatin Victoria Nuland: Rasiermesserscharfe Liebe für die Europäer,” Süddeutsche Zeitung, 07. FEBRUAR 2014, (17:46).

Washingtons Europa-Beauftragte Victoria Nuland ist nicht erst seit ihrem derben “Fuck the EU” als Anhängerin des direkten Wortes bekannt. Sie ist konfrontativ, schnell, ungeschützt – und gleichzeitig eine der besten Europa-Kennerinnen der USA.

Still, the broader implications of this new State Department disaster need to be seriously appreciated. It is much more than a gaffe. The recorded conversation shows U.S. diplomats deeply involved in the day-to-day politics of the struggle for power in the Ukraine, and is likely to hurt the standing of opposition leaders in the face of accusations from Putin and Yanukovych that the rebellion in the Ukraine is being orchestrated by the West.

See Carsten Luther (Kommentar), “Ukraine-Diplomatie: ‘Fuck the EU’ ist nicht das Problem,” Die Zeit, 7 Februar 2014.

US-Spitzendiplomatin Nuland schimpfte auf die EU, ihr Telefonat wurde öffentlich. Doch jenseits von derben Sprüchen zeigt sie Probleme der westlichen Ukraine-Politik auf. Ein Kommentar von Carsten Luther 144 Kommentare

If as almost certainly appears to be the case the call was made on an unsecured telephone line, someone in the State Department in Washington should be held accountable for the lack of strict protocols, or the lack of their strict enforcement, among the personnel of the Department.

The reaction of the White House Press spokesman, and also that of the State department, only underline the extent to which the Obama administration is incapable of grasping the significance of events, being content to use the “spinning” techniques of electoral politics to deal with the hard realities of world affairs–merely forming well-crafted sentences. Alas! If foreign policy were only a matter of words!

See, in this connection, George F. Will, “President Obama’s magic words and numbers,” Washington Post, February 7, 2014.

The attempt to blame the Russians for making the conversation public is rich indeed, coming from the administration that tapped Angela Merkel’s cell phone, and beyond that is ludicrous in the extreme.

White House spokesman Jay Carney would not discuss the content of the conversation recorded in the clip, but he too invoked the Loskutov tweet. “I would say that since the video was first noted and tweeted out by the Russian government, I think it says something about Russia’s role,” he said.

At the State Department, Psaki said that if the Russians were responsible for listening to, recording and posting a private diplomatic telephone conversation, it would be “a new low in Russian tradecraft”. Pressed on whether the call was authentic, Psaki said: “I didn’t say it was US official apologises to EU counterparts for undiplomatic language.

–Ed Pilkington (New York), “Victoria Nuland reportedly said ‘Fuck the EU’ speaking of Ukraine crisis, though department didn’t confirm it was her voice on tape,” The Guardian, February 6, 2014 (18:18 EST).

On the background and details of the Nuland affair, in addition to those cited above, see the following articles:

Marc Pitzke, (New York/Reuters) “Fuck”-Fauxpas: In der Abhörfalle, Der Spiegel, 7 Februar 2012.

Victoria Nuland: Ungeschützt am Mobiltelefon geplaudert
Victoria Nuland telefonierte ohne Stimmverschlüsselung – und das ist offenbar normal im US-Außenministerium. Jetzt wundert sich die Abhör- und Geheimdienstgroßmacht USA über die bescheidenen Sicherheitsstandards der eigenen Diplomaten und Staatsdiener.

Claudia Thaler, “Fuck the EU”: Wer bespitzelte die US-Diplomatin? Der Spiegel,7 Februar 2014.

Die Aufregung um Victoria Nulands “Fuck the EU”-Entgleisung ist groß. Die USA beschuldigen den russischen Geheimdienst, hinter dem Angriff zu stecken. Der Inhaber des YouTube-Accounts “Re Post” ist noch nicht identifiziert. Er ist seit rund einem Monat aktiv und offenbar kein Freund des Westens.

Gregor Peter Schmitz und Christoph Schult (Brüssel) “EU-Reaktionen auf US-Beleidigung: ‘Nuland hat keine Ahnung’,” der Spiegel, 7 Februar 2014.

Was wissen die USA schon vom Konflikt in der Ukraine? Mit dieser Botschaft geht die EU nach der Beleidigung aus Washington zum Gegenangriff über. Dass nach der NSA-Affäre ausgerechnet eine US-Diplomatin einem Lauschangriff zum Opfer gefallen ist, sorgt in Brüssel für Schadenfreude.

“Angela Merkel fumes at US diplomat’s curse of EU; German Chancellor criticises a comment that a senior US diplomat made about the European Union’s role in Ukraine, The Telegraph, February 7, 2014 (1:27PM GMT).

The Trenchant Observer

U.N. Security Council unanimously adopts Resolution 2118 establishing regime for the elimination of chemical weapons in Syria

Friday, September 27th, 2013

Department of Public Information, News and Media Division (New York), “Security Council requires Scheduled Destruction of Syria’s Chemical Weapons, Unanimously Adopting Resolution 2118 (2013), U.N. Doc. SC/111, September 27, 2013.

Resolution 2118 builds on the Russian-U.S. Agreement on Chemical Weapons reached by foreign ministers Sergey Lavrov and John Kerry in Geneva on September 13, 2013.

See Warren Strobel (Geneva), “Kerry-Lavrov rapport smoothed path to Syria deal,” Reuters, September 15, 2013 (1:20 a.m. EDT).

The Press Release contains the full text of the resolution and summaries of the statements made by Members of the Security Council.

The Foreign Ministers of the following members of the Council spoke:

Russian Federation (Sergey Lavrov)*
United States (John Kerry)*
United Kingdom*
Republic of Korea
Pakistan’s Adviser to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Pakistan also addressed the Council.
*Permanent Member

The representatives of Rwanda, Togo and Australia also spoke.

The full text of the press release and Resolution 2118 follow:


Press Release

Security Council
September 27, 2013

Department of Public Information, News and Media Division, New York

Security Council requires Scheduled Destruction of Syria’s Chemical Weapons, Unanimously Adopting Resolution 2118 (2013)


Deeply outraged by the use of chemical weapons on 21 August in a Damascus suburb, as concluded by a United Nations investigation team, the Security Council this evening endorsed the expeditious destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons programme, with inspections to begin by 1 October, and agreed that in the event of non-compliance, it would impose “Chapter VII” measures.

Unanimously adopting resolution 2118 (2013) in a fast-breaking evening meeting, the Council determined that the use of chemical weapons anywhere constituted a threat to international peace and security, and called for the full implementation of the 27 September decision of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which contains special procedures for the expeditious and verifiable destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons.

Specifically, the Council prohibited Syria from using, developing, producing, otherwise acquiring, stockpiling or retaining chemical weapons, or transferring them to other States or non-State actors, and underscored also that no party in Syria should use, develop, produce, acquire, stockpile, retain or transfer such weapons.

Also by the text, Syria should comply with all aspects of the OPCW decision, notably by accepting personnel designated by OPCW or the United Nations and providing them with immediate and unfettered access to — and the right to inspect — any and all chemical weapons sites.

Further, the Council decided to regularly review Syria’s implementation of the OPCW Executive Council decision and the present resolution, requesting the OPCW Director-General, through the Secretary-General, to report to it within 30 days and every month thereafter. Fully endorsing the Geneva Communiqué of 30 June 2012, the Council called for the convening, as soon as possible, of an international conference on Syria to implement that Communiqué.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hailed the resolution’s passage as “the first hopeful news on Syria in a long time”, but said, even amid that important step, “we must never forget that the catalogue of horrors in Syria continues with bombs and tanks, grenades and guns”. He said the plan to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons was “not a license to kill with conventional weapons”.

Stressing that the perpetrators of the chemical attacks in Syria must be brought to justice, he said a United Nations mission had returned to complete its fact-finding investigation. The team would conclude its work next week and he would promptly transmit a report to all Member States.

He pressed the Council to capitalize on its new-found unity by focusing on two other equally crucial dimensions of the conflict: the dire humanitarian situation and the political crisis. For their parts, the Syrian sides must engage constructively towards the creation of a democratic State, while regional actors must challenge those who sought to undermine that process.

In the debate that followed, Council members praised the text for placing binding obligations on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, requiring it to get rid of its “tools of terror”. United States Secretary of State John Kerry said that that regime bore the burden of meeting the terms of the resolution.

At the same time, Sergey Lavrov, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, emphasized that the responsibility for implementing the resolution did not lay with Syria alone. The text had not been passed under the Charter’s Chapter VII, nor did it allow for coercive measures. It contained requirements for all countries, especially Syria’s neighbours, which must report on moves by non-State actors to secure chemical weapons.

Also speaking in today’s debate were the Foreign Ministers of the United Kingdom, Luxembourg, France, Azerbaijan, Republic of Korea, China, Guatemala, Morocco and Argentina, as well as the Adviser to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs of Pakistan.

The representatives of Rwanda, Togo and Australia also spoke.

The meeting began at 8:15 p.m. and ended at 9:45 p.m.



The Security Council met this evening to consider the situation in Syria.



Describing the resolution just adopted as “historic” and “the first hopeful news on Syria in a long time”, United Nations Secretary-General BAN KI-MOON said the international community had given a firm and united response.

Stating that the perpetrators of the chemical attacks in Syria must be brought to justice, he said a United Nations mission had returned to complete its investigation. The team would conclude its fact-finding activities next week and the Secretary-General would promptly transmit a report to all Member States.

Welcoming Syria’s accession to the Chemical Weapons Convention, he said the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) established ambitious but realistic deadlines for the verified elimination of the programme.

The resolution would ensure that the elimination of the Syrian chemical weapons programme happened as soon as possible and with the utmost transparency, he said, stressing that the cooperation of the Syrian Government and opposition forces would be crucial.

Declaring that a red light for one form of weapons did not mean a green light for others, he said that all violence must end and all guns must fall silent. “We must capitalize on the new-found unity of the Council by focusing on the two other equally crucial dimension of the conflict: the dire humanitarian situation and the political crisis,” he urged.

The text, he noted, also called for an international conference on Syria, which both the Government and the opposition had said they would attend. He said the conference was aimed for mid-November.

No one was naïve to the challenges of ending the conflict peacefully, he said. The Syrian sides must engage constructively towards the creation of a democratic State, while the regional actors must challenge those who actively sought to undermine the process and who did not respect Syria’s sovereignty.

As for the Security Council members, he said that, individually and collectively, they had a key role in ushering the Geneva process forward towards a lasting peaceful solution.

SERGEY LAVROV, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, said the resolution was in keeping with the Russian-American agreement. The lead role in the coming work lay with OPCW, which, along with the United Nations experts, would act impartially in Syria in full respect of its sovereignty. He expected the Secretary-General and the OPCW Director-General to closely cooperate in that work. He also expected that the Secretary-General’s recommendations would cover the safety of international personnel.

Noting that Damascus had shown its readiness for cooperation by joining the Chemical Weapons Convention, he said that was a precondition for success. It also had provided a list of its chemical weapons arsenal. Damascus would continue to cooperate with international inspectors. The responsibility for implementing the resolution did not lay only with Syria. He emphasized that the text had not been passed under the Charter’s Chapter VII, nor did it allow coercive measures. Violations of its requirements and use of chemical weapons by anyone must be carefully investigated. The United Nations would stand ready to take action under the Charter’s Chapter VII. Violations must be 100 per cent proven.

The resolution contained requirements for all countries, he said, especially Syria’s neighbours, which must report on moves by non-State actors to secure chemical weapons. All such situations should be considered immediately by the Security Council, as that would help create a zone free of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery means. The resolution set up a framework for the political settlement of the conflict by backing the convening of an international conference, which he believed could take place as early as mid-November. He also expected the Syrian opposition to state its readiness. The Russian Federation would participate in implementing the chemical disarmament programme and in preparing for the Geneva II conference.

JOHN KERRY, Secretary of State of the United States, said today’s strong, “precedent-setting” resolution had shown that diplomacy could be so powerful, it could peacefully defuse the worst weapons of war. The text stated that chemical weapons use threatened international peace and security — at any time, under any circumstances. With a single voice, for the first time, binding obligations had been placed on the Assad regime, requiring that it get rid of its tools of terror. The text reflected what the Presidents of the Russian Federation and the United States had set out to do, and more; it sought to eliminate a country’s chemical weapons ability.

He went on to say that those weapons would be destroyed by mid-2014. The resolution also made clear that those responsible for their use must be held accountable. The Council had endorsed the Geneva Communiqué, and it had adopted a legally binding resolution that spelled out in detail what Syria must do to comply with it. It could not accept or reject the inspectors, but must give unfettered access at all sites. “We are here because actions have consequences,” he said.

Progress would be reported to the Council, he said, stressing that non-compliance would lead to the imposition of Chapter VII actions. The Council had shown that “when we put aside politics for the common good, we are still capable of great things”. The Assad regime carried the burden of meeting the terms of the resolution; the world carried the burden of doing what it must to end mass killing by other means — working with the same cooperation that had brought States here today. Countries also must provide humanitarian aid. Only then would the world have fulfilled its duty.

WILLIAM HAGUE, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs of the United Kingdom, said today’s “groundbreaking” text, the first on Syria in 17 months, recognized that any use of chemical weapons posed a threat to international peace and security, thereby establishing an important international norm. It upheld the principle of accountability for the proven use of those weapons, enforced legally binding obligations on Syria to comply with OPCW, and it endorsed the 2012 Geneva Communiqué. If properly implemented, the resolution would prevent a repeat of atrocities carried out on 21 August.

He said the United Kingdom was making a $3 million commitment to the OPCW Syria trust fund and urged all States in a position to do so to contribute likewise. It was vital that the Council build on today’s consensus to progress towards sustainable resolution of the Syrian crisis, first, by achieving a negotiated political transition, with a transitional body formed on the basis of mutual consent. He urged increased efforts to alleviate the humanitarian crisis, for which the United Kingdom, thus far, had provided $800 million. The Council must apply its weight to secure unfettered access to those in need in Syria. With that, he urged redoubled determination to work through the Geneva II process and secure a better future for Syria.

JEAN ASSELBORN, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Luxembourg, said the resolution contained robust and legally binding obligations, with which Syria must fully comply. One of the most significant chemical weapons programmes had been addressed through peaceful means. Recounting the horrific images emerging from that country, he said it was important that those never be reproduced. “For the first time, the Security Council has determined chemical weapons use is a threat to international peace.”

Urging the Syrian Government to respect the aspirations of all Syrians, he called upon all parties to take advantage of the positive dynamics, adding that any delay would lead to more death and more destruction. The world could not forget the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria and its neighbours. In that connection, he urged Syria to grant free and unfettered access and lift bureaucratic obstacles. “Time has come to refer the perpetrators to the International Criminal Court,” he declared.

LAURENT FABIUS, Minister for Foreign Affairs of France, said “tonight, in the midst of the Syrian crisis, the Security Council can finally live up to its name”. The use of chemical weapons was obvious; all clues pointed to the regime. No one in good faith could deny that fact. The present resolution met France’s three requirements: it determined that the use of chemical weapons constituted a threat to international peace and security; clearly stated that those responsible for such crimes must be held accountable; and decided that, in the event of non-compliance by the Syrian regime, the Council would take action under Chapter VII of the Charter. The resolution was only a first step; now it must be implemented. The Syrian regime, which until recently had denied possessing chemical weapons, could not be trusted. The United Nations and OPCW should immediately deploy their joint mission; the timetable set forth in the present text must be enforced.

He added that “the cooperation of Syria must be unconditional, and fully transparent”. The Council, which would be informed regularly, would be the judge of Syria’s commitment, and would impose measures under Chapter VII, if necessary. France would remain “watchful”. It wanted to capitalize on the Council’s unity to advance the political process and felt it was necessary to prepare the Geneva II conference within the framework of the Geneva Communiqué. He had chaired a meeting on Thursday with the President of the Syrian National Coalition, who confirmed a readiness to send a delegation as soon as possible. The Syrian regime’s supporters must make a similar commitment. He urged the Secretary-General and his Special Envoy to move quickly in that direction.

ELMAR MAHARRAM OGLU MAMMADYAROV, Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan, welcomed the resolution and expressed hope that it would help to end the crisis. He said it was important that the Security Council stressed the need to hold accountable the perpetrators of the chemical attacks in Syria. Welcoming the American-Russian accord on Syria and the OPCW role, he said it was critical to ensure compliance, adding that tonight’s resolution had made careful provisions for that. All parties should cease the violence, he said, and seek a political solution to the conflict.

YUN BYUNG-SE, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea, said the resolution showed the Council’s unity on the Syrian crisis, fulfilling its overdue responsibility to the Syrian people. Condemning the use of chemical weapons in the strongest possible terms, he reiterated that all such weapons should be eliminated — in Syria and everywhere. Today’s text made it clear that chemical weapons use anywhere was a threat to international peace and security. Only its full implementation would determine the value of the collective enterprise. Its binding nature showed the Council’s resolve to eliminate chemical weapons in Syria, and the international community bore responsibility for promoting its implementation. The world could not afford acts of impunity, and, as such, the Council must ensure that those responsible for chemical weapons use were held accountable. He hoped an international conference would be held as soon as possible.

WANG YI, Foreign Minister of China, said that neither Syria nor the region could afford another war. The Security Council and the international community must make decisions that would pass the judgement of history. Stating his opposition to military solutions, he welcomed the resolution’s focus on the search for the chemical weapons. China, itself, had been a victim of chemical weapons during the Second World War, and the country opposed those weapons in all forms. He called for a comprehensive and accurate settlement of the issue of chemical weapons in Syria, and urged the international community to also step up efforts to deal with the humanitarian crisis there. The political solution and the destruction of chemical weapons must go side by side, he said, adding that the parties in Syria must redouble efforts in what would be a complex period ahead.

FERNANDO CARRERA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Guatemala, welcomed the rejection of the use of chemical weapons in Syria by the Russian Federation and the United States and the subsequent 14 September framework agreement. Today’s Council decision was “highly significant”, as it helped renew efforts to end the violence, address the humanitarian situation and meet the Syrian people’s demands. Towards that end, Guatemala had persistently backed the 30 June 2012 Final Communiqué of the Action Group for Syria and the need to hold an international conference to facilitate its implementation. Adoption of the present text, which Guatemala had co-sponsored, was of vital importance, considering that the last resolution on Syria had been adopted in April 2012. He understood the sensitivity of the issue and the urgency it demanded, and for that reason, had joined the consensus, despite having preferred a greater role in its development.

He recognized the importance of cooperation between the United Nations and OPCW, particularly in terms of personnel access and safety, operational support, privileges and immunities, and sufficient funding to carry out their duties. He trusted that a date could be set soon for the Geneva II Conference, and added that a transitional Syrian Government with full executive powers could be set up under the mutual consent of all parties. Such a Government must be inclusive. He expressed hope for a ceasefire in the short term.

SARTAJ AZIZ, Adviser to the Prime Minister of Pakistan on National Security and Foreign Affairs, said the resolution was a landmark text, which demonstrated the Security Council’s leadership. Its unanimous adoption meant the international community had taken ownership of the process of eliminating Syria’s chemical weapons programme. He hoped the new-found unity in the Council would be maintained, and added that the 15-member body would have difficult waters to navigate. A political settlement was the only way forward, including to mitigate the humanitarian crisis. The announcement of the convening of Geneva II reflected the urgency of the problem, he said, adding that the international community should proceed with a sense of purpose. Although it was too late for more than 100,000 Syrians, there was hope for millions of others.

SAAD-EDDINE EL OTHMANI, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Morocco, said “at last” the Council had been able to agree on an important resolution on the Syrian situation that reflected a genuine will to end the conflict. He appreciated efforts made by the “P-5” towards a solution that would find, destroy and ensure that chemical weapons were never used again. The League of Arab States also had led initiatives on the Syrian situation and the use of chemical weapons. Today’s historic text outlined steps for dealing with chemical weapons, in line with the United States-Russian Federation agreement. For the first time, it recognized chemical weapons were a threat to international peace and security. That would help to prevent a repeat of recent massacres, eliminating one of the Middle East’s largest chemical weapons arsenals in a peaceful manner. Morocco hoped a date would soon be set for the holding of the Geneva II Conference. Syria’s humanitarian situation was a catastrophe and every effort must be made to support United Nations agencies to help in that regard. Syria’s neighbours were also suffering.

HÉCTOR MARCOS TIMERMAN, Foreign Minister of Argentina, noting that the unfolding “horror show” was neither isolated nor unpredictable. Nevertheless, a door had been opened to a solution. The world saw the pettiness of the geopolitical interests at play, which had prompted ethical outrage in the international community. There was no leeway for double standards, he said, adding that those using chemical weapons must not go unpunished. The multilateral regime established by the United Nations Charter must be the basis for the lasting peace. The resolution established a specific mechanism for the elimination of chemical weapons in Syria on the basis of the United States-Russian Federation accord, and it also contained elements discussed in the Council, which had prompted Argentina to co-sponsor it. He called for greater efforts to address the other dimensions of the conflict and said the Council must remain seized of the matter.

EUGÈNE-RICHARD GASANA ( Rwanda) said that, as the world prepared for the twentieth anniversary of the killing of Tutsis in his country, the conscience of the international community had been stained by the ongoing conflict in Syria, now in its thirteenth month. “We said ‘never again’ in Rwanda”; yet ethnic cleansing and other horrors had occurred in many corners of the world. The Council had not been able to save more than 100,000 people in Syria, due to divisions among certain members. The 21 August attack had led to the loss of innocent lives.

He welcomed the Council’s decision to impose coercive measures under the Charter’s Chapter VII, should Syrian authorities not comply with today’s text. He was pleased it called for the revival of the Geneva process. A military solution was not viable for that country or for the region. He urged the Council — especially the “P-5” countries that had influence on Syrian parties — to implement the Geneva Communiqué as soon as possible. Any political solution should ensure that those who had committed crimes were held accountable.

KODJO MENAN ( Togo), welcoming the resolution’s adoption, said the spirit of compromise had eventually prevailed. The Russian-American framework laid the groundwork for the text, he said, adding that, by co-sponsoring it, Togo not only had demonstrated its desire to see the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons, but also of all weapons of mass destruction. The Security Council must step up efforts for a radiant future for Syria through the Geneva II Conference, he said, adding that the unity demonstrated in the Council must be used to bring together all parties in Syria for a political solution. The Council also must pay attention to the terrorist violence committed in that country, he said, adding that an inclusive and multi-faith Syria would bring unity and conciliation.

GARY QUINLAN ( Australia) expressed hope that today’s text would mark a turning point in the Council’s approach to Syria, showing that the body could use its authority to help achieve a stable and secure future for Syrians. For the first time, the Council had made clear that chemical weapons use was a threat to international peace and security, strengthening a fundamental norm of international relations: that the use of those weapons was abhorrent and breached international law.

He said that the text imposed legally binding obligations on Syria to secure and destroy its chemical weapons, and place them and related materials under international supervision. The Council decided that non-compliance by Syria would result in Chapter VII consequences. Importantly, the Council reaffirmed that the perpetrators of that mass atrocity crimes must be held accountable. Australia believed that available data showed that the Syrian authorities were responsible for chemical weapons use and that the Council should refer the situation to the International Criminal Court. Also, for the first time, the Council endorsed the Geneva Communiqué. It must now address humanitarian crisis more decisively.



The full text of Security Council resolution 2118 (2013) reads as follows:

“The Security Council,

Recalling the Statements of its President of 3 August 2011, 21 March 2012, 5 April 2012, and its resolutions 1540 (2004), 2042 (2012) and 2043 (2012),

Reaffirming its strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic,

Reaffirming that the proliferation of chemical weapons, as well as their means of delivery, constitutes a threat to international peace and security,

Recalling that the Syrian Arab Republic on 22 November 1968 acceded to the Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare, signed at Geneva on 17 June 1925,

Noting that on 14 September 2013, the Syrian Arab Republic deposited with the Secretary-General its instrument of accession to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction (Convention) and declared that it shall comply with its stipulations and observe them faithfully and sincerely, applying the Convention provisionally pending its entry into force for the Syrian Arab Republic,

Welcoming the establishment by the Secretary-General of the United Nations Mission to Investigate Allegations of the Use of Chemical Weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic (the Mission) pursuant to General Assembly resolution 42/37 C (1987) of 30 November 1987, and reaffirmed by resolution 620 (1988) of 26 August 1988, and expressing appreciation for the work of the Mission,

Acknowledging the report of 16 September 2013 (S/2013/553) by the Mission, underscoring the need for the Mission to fulfil its mandate, and emphasizing that future credible allegations of chemical weapons use in the Syrian Arab Republic should be investigated,

Deeply outraged by the use of chemical weapons on 21 August 2013 in Rif Damascus, as concluded in the Mission’s report, condemning the killing of civilians that resulted from it, affirming that the use of chemical weapons constitutes a serious violation of international law, and stressing that those responsible for any use of chemical weapons must be held accountable,

Recalling the obligation under resolution 1540 (2004) that all States shall refrain from providing any form of support to non-State actors that attempt to develop, acquire, manufacture, possess, transport, transfer or use weapons of mass destruction, including chemical weapons and their means of delivery,

Welcoming the Framework for Elimination of Syrian Chemical Weapons dated 14 September 2013, in Geneva, between the Russian Federation and the United States of America (S/2013/565), with a view to ensuring the destruction of the Syrian Arab Republic’s chemical weapons programme in the soonest and safest manner, and expressing its commitment to the immediate international control over chemical weapons and their components in the Syrian Arab Republic,

Welcoming the decision of the Executive Council of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) of 27 September 2013 establishing special procedures for the expeditious destruction of the Syrian Arab Republic’s chemical weapons programme and stringent verification thereof, and expressing its determination to ensure the destruction of the Syrian Arab Republic’s chemical weapons program according to the timetable contained in the OPCW Executive Council decision of 27 September 2013,

Stressing that the only solution to the current crisis in the Syrian Arab Republic is through an inclusive and Syrian-led political process based on the Geneva Communiqué of 30 June 2012, and emphasising the need to convene the international conference on Syria as soon as possible,

Determining that the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic constitutes a threat to international peace and security,

Underscoring that Member States are obligated under Article 25 of the Charter of the United Nations to accept and carry out the Council’s decisions,

“1. Determines that the use of chemical weapons anywhere constitutes a threat to international peace and security;

“2. Condemns in the strongest terms any use of chemical weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic, in particular the attack on 21 August 2013, in violation of international law;

“3. Endorses the decision of the OPCW Executive Council 27 September 2013, which contains special procedures for the expeditious destruction of the Syrian Arab Republic’s chemical weapons programme and stringent verification thereof and calls for its full implementation in the most expedient and safest manner;

“4. Decides that the Syrian Arab Republic shall not use, develop, produce, otherwise acquire, stockpile or retain chemical weapons, or transfer, directly or indirectly, chemical weapons to other States or non-State actors;

“5. Underscores that no party in Syria should use, develop, produce, acquire, stockpile, retain, or transfer chemical weapons;

“6. Decides that the Syrian Arab Republic shall comply with all aspects of the decision of the OPCW Executive Council of 27 September 2013 (Annex I);

“7. Decides that the Syrian Arab Republic shall cooperate fully with the OPCW and the United Nations, including by complying with their relevant recommendations, by accepting personnel designated by the OPCW or the United Nations, by providing for and ensuring the security of activities undertaken by these personnel, by providing these personnel with immediate and unfettered access to and the right to inspect, in discharging their functions, any and all sites, and by allowing immediate and unfettered access to individuals that the OPCW has grounds to believe to be of importance for the purpose of its mandate, and decides that all parties in Syria shall cooperate fully in this regard;

“8. Decides to authorize an advance team of United Nations personnel to provide early assistance to OPCW activities in Syria, requests the Director-General of the OPCW and the Secretary-General to closely cooperate in the implementation of the Executive Council decision of 27 September 2013 and this resolution, including through their operational activities on the ground, and further requests the Secretary-General, in consultation with the Director-General of the OPCW and, where appropriate, the Director-General of the World Health Organization, to submit to the Council within 10 days of the adoption of this resolution recommendations regarding the role of the United Nations in eliminating the Syrian Arab Republic’s chemical weapons program;

“9. Notes that the Syrian Arab Republic is a party to the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations, decides that OPCW-designated personnel undertaking activities provided for in this resolution or the decision of the OPCW Executive Council of 27 September 2013 shall enjoy the privileges and immunities contained in the Verification Annex, Part II(B) of the Chemical Weapons Convention, and calls on the Syrian Arab Republic to conclude modalities agreements with the United Nations and the OPCW;

“10. Encourages Member States to provide support, including personnel, technical expertise, information, equipment, and financial and other resources and assistance, in coordination with the Director-General of the OPCW and the Secretary-General, to enable the OPCW and the United Nations to implement the elimination of the Syrian Arab Republic’s chemical weapons programme, and decides to authorize Member States to acquire, control, transport, transfer and destroy chemical weapons identified by the Director-General of the OPCW, consistent with the objective of the Chemical Weapons Convention, to ensure the elimination of the Syrian Arab Republic’s chemical weapons programme in the soonest and safest manner;

“11. Urges all Syrian parties and interested Member States with relevant capabilities to work closely together and with the OPCW and the United Nations to arrange for the security of the monitoring and destruction mission, recognizing the primary responsibility of the Syrian Government in this regard;

“12. Decides to review on a regular basis the implementation in the Syrian Arab Republic of the decision of the OPCW Executive Council of 27 September 2013 and this resolution, and requests the Director-General of the OPCW to report to the Security Council, through the Secretary-General, who shall include relevant information on United Nations activities related to the implementation of this resolution, within 30 days and every month thereafter, and requests further the Director-General of the OPCW and the Secretary-General to report in a coordinated manner, as needed, to the Security Council, non-compliance with this resolution or the OPCW Executive Council decision of 27 September 2013;

“13. Reaffirms its readiness to consider promptly any reports of the OPCW under Article VIII of the Chemical Weapons Convention, which provides for the referral of cases of non-compliance to the United Nations Security Council;

“14. Decides that Member States shall inform immediately the Security Council of any violation of resolution 1540(2004), including acquisition by non-State actors of chemical weapons, their means of delivery and related materials in order to take necessary measures therefore;

“15. Expresses its strong conviction that those individuals responsible for the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic should be held accountable;

“16. Endorses fully the Geneva Communiqué of 30 June 2012 (Annex II), which sets out a number of key steps beginning with the establishment of a transitional governing body exercising full executive powers, which could include members of the present Government and the opposition and other groups and shall be formed on the basis of mutual consent;

“17. Calls for the convening, as soon as possible, of an international conference on Syria to implement the Geneva Communiqué, and calls upon all Syrian parties to engage seriously and constructively at the Geneva Conference on Syria, and underscores that they should be fully representative of the Syrian people and committed to the implementation of the Geneva Communiqué and to the achievement of stability and reconciliation;

“18. Reaffirms that all Member States shall refrain from providing any form of support to non-State actors that attempt to develop, acquire, manufacture, possess, transport, transfer or use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons and their means of delivery, and calls upon all Member States, in particular Member States neighbouring the Syrian Arab Republic, to report any violations of this paragraph to the Security Council immediately;

“19. Demands that non-State actors not develop, acquire, manufacture, possess, transport, transfer or use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons and their means of delivery, and calls upon all Member States, in particular Member States neighbouring the Syrian Arab Republic, to report any actions inconsistent with this paragraph to the Security Council immediately;

“20. Decides that all Member States shall prohibit the procurement of chemical weapons, related equipment, goods and technology or assistance from the Syrian Arab Republic by their nationals, or using their flagged vessels or aircraft, whether or not originating in the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic;

“21. Decides, in the event of non-compliance with this resolution, including unauthorized transfer of chemical weapons, or any use of chemical weapons by anyone in the Syrian Arab Republic, to impose measures under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter;

“22. Decides to remain actively seized of the matter.



The following Annexes attached to the Resolution are extensive. Their full texts are reproduced in the Press Release of September 27, 2013 (SC/111).

Annex I — OPCW Executive Council Decision
Decision on destruction of Syrian chemical weapons

Annex II — Action Group for Syria Final Communiqué (30 June 2012)


Overall Conclusions

Today was a good day for advocates of peace and respect for International Law. This highly significant agreement has the potential to restore collaboration among the five Permanent Members of the Security Council, which is an essential requirement for the maintenance of international peace and security in the world.

Sergey Lavrov and Russia speak the language of International Law. Barack Obama and John Kerry will be more successful in dealing with them if they learn to speak in that language as well. Today was a good start in that regard, and more generally on the road to peace.

No one can foresee what might happen if the statesmen of the world start having and developing visions of peace.

If the Resolution is observed, Kerry and Lavrov may have a good shot at jointly winning the Nobel Peace Prize.

The Trenchant Observer

REPRISE: Syrian military continues campaign to crush opposition in Saraqeb, Homs, al-Qusair and elsewhere—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #16 (March 24, updated March 25, 2012)

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

Originally published March 25, 2012

Latest news reports

Oliver Holmes and Steve Gutterman (Beirut/Moscow), “Syrian forces on the offensive; Annan in Moscow,” Reuters, March 25, 2012 (10:14pm IST).

Syria: Local Residents Used as Human Shields; Reports of Residents Forced to March in Front of Soldiers in Idlib, Human Rights Watch, March 25, 2012.

Rami G. Khouri, “A new world order is born in Syria,” The Daily Star (Beirut), March 24, 2012 (01:25 a.m.).

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.

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 is much closer to the mark than his March 24 column on “the birth of a new world order.”

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

It is indeed 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 of assembly, the rights to free speech, freedom of the press, and to receive and impart information and ideas, the right to life and physical integrity of the human person, 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 angainst 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 Counil action is blocked by a veto and the atrocities and butchery continue.


Original Article (March 24, 2012)

Der Spiegel reports in some detail on Iran’s assistance to the al-Assad government in its war against the opposition.

See “Aufstand in Syrien: Teheran liefert Assad angeblich Waffen,” Der Spiegel, den 24 März 2012.

See also, “Hopeless Diplomacy: Syrian Regime Resembles Mafia Cartel; Hopes that diplomacy will force Syrian President Bashar Assad to back down seem misguided, given that his regime resembles a mafia cartel bent on defending its turf by any means. There is no turning back for Assad’s clan or the rebels — both sides know that would spell their doom,” Der Spiegel (English), March 19, 2012.

In Syria, al-Assad’s troops, assisted by non-uniformed men, continued their attacks on rebel strongholds and conducted roundups of civilians.

Associated Press, “Syrian forces shell towns and clash with rebels; dozens killed,” The Washington Post, March 24, 2012.

The website of the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights provides updates in English here, and in Arabic here.

We should not forget what is going on in Syria on the ground, not for a single day.

The Trenchant Observer


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

Friday, December 21st, 2012

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

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

See also the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Security Council,

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

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

I. Political process
(Paragraphs 1-5)

“II. Security process

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

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

“Deployment of AFISMA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I. Political process

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Trenchant Observer

Lies, Spies and Politics: The Incredible Evolution of the Benghazi “Talking Points” Narrative–Part II

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

Some enterprising jounalist should go back and prepare a compilation that lists the different versions of what happened to the talking points, citing all that is known about and by each source speaking on background, or on the record, and the publication in which the version appeared.

An example of the misleading information being supplied to Congress and to the public is provided by the following excerpt from the Christian Sciene Monitor regarding meetings today (November 27) of Susan Rice and CIA Acting Director Michael Morell with Republican Senators :

…Republican senators said the meeting with Rice and Morell left them with more concerns than before. In a statement McCain, Graham and Ayotte said there was now more confusion about who had made changes in the talking points before they were given to Rice.

Morell told the senators during the meeting that the FBI had removed references to al Qaeda from the talking points “and did so to prevent compromising an ongoing criminal investigation” of the attack on the U.S. mission, the statement by McCain, Graham and Ayotte said.

“However, at approximately 4:00 this afternoon, CIA officials contacted us and indicated that Acting Director Morell misspoke in our earlier meeting. The CIA now says that it deleted the al-Qaeda references, not the FBI. They were unable to give a reason as to why,” the statement said (emphasis added).

The initial draft of the talking points written by the CIA referred to “attacks” carried out by “extremists with ties to al Qaeda.” However by the time Rice received them, “attacks” had changed to “demonstrations” and “with ties to al Qaeda” had been deleted, multiple U.S. sources have said.

A U.S. intelligence official said the CIA changed the reference to al Qaeda for “several valid intelligence and investigatory reasons.”

Among the reasons cited were that “the information about individuals linked to al Qaeda was derived from classified sources, and could not be corroborated at the unclassified level; the links were tenuous and therefore it made sense to be cautious before naming perpetrators; finally, no one wanted to prejudice a criminal investigation in its earliest stages.”

U.S. intelligence officials have denied that there was any intent to misinform. The White House has denied making the edits in the talking points, and had no further comment on the subject after the meeting.

–Tabassum Zakaria and Susan Cornwell (Reuters),”Controversy over Susan Rice’s Benghazi comments continues,” Christian Science Monitor, November 27, 2012.


The Observer’s conclusion, having followed the matter of the talking points rather closely, is that the intelligence agencies and the White House have been blowing smoke and using mirrors to hopelessly confuse the public with deliberately misleading or false versions given to different reporters by different background sources since the Benghazi talking points became a hot issue.

On the issue of whether Susan Rice misrepresented the facts known by the administration and by her regarding the nature of the attacks on the Benghazi mission and annex, it appears clear that she was handed deliberately misleading unclassified talking points that downplayed the al-Qaeda ties of the attackers, that she from her own intelligence briefings must have been aware of these ties, and that she deliberately and misleadingly stressed the spontaneous nature of the attacks and the fact they were carried out by individuals or groups of armed individuals (and not, by inference, by organizaed militias or jihadist forces).

She may have been trying, inartfully, to conceal the classified intelligence she had been instructed not to reveal.

But is is clear that she was sent to the five Sunday morning talk shows by the White House, for what we must assume was a particular purpose. That purpose it appears, until evidence to the contrary is made public, was to defuse the explosive issue of the failures at Benghazi and to minimize the impact of the Benghazi fiasco on President Obama’s prospects in the election. One way to do this was to downplay the al-Qaeda and terrorist ties of the attackers. In addition, an important goal must have been to draw attention away from the CIA black operation that was being carried out in Benghazi.

In saying what she said on the Sunday talk shows, there now can be little doubt that she was doing exactly what President Obama wanted her to do. She was and is a loyal, perhaps the closest and most loyal, foreign policy aide to President Obama, having been his primary advisor on foreign policy during the 2008 campaign, and by all reports maintaining a very close relationship with him since.

It seems clear that what Susan Rice said on the Sunday morning talk shows was exactly what President Obama and his campaign wanted her to say.

For that, she deserves credit, and if nominated to be Secretary of State one of her greatest qualifications will be that she has an extremely close relationship with the president, who can count on her to precisely carry out his instructions.

So, it appears that Obama and the Obama campaign did downplay the terrorism and al-Qaeda ties of those who attacked the mission and annex in Benghazi, and that they did so in part for quite natural political reasons, and also to distract attention from the true nature of the CIA’s activities in Benghazi.

So what?

Obama has now been reelected. So, where do we go from here?

It is important that all of the facts regarding the Benghazi attacks be made public as soon as possible, and not relegated to the eventual reports on what happened at Benghazi, which will undoubtedly be wrapped in legalese and, if the evolution of the Benghazi talking points offers any clue, will artfully obfuscate the most important points in disupute.

It is also important that President Obama be held accountable for any misrepresentations to the American people he may be responsible for. He needs to stop being so clever, and as David Ignatius has recommended in an illuminating article on “the Covert Commander in Chief”, come out from the shadows and lead the nation in the open, in the sunlight.

See David Ignatius, “The covert commander in chief,” Washington Post, September 10, 2011.

See also The Trenchant Observer, “U.S. Covert Action in Syria?—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #40 (May 22),” May 22, 2012.

We must assume that Obama has been directing the Benghazi CIA operation, and the administration’s response to the attacks on the Benghazi mission and annex on September 11. If this assumption is correct, Susan Rice’s appearances on September 16 on the Sunday talk shows can be viewed as the successful execution of the President’s instructions, to achieve his objectives.

The closing paragraphs of David Ignatius’ op-ed piece lay out the challenge which now faces the president if he is to have a successful second term:

Perhaps Obama’s comfort level with his intelligence role helps explain why he has done other parts of the job less well. He likes making decisions in private, where he has the undiluted authority of the commander in chief. He likes information, as raw and pertinent as possible, and he gets impatient listening to windy political debates. He likes action, especially when he doesn’t leave fingerprints.

What this president dislikes — and does poorly — is political bargaining. He’s as bad a dealmaker as, let’s say, George Smiley would be. If the rote political parts of his job sometimes seem uninteresting to him, maybe that’s because they seem trivial compared to the secret activities that he directs each morning. If only economic policy could be executed as coolly and cleanly as a Predator shot.

There is a seduction to the secret world, which for generations has charmed presidents and their advisers. It’s easier pulling the levers in the dark, playing the keys of what a CIA official once called the “mighty Wurlitzer” of covert action. Politics is a much messier process — out in the open, making deals with bullies and blowhards. But that’s the part of the job that Obama must learn to master if he wants another term.

On this anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, America is lucky to have a president who is adept at intelligence. But it needs, as well, a leader who can take the country out of the shadows and into the light.

Beyond the politics of the 2012 presidential campaign, when we get to the bottom of the Benghazi affair what we are likely to find is a covert operation that involved supplying weapons to the Syrian rebels, and which for some as yet unknown reason became the object of vicious armed attacks by one or more militias or other groups with ties to al Qaeda.  Tragically, the Benghazi fiasco resulted in the deaths of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

There is much to be learned from the multiple failures which occurred in Benghazi. To get to the bottom of things, however, President Obama and his admnistration need to stop blowing smoke and using mirrors in providing spurious information to reporters and the American people.

The Trenchant Observer

Die Zeit (Berlin): Military intervention in Syria is “absolutely essential”—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #79 (August 27, 2012)

Monday, August 27th, 2012

Latest Press Reports and Commentary

(1) Die Zeit (Berlin) reported on August 27, in an article by Martin Gehlen, that military intervention in Syria is “absolutely essential” (unverzichtbar).

Syria is on the way to Hell. With or without the U.N. Security Council, whether they want to risk it or not: the international community in the foreseeable future will have to intervene.

Gehlen reports that each day more horrible crimes are committed, as the number of refugees exceeds the capacity of neighboring states to absorb them–30,000 crossed the border last week alone. Some two million refugees are fleeing, both inside and outside the country, while hundreds of thousands of families are trapped between the front lines.

But above all, Gehlen asserts, it is the stocks of chemical weapons that will require intervention, if al-Assad uses them in the civil war, or to keep them from falling into the wrong hands. They cannot just be left to themselves.

The international community will also have to provide food and shelter for the refugees, who can’t just go home as their homes have been destroyed, together with their schools and their hospitals.

In the meantime, Gehlen writes, the United States, Turkey and France are preparing, for the first time, to establish limited no-fly zones. The United States is bringing into position special forces for chemical weapons, and planning large-scale distribution of food and medicines. What is clear, he concludes, is that whatever responsibilities for Syria may come to the international community, they will be more comprehensive, last much longer, and be far more costly than the 7,587 NATO air-raids against Libya.

See Martin Gehlen “Militäreinsatz: Ein Eingreifen in Syrien ist unverzichtbar; Die Zahl der Flüchtlinge steigt, Kämpfe eskalieren, Chemiewaffen drohen in falsche Hände zu geraten; Der Westen wird sich einer Intervention in Syrien bald nicht mehr entziehen können, Die Zeit, 27 August 2012.

(2) Meanwhile, French President François Hollande has asserted that the use of chemical weapons by al-Assad would justify a military attack. He also stated that he would recognize an interim government in Syria, once it is formed.

Le Monde et agences, “Pour Hollande, l’emploi d’armes chimiques légitimerait une intervention en Syrie,” Le Monde, 27 août 2012 (mis à jour à 19h18).

Steven Erlanger, “France Urges Syrian Opposition to Form New Government,” Mew York Times, August 27, 2012.

(3) Last week, on August 23, the Pentagon ordered one of its aircraft carriers, the USS Stennis, previously scheduled to be deployed in the Pacific, to return to the Persian Gulf in view of the situation in Iran and also that in Syria. The early deployment cut short short home leaves.

Panetta cited Iran’s nuclear program and its threats to oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz as two concerns the Stennis strike group could counter in the U.S. Central Command’s area of responsibility, which also includes Syria and Afghanistan.

U.S. attention on Syria is focused on providing humanitarian aid, monitoring chemical and biological weapon stockpiles, and offering non-lethal assistance to forces opposing President Bashar al-Assad, he said.

–Daniel Fineren(Dubai/Reuters), “U.S. sends aircraft carrier back to Gulf to face Iran, Syria; The U.S. Navy is cutting short home leave for the crew of one of its aircraft carriers and sending them back to the Middle East next week to counter any threat from Iran, according to the official Navy News Service,” Reuters, August 23, 2012.

(4) For insight into the thinking of Obama administration officials, see

Steven Lee Meyers and Scott Shane, “Risks of Syrian Intervention Limit Options for U.S., New York Times, August 21. 2012.

Meyers and Erlanger report,

The administration’s current policy involves intensifying diplomatic and economic pressure on Mr. Assad’s government through sanctions, offering humanitarian assistance to Syrians inside and outside the country, and providing $25 million in “nonlethal” help to Mr. Assad’s opponents, including more recently to members of the Free Syrian Army. That aid has paid for communication equipment to enable the armed and unarmed opposition to better coordinate their attacks and plans for taking power.

The administration has also ruled out providing arms to the rebels for broadly the same reason: more weapons, the officials say, would probably make the war only worse.

The idea that supplying more weapons for the rebels would make the war only worse, when they are being slaughtered by the instruments of war of a modern state including attack helicopters, jet fighters, artillery and tanks, while they themselves are running out of ammunition (as reported recently in Aleppo), is nothing short of obscene, revealing a callousness that is almost beyond belief.

That, however, is the policy of the American president, Barack Obama, and his foreign policy juggernaut, “the gang who couldn’t shoot straight.”

The Trenchant Observer

For links to other articles on Afghanistan by The Trenchant Observer, click on the title at the top of this page to go to the home page, and then type in “Afghanistan” in the search box.

UN report charges al-Assad regime with crimes against humanity—Obama’s debacle in Syria — Update #75 (August 15)

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

The UN Commission of Inquiry has just filed an updated report on the atrocities in Syria, finding the government has committed the wide-scale and planned commission of crimes against humanity, and also finding the rebels have committed war crimes.

See the following news reports and a link to the report itself:

Luke Harding, Julian Borger and agencies (Damascus), “Houla killings: UN blames Syria troops and militia; UN report says Syria government forces and Shabiha fighters have carried out war crimes and violated human rights,” The Guardian, August 15, 2012 (13:56 EDT).

Stephanie Nebehay (Reuters/Geneva), “Syrian government forces, rebels committing war crimes: U.N;” Reuters, August 15, 2012 (2:40 p.m. EDT).

Nargiza Ryskulova, and agencies, “Syria: war crimes committed by regime in Houla, UN finds The Syrian army and allied Shabiha militia have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder and torture, United Nations human rights investigators have concluded,” The Telegraph, August 15, 2012 (3:42 BST).

“Syrian Government and opposition forces responsible for war crimes – UN panel,” UN News Centre, August 15, 2012.

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, “Syrian Government forces and anti-Government groups responsible for war crimes:
UN Commission of Inquiry, News Release, August 15, 2012.

Report of the independent international commission of inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, U.N. Doc. C/A/HR21/50, August 15, 2012 (text of the report). The link to the report is found in the “Documents” section of the page.

The Trenchant Observer

Border tensions with Turkey rise; 190 killed on Thursday, al-Assad defiant, P5 + 4 to meet in Geneva on Saturday—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #57

Saturday, June 30th, 2012

On Thursday, the number of killed in Syria reached an all-time high for the year, at 190 dead, according to the New York Times:

Tallies by Syrian opposition groups that track casualties reported on Friday that the previous day’s death toll had reached 190 from violence in towns and cities throughout the country. The counts were detailed but could not be confirmed independently.

The largest number was concentrated in the Damascus suburb of Douma, an insurgent enclave about eight miles northwest of the capital, according to reports from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a group based in Britain, and the Local Coordination Committees, a Syrian-based group.

A spokesman for the Syrian Observatory said the death toll on Thursday was the worst of any single day this year, with 125 confirmed civilian fatalities as well as the deaths of 65 fighters reported but under investigation. The observatory considers a death confirmed when videotape or other documentary evidence identifying the victim is received.

The coordination committees, which uses similar methodology but acts independently, reported 139 civilian deaths on Thursday.

–Rod Norland and Rick Gladstone, “Syrian Groups Say Violent Day Left High Civilian Toll,” The New York Times, June 29. 2012.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov in St. Petersburg to discuss Syria, on the eve of a conference to be attended by the five permanent members of the Security Council (China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, and United States) plus Turkey, Iraq, Kuwait and Qatar. The conference is to discuss plans for a transition in Syria put together by Kofi Annan, the joint special envoy of the United Nations and the Arab League.

See “Syria conflict: Russia-US still split ahead of talks; Areas of “difficulty and difference” remain between Russia and the US ahead of key talks on the crisis in Syria, a US official says,” BBC News, June 29, 2012.

Amid intensifying fighting on the ground in Syria, both Turkey and Syria were reportedly moving forces toward their border. The Turks were reported to be placing air defenses near the border, while easing the rules of engagement for the use of force by their military in response to provocations from Syria. Opposition sources reported the movement of Syrian forces to within 20 miles of the border, but were unclear as to their intentions.

See Khaled Yacoub Oweis (Antakya, Turkey/Reuters), “Turkey reinforces border: Assad’s helicopters hammer northern Syria (+video); Turkey reinforced its border with missile batteries Thursday. Syrian tanks massed 20 miles from the border with Turkey. Helicopters attacked Saraqeb, Syria,” The Christian Science Monitor, June 29, 2012.

Russia, after initially accepting a formulation by Kofi Annan that would in effect exclude al-Assad from a transitional government, reversed course. Differences were to be worked out in Clinton’s meeting with Lavrov in St. Petersburg Friday, but a meeting of the minds reportedly did not occur.

Khaled Yacoub Oweis of Reuters reported,

Ahead of Saturday’s meeting, Russia proposed changes to Annan’s plan for a national unity government in Syria, despite initially supporting it, but the United States, Britain and France rejected the amendments, Western diplomats said.

Russia and the other permanent U.N. Security Council members told Annan this week they supported a transitional cabinet that could include government and opposition members but would “exclude … those whose continued presence and participation would undermine the credibility of the transition and jeopardise stability and reconciliation,” according to Annan’s proposal.

Diplomats told Reuters that Annan’s idea of excluding certain people was clearly referring to Assad.

Although Russia signaled to Annan this week that his plan was acceptable, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reversed course on Thursday, diplomats said. Diplomats said the Russians demanded that Annan remove from his proposal the language about excluding people from a Syrian national unity government.

In Damascus, Bashar al-Assad defiantly asserted that no solution would be imposed by outside powers, friendly or not, and that he would “annihilate” the “terrorist” groups that were causing the civil strife in Syria.

See “Assad Rejects External Solution for Crisis,” BBC News, June 29, 2012.

Moscow probably does not have the leverage over al-Assad to force him to stand down immediately, though if they quit supplying him with weapons, intelligence and money, and joined the civilized countries of the world in imposing strict economic sanctions on Syria under a Security Council resolution under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter, they could certainly speed his departure.

What may be required, however, as we suggested in April, is that al-Assad will have to be taken down like a mad dog.  That will require military intervention, with or without Security Council authorization.

As for Kofi Annan and his conference, reports of the reversal of the Russian position regarding a fundamental point, which was a precondition for attendance at the conference, confirm that Russia cannot be trusted, and/or that Annan cannot shoot straight when trying to pull off one of his mediation initiatives. His mission should be ended at the earliest opportunity.

Instead of passing messages through Annan, who obviously has a large ego investment in the success of his mediation and has also shown himself to be pliant to Russian demands, the United States and Russia would do better to set up a small working group of their own within the framework of the Security Council, where representatives of the two countries can deal directly with each other.

Annan is quoted in the media as saying that he is “optimistic” that the talks on Saturday at the conference will produce a “satisfactory outcome”. For Kofi Annan, it seems that almost any outcome would be “satisfactory” as long as it kept him and his mediation operation in business.

What Syria needs, however, is an outcome that is “satisfactory” because it stops the atrocities.

The Trenchant Observer

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

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)

Saturday, May 26th, 2012

Reuters (Beirut)–“This morning U.N. military and civilian observers went to Houla and counted more than 32 children under the age of 10 and over 60 adults killed,” the head of U.N. team monitoring the ceasefire – which has yet to take hold – said.

Reuters has reported on more of the chilling details of the massacre at Houla, quoting Major General Robert Mood, the head of the UNSMIS monitor mission in Syria, as follows:

(Reuters) – The United Nations said on Saturday that more than 92 people were killed in what activists described as an artillery barrage by government forces in the worst violence since the start of a U.N. peace plan to slow the flow of blood in Syria’s uprising.

The bloodied bodies of children, some with their skulls split open, were shown in footage posted to YouTube purporting to show the victims of the shelling in the central town of Houla on Friday. The sound of wailing filled the room.

The carnage underlined just how far Syria is from any negotiated path out of the 14-month-old revolt against President Bashar al-Assad.

“This morning U.N. military and civilian observers went to Houla and counted more than 32 children under the age of 10 and over 60 adults killed,” the head of U.N. team monitoring the ceasefire – which has yet to take hold – said.

“The observers confirmed from examination of ordinances the use of artillery tank shells,” Major General Robert Mood said in a statement, without elaborating. “Whoever started, whoever responded and whoever carried out this deplorable act of violence should be held responsible.

–Joseph Logan (Beirut), “U.N. says over 92 killed in Syria, 32 of them children,” Reuters, May 26, 2012 (5:15 p.m. EDT)..”

What will move the international community, or one or two leading nations, to act? That is the question. The foreign ministers of the U.K. and France are reported to be pushing for action.

The events in Syria are the shame of the world.

This shame is far greater, by orders of magnitude, for countries like the United States which have had the power to act but have failed to do so, because President Obama doesn’t want to get involved in Syria before the presidential elections, “regardless of the consequences”.

Well, these are the consequences.

The country which led the victorious struggle against Nazism in Europe and Japanese imperialism in Asia during World War II, from 1941-1945, refuses to act openly to halt the crimes against humanity and war crimes that are being committed every day in Syria.

Surely, this is one of the darkest pages in America’s history.

The only hope for Syria’s people and the international community is that leadership may emerge from some other quarter, from some country other than the United States. As we wrote at a critical turning point in the Libyan conflict, when the U.S. was looking away in a manner similar to the way it is looking away from Syria today,

Today (March 10, 2011) is a sad day for the Observer, as America abdicates its moral leadership in world affairs by adopting the role of mere spectator of the life-and-death struggle for freedom in Libya. Having boldly stated that Qaddafi has to go, President Obama has now taken to the sidelines as Moammar Qaddafi’s murderous regime commits torture, war crimes, and crimes against humanity in its no-holds-barred battle to retain power.

President Obama, timorous, a prisoner of his own intellectual analytics and lack of prior foreign policy experience, doesn’t take sides when it comes time to act in the struggle for freedom around the world.

It is a sad day not only for the Observer, but also for all of those around the world who believe American foreign policy should be guided by more than 19th century Realpolitik and Staatsräson (Reason of State), for all those who are attracted to the ideals embodied in the American Revolution and America’s two centuries of constitutional government under the rule of law.

For days, the administration has been signaling its unwillingness to act….

History may well mark the month of March, 2011 as the decisive turning point in America’s leadership in world affairs. America has always been more than a state pursuing its self-interests. That era now seems past, at least under Democratic presidential leadership.

The world will take note. Tyrants will relax. As Qaddafi loudly proclaims, they have nothing to fear from the United States, NATO or the United Nations.

Without American leadership, the world will go adrift. The consequences are likely to be enormous and unpredictable.

Despite its cynical record of dealings with dictatorships in the past, it is now to France, that other beacon of human liberty–since the Enlightenment, the French Revolution, and the defeat of Fascism in 1945 (made possible only with American help), that advocates of democracy and freedom must look.

If America does not want to be a champion of liberty, at least the French, drawing on their own deep traditions, have a possibility of articulating a clear moral vision that might guide us forward toward achievement of the goals of democracy and the rule of law which so many have fought for, at such great sacrifice, for over 70 years.

One of the saddest vignettes from the last few days has been President Obama’s intellectually arrogant and factually incorrect declaration that most revolutions succeed because they come from within and do not rely on outside help. That would come as quite a surprise to George Washington and the Marquis de la Fayette.

–The Trenchant Observer, “Libya—America Abdicates Global Leadership in Struggle for Democracy,” March 10, 2011.

In addition to France, a second beacon of human liberty, throughout the centuries, has been Great Britain.

It is now to France and to Great Britain, and perhaps to some other country that wants to assume the mantle of leadership in the struggle for liberty in the world, that we must look for leadership to stop the atrocities in Syria, and to open a path toward a transition to democracy in that country.

The Trenchant Observer

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

Syrian fighting spills over into Lebanon, threatening stability there—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #42 (May 24)

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

[developing story–check back for updates)

Latest News and Opinion
Victor Kotsev, “Syria and Lebanon stare into the abyss,” Asia Times Online, May 24, 2012. (comprehensive overview and analysis)

Dominic Evans (Reuters/Beirut), “Syria violence shakes Lebanon’s fragile stability; Gunmen clash in deadly street battles, protesters block roads with burning tires and opposition politicians demand the prime minister’s downfall, denouncing the army as an agent of a foreign power,” May 23, 2012 (9:26am EDT).

The Trenchant Observer