Posts Tagged ‘Syrian National Council’

Republican Senator John McCain Urges U.S. Military Attacks to Halt Atrocities in Syria—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #3 (March 5)

Monday, March 5th, 2012

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


“Therefore, at the request of the Syrian National Council, the Free Syrian Army, and Local Coordinating Committees inside the country, the United States should lead an international effort to protect key population centers in Syria, especially in the north, through airstrikes on Assad’s forces. To be clear: This will require the United States to suppress enemy air defenses in at least part of the country.”

Senator John McCain (R-Arizona), Speech on the floor of the Senate, March 5, 2012. The full text of the speech is found here.

Senator John McCain, the 2008 Republican candidate for the presidency of the U.S., called today in a forceful speech for U.S. bombing of Syria to halt the commission of crimes against humanity, war crimes, and other grave violations of fundamental human rights.

“What opposition groups in Syria need most urgently is relief from Assad’s tank and artillery sieges in the many cities that are still contested. Homs is lost for now, but Idlib, and Hama, and Qusayr, and Deraa, and other cities in Syria could still be saved. But time is running out. Assad’s forces are on the march. Providing military assistance to the Free Syrian Army and other opposition groups is necessary, but at this late hour, that alone will not be sufficient to stop the slaughter and save innocent lives. The only realistic way to do so is with foreign airpower.

“Therefore, at the request of the Syrian National Council, the Free Syrian Army, and Local Coordinating Committees inside the country, the United States should lead an international effort to protect key population centers in Syria, especially in the north, through airstrikes on Assad’s forces. To be clear: This will require the United States to suppress enemy air defenses in at least part of the country.

“The ultimate goal of airstrikes should be to establish and defend safe havens in Syria, especially in the north, in which opposition forces can organize and plan their political and military activities against Assad. These safe havens could serve as platforms for the delivery of humanitarian and military assistance – including weapons and ammunition, body armor and other personal protective equipment, tactical intelligence, secure communications equipment, food and water, and medical supplies. These safe havens could also help the Free Syrian Army and other armed groups in Syria to train and organize themselves into more cohesive and effective military forces, likely with the assistance of foreign partners.

Noting that the U.S. and many other countries appear to be hedging their bets on Syria, unsure whether Al-Assad will prevail, McCain criticized the utter passivity and lack of contingency planning in NATO and other countries, in the folllowing terms:

“The rhetoric out of NATO has been much more self-defeating. Far from making it clear to Assad that all options are on the table, key alliance leaders are going out of their way to publicly take options off the table. Last week, the Secretary-General of NATO, Mr. Rasmussen, said that the alliance has not even discussed the possibility of NATO action in Syria – saying, quote, ‘I don’t envision such a role for the alliance.’ The following day, the Supreme Allied Commander, Admiral James Stavridis, testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee that NATO has done no contingency planning – none – for potential military operations in Syria.

“That is not how NATO approached Bosnia. Or Kosovo. Or Libya. Is it now the policy of NATO – or the United States, for that matter – to tell the perpetrators of mass atrocities, in Syria or elsewhere, that they can go on killing innocent civilians by the hundreds or thousands, and the greatest alliance in history will not even bother to conduct any planning about how we might stop them? Is that NATO’s policy now? Is that our policy? Because that is the practical effect of this kind of rhetoric. It gives Assad and his foreign allies a green light for greater brutality.

“Not surprisingly, many countries, especially Syria’s neighbors, are also hedging their bets on the outcome in Syria. They think Assad will go, but they are not yet prepared to put all of their chips on that bet – even less so now that Assad’s forces have broken Homs and seem to be gaining momentum. There is only one nation that can alter this dynamic, and that is us. The President must state unequivocally that under no circumstances will Assad be allowed to finish what he has started, that there is no future in which Assad and his lieutenants will remain in control of Syria, and that the United States is prepared to use the full weight of our airpower to make it so (emphasis added).  It is only when we have clearly and completely committed ourselves that we can expect other countries to do the same. Only then would we see what is really possible in winning international support to stop the killing in Syria .”

Obama’s debacle in Syria has entered the 2012 presidential campaign.

Obama appears vulnerable on foreign policy issues. His bet that he could keep Afghanistan out of the election is looking increasingly dubious, as more and more Afghan military and police turn their guns on their U.S. and ISAF partners, and kill them. The assumptions on which the Afghan strategy are based–that we can hand over the military battle with the Taliban and other insurgent groups to the Afghan military and police, and that these will perform effectively and in a loyal manner under central government control–seems fatally flawed.

Obama, to some extent at least, has also left himself open to charges from the Republicans that through his inept diplomacy and failure to secure a status of forces agreement and other transitional arrangements with the government of Iraq, U.S. military forces were driven into a precipitous departure, leaving the future of Iraq very much in doubt, with the Shiite dominated government in Bagdad very much in danger of falling under the influence of the Shiite regime in Iran.

Meanwhile, Obama’s famous “reset” of the U.S.-Russian relationship has failed, spectacularly, as Moscow provides arms and ammunition, and most probably intelligence and other support, to al-Assad, enabling the continuing and wanton commission of crimes against humanity and war crimes thoughout Syria.

Unforeseen events, such as an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, could trigger events that cause the Middle East to spin out of control. It is entirely conceivable that Obama could lose the presidency in significant part because of his foreign policy failures.

The Trenchant Observer

Syria: The Human Cost of Delay

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

An editorial today in The Daily Star (Beirut) reviewed the major developments and factors at play in Syria, including

1) the report of the Arab League monitors to be issued this weekend;
2) the UN offer to help enhance the performance of the Arab League monitors;
3) the emir of Qatar’s suggestion that sending Arab troops to stop the killing could be a viable option;
4) the Syrian government has informally floated a proposal to form a new government including key representation for the opposition, which would split the latter; and
5) the Syrian National Council and the Syrian Free Army have announced closer cooridnation of their efforts, which are aimed at toppling the al-Assad regime.

Against this background, the Editorial pointed to the human and social cost of delay:

Throughout all these developments, there is a common thread: None of these actions, or possibilities of action, has been able to stop the daily killing of Syrian citizens. A number of foreign actors are studying the situation and issuing daily pronouncements, assessments and ultimatums (emphasis added). None of them has managed to convince Assad and other Syrian officials that a hard-line crackdown is the wrong approach. The body count continues to rise on a daily basis, in a war of attrition between the regime and its opponents that only means average Syrians are being steadily ground down.

With each passing day, the violence continues, as the social fabric of Syria unravels. Every day, thousands of ordinary Syrians take stances on the popular uprising, whether for or against, and alienate the other side. When the crisis ends, huge efforts will be required to put the country and its economy back together again.

It is positive to see officials in the U.N. and leading countries in the world, and the region debate the various scenarios and try to produce a workable plan. But their timeframe is not indefinite; every passing day means more damage, and a bigger hole to dig out of.

–Editorial, The Daily Star, January 18, 2011

We are faced once again by the sharp disparity between diplomatic time and the real-world time of citizens who are living and dying every day as the result of government repression. In Libya, many of the citizens of Zawiya and Misurata died while outside powers engaged in long and drawn-out diplomatic consultations and deliberations.

Russia continues to block any forceful action by the Security Council.

See “Russia threatens Syria resolution at UN: Sergei Lavrov also accused Western countries of being one-sided,” BBC, January 18, 2012.

But Western Nations have also shown a great unwillingness to expose the callousness of the authoritarian regime of Mededev-Putin in defending the war criminals in Syria. Just this week, a Russian ship reportedly bearing munitions for the Syrian regime docked in Syria.

On January 9, Rami Khoury, a leading columnist for the Daily Star, underlined the positive aspects of the Arab League’s involvement in Syria, while also pointing toward the next steps which are urgent. Wrote Khoury:

The monitoring mission in Syria has been unimpressive due to a combination of logistical constraints and management weaknesses. This reflects the two structural sources of its weakness: the Arab League, being a collection of Arab governments, suffers chronic incompetence; and the Syrian government does not seem to be serious about implementing its agreement with the Arab body, which requires it to stop killing peaceful demonstrators.

Sadly, Syrians struggling for their freedom and rights will continue to die by the dozens every day, it seems, until some other mechanism is found that forces the government to end its policy of mass murder.

The weakness of the monitoring mechanism to date could be offset by the determination of the Arab League to go to the next step and take the issue to the U.N. Security Council or even seek indictments of Syrian officials at the International Criminal Court. Neither of those options guarantees that the killing will stop, or that Syrians can expect a peaceful transition to a democratic system of government. Yet for the Arab League to embark on a path that ultimately leads to these two bodies is a novelty worth monitoring.

–Rami Khoury, “A hopeful path for the Arab League?” The Daily Star, January 9, 2012

It is now time fror the Arab League to refer the question of Syria to Security Council for further action, which could include enlisting the Arab League’s assistance in carrying out its decisions under article 53 of the U.N. Charter.

Khoury’s second action item, a decision by the Security Council to invest the International Criminal Court with authority to investigate and prosecute the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity by the al-Assad regime and any other forces in Syria, is long overdue.

On December 12, 2012, Navi Pillay, the U.N. Commisioner for Human Rights, called for the Security Council to grant authority to the ICC to investigate and try Syrian officials potentially guilty of crimes against humanity.

Ian Black, Middle East editor, “”Syria blasts call for ICC investigation by UN human rights commissioner: State TV blames ‘conspiracy’ against Bashar al-Assad’s regime after Navi Pillay says situation in Syria is intolerable,” The Guardian, December 13, 2012.

AP, “Syria: 5,000 dead in violence, says UN human rights chief: Navi Pillay says at least 300 children are among the dead as US ambassador Susan Rice urges security council to act,” The Guardian, December 12, 2011. The article contains a video of remarks made by her at at a press conference the U.N.

“Refer Syria to ICC – Navi Pillay, ” Tamil Guardian, 13 December 2011 The article contains excerpts from her remarks to a closed session of the Security Council.

So, as Syria spirals downward toward all-out civil war, what can be done?

It is time for Western and Arab governments to stop wringing their hands over their powerlessness, and to bring a motion in the Security Council to authorize the International Criminal Court to investigate and prosecute the commission of crimes against humanity and war crimes in Syria by al-Asad and government forces, or anyone else. That motion should be put to a public vote.

The argument against going public would be that it undermines efforts to develop a consensus among the permanent members of the Security Council, without which it cannot act. However, in view of Foreign Minister Lavrov’s declarations today, as reported by the BBC, any consensus among the five on Syria is not likely to develop in the short term. In fact, to get the Russians to stop blocking action on Syria at some point in the future, public pressure on them in the Security Council now, in the context of specific reolutions, could be the most effective action the West and the Arab states could take.

At the same time, neither the Russians nor the Chinese should be ignored at the Security Council, and intense efforts should continue to bring them, and Russia in particular, to the view that avoiding a civil war in Syria is in their interests as well as those of the West and the Arab countries.

The hour has come for urgent action by the international community on Syria. If necessary, let us have a public debate in the Security Council on a motion to refer the question of crimes against humanity and war crimes to the International Criminal Court.

Western and Arab nations should spare no efforts in convincing each and every one of the other members of the Security Council of the importance of each country’s vote.

If the Russians want to veto that resolution, let them do so publicly, and pay the diplomatic and political cost. The time to act is now, before Putin’s anticipated re-election as president of Russia in March.

The Trenchant Observer