Posts Tagged ‘UNSMIS’

Grave errors, repeated? The United States, France, the U.K. and Kofi Annan’s successor; Latest developments on UNSMIS, Joint Special Envoy—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #76 (August 16) Revised 20:00 GMT

Thursday, August 16th, 2012

Updated August 16 at 20:00 GMT

Latest Developments:
– U.N. Security Council allows UNSMIS mission to end on August 19
– Russia pushes hard to continue mission of Joint Special Envoy, convoking meeting on August 17 of Syria Action Group (from Geneva conference convoked by Kofi Annan and held on June 30).
– Statements by Security Council President Gérard Araud (France) and Vitaly I. Churkin (Russian Federation) at Media Stakeout following August 16 Security Council meeting (video)
– Daily Star editorial on distraction of naming successor to Kofi Annan
– Sources report Brahimi has accepted appointment as Joint Special Envoy


Editorial, “Poor substitute,” The Daily Star, August 11, 2012.

“Algeria’s Brahimi agrees to be new Syria mediator-sources,” The Daily Star, August 16, 2012 (09:59 PM).

SC President, Gérard Araud (France) on Syria – Security Council Media Stakeout (16 August 2012)16 Aug 2012 – Press Statement and informal comments to the media by H. E. Mr. Gérard Araud, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations and President of the Security Council for the month of August 2012 on the situation in Syria.

Vitaly I. Churkin (Russian Federation) on Syria – Security Council media Stakeout (16 August 2012)
16 Aug 2012 – Informal comments to the media by H.E. Mr. Vitaly I. Churkin, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation on the situation in Syria.

Edmund Mullet on Syria – Security Council Media Stakeout (16 August 2012)
16 Aug 2012 – Informal comments to the media by the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Edmund Mullet on the situation in Syria.


The United States, France and Great Britain: Fatuity as Foreign Policy

Syria shows us how the world is adrift.

The leaders of the three Permanent Members of the U.N. Security Council not supporting the Syrian government’s atrocities, the defenders of freedom in the world, as it were, are on vacation or otherwise out to lunch. Some, such as Obama, checked out a long time ago.

No one in the foreign offices of these three countries with the power of decision could have paid close attention to the events that have occurred in Syria and in the capitals of the five permanent members of the Council, and logically and in good faith support a new mission by a new special envoy to mediate or negotiate (or ingratiate himself toward) a solution to the Syrian crisis.

All of the diplomatic camouflage deployed by Russia and China has now been stripped away. The reasons they adduce for their actions are specious, dishonest arguments demonstrably lacking in candor and persuasive force.

What Russia and China stand for is the right of any government to wipe out its opposition, as Vladimir Putin did in Chechnya, and as China stands ready to do in Tibet, or with the Uigurs. They stand for the right of a dictatorship to annihilate its opponents, even when these begin by peaceful means, through the commission of crimes against humanity and war crimes. They stand for the proposition that a dictatorship has the right to bomb hospitals, and to use artillery and other heavy weapons, and even jet fighters to bombard civilian neighborhoods without discrimination between  military and civilian targets, or even with the full intention to kill or massacre civilians.

They each stand for the continuing right of any (friendly) dictatorship to undertake the brutal crimes against humanity and war crimes which each in its own history has itself committed in the past.

Here is the critical point: Both Russia and China argue not only that they had the right to commit these crimes in the past, but that they have a continuing right to repeat such crimes in the future, if necessary, without the international community having any right to intervene–even with economic sanctions–to halt such crimes.

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

But what of the countries whose histories and whose constitutions say they stand for liberty, and which have fought wars in defense of that liberty, including World War II?

Where do they stand?

Well, they don’t stand. They are on vacation. It is not a matter of convincing them by logic that they should intervene to halt al-Assad’s atrocities. It is simply that they don’t care.

They don’t care enough to pay attention.

They weren’t awake when Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov showed up with Kofi Annan at the meeting of the Arab League in Cairo on March 10 and somehow secured their acquiescence in a five-point plan which included a ban or foreign military intervention to stop the killing, which then became Kofi Annan’s 6-point plan.

They weren’t awake to observe how Kofi Annan’s mission played into the hands of the Russians and al-Assad’s regime in Damascus, among other reasons because it put all the cards in the hands of the Dictator and his Russian and Chinese backers, and imposed no costs for dithering and interminable delays while he killed thousands of his citizens.

And now, after the total, complete, absolute failure of Kofi Annan’s mission and the 6-point peace plan, they stand poised to “go along” with Ban Ki-Moon’s appointment of a “replacement” for Kofi Annan following his resignation.

They are not paying attention to the fact that the term of Kofi Annan’s mandate ends in August, and that Ban Ki-Moon by pliantly acceding to the pressures from Russia and China to quickly appoint a successor to Annan is by a sleight-of-hand finessing the more fundamental question of whether a new special envoy should be appointed at all.

By this slight-of-hand, Ban Ki-Moon is serving the interests of the Russians and the Chinese, with Kofi Annan in the background orchestrating things, including the selection of his successor as joint special envoy who he himself picked.

Logically, one would examine the record of Kofi Annan and the reasons he failed to end the civil war in Syria. Then one would ask whether the factors which caused him to fail, and indeed which caused his mission to be doomed from inception, still obtain.

Then, and importantly, a Security Council resolution would be adopted setting out the terms of reference for the new special envoy.  The idea being tossed around the Security Council that a presidential statement would be sufficient is legally deficient. If a new special envoy is to have a mission that goes to the very heart of the council’s responsibility to maintain international peace and security, it must surely be authorized by a resolution of the Security Council.

The Council cannot delegate its responsibilities by a non-binding “presidential statement”, but rather can do so only by a resolution adopted in accordance with the U.N. Charter.

The issuance of “presidential statements” on Syria by the Security Council during the last year has only served to confuse and misrepresent to the public that something has been done when, legally speaking, no action has been taken. This pattern should not be repeated here.

Only after these steps would the envoy actually be appointed, in the event the process advanced this far.

Are we to believe that Lakhdar Brahimi or whoever may be named as the new special envoy will halt the fighting in Syria, when none of the external factors have changed, e.g., the Russians and the Chinese remain intransigently opposed to any reasonable, effective action by the Security Council such as that proposed in draft security council resolution S/2012/538?

Are we to believe that anything Bashar al-Assad agrees to will have any meaning, any significance whatsoever, in view of his very recent track record?

What, precisely, could we expect any new special envoy to achieve, other than to distract the attention of the world from al-Assad’s ongoing atrocities on the ground, as Kofi Annan did, focusing the media attention of the world on the UN special envoy and whatever proposals he comes up with, and whatever the Russians say they will accept, or won’t accept, or whatever Bashar al-Assad says he will accept, or won’t accept?

Haven’t the leaders of the United States, the United Kingdom and France learned anything from the fiasco of Kofi Annan’s mission, at a cost of over 10,000 Syrian lives?

Is it conscionable, after this abysmal failure, to repeat the same basic mistake again?

The mistake involves negotiating with Bashar al-Assad while he is committing crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The mistake involves negotiating with the Syrian Dictator, when we know beyond any doubt that his agreement to any provision would be utterly worthless.

Further efforts at mediation will cost time, and thousands of more Syrian lives.  Do we have the moral right to contribute to the loss of those lives, by throwing a rope to a Dictator whose government may be crumbling, as the former prime minister of Syria, who recently defected, has asserted?

The last 17 months have taken place.  The events during this period are now historical facts.  Upwards of 20,000 civilians have been killed in Syria, in large part due to the inaction of the United States, France and the United Kingdom, and their allies and friends. These are facts. Those who have died cannot be brought back.

Is it morally defensible, or defensible on the international political plane, to offer as an excuse for going along with Ban Ki-Moon’s appointment of a successor to Kofi Annan–a successor selected and recommended by Kofi Annan himself!–the fact that they are on vacation, or didn’t have time to pay attention?

History will be the judge, and the judgment is likely to be very harsh indeed.

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 handcorner of the home page. The Articles on Syria page can also be found here. The Articles on Targeted Killings page can also be found here.

Ban Ki-Moon’s unceremonious dismissal of General Robert Hood; SG on verge of disastrous appointment of successor to Kofi Annan—Obama’s debacle in Syria — Update #73 (August 10)

Friday, August 10th, 2012

The mediation mission of Kofi Annan has turned into a hydra-headed monster that the United States, France and the United Kingdom do not seem to have the courage to slay as it begins to rise up again, out of the the smoldering ashes of Kofi Annan’s total defeat, his total failure, as U.N.-Arab Joint Special Envoy.

The mediation mission of Kofi Annan directly served the interests of the Russians and the Bashar al-Assad regime itself, by endlessly proposing empty rhetorical solutions to the Syrian conflict, “castles in the sky” which were beautiful indeed and elicited universal approval, but which were not accompanied by any practical steps or path for their achievement in reality. It was, as we observed, as if the nations of the world became ectstatic over the fact that they had achieved complete unity, on the proposition that all points on a circle are equidistant from the center.

But “Kofi Annan’s triumph”, the mediation mission and its oversized staff and budget, has acquired life and the kind of blind bureaucratic momentum that keeps new offices and missions moving in the U.N. without the intervention of human thought.  It represents the creation of what amounts to a second secretary general’s office in Geneva charged with mediating in Syria, to be sure, but also keeping high-ranking diplomats employed, a total of some seventeen staff, at U.N. salary rates for an Undersecretary ($189,000 tax-free), two  Assistant Secretaries ($172,000 each, tax-free) and other U.N. diplomats of high rank to assist these principal figures.

A successor to Kofi Annan, and this mighty staff based on Geneva, would help ensure that the U.N. Special Envoy and his operation will remain at the center of international decision-making on Syria, sucking up the world’s media attention as it did when Annan was leading the operation, to the exclusion even of coverage of events on the ground.

It represents Russia’s attempt to get back in the game, after blocking all efforts at effective Security Council action. Without the Joint Special Envoy and his operation, and UNSMIS, the Russians become largely irrelevant as the locus of decision making shifts away from the Security Council–for at least so long as al-Assad’s butchery continues.

We have seen how the Joint Special Envoy’s enterprise was used to do the Russians’ bidding, and to set loose unaccountable U.N. diplomats on an endless quest to, among other things, maintain their own salaries and positions, even if that involved attempting to drag Iran into the existing mess.

Kofi Annan failed. Absolutely. His mediation mission produced nothing. Absolutely nothing. It dragged out the period of time in which the world’s nations stood by, paralyzed by false promises and false hopes. Thousands, certainly over 10,000, were killed in Syria as a result.

Kofi Annan’s mission achieved one key objective for the Russians: it succeeded in forestalling any forceful military action by outside countries that might have actually brought al-Assad’s atrocities to a halt.

The mission was premised on the assumption that if Bashar al-Assad were to agree to a peace plan, or to anything for that matter, that agreement would have some value, that it would mean something. However, even in February, it was already quite clear from the failed Arab League peace mission in 2011 that this assumption was utterly flawed.

Kofi Annan’s greatest and most shameful failure was that after it had become manifest that al-Assad would not honor the 6-point peace plan to which he had agreed, Annan did not report back to the Security Council on the failure of his mission. Instead, he continued to negotiate, to waste time, to blind the world community with the beauty of his “palaces in the sky”, while al-Assad continued to use his tanks, his artillery, and his army to massacre the civilian population of Syria. Kofi Annan constantly held out the hope of some agreement, as he negotiated with a war criminal who was committing war crimes and crimes against humanity against his people every day.

As if this shame were not enough, Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon responded quickly to the Russian entreaties that a successor to Kofi Annan be named as soon as possible. The Russians pushed hard for this, while the Americans did not think clearly and did not strongly oppose this action, which today is reported to be imminent.

All of this is being done without any public discussion or analysis or apparent thought, other than to satisfy the demands of the Russians and the Chinese, whose interest in forestalling effective action by the Security Council–or by anyone else–has been demonstrated beyond the slightest doubt.

Ban Ki-Moon’s appointment of Kofi Annan as Joint Special Envoy was one of the greatest blunders in modern U.N. history. Now, this idea, which is based on the assumption that agreement with al-Assad on anything would have meaning, and the fundamentally flawed concept that it is OK to negotiate with a war criminal while he is committing war crimes and crimes against humanity, is on the verge of a second incarnation with the appointment of a new Joint Special Envoy.

We have spoken before of the folly of subsuming the voices of the Arab countries in the person of a Joint U.N.-Arab League Special Envoy. There is absolutely no objective benefit to be derived by dragging the Arab League into this appointment, which only gives the Arab League an excuse for doing nothing. The Arab countries that make up the League of Arab States have a role to play through that organization, as well as outside of it. Their voices should not be stifled again with another appointment of a “Joint Special Envoy”.

Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon is turning out to be a disaster in his leadership on the Syrian issue. Not only did he initially appoint Kofi Annan, as the outcome of a secretive process the details of which were never made clear, but he also dismissed General Robert Hood unceremoniously at the end of the first 90 days of his contract as commander of UNSMIS. This he did without a word of thanks that reached the world’s attention. Nor did he explain why Hood was fired (technically, he didn’t offer Hood an extension of his contract, without explanation, which amounted to the same thing).

We speculated earlier about the possibility that Hood was replaced for standing up too energetically for the security of his monitors, and ordering them to stand down because of both security concerns and the impossibility of monitoring a non-existent truce. Hood’s replacement, Lieutenant General Babacar Gaye, suddenly appeared on the scene in Damascus on July 30 together with Hervé Ladsous, U.N. Assistant Secretary for Peacekeeping, and promptly ordered patrols by the UNSMIS observers. He was never properly introduced, and details of his background and why he was chosen to replace Hood were never provided in a way that caught the attention of the world’s press.

See “In wake of field visit in Syria, head of UN observers voices concern over Aleppo,” UN News Centre, July 30, 2012.

Lieutenant General Babacar Gaye, Press conference in Damascus, July 30, 2012, Prepared Statement.

See also Executive Summary, “Report of the Independent Panel on the Safety and Security of the UN Personnel in Iraq,” 20 October 2003

The manner in which Ban Ki-Moon replaced General Robert Hood as head of UNSMIS, in view of his distinguished and courageous service, was shameful and scandalous. The way the Secretary General is now proceeding to appoint a successor to Kofi Annan without public discussion, without an open discussion in the Security Council, is equally scandalous.

Why the Obama administration would go along with this move, which is so clearly contrary to its interests and those of all the countries which are willing to act to halt the atrocities in Syria, is just one more of the foreign policy mysteries of Barack Obama.

It seems that the U.S. foreign policy decision-making apparatus is shut down for the summer, and possibly until after the U.S. elections in November. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has become the Peer Gynt of modern diplomacy, traveling the world with her entourage of high state department officials, far from the centers of decision making where policies and actions are in fact decided. President Barack Obama is lost in the campaign, and appears to have little interest in or attention for anything else. Leon Panetta, the Secretary of Defense, has in Clinton’s absence been pressed into service as a foreign policy spokesman for the administration, but not always with felicitous results. Tom Donilon, the National Security Adviser, is apparently holding down the fort, though even he was recently dispatched to Israel to carry Obama’s messages to Netanyahu. All in all, we are left with “the gang who couln’t shoot straight” as they continue their happy wandering through the unfocused foreign policy terrain of a president who is not minding the store.

Hillary Clinton has seized upon this time to see the many countries of the world, which is probably a much more pleasant place to be than to be in Washington, ignored.

If there remains a single foreign policy leader who is awake and alert, whether in Washington, Paris, or London, he or she should act with the utmost urgency to block any appointment of a successor to Annan, and to stop any continuation of his mission and the U.N. bureaucratic boondoggle of what amounts to a second secretary general’s office in Geneva to support it

The world has tried the Kofi Annan act, and experienced the massive loss of lives and the bitter disappointment and total defeat that it has brought.

We don’t need to go there again.

Anyone who thinks the Russians are acting out of any but the basest motives in seeking to resurrect this diplomatic instrument, which was so helpful to them over the last four months, should review with his colleagues the evidence that has accumulated over the last 17 months in relation to Syria.

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.

South Africa strays from Mandela’s vision, abstaining in Security Council vote on Syria— Update #69 (July 27)

Friday, July 27th, 2012

The following article is divided into five sections or parts. Due to its length, the reader may wish to read one or more different sections at different times. The sections are:

(1) South Africa’s Abstention in the Vote on Draft Resolution S/2012/538
(2) South African Statements in Defense of its Abstention in the Vote
(3) Statement of Ian Davidson, Shadow Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Democratic Alliance
(4) The Text of Security Council Draft Resolution 538
(5) Mandela’s Vision

South Africa’s Abstention in the Vote on Draft Resolution S/2012/538

South Africa abstained in the July 19 vote on Security Council draft Resolution S/2012/538 on Syria, sponsored by France, Germany, Portugal,the United Kingdom and the United States. The resolution would have extended the UN observer mission in Syria (UNSMIS) for 45 days, and threatened but did not specify the imposition of sanctions by the Security Council (pursuant to a future vote) if the al-Assad government did not comply with key provisions of the Security Council’s 6-point peace plan (also known as the Kofi Annan 6-point peace plan).

Forgetting that its own liberation struggle had benefited from economic sanctions imposed by the Security Council, South Africa gave tacit support to Russia and China and their argument that the Security Council had no right to interfere in the domestic affairs of Syria.

South African Statements in Defense of its Abstention in the Vote

In a statement in the Security Council following the vote and South Africa’s abstention on draft resolution S/2012/538, the South African representative, Mr. Mashabane, stated the following:

Mr. Mashabane (South Africa): South Africa strongly condemns the continuing violence and the huge loss of life in Syria. It is now 16 months since the crisis began, and there is no end in sight. Instead, the security and humanitarian situations have become worse. The deteriorating situation in Syria highlights the urgency for all sides to stop armed violence in all its forms, implement the six-point plan presented by Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan, and move rapidly towards a political dialogue and a peaceful, democratic, Syrian-led transition.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has just classified the situation in Syria as meeting the conditions of an internal armed conflict. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has made a similar statement. This means that the situation has reached the threshold of a civil war, in which all parties have responsibilities and obligations under international humanitarian law.

The highest priority should be to stop the killing and end the suffering of civilians. The suicide bombing in Damascus yesterday, which killed the Syrian Defence Minister and others, coupled with frequent horrific massacres in various parts of the country, clearly indicates that there is more than one party to the conflict. This volatile situation has also become fertile ground for terrorist groups. Acts of violence committed by any party are unacceptable and a clear violation of their commitments under the six-point plan, and should be condemned. Reports of the continued use of heavy weapons by the Syrian security forces are also of serious concern to us.

South Africa strongly supports the efforts of Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan and believes that his plan is the only credible mechanism that could deliver a positive and realistic outcome. Coupled with the Annan plan is the final communiqué of the Action Group for Syria (S/2012/523, annex), adopted in Geneva on 30 June. It constitutes a significant proposal on the way forward in Syria and has been supported by all permanent members of the Security Council. We should not fail to support Mr. Annan, as his efforts may be the only branch to which to cling before the seismic currents of a bloody civil war push Syria over the brink into a state of total collapse.

South Africa is disappointed that, because of the divisions among the members of the Council, the Council has been prevented from executing its responsibilities. Differences within the Council should be addressed in a spirit of compromise and mutual respect, and with the Council’s broader responsibility in mind. All members of the Council have consistently expressed their support for the Kofi Annan plan, the Geneva action plan communiqué and the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria UNSMIS).

Yet the common cause that we affirmed when we adopted resolutions 2042 (2012) and 2043 (2012) three months ago has not seemed to prevail. We should have shown the utmost maturity in strategically executing these crucial tasks, taking into account the realities of the situation on the ground. Instead, we allowed narrow interests to destroy our unity of purpose.

We agree with the Joint Special Envoy that the Council must insist that these decisions be implemented, that a strong message should be sent to all parties involved, and that there will be consequences for their non-compliance with its decisions. We fail to see, however, how the text that was submitted today by the sponsors would end the violence or contribute to the implementation of the six-point plan. Instead, the text, in an unbalanced manner, threatens sanctions against the Government of Syria without realistically allowing any action to be taken against the opposition, which would be permitted to defy the six-point plan without consequence. In similar situations where the international community, including the Security Council, has preferred one side over the other, such bias has resulted in the polarization of the conflict. This is especially true for such fractious societies as Syria’s.

The failure of the Council today to reach a balanced agreement threatens the Kofi Annan plan and undermines the possibility of finding a peaceful political solution to the Syrian crisis. Our failure to renew the mandate of UNSMIS — the only functional tool for verifying and corroborating information on the ground and supporting the Annan plan, as recommended by the Secretary-General — is disappointing. While we are concerned about the safety of the observers, South Africa continues to believe that UNSMIS has been a critical part of our effort to find a solution to the Syrian crisis, and should therefore continue its work in one form or the other when conditions on the ground so permit. SouthAfricais therefore deeply disappointed that the future of UNSMIS is under threat because of the divisions in the Council.

It is for these reasons that South Africa abstained in the voting on draft resolution S/2012/538. SouthAfricastands ready to work with all members of the Council to achieve a strong, balanced outcome in support of Kofi Annan’s efforts and a renewal of the UNSMIS mandate.

In conclusion, for the time being South Africa supports the proposal for a possible technical rollover of UNSMIS for a very short term.

–United Nations Security Council, 6810th meeting, 19 July, 2012, U.N. Doc. S/PV.6810, at pp. 11-12.

The Deputy Foreign Minister, Ebrahim Ebrahim, made virtually the same points in a statement issued on July 20, arguing that the resolution was not balanced.


SAPA, “South Africa speaks out on violence in Syria; South Africa voices concern over killings of civilians in Syria as resolution that would have extended UN observer mission is vetoed,” Business Live (South Africa), July 19, 2012.

Khadija Patel, “Analysis: Tracking South Africa’s Syria policy,”
Daily Maverick (Johannesburg), July 23, 2012.

Mandy Rossouw, “Pretoria takes soft stance on Syria,” City Press (Pretoria), July 22, 2012.

Oluwaseun Oluwarotimi (NewsWorld), “Syria; UN Security Council, A Failure- South Africa,” Leadership (Abuja), July 23, 2012.

However, the statements of the South African Security Council Representative and the Deputy Foreign Minister seeking to justify South Africa’s abstention do not stand up to close scrutiny, in the light of the actual text of Security Council draft resolution S/2012/538.

This is evident from a comparison of their remarks and the actual text of the draft resolution itself.

The full text of Ebrahim’s statement follows:

Statement by the Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Ebrahim Ebrahim, on the UN Security Council vote on the extension of the mandate of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS), 20 Jul 2012

South Africa deplores the violence and the tremendous loss of life in Syria, which is spiraling out of control. I reiterate that our highest priority is to stop the killing. We feel that the only way to achieve this is through the Annan plan for a political transition.

The bomb in Damascus earlier this week, which resulted in the death of senior government officials including the Defence Minister, Daoud Rajha, coupled with the many horrific massacres that have taken place over the past few weeks, clearly shows that there is more than one side to the conflict. It is also obvious that all sides are heavily armed.

We have noted the International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent’s classification of the escalating situation in Syria as meeting the conditions of an internal armed conflict. The United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights also stated that: “there are indications that the situation in Syria, at least in certain areas, may amount to a non-international armed conflict thus entailing obligations on both sides under international law”.

This confirms that the situation has reached a threshold of a civil war in which all parties have responsibilities and obligations under international humanitarian law.

It is therefore essential that the Security Council address this dire situation in line with the United Nations Charter. The Charter determines that the Council should make recommendations for conflict resolution and take account of failures of implementation with its decisions: “without prejudice to the rights, claims and positions of the parties concerned”. Chapter VII of the UN Charter therefore mandates the Security Council to address the conduct of all parties to a conflict equally.

During the past week, Kofi Annan, in response to the escalating violence and lack of movement in the peace process, requested the Council to send a strong message to all parties that there would be consequences for their non-compliance with the Annan plan.

It has been incorrectly reported that South Africa was opposed to sanctions on the Syrian government. I wish to emphasise that South Africa fully supports the request of the Joint Special Envoy for stern action. Our problem with the resolution voted on yesterday was not the issue of sanctions on the government per se, but the fact that the text did not provideformeasures against the opposition for non-compliance with the Annan plan. (emphasis added).

It was on this basis that South Africa made recommendations to balance the text. These proposals were rejected by the drafters of the resolution, leaving South Africa no option but to abstain in the vote

This was not merely an issue of language. South Africa takes it responsibility as a member of the Security Council extremely seriously, because its decisions impact the lives of ordinary people. Our view is that a one-sided resolution would only make the situation on the ground worse, pushing the government to further pursue the military option and emboldening the opposition to continue to reject talks. In a complex, divided society such as Syria, there can be no military solution.

We saw this clearly in Iraq. Ultimately, the parties in Syria will have to negotiate a settlement. The question is whether they do so now or after a bloody and protracted civil war. We are therefore deeply disappointed that the Council was not able to apply pressure to both sides to bring an end to the violence.

The outcome of the vote reflects the deep divisions and narrow interests of the five Permanent Members of the Security Council. These divisions and the inability of the Security Council to address the realities of the appalling situation on the ground in a balanced and mature manner, is a failure by the Security Council to execute its primary mandate, namely the maintenance of international peace and security.

South Africa continues to call for a Syrian-led negotiated all-inclusive dialogue to establish a politicaltransitionthat will reflect the will of the Syrian people. This is the ultimate aim of the Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States, Mr Kofi Annan, and the only hope for the Syrian people.

While we are concerned about the safety of observers, South Africa continues to believe that UNSMIS plays a critical role in supporting the efforts of Mr Annan, including through verification and facilitating local-level cease-fires. The withdrawal of UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) will only result in the conflict on the ground spiraling into an all-out war, which will have a severe impact on the stability of the entire region. South Africa is deeply concerned about such a prospect.

Currently there are two competing resolutions before the Security Council to extend the mandate of UNSMIS, which South Africa supports. We hope the Security Council will be able to rise above its deep divisions and adopt the extension unanimously.

(Statement issued by Department of International Relations and Cooperation, July 20, 2012)

Statement of Ian Davidson, Shadow Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Democratic Alliance

Ian Davidson, the shadow minister for foreign affairs of the Democratic Alliance, expressed his disagreement with the Zuma government’s abstention in the Security Council in a statement issued on July 20, 2012.

See “DA: Statement by Ian Davidson, Democratic Alliance Shadow Minister of InternationalRelationsand Co-operation, on the Department of International Relations and Co-operation’s stance on Syria,, July 20, 2012.

The full text of Davidson’s statement follows:

While the death toll in Syria continues to rise, South Africa’s representatives in the United Nations (UN) Security Council have once again abstained from voting in support of decisive UN action in Syria. Once again, the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (DIRCO) is allowing autocratic regimes with poor human rights records to dictate South Africa’s foreign policy.

After recognising yesterday that the violence in Syria is “spinning out of control”, South Africa has yet again abstained from voting on the UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolution aiming at de-escalating conflict in Syria.

UN action was effectively neutered by vetoes from Russia and China. By abstaining from the vote, South Africa has sided with its fellow BRICS members. While the Syrian people are being bombed by their own government and the increasing armament of both the government forces and rebel groups has turned the Syrian conflict into an international security crisis, South Africa chose to remain on the fence.

DIRCO defends this decision by claiming that the world requires a “balanced” intervention which recognises the wrongdoings of all parties to the conflict and paves the way for negotiation.

The proposed UN resolution stipulated a deadline for an end to the use of heavy weapons, called for the withdrawalofSyrian forces from towns and cities and proposed sanctions should this deadline not be met. The dream of a negotiated settlement will never be realised without more decisive initial steps to de-escalate the violence.

South Africa should not be caught on the wrong side of history again, as with our infamous flip-flop on Libya. In abstaining from this vote, we are losing credibility as a country which believes in human rights and a just international order and we are alienating the West and Arab League nations more directly affected by the Syrian conflict.

Instead of using our position as a member of BRICS to encourage China and Russia to do the right thing, we are being caught in the slipstream of their bad decisions. Our association with China and Russia in this regard will undermine our legitimacy in the UN Security Council and could derail our efforts to reform this structure to the benefit of smaller and developing nations.

DIRCO fence-sitting raises questions about our capacity to make tough decisions that may offend some of our more dubious friends.

The Text of Security Council Draft Resolution 538

Draft Resolution 538 was in fact quite balanced, in view of the events of the last year and the atrocities Bashar al-Assad has committed and is committing against his opponents, who began their protest peacefully in March, 2011. The actual text of draft resolution 2012/538 follows:

Security Council: Text of draft resolution on Syria
Jul 19, 2012
(France, Germany, Portugal, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and United States of America: draft resolution)

The Security Council,

Recalling its Resolutions 2043 (2012) and 2042 (2012), and its Presidential Statements of 3 August 2011, 21 March 2012 and 5 April 2012,

Reaffirming its strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Syria, and to the purposes and principles of the Charter,

Reaffirming alsoits support to the Joint Special Envoy for the United Nations and the League of Arab States, Kofi Annan, and his work, following General Assembly resolution A/RES/66/253 of 16 February 2012 and relevant resolutions of the League of Arab States, aimed at securing full implementation of his six-point plan in its entirety, as annexed to resolution 2042 (2012),

Condemning the Syrian authorities’ increasing use of heavy weapons, including indiscriminate shelling from tanks and helicopters, in population centres and failure to withdraw its troops and heavy weapons to their barracks contrary to paragraph 2 of resolution 2043 (2012),

Condemning the armed violence in all its forms, including by armed opposition groups, and expressing grave concern at the continued escalation of violence, and expressing its profound regret at the death of many thousands of people in Syria,

Condemning the continued widespread violations of human rights by the Syrian authorities, as well as any human rights abuses by armed opposition groups, and recalling that those responsible shall be held accountable,

Condemning the series of bombings that have made the situation more complex and deadly, some of which are indicative of the presence of well-organised terrorist groups,

Deploring the deteriorating humanitarian situation and the failure to ensure timely provision of humanitarian assistance to all areas affected by the fighting contrary to point 3 of the Envoy’s six-point plan, reiterating its call for the Syrian parties to allow immediate, full and unimpeded access of humanitarian personnel to all populations in need of assistance, in particular to civilian populations in need of evacuation, and calling upon all parties in Syria, in particular the Syrian authorities, to cooperate fully with the United Nations and relevant humanitarian organizations to facilitate the provision of humanitarian assistance;

Condemning the continued detention of thousands of Syrians in networks of Government-run facilities and deploring that there is no freedom of assembly contrary to points 4 and 6 of the six-point plan, and recalling the urgency of intensifying the pace and scale of release of arbitrarily detained persons, and reiterating the need for Syrians to enjoy the freedom to assemble, including to demonstrate peacefully and freedom of movement for journalists throughout the country, as part of the necessary conditions for a political transition,

Having considered the Secretary-General’s report on UNSMIS dated 6 July 2012, commending United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) personnel for their continued efforts in a dangerous and volatile environment, and deploring that, due to the failure of the parties to implement the six-point plan and to the level of violence, monitoring access restrictions and direct targeting, the Mission’s operational activities were rendered unworkable, and supporting the Secretary-General’s recommendation that a shift in Mission structure and focus should be considered,

Stressingthat rapid progress on a political solution represents the best opportunity to resolve the situation in Syria peacefully, welcoming in this regard the Final Communiqué of the Envoy’s 30 June Action Group meeting, and noting that progress towards an atmosphere of safety and calm is key to enabling a credible transition,

Welcoming the Syrian Opposition Conference held under the auspices of the League of Arab States in Cairo on July 3, 2012, as part of the efforts of the League of Arab States to engage the whole spectrum of the Syrian opposition, and encouraging greater cohesion among the opposition,

Noting the Secretary-General’s 6 July 2012 call on the Security Council to provide the necessary support and ensure sustained, united and effective pressure on all concerned to ensure compliance with its decisions and create conditions for the success of a political solution envisaged by the Action Group,

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

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

1. Expresses grave concern at the escalation of violence, and the failure of the parties, in particular the Syrian authorities, to implement the Envoy’s six-point plan as annexed to resolution 2042 (2012), thus not permitting the creation of a political space that would allow for meaningful political dialogue, and calls upon all parties to recommit immediately and without waiting for the actions of others to a sustained cessation of violence in all its forms and implementation of the six-point plan;

2. Endorsesin full the 30 June Action Group Final Communiqué and its underlying guidelines and principles (Annex);

Enabling Transition: Immediate implementation of the Envoy’s six-point plan

3. Demandsthe urgent, comprehensive, and immediate implementation of, all elements of the Envoy’s six-point proposal as annexed to resolution 2042 (2012) aimed at bringing an immediate end to all violence and human rights violations, securing humanitarian access and facilitating a Syrian-led politicaltransitionas outlined in the Annex, leading to a democratic, plural politicalsystem, in which citizens are equal regardless of their affiliations, ethnicities or beliefs, including through commencing a comprehensive political dialogue between the Syrian authorities and the whole spectrum of the Syrian opposition;

4. Decidesthat the Syrian authorities shall implement visibly and verifiablytheir commitments in their entirety, as they agreed to do in the Preliminary Understanding and as stipulated in resolution 2042 (2012) and 2043(2012), to (a) ceasetroopmovements towards population centres, (b) cease all use of heavy weapons in such centres, (c) complete pullback of military concentrations in and around population centres, and to withdraw its troops and heavy weapons from population centres to their barracks or temporary deployment places to facilitate a sustained cessation of violence;

5. Demands that all parties in Syria, including the opposition, immediately cease all armed violence in all its forms, thereby creating an atmosphere conducive to a sustained cessation of violence and a Syrian-led political transition;

6. Expresses grave concern at the increasing numbers of refugees and internally displaced persons as a result of the ongoing violence, and reiterates its appreciation of the significant efforts that have been made by the States bordering Syria to assist those who have fled across Syria’s borders as a consequence of the violence, and requesting UNHCR to provide assistance as requested by member states receiving these displaced persons,


7. Demands that all Syrian parties work withthe Office of the Joint Special Envoy to implement rapidly the transition plan set forth in the Final Communiqué in a way that assures the safety of all in an atmosphere of stability and calm;


8. Recalls that all those responsible for human rights violations and abuses, including acts of violence, must be held accountable;

9. Decides that the Syrian Government shall provide the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic and individuals working on its behalf immediate entry and access to all areas of Syria, decides that the Syrian authorities shall cooperate fully with the Commission of Inquiry in the performance of its mandate;


10. Decides to renew the mandate of the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) for a period of 45 days, on the basis of the Secretary-General’s recommendation to reconfigure the Mission to increase support for dialogue with and between the parties, and enhance attention to the political track and rights’ issues across the six-point plan;

11. Requests the Secretary-General to retain the minimum military observer capacity and requisite civilian component necessary to promote forward steps on the six-point plan through facilitation of political dialogue and to conduct verification and fact-finding tasks;

12. Condemns all attacks against UNSMIS, reaffirms that perpetrators of attacks against UN personnel must be held to account, demands that the parties guarantee the safety of UNSMIS personnel without prejudice to its freedom of movement and access, and stresses that the primary responsibility in this regard lies with the Syrian authorities;

13. Demands that the Syrian authorities ensure the effective operation of UNSMIS by: facilitating the expeditious and unhindered deployment of its personnel and capabilities as required to fulfil its mandate; ensuring its full unimpeded, and immediate freedom of movement and access as necessary to fulfil its mandate, underlining in this regard the need for the Syrian authorities and the United Nations to come rapidly to an agreement on appropriate air transportation assets for UNSMIS; allowing its unobstructed communications; and allowing it to freely and privately communicate with individuals throughout Syria without retaliation against any person as a result of interaction with UNSMIS;


14. Decides that, if the Syrian authorities have not fully complied with paragraph 4 above within ten days, then it shall impose immediately measures under Article 41 of the UN Charter;

Reporting and Follow-Up

15. Requests the Secretary-General to report to the Council on the implementation by all parties in Syria of this resolution within 10 days of its adoption and every 15 days thereafter;

16. Expresses its intention to assess the implementation of this resolution and to consider further steps as appropriate;

17. Decides to remain seized of the matter.

Curiously, the text of draft Security Council resolution S/2012/538 is not yet available on the United Nations web site. The link to the document does not lead to the document. All of which reminds the Observer of a story once told him by a former American high official in the United Nations during the early years of the Cold war. The Soviets, he recounted, had always placed a high value on controlling the printing presses at the U.N., through the appointment of the offical with authority over them. This gave them considerable leverage within the organization. Could there be a vestige of this old Cold War strategem still at work in the bowels of the U.N.?

South Africa’s Leadership of Democratic Forces in Africa, and Beyond

As pointed out in a previous article, with Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma now heading the African Commission, it is even more important than it was before that South Africa take seriously its responsibilities as a leader of the democratic forces in Africa–and beyond.

See The Trenchant Observer, “Security Council adopts Resolution 2059 extending mandate of UNSMIS for 30 days (with text); fighting and risks intensify—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #67 (July 20),”
July 20, 2012.

Ironically, on July 22 it was reported by News24 that the staff of the South African embassy in Damascus had been forced to flee the fighting in Damascus, and that the embassy was moving its personnel to Lebanon for safety. According to an earlier SABC report, Shaune Byneveldt, ambassador to Syria, had arrived back in South Africa as fighting intensified in Damascus.


“SA embassy staff flee Syria,” News24 (South Africa), July 22, 2012.

Karl Gernetskysa, “SA moves staff to Lebanon as violence worsens in Syria; Observers have questioned if South Africa’s lack of a firmer stance on Syria could lead to embarrassment similar to that caused by indecision over Libya,” Business Day, July 24, 2012.

The bottom line is that South Africa adopted the position of Russia and China, even though it “abstained” on the resolution instead of voting against it. The argument that draft Resolution was unbalanced because it threatened sanctions only against the Syrian government and not against the rebels is specious, as a close reading of operative paragraphs (4) and (5) of the resolution makes clear.

Paragraph 4 calls on the government to “(a) cease troop movements towards population centres, (b) cease all use of heavy weapons in such centres, (c) complete pullback of military concentrations in and around population centres, and to withdraw its troops and heavy weapons from population centres to their barracks or temporary deployment places to facilitate a sustained cessation of violence.”

Operative paragraph 5 states clearly that the Security Council:

5. Demands that all parties in Syria, including the opposition, immediately cease all armed violence in all its forms, thereby creating an atmosphere conducive to a sustained cessation of violence and a Syrian-led political transition;

There is absolutely nothing unbalanced about the draft resolution, and to argue otherwise is to argue in generalities that depend for their persuasive force on the ignorance of those to whom they are addressed. That not only Russia and China could make such arguments, but also South Africa (and Pakistan) is shameful and defenseless.

In the context of events in Syria, the fact that Russia and China had blocked effective Security Council action since vetoing a Security Council resolution in October, 2011, and after four months of Kofi Annan’s “six-point plan” producing absolutely nothing in terms of results, South Africa’s vote (like that of Pakistan, which also abstained) can only be interpreted as supporting the Russian and Chinese position.

This vote of abstention represented a complete abdication of South Africa’s responsibilities, as a democratic nation and leader of the democratic forces in Africa, and beyond, to support concrete action by the Security Council to deal effectively with the Syrian crisis.

Draft Resoluiton 538 was in fact quite balanced, in view of the events of the last year and the atrocities Bashar al-Assad has committed, against opponents who began their protest peacefully in March 2011.

Nelswon Mandela’s Vision

July 19, 2012 was a shameful day for South Africa.

One day after Nelson Mandela’s 94th birthday, which was celebrated throughout the country by schoolchildren singing “Happy Birthday” to him, South Africa deviated sharply from Mandela’s vision, articulated in his 1993 Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech as follows:

We live with the hope that as she battles to remake herself, South Africa, will be like a microcosm of the new world that is striving to be born.

This must be a world of democracy and respect for human rights, a world freed from the horrors of poverty, hunger, deprivation and ignorance, relieved of the threat and the scourge of civil wars and external aggression and unburdened of the great tragedy of millions forced to become refugees.

The processes in which South Africa and Southern Africa as a whole are engaged, beckon and urge us all that we take this tide at the flood and make of this region as a living example of what all people of conscience would like the world to be.

We do not believe that this Nobel Peace Prize is intended as a commendation for matters that have happened and passed.

We hear the voices which say that it is an appeal from all those, throughout the universe, who sought an end to the system of apartheid.

We understand their call, that we devote what remains of our lives to the use of our country’s unique and painful experience to demonstrate, in practice, that the normal condition for human existence is democracy, justice, peace, non-racism, non-sexism, prosperity for everybody, a healthy environment and equality and solidarity among the peoples.

Moved by that appeal and inspired by the eminence you have thrust upon us, we undertake that we too will do what we can to contribute to the renewal of our world so that none should, in future, be described as the “wretched of the earth”.

Let it never be said by future generations that indifference, cynicism or selfishness made us fail to live up to the ideals of humanism which the Nobel Peace Prize encapsulates.

Let the strivings of us all, prove Martin Luther King Jr. to have been correct, when he said that humanity can no longer be tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war.

Let the efforts of us all, prove that he was not a mere dreamer when he spoke of the beauty of genuine brotherhood and peace being more precious than diamonds or silver or gold.

Let a new age dawn!

Thank you.

–Nelson Mandela, 1993 Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance and Nobel Lecture, December 10, 1993.

The Trenchant Observer

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

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

Friday, July 20th, 2012

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


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

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

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

The Security Council,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Trenchant Observer

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.

Draft Security Council Resolution S/2012/538 vetoed by Russia and China (text of resolution and video link)—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #66 (July 19)

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

Draft Resolution S/2012/538 on Syria, sponsored by France, Germany, Portugal, the United Kingdom and the United States, was put to a vote this morning in the U.N. Security Council. The text of the draft resolution is found here.

The draft resolution received 11 affirmative votes, two negative votes (Russia and China), and two abstentions (Pakistan and South Africa).

Because of the Russian and Chinese vetos, the resolution was not adopted.

Those voting in favor of the resolution included the following countries:

United Kingdom*
United States*

*Permanent Member

See the press release on the meeting and vote, and the video of the 6810th meeting of the Security Council, including the vote on the draft resolution and statements by Security Council members explaining their votes, at the links below:

“Security Council Fails to Adopt Draft Resolution on Syria That Would Have Threatened Sanctions, Due to Negative Votes of China, Russian Federation,” U.N. Press Release (Doc. SC/10714), July 19, 2012.

“The situation in the Middle East (Syria) – Security Council, 6810th meeting,” UN Webcast, July 19, 2012 (video of meeting).

Signficantly, Pakistan and South Africa abstained in the vote. Pakistan fatuously justified its abstention saying it would not support the resolution because the other members had been unable to reach a consensus. Pakistan previously voted in favor of the February 4, 2012 draft resolution on Syria which was vetoed by Russia and China.

South Africa’s abstention, coming one day after the national celebration of Nelson Mandela’s 94th birthday, reflected poorly on Jacob Zuma’s government and Mandela’s legacy in the struggle for freedom around the world. It is surprising, moreover, in view of South Africa’s vote in favor of the draft Security Council resolution vetoed by Russia and China on February 4, and its vote on February 16, 2012 in favor of General Assembly Resolution A/66/L.36 condemning Syria.

Do Pakistan and South Africa have secret thoughts of joining the League of Authoritarian States?

Attention in the Security Council now turns to the question of whether or not to extend UNSMIS for 30 days, without imposing any consequences on al-Assad for continuing his atrocities. The U.S. has stated that it is opposed to an extension.

In a very heartening development, the United States has now shifted its policy away from focusing on the illusory prospect of effective action by the Security Council given Russian and Chinese intransigence.

Regarding the issue of a temporary extension of UNSMIS, there is an argument to be made that, in view of present circumstances in Syria, it may be useful to have the UNSMIS arrangements in place to deal with whatever may happen in the future, particularly if the al-Assad regime starts to collapse.

On the other hand, two counter-arguments are persuasive. First, UNSMIS can perform no useful function in Syria under current conditions, and it is time to get the valiant members of the observation mission out of harm’s way before they are injured or killed in some Götterdämmerung spasm of the al-Assad regime.

The second counter-argument is that the presence of the UNSMIS observers reduces the pressure on Russia and China to adopt measures under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter, while they form a kind of human shield against military action by outside powers. If and when it becomes possible for the observers to monitor a truce, a new authorization for UNSMIS under Chapter VII and with a much stronger mandate can be made.

The idea that the members of UNSMIS might mediate local ceasefires is fanciful, and appears to be but one more last-ditch effort by Kofi Annan to remain at the center of attention and to keep his mediation mission going. The UNSMIS observers are not trained mediators. Attempting to mediate, moreover, would expose them to even greater danger.

Kofi Annan has failed. His boondoggle of setting up a second Secretary General’s office in Geneva with 17 high-ranking diplomatic and other supporting staff should be ended at the earliest opportunity. He should be sent home, and removed from the center stage of efforts to resolve the Syrian crisis. For four months, he has absorbed the media attention of the world, acted to protect Russia’s interest in delay with no consequences for al-Assad, and constantly manipulatd expectations so as to keep his mediation mission going. He has achieved nothing. Absolutely nothing. Thousands have died as a result of the constant hopes, illusions and delays he has caused. He should now exit the stage.

On balance, the big advance that is possible today, in the light of the Russian and Chinese vetoes, is to shift the world’s attention away from the Security Council and Kofi Annan’s castles in the sky, and to pursue urgently other alternatives in preparation for al-Assad’s departure.

To produce such a shift in attention, Kofi Annan’s mission should be halted, or at least downgraded to something approaching the irrelevance that it has achieved on the ground. Allowing UNSMIS to lapse will help achieve this objective.

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.

If Russia vetoes a Security Council resolution on Syria, then what? — Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update # 64 (July 17)

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

We are at a potential decision point on Syria. A draft resolution presented by France, the U.K., the United States and Germany, extending the UNSMIS observer mission for 45 days and calling for sanctions under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter if al-Assad does not withdraw his heavy weapons from towns within ten days, appears headed for an up or down vote.

See Ruth Sherlock (Beirut) and Adrian Blomfield (Middle East Correspondent), “Syrian rebels launch campaign to ‘liberate’ Damascus; Syrian rebel commanders on Tuesday night claimed to have launched a military campaign to “liberate” Damascus as the city echoed to the sound of gunfire for a third day and fighting came close to the country’s parliament building,” The Telegraph, July 17, 2012.

Alex Spillius (Diplomatic Correspondent), “Syria United Nations vote delayed; A crucial vote on Syria at the United Nations has been delayed as Western countries make a last ditch bid to persuade Russia to threaten Bashar al-Assad with tough sanctions,” The Telegraph, July 17, 2012.

Russia has said it will block the resolution.

It may well do so, as President Putin proceeds to ride the Bashar al-Assad regime down to flaming defeat, helping to set a template in the Arab world in which Russians will be viewed as the enemies of the Arab Spring and all it stands for, for generations.

It is absolutely important that the sponsors of the resolution not back down, and not cave in to Russia’s demand for an extension of UNSMIS and Kofi Annan’s mission with no consequences for al-Assad if he displays continued defiance.

Over 10,000 people have been killed since Russia and China vetoed a relatively bland draft resolution on February 4, 2012. Weakening the current draft resolution to get Russia and China on board should not be done if they are only to board a still-sinking ship.

Another toothless resolution will, like the last five months of Security Council paralysis and illusions, serve no purpose other than allowing thousands more to die.

Should the Russians (one almost writes “Soviets”) veto the resolution, what should its proponents and supporters then do?

The Observer offers the following suggestions:

1.  Let UNMIS lapse.

It is not capable of providing widespread observation of what is going on in Syria, due to its limited numbers, the government’s ability to control its movements, and its inability to operate to monitor a truce when there is no truce but rather a raging civil war–when it has been targeted and fired upon repeatedly and subjected to the actions of hostile mobs orchestrated by al-Asad.

2.  Do not extend or expand Kofi Annan’s mandate as Joint Special Envoy.

The Arab League should speak to the members of the Security Council, the General Assembly, and the civilized nations of the world with its own voice.  It should not surrender its role in history, for another day, to Kofi Annan or anyone else.  The Arab states need a voice, and have much to bring to the table.  They cannot do this with Annan speaking for them.

The sooner Kofi Annan is shown the exit, the better.  His mega-personality and vainglorious view of himself sucks up all of the attention of the world’s media, drowning out other potentially constructive voices as well as those of witnesses to the atrocities al-Assad is committing–every day.

If his mission is to continue at all, it should be conditioned on his not speaking to the press or the media.

If it continues, his mission should be a silent one.  Let him mediate and report to the Security Council, without manipulating world opinion at every step of the way for the benefit, as it turns out, of the Russians and the Bashar al-Assad regime.

Let his efforts to build another bureaucratic empire in Geneva for himself, as a kind of second Secretary General’s office, lapse when the funding lapses, or sooner if a method can be found to halt this boondoggle.

Send Kofi Annan home.  His efforts as a mediator have produced nothing.  Absolutely nothing.

3.  Let attention turn away from the Security Council, where effective action is blocked by Russia.  Develop and pursue alternative strategies outside of the framework of the Security Council.

4.  Such alternate strategies should include, as a high priority, the formulation of an economic aid package, including humanitarian assistance, which the civilized countries of the world will provide to the people of Syria, once the leaders currently committing atrocities have been removed from the scene.

These leaders should be brought to justice, whether sooner or later–whether through a referral to the International Criminal Court, prosecution within Syria in the future, or through prosecution in individual countries exercising “universal jurisisdiction” over international crimes, in accordance with their own domestic legislation.

5.  A second alternate strategy would be to begin developing a “truth and reconciliation process” which may offer some prospect to soldiers and even officers that, in exchange for full cooperation with a “truth and reconciliation commission” and admission of their wrongful actions, they might be pardoned or receive lighter punishments than would otherwise be possible.

This effort (including both points 4 and 5) could be pursued within and with the support of the United Nations General Assembly. Detailed plans and sequences could be developed, with pledges of financial support from different countries–and other institutions. The idea would be to develop a concrete vision of the reconstruction of Syria, including sources of funding and specific measures to revive the economy. As this vision including the corresponding pledges of financial support takes shape, it is likely to become an attractive alternative to the al-Bashar regime, which promises only destruction and ruin.

It will be useful to shift the world’s attention, and that of those caught up in the struggle in Syria, to the future–to a future which lies on a path leading to atonement and reconciliation.

Somehow, some day, the Syria which Bashar al-Assad has done so much to destroy will have to be put back together, and rebuilt–both in material and in human terms  It is not too early to focus on this aspect–the construction of the future.

Thinking about the construction of the future, and taking concrete steps towards its realization, may in fact serve as critically important means of moving forward through and beyond the terrible present.

Of course, miltary action may at some point also be required, e.g. if al-Assad were to start using chemical weapons or other WMD–or to start selling such weapons to terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda and its affiliates. It is also possible that once outside countries focus on the realities of Syria and its risks, instead of the illusions and castles in the sky generated by Kofi Annan, they may decide to use military force to halt the killing and to organize an orderly transition–with or without Security Council authorization.

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.

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

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Trenchant Observer

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.

Next steps in Syria: End UNSMIS observer mission, and send Kofi Annan home. Also, begin prosecutions of war criminals, and prepare for possible military action—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #60 (July 10)

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

Latest News and Opinion

Editorial, “Annan’s failure” (Kofi Annan’s return to Damascus Sunday evening adds insult to injury after his admission over the weekend that his peace plan for Syria has failed), The Daily Star, July 9, 2012.

Raniah Salloum, “Annans Syrien-Mission: Das Palaver-Prinzip’; Kofi Annan will in Syrien weitermachen wie bisher – auch wenn Machthaber Baschar al-Assad keinen einzigen Punkt des Friedensplans umsetzt. Es ist nicht das erste Mal, dass Annan sich von einem arabischen Tyrannen vorführen lässt,” Der Spiegel, 10 Juli 2012.

“Russland schickt Kriegsschiffe nach Syrien; Der U-Boot-Zerstörer “Admiral Tschabanenko” und mehrere weitere Schiffe sollen sich auf dem Weg zum Stützpunkt Tartus befinden,” Die Presse (Wien), 10 Juli 2012.

Seth J. Frantzman, “Is Annan an accomplice to murder in Syria? The appointment of Annan sent a clear message to Assad that a representative was being sent who would provide cover for increased repression, ” Jerusalem Post, 10 July 2012.

End UNMIS Observer Mission, and Send Kofi Annan Home

Fortunately, there is cause for hope in Syria. It is theoretically possible that the UNSMIS observer mission will not be renewed, and that Kofi Annan will be sent home.

The UNSMIS authorization expires July 20. Any Security Council Permanent Member can block an extension by simply voting “no”. That means that either France or the U.K., or the U.S., acting alone, can end the observer mission, which has failed.

Talk of having truce observers act as mediators instead of observing the non-existent truce, is rubbish. It is time to get these courageous men and women out of harm’s way.

Kofi Annan’s ill-conceived and ill-starred mission as the joint Arab League and United Nations Special Envoy for Syria should end at the same time.

He is a loose cannon, now off to Iran to involve the Iranians in the Syrian question and its solution. Such efforts are directly contrary to U.S. policy and U.S. interests, and also those of Europe, NATO, and the Arab states.

Annan’s bias against the United States has been evident since his first news conference in Cairo, around March 10, when he assured the public his job was to prevent the  use of military force by some outside countries “as has unfortunately happened in the past.” The emotional intensity in his eyes and his voice when he spoke these words was unmistakable.

Many thousands in Syria have died because of the way Annan has defended the Russians’ and the Syrians’ interest in delay–with no external action to halt the killing. He has constantly fed false hopes and illusions to the Security Council and to the world.

His “mediation” with al-Assad, as the latter continued to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity, has achieved nothing. Absolutely nothing.

It is time for him to leave the stage. Whatever the next new scheme may be that he comes up with, whatever new castle in the sky he may be building, he must be shown the door.

Refocus on Halting and Punishing the Commission of War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity

Instead of listening to Kofi Annan–for one second longer, what the international community should be focusing on are actions based on bedrock principles of international law:

1) the Syrian regime must immediately cease its commission of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other violations of fundamental human rights; and

2) those responsible for the commission of war crimes or crimes against humanity should be held accountable, either pursuant to a Security Council referral and grant of jurisdiction to the International Criminal Court (ICC), or as the result of prosecutions carried out in individual countries which have legislation authorizing the exercise of “universal jurisdiction” over individuals charged with war crimes, crimes against humanity and other international crimes.

Should Russia or China veto a Security Council resolution granting such jurisdiction to the ICC, under a Chapter VII resolution, then countries willing to support such prosecutions by individual states should make arrangements for the sharing of information and expenses necessary to proceed with these prosecutions in an expeditious manner. The first investigations should be launched at once.

In addition, if the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity by the Syrian regime continues, a “coalition of the willing” should be formed to undertake such military action as may be required to halt these atrocities, at the earliest possible moment.

In sum, it is time to both end the UNSMIS mission in Syria, and to remove Kofi Annan from the stage. It is time to begin prosecutions against those accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity. It is time to form a “coalition of the willing” to bring the ongoing commission of such crimes to a halt, by the use of military force if so required–with or without Security Council authorization.

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.

Kofi Annan proves Karl Marx right: “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce”—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #59 (July 9)

Monday, July 9th, 2012

For background, see the following articles by The Trenchant Observer:

“Oh, what a beautiful castle in the sky! Kofi Annan—the Illusionist, the moral cowardice of the world, and the end of the United Nations dream—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #58 (July 2)”
July 2, 2012

“Immunity or safe-conduct for al-Assad? Can Kofi Annan fail? Conference before cease-fire?—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #56 (June 23),” June 23, 2012

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

“Stop the UN farce!—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #37 (May 15),” May 15, 2012

“Kofi Annan is not God—Obama’s debacle in Syria — Update #15,”
March 23, 2012

Karl Marx, after all, was right: History does repeat itself, for the first time as tragedy and for the second time as farce.

Kofi Annan must be on his fourth or fifth repeat of history, but it is still farce.

When I saw the news report that he met with Bashar al-Assad today in Damascus to discuss a common approach to stop the fighting, and that he said the discussions were promising, I almost fell off my chair.

The premise of any such discussions would have to be that Bashar al-Assad’s agreement–to anything!–would have some significance.

But only a fool, or a government playing us all for fools, could accept such a proposition, in the face of the absolutely overwhelming evidence to the contrary that has accrued.

Does this man–the Envoy–have no shame?

Thousands and thousands of people have died because of the illusions he has fed to the U.N. Security Council and to the world, and the false hopes he has raised, helping Russia to block any effective Security Council action to halt the killing in Syria, or any effective action outside the framework of the Security Council itself that might halt the killing.

Is there a single person left in the thinking world who believes Kofi Annan is acting on behalf of anyone other than himself, the Russians, and even al-Assad himself?

Is there a single leader in the thinking world who will speak out, and shout from the rooftops:

“Get this man off the stage!”

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.

Oh, what a beautiful castle in the sky! Kofi Annan—the Illusionist, the moral cowardice of the world, and the end of the United Nations dream—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #58 (July 2)

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

Kofi Annan, the ever-willing Illusionist, aided and abetted by the permanent members of the U. N. Security Council, has offered us one more castle in the sky at the Geneva Summit on Syria, on June 30, 2012.  The Summit was attended by the Permanent Members of the Security Council plus Turkey, Qatar, Iraq, and Kuwait. Iran was absent due to vehement U.S. objections, and presumably Saudi Arabia was not invited to balance the scorecard with the Russians.

Oh, and neither Syrian government officials nor the Syrian opposition attended.

The Superintendent of U.N. Properties, Ban Ki-moon, graciously made the facilities of the United Nations in Geneva available for the meeting.

What was the outcome?


Unanimity was achieved again, as if on the proposition that all points on a circle are equidistant from the center!

Not to quarrel, the question of whether Bashar Al-Assad must leave power as part of the transitional government arrangements originally envisaged by The Illusionist, was left up in the air.

And fittingly so, since all of the pieces of this most beautiful palace in the sky are present and floating and circling above the world, like a pile of bricks in a land where there are no bricklayers and there is no mortar.

In its inner chambers, the new palace contains all the elements of the previous ones, including each and every one of Kofi Annan’s six points, informally endorsed by the Security Council first in its Presidential Statement on March 21, 2012 (which had no legal force), formally adopted by the Security Council in Resolution 2042 on April 14, and then once again reiterated in Resolution 2043, with the further adornment of some 300 unarmed monitors to observe compliance with the cessation of hostilities and other components of the 6-point plan, on April 21.

Like Russian dolls, each of the previous palaces contains within it the palace built before, and the one before that, and so on.

With this marvelous design, unity has been preserved–which is perhaps the greatest achievement of the summit.

All are agreed: All points on the circle are indeed equidistant from the center!

Now that work on this  beautiful  edifice has been completed, The Illusionist, together with Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States, and others they or The Illusionist may choose, will soon begin work on a bigger and even better Palace in the Sky, which like its predecessors will contain all palaces that have preceded it, like Russian dolls.

Outside the Palais des Nations in Geneva, some observers reported that they saw Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, as he was leaving, flash a big smile to well-wishers representing the Russian military and The KGB Boys.  Others told reporters they weren’t sure about Sergei Lavrov’s smile. The Chinese representative said he thought it might have been an illusion.

The venue was stunningly appropriate, as the Versailles Treaty had been signed in the very same Hall of Mirrors, in 1919.

Of course, the League of Nations failed when Italy invaded Ethiopia, a member of the League, in October 1935, and its last symbol collapsed under the treads of German tanks, in 1940, quite literally as the Third Reich seized the premises of the Permanent Court of International Justice in The Hague.

Does this history have anything to do with the Palace in the Sky, and the future of the United Nations?

One associates to Katherine Anne Porter’s brilliant novel, Ship of Fools (1962)–made into a movie of the same name in 1965.  Like the protagonist in the final scene of the movie, a dwarf who puffed on his cigar as he smiled and spoke, we can only answer,

“Nah, nothing at all.”

In the movie, the dwarf then chuckled ironically, turned, and walked down the gangplank.

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.