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
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