With al-Assad defiant, freeze on UNSMIS, military action required—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Upadate #29 (April 24)

In view of Bashar al-Assad’s (entirely foreseeable) refusal to comply with the provisions of Security Council Resolution 2042 (April 14, 2012) and Resolution 2043 (April 21, 2012), what is to be done?

The entire Kofi Annan 6-point peace plan was built on a flawed concept of negotiating with a war criminal while he continued to commit crimes against humanity, war crimes, and other grave violations of fundamental human rights, on a very wide scale. The Devil’s Bargain that was sought was the Dictator’s cessation (or reduction) in the commission of these crimes in exchange for non-intervention by outside powers and a “Syrian-led” process of negotiations between the government and the opposition which would lead to, as its only logical outcome, the Dictator remaining in power. The flawed concept put all of the cards in al-Assad’s hands, and those of his Russian backers.

Security Council Resolution 2043, creating the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS), was based on a continuation of the flawed 6-point peace plan, and the further assumption that the introduction of 300 unarmed U.N. observers in Syria, with a mandate to observe but not to protect the civilian population, would somehow bring the violence to a halt.

Instead of introducing peace observers after a truce had taken hold, Annan and the Security Council decided to try to use the U.N. observers to force al-Assad to halt the killing.  The Security Council and Annan continued to delude themselves by giving credence, even the slightest credence, to the commitments on paper which al-Assad and his officials signed.

Caught up in the process of getting permission from al-Assad for this or that–the latest being an agreement on the status of the observers and their mission, members of the Security Council mistook paper progress for real progress on the ground, as fresh assaults on cities and towns continued.

What is to be done?

Al-Assad and the Russians and the Chinese appear to have calculated that the 6-point peace plan of Kofi Annan and the establishment of a U.N. observer mission would provide a shield for the al-Assad regime against any foreign military intervention to halt the killing–i.e., the wanton commission of crimes against humanity and war crimes.

So far, their calculation appears to have been accurate.

What should the West, the Arab countries, and the civilized world do now?

They can wait for 90 days as al-Assad plays games with the U.N. observers, while continuing his atrocities. That is the course of inertia, and what is likely to occur absent strong leadership from some quarter.

That leadership should come from Barack Obama and the United States, but we have observed for a very long time Obama’s lack of resolve in confronting either al-Assad or Vladimir Putin and the Russians. He appears fixated on electoral politics, even at the cost of the national interest, and in addition seems to have a character which abhors confrontation of any kind.


1. Given Syria’s defiance on the ground with the provisions of Security Council Resolutions 2042 and 2043, the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) should immediately be placed in lock-down status until Bashar al-Assad complies with the cessation of hostilities provisions of Resolutions 2042 and 2043.

These unarmed U.N. observers should not be placed in the middle of an ongoing armed conflict, much as the Dutch U.N. peacekeepers were dispatched to Srebrenice without the mandate and means to defend the population of the city against the commission of genocide.

Additional members of UNSMIS should not be deployed to Syria until the conditions detailed above have been met.

2. Great Britain, the United States and France should take the lead in preparing a draft U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing the use of “all necessary measures” to protect the civilian population of Syria against crimes against humanity, and to halt the commission of war crimes against armed insurgents by the Syrian regime.

The text of the draft resolution prepared by these civilized nations should be made public, and placed on the agenda of the Security Council for debate.

After a short but appropriate time for negotiation of a consensus with the Russians and the Chinese, the resolution should be put to a vote.

If the reolution is vetoed by Russia or China or both, nations in a position to do so should then use military force to stop al-Assad and the commission of crimes against humanity and war crimes by his forces. Such action would be consistent with international law.  The legal justifications have been set forth in earlier articles by the Observer.

3. The United States and other countries in a position to do so should, under  the direction of a small and integrated military coordination committee, immediately move to deploy their military assets to the region of Syria so that they may be placed into action on short notice.

A second U.S. aircraft carrier is already in the Persian Gulf.  Additional measures should be taken on an extremely urgent basis.

This is what should be done.  For history.  For stability in the Middle East, and beyond. For our own conception of who we are. For humanity.  Pour l’humanité.

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.

About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.