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)

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


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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.