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

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.