Security Council Showdown on Syria
© UN Photo/Mark Garten
“In the coming days, if we don’t get an agreed resolution, then the situation will be very much like it was during the Cold War. Many businessmen in Damascus are betting publicly with the regime, and echoing the regime’s line, so to speak, but are privately aiding the opposition against the regime. Their position is based primarily on the killing on the ground and watching Assad try to do the same thing over and over again, and just coming up with the same bloody result. But of course, strategically, this is something that Saudi Arabia as well as other countries such as Turkey and even the United States all recognize, which is that strategically, the Assad regime’s departure would be a serious blow to Iranian influence in the region. That’s not lost on anyone. If you ever wanted to reorient Syria away from the Shiite crescent or the Iranian axis, this would be a good way to do it.”
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“Regime change is not our profession.”
The Security Council this afternoon (yesterday) began debate on the situation in Syria, where thousands of people have been killed over the past 10 months in a Government crackdown against a popular uprising.
Nabil El Araby, the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States (LAS), briefed the Council on the work of the League’s human rights monitors inside Syria, after which senior representatives of Member States began addressing the 15-member body on the situation in the Middle East country.
Mr. El Araby urged members of the Council to back a draft resolution prepared by Morocco and based the LAS plan of action on Syria, which calls for an immediate cessation of violence by all parties, and progress towards national dialogue that leads to a peaceful political resolution of the crisis
“We are attempting to avoid any foreign intervention, especially military intervention,” said Mr. El Araby, adding that the draft resolution also calls for the full respect of Syria’s territorial integrity and unity of the country’s people.
The Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Qatar, Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr Al-Thani, told the Council that LAS initiatives to end the violence in Syria “have been in vain” because the Government had failed to make any sincere effort to cooperate.
“The reality on the ground bears witness that bloodshed has not stopped, that the killing machine is still at work, and that the violence is spreading,” said Mr. Al-Thani, speaking in his capacity as chair of the Arab ministerial committee on Syria.
“Today we come to the Council asking that you assume your responsibilities under the Charter of the United Nations to address the humanitarian tragedy taking place in Syria, by adopting a clear resolution that supports the latest Arab initiative that was adopted in the resolution of LAS Ministerial Council in Cairo on 22 January,” he added.
“We also call on the Security Council to take all measures based on the resolutions adopted by LAS and notably the economic resolutions and travel ban on Syria. We are not calling for a military intervention. We are advocating the exertion of a concrete economic pressure so that the Syrian regime might realize that it is imperative to meet the demands of its people. We are not after regime change neither, for this is a matter that is up to the Syrian people to decide,” he added.
The United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged the international community to put aside differences and send a clear message of support to the people of Syria.
“Syria is a unique situation that requires its own approach, tailored to the specific circumstances occurring there. And that is exactly what the Arab League has proposed – a path for a political transition that would preserve Syria’s unity and institutions,” she said.
United Kingdom’s Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, William Hague, urged the council to unite behind the LAS plan to facilitate a peaceful resolution of the conflict.
“To fail to do so would be to undermine the credibility of this institution, betray the Syrian people, snub the Arab League and fail in this Council’s responsibilities,” said Mr. Hague.
Syria’s Ambassador to the UN Bashar Ja’afari said his country rejected “international intervention,” adding that “homelands are built by their own citizens.” His country, he said, would continue to protect its own people against armed elements. He denounced what he termed “feverish attempts” to interfere in Syria’s internal affairs by misleading world public opinion.
Russia’s Ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, urged both the Syrian Government and all opposition groups to send their representatives to Moscow on an agreed upon timeline to conduct informal contacts without preconditions.
“This would allow for the Syrian parties to discuss many issues on the national agenda without any limitation, in particular the task of preparing inter-Syrian dialogue. Today it is more important than ever to engage in dialogue which would lead to the realization of the necessary agreements on the political future of the country.” He urged the Council to play “a constructive role” in the process.
The UN has repeatedly urged the Syrian leadership to end the violence, with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urging President Bashar al-Assad “stop killing his own people” and embark on a path to greater democracy and heed the people’s call for representation and respect of human rights.
During his visit to Jordan today, Mr. Ban stated that “it is more urgent than ever to put an end to this bloodshed and violence, to start a credible political solution that addresses the legitimate aspiration of the Syrian people and to protect their fundamental freedoms.”
Security Council Members Diverge over Path towards Implementation of Draft
Resolution Backing Arab League Proposal on Resolving Crisis in Syria
Ministerial-level Representatives Hear Briefing by Senior Regional Officials
High-level officials from the United States, the United Kingdom, France and other Member States converged on the Security Council today to press for the adoption of a draft resolution that would support a plan by the League of Arab States to stem the bloodshed in Syria, and which calls on the country’s President to step aside as part of a democratic transition process.
At the same time, representatives of the Council’s two other permanent members, the Russian Federation and China, continued to oppose any action hinting at regime change, coercive measures or other foreign interference in Syria, with the Russian representative warning that such an intervention could spark catastrophic civil war and destabilize the region.
In addition to the Secretary of State of the United States, the Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom and the Foreign Minister of France, elected Council members Guatemala, Portugal, Morocco and Germany were also represented by senior Foreign Ministry officials today.
Briefing the Council, Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber bin Muhammad Al-Thani, Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Qatar and Chairman of the Arab League’s Ministerial Council, noted that the regional body, meeting in Cairo on 22 January, had requested Security Council support for its plan, which had subsequently been transmitted to the 15-member United Nations organ via a 24 January letter from the Secretary-General (document S/2012/71).
He recalled that the decision had been taken after numerous League initiatives to help end the violence, the last of which was the observer mission suspended last weekend. “Our efforts and initiatives have been in vain for the Syrian Government has not made any sincere effort to cooperate with our efforts, and, unfortunately, its only solution has been to kill its own people,” he said.
The plan, as conveyed by the Secretary-General’s letter and described today by Sheikh Hamad and Nabil Elaraby, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, calls for the beginning of genuine political dialogue between the Syrian Government and the opposition, under League auspices and within two weeks, as well as the formation of a unity Government within two months, to be followed by supervised parliamentary and presidential elections. President Bashar al-Assad would hand over his powers to his Vice-President for the transition period, according to the plan.
There was no hidden agenda against the Syrian regime, Mr. Elaraby emphasized. The objective was to stop the massive killing and repression, which had been condemned around the world. The League was not calling for military intervention or regime change — the latter being a matter for the Syrian people to decide — but it was advocating “concrete economic pressure so that the Syrian regime might realize that it is imperative to meet the demands of its people”.
Taking the floor immediately after the Arab League presentations, Syria’s representative said he found it strange to see Arab leaders calling for action against his country, which had sacrificed much for Arab causes, and joining with other States that wished to destroy Syria through the dissemination of false facts. He reiterated that the violence was the work of armed groups twisting the call for reform into chance to wreak havoc. Syrians, themselves, would resolve the historic challenges facing their homeland without outside intervention, he affirmed, equating the latter to colonialism.
He called on all those fomenting violence in Syria to support national dialogue and the reform process being implemented by the national leadership, which included a popular referendum later this month on the way ahead. That would be followed by parliamentary elections in the first half of the year, he said, appealing to the Council not to take actions that would exacerbate the crisis. He said the Arab League was no longer credible in the situation, adding: “Without Syria, there is no Arab League.”
In the ensuing discussion, representatives of Council members cited a death toll in the thousands that was growing daily, agreeing on the critical need to end the violence, to ensure respect for Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and to avoid military intervention, at least at the present stage of the crisis. Council members supporting the Arab League plan stressed the need for action following months in which, they said, the Syrian Government had failed to carry out its commitments and had instead ramped up the killing and human rights abuses so as to retain power. They stressed that they were not advocating intervention but democratic transition, with United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declaring: “We all have a choice — whether to stand with the people of Syria and the region, or become complicit in the violent crackdown.”
However, the Russian Federation’s representative said that, instead of interfering in Syria, it was now more important than ever to encourage dialogue among Syrians. The Council should be guided by the principle of non-imposition, he said, emphasizing that his country would not stand for any sanctions or any window allowing military intervention in the future. He noted, however, that the draft resolution submitted by Morocco incorporated many of the elements previously suggested by his own country, and he was, therefore, hopeful that consensus on the situation would soon be reached.
Some speakers supported the Arab League’s role, while speaking of the conundrum presented by a situation in which the principles of non-intervention and protection of civilians were in conflict. India’s representative also pointed out that neither repression nor outside intervention could fulfil the Syrian people’s aspirations to play a greater role in shaping their own destiny. “The Syrian people demand and deserve empowerment so that a Syrian-led and Syrian-owned political solution can be found in an atmosphere free of violence and bloodshed,” he said.
The representatives of Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Togo, Colombia and South Africa also delivered statements.
HAMAD BIN JASSIM BIN JABER BIN MUHAMMAD AL-THANI, Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Qatar and Chairman of the Arab League Ministerial Council, explained that the latter had charged him with briefing the Council and requesting its endorsement of the League’s decisions on Syria. The first and ultimate goal was to serve that country’s interests, which required the protection of its sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity while ensuring its stability, as well as the unity of its people and the protection of all its ethnic groups.
Recounting the Ministerial Council’s various initiatives aimed at ending the violence over the past months, he said that all deliberations had been transparent and objective. However, the Syrian Government was obviously not committed to implementing the initiatives despite having agreed to protocols. “It was clear that the Syrian objective was to resort to stalling and foot-dragging in order to evade their responsibilities in implementing the commitments,” he said. Once the “fear barrier came down and the people started defending themselves in the face of the acts of military and security oppression”, the Syrian Government had signed a protocol on 19 December 2011, allowing the deployment of the Arab League observer mission, the first in its history, he said. Once again, the Government had failed to implement its major provisions.
He said the Ministerial Council had subsequently endorsed, at its 22 January meeting, the road map for ending the crisis that had been incorporated into the draft resolutions that had been circulating among members of the Security Council with the aim of finding a “wise political and democratic solution to the crisis and a peaceful transition of power”. It provided for the formation within two weeks of a national unity Government that would include the opposition and be chaired by a mutually agreed figure. One of its tasks would be to prepare for pluralistic parliamentary and presidential elections, under a law that stipulated they must be conducted under Arab and international supervision. The Ministerial Council would extend the observer mission by one month despite the Arab League’s announcement, on 28 January, of its suspension pending review, “due to the serious deterioration of the security situation as a result of the escalation of the security-based option”.
He continued: “Our efforts and initiatives have been in vain for the Syrian Government has not made any sincere effort to cooperate with our efforts, and, unfortunately, its only solution has been to kill its own people.” Stressing that there was no hidden agenda against the Syrian regime, he said the objective was to stop the killing and repression, which had been condemned around the world. Recalling that the Security Council had previously supported Arab League positions on Darfur, Lebanon, Eritrea and Djibouti, as well as Gaza, among others, he said it looked forward to support for the Arab position on the Syrian crisis. However, the League was not calling for military intervention, he stressed. “We are not after a regime change either, for this is a matter that is up to the Syrian people to decide.”
NABIL ELARABY, Secretary-General, League of Arab States, said the Council was meeting at a time when events in Syria were “spiralling dangerously”, a situation requiring that the international community join its efforts with those of the Arab world to ensure a rapid end to the crisis. The aim should be to ensure an immediate cessation of violence and pave the way for a peaceful political solution that would end the “grinding crisis” and realize the aspiration of all segments of Syria’s population to live in dignity.
The situation was becoming “ever more grave and urgent”, especially in light of the escalation of violence in the past few days, he continued. Indeed, the tit-for-tat violence and the Government’s clear resort to a military solution – in contravention of Arab League requests that it seek dialogue — had led to the deaths of many civilians, he said. That being the case, the first priority was for the Security Council to adopt a resolution demanding that all parties cease fire, that civilians be protected, and that all parties support the plan put forward by the League of Arab States.
Interestingly, today’s meeting had been convened in line with the tenet of the United Nations Charter regarding the peaceful settlement of disputes and cooperation with regional organizations, he noted, thanking the Council for having responded so quickly to the Arab League’s request. The road map adopted by the League aimed chiefly to put an immediate end to the violence and to address the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people. It also stressed that Arab States had taken up the situation in Syria in an Arab context.
“We aim to avoid any foreign intervention, specifically any foreign military intervention,” he declared, stressing that all the League’s resolutions and decisions on the situation stressed full respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria and its people. Therefore, the Security Council efforts must support, not replace, the plan put forward by the Arab, which was clearly the best option for resolving the crisis, and should be supported by the Council and the wider international community. The League’s aim was to ensure a peaceful political settlement through a national dialogue involving all factions, sects and segments of society, towards a life of true democracy for all Syrians.
He went on to recall that he had handed such a proposal to the Syrian authorities in September 2011 and the Government had promised to implement the plan. An observer mission had subsequently been dispatched, and following the presentation of its report, the Arab League had considered that partial progress had been made on its requests, though that progress had been incomplete and, therefore, insufficient. It had not been “what was wanted, nor was it what was required” under the Arab plan, he said, adding that since Syria had not implemented its commitments ahead of the mission, the goals and mandate of the observers had had to be changed.
Indeed, the observers had helped to provide humanitarian goods and even with the removal and identification of bodies, he said, adding that the mission’s task had been very specific, difficult and complicated. Never had a team of Arab observers been sent to a State where violence was on the rise. The mission’s aim had been to ascertain the implementation of Syria’s commitments, he said, recalling that its most important observation had been the “excessive use of force” by Syrian security forces since March 2011. The report also noted the “explosive tension, oppression and injustice” that had led the opposition to take up arms against the Government.
In light of the mission report’s conclusions, as well as the results of the League’s ongoing monitoring of the situation, the Ministerial Council had adopted the road map on 23 January, he said, emphasizing, however, that it could in no way be interpreted as calling on President Bashar al-Assad to renounce power. He said that in discussions, the Syrian leader had ensured him that his First Deputy would lead the reforms called for in the Arab League proposal. However, just before travelling to New York, the “grave and escalating violence” had forced him to suspend the observer mission, particularly “after the Government had openly declared that it was taking the security option”, he said.
The League had long endeavoured to find a peaceful political settlement to the crisis, he continued, adding that it fully recognized that international support was fundamental to the success of its plan. The League, therefore, looked forward to a “resolution of support” from the Security Council, calling on all parties to cease all acts of violence against the Syrian people; for a broad national dialogue under the auspices of the Arab League; and supporting the work of the Arab observer mission, when its work resumed. He said he also looked forward to working with the United Nations to alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people once the crisis ended. Hopefully such cooperation would be a model of positive interactions between the two organizations. “Do not let the Syrian people down; the violence must end,” he said. “We need a clear resolution supporting the Arab League’s endeavour,” he added, urging Council members to back the draft resolution tabled by the delegation of Morocco.
BASHAR JA’AFARI ( Syria), noting his country’s long-standing commitment to Arab liberation from colonial domination throughout the region, said the nation was going through decisive challenges which must be resolved through the will of its people and not anyone else. They would choose the road of wisdom, so that the entire homeland would be victorious. The Syrian people had never accepted any foreign intervention in its affairs and they would prevail once again in resolving the present crisis on their own, through dialogue and a genuine national partnership that would respond to the aspirations of all the people without undermining the homeland. He added that he would have hoped that the Arab League would be calling for the Council to shoulder its responsibility to end Israeli repression of the Palestinian people. How surprising it was, then, to see them calling for action against Syria — which had sacrificed much for Arab causes — and joining with other States that wished to destroy Syria by disseminating falsehoods.
There were many contradictions in the drive for democracy, he said, recalling that his country had been pioneers of democracy in the region. As for the situation on the ground, the observer mission’s report confirmed clearly what he had said in the past. There was a campaign to distort and fabricate facts in Syria, and terrorist groups took advantage of the people’s desire for reform. The observer mission’s report also affirmed that Government forces were fighting back against armed groups using thermal bombs. It contradicted claims by many parties to have a role in settling the Syrian crisis, including Arab and European officials. Syria had been following the mission’s protocol, despite efforts to escalate violence during the presence of the observer. However, the League had ignored the findings of its own mission in its attempt to refer the situation to the Security Council.
Recalling the long history of attempts to intervene in his country’s affairs, he stressed Syria’s right under international law to defend itself against armed groups. Interference in Syrian affairs was a return to the colonialism and hegemony that had followed the destruction of Iraq and Afghanistan under false pretexts. Syria would stand firm in confronting its enemies, and called on all those fomenting the violence to support national dialogue and the reform process implemented by the Syrian leadership. A referendum on the road ahead would be held in February, to be followed by parliamentary elections in the first half of the year. Appealing to the Council not to take actions that would exacerbate crises, he commended the Russian Federation’s proposal to host an all-Syria dialogue in Moscow.
HILLARY CLINTON, Secretary of State of the United States, said the Arab League had demonstrated important leadership in the crisis, recalling that, for many months, the people of the world had watched in horror as the Syrian regime executed a campaign of violence against its own civilians. “No one is safe, not even officials of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent,” she said. Some 5,400 civilians had already died and the number was “rising fast”. The regime also continued arbitrarily to detain citizens simply for demanding dignity and universal rights. The evidence was clear that President Assad’s forces were initiating nearly all attacks that killed civilians, but as more citizens took up arms to resist the regime’s brutality, violence was increasingly likely to spiral out of control, she warned.
There was no doubt that the challenges faced by the Syrian people were daunting, she said, citing the crumbling economy, rising tensions, and the “cauldron of insecurity” in the Middle East. The United States understood that there were fears, especially among the country’s ethnic minorities, about what would follow a regime that was working hard to pit Syrian ethnic and religious groups against each other, risking even more violence and civil war. Fearing such a spiral, the Arab League had dispatched an unprecedented observer mission, and had offered the Syrian regime countless opportunities to change course. A reading of the entire report would show that the observer mission had acted according to its mandate and that the regime had responded with escalating violence, she said. Indeed, its security forces had intensified their assault, forcing the suspension of the observer mission’s work.
“So why is the Arab League here?” she asked. “Because they are seeking the support of the international community […] towards a responsible democratic transition,” she said, adding: “We all have a choice — whether to stand with the people of Syria and the region, or become complicit in the violent crackdown.” She urged the Council to back the Arab League’s call for an end to all the violence, the release of all detainees, the return of military forces to barracks, and access to the country for monitors and journalists. A Syrian-led process would address the legitimate aspirations of the people, she said, emphasizing that national political dialogue must be conducted in an atmosphere free from violence and intimidation.
As for those who believed the current situation was “headed towards another Libya”, she said such assumptions were a “false analogy” because Syria was a unique situation that required its own approach, tailored to the specific situation there. “That is exactly what the Arab League has proposed: a path that preserves Syrian unity and institutions,” she said, adding that the Arab proposal represented the best efforts by Syria’s neighbours to chart a way forward, and deserved the Council’s consideration. At the same time, no one should underestimate the task of rebuilding a society on the ruins of a failed dictatorship, she cautioned. “It will be hard, but the alternative — more of Assad’s brutal rule — is no alternative at all.”
She continued: “We all know that change is coming to Syria. Despite its ruthless tactics, the Assad regime’s reign of terror will end.” The question was how many more innocent civilians would die before the country was able to move forward towards the kind of future it deserved. The longer the violence continued, the harder it would be to rebuild Syria after something different had taken the Assad regime’s place, she said. “We do hear your fears and we do honour your aspirations,” she said. “Do not let the current regime exploit them through this current crisis,” she added, stressing that Syria belonged to its 23 million citizens and not to one man or his family. Change could be accomplished without dismantling the State or its institutions, she said, urging Council members to set aside their differences and act. “The alternative — spurning the Arab League, abandoning the Syrian people, emboldening the dictator — would compound that tragedy and would mark a failure of our shared responsibility and shake the credibility of the United Nations Security Council.”
ALAIN JUPPE, Minister for Foreign and European Affairs of France, said the Council’s months-long silence on the crisis was no longer acceptable. France called solemnly on the Council to live up to its Charter responsibility and come to the aid of a people demanding equality and respect. The Arab League should be commended for its efforts in seeking a resolution, he said, adding that the international community was coming together to put an end to the Council’s “scandalous silence”.
Thousands of people had been killed and thousands more illegally detained, he said, noting that he had long described the rape of women and children, as well as the illegal mass detention of civilians, as crimes against humanity. In the face of such heinous actions, when people were being slaughtered, “how difficult can it be for the Security Council to act?” he asked. Such actions should long ago have triggered a response from the Council, even without considering the principle of responsibility to protect. Indeed, France had long called on the Council to vote on a draft resolution, he said. As for other efforts, the European Union had tightened its sanctions against the Syrian regime while France had established links with the opposition.
Still, nothing could replace action by the Security Council, whose actions would express the will of the entire international community, he said. If it was to remain the guarantor of international pace and security, it must pronounce on the situation by acting on the draft resolution submitted by Morocco. The text was based on the proposal outlined by the Arab League, and the Council must, above all, unequivocally condemn the violence and not confuse the actions of the Syrian authorities with those of the opposition, who generally fought with their bare hands. All must pay tribute to the men and women who marched in the Syrian streets every day, fully aware that they could be shot dead at any moment, he said.
Other important elements of the draft included a call to support the Arab League’s initiative and for the definition of a credible transition process that would be implemented by the Arab League, with international support, he continued. While France would have liked to see the Council go further, the pressing situation in Syria required a swift resolution. “We must vote now,” he declared, denying allegations that the text under consideration included a plan for military intervention. “That is a myth; absolutely nothing in the draft could lead to such intervention,” he stressed, explaining that it aimed simply to allow the Syrian people freely to express their aspirations. “They alone must determine their future,” he said, stressing that he Arab League plan offered the only viable option for achieving that goal. “Let us live up to our political and moral duty. There is no time to be lost.”
WILLIAM HAGUE, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs of the United Kingdom, said the Council’s task was clear: to address the “horrifying violence” in Syria — which was a real threat to international peace and security — in a way that would provide the greatest possible chance of a peaceful and lasting solution. The Arab League plan had provided a credible and viable path, he said, adding that it was the kind of Arab leadership for which Council members had called in the past, and should be respected by all the world’s nations. It prescribed no coercive measures and called for no military action, he noted, adding that it called instead for the Syrian people to be allowed to make their own choices.
However, a Council resolution “should put the leaders of Syria on notice that measures will be considered by this Council if there is not an immediate end to the violence and if the Arab League plan continues to be ignored”, he warned. “For too long the Syrian Government has promised reform and continued the violence,” he said, citing the growing death toll since the Council’s August presidential statement. The violence included torture, rape and other crimes documented by impartial United Nations bodies, he added, asking: “How long do Syrian families have to live in fear that their children will be killed or tortured before the Security Council will act?”
There was consensus that the Council had a role to play in the crisis, he continued, stressing that all its members wanted a peaceful political solution that would respect Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and that would emerge from a Syrian-led process. They all agreed that a military response would not be appropriate, and welcomed the Arab League’s work. Action must now be taken, he emphasized, warning that, if the Council could not adopt a resolution supporting the Arab League, ending the violence and enabling a peaceful solution, it would undermine the credibility of the United Nations.
HAROLD CABALLEROS, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Guatemala, pointed out that he represented a Government that had taken office barely two weeks ago, and affirmed that changes occurring within a country “are the purview only and exclusively of the citizens of each country”. However, there could also be repercussions beyond borders, he said, adding that, from the differing narratives on the situation in Syria, it was clear that the immediate task at hand was to end the violence and reverse the current trend towards even greater misfortunes to come. Commending the pursuit of an “Arab solution” to the crisis, he said he recognized the difficulty in supporting the League’s plan but was willing to give it an opportunity to pursue the initiative within a predetermined time frame. If it did not bear fruit, “we would be failing in our obligation if we permit that an already grave situation deteriorates even further, with the foreseeable domestic and international repercussions”, he said.
Acknowledging the cardinal principal of non-intervention in internal affairs, but also pointing to his country’s endorsement of the principle of the responsibility to protect, he said his position did not invite interventions, but demanded strict observance of the norms of conduct. “Governments that flagrantly violate those norms naturally expose themselves to suffer the consequences — consequences whose precise shape and scope are susceptible to a wide spectrum of possibilities.” He appealed to all parties to make a lasting effort to find a way out of the Syrian crisis, noting that the initiative of the Arab League, or variants thereof, offered the potential for a way out. “Should it fail, the escalation of violence, which has taken on dramatic proportions in the last days, has not left many options to this Council to carry out its own responsibility in accordance with the Charter,” he concluded.
PAULO SACADURA CABRAL PORTAS, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Portugal, began by declaring that he had decided to participate in today’s meeting because what was happening in Syria was of such seriousness, the international community’s inaction so shocking, an Arab solution so urgent, and a decision by the United Nations so essential that he had felt compelled to do whatever he could to transform deadlock into solution, and hesitation into will. The brutality of the Syrian authorities in responding to the crisis had left thousands dead in its wake, in addition to many more thousands maimed, imprisoned and tortured. The authorities had shown their contempt for basic human rights and their unwillingness to protect the population even though the only aspiration of the Syrian people, inspired by their brethren in other Arab countries, was simply to voice their protest and to pave the way for a democratic society. According to UNICEF, nearly 400 children had lost their lives, a measure of the atrocities committed.
By persistently ignoring numerous appeals to end its bloody crackdown, the Syrian authorities had fuelled escalation, he continued, adding that, even under the repression to which they had been subjected, he trusted that the Syrian opposition movement would maintain the peaceful nature of their legitimate objectives. “I cannot stress enough the urgency of an immediate end to all violence.” Portugal valued highly the role of regional organizations and their contribution to peace and security, he said, noting that the Arab League was best suited to lead efforts to resolve the crisis in Syria — a crisis that also threatened many of its other member States. In that regard, Portugal fully supported the League’s efforts and stood firmly behind its 22 January decision, as well as the political road map outlined therein, as the only viable path towards establishing a credible political dialogue among all Syrians and leading to a peaceful political transition. He urged all Syrians parties, factions and stakeholders to respond positively to that proposal.
YOUSSEF AMRANI, Minister Delegate for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Morocco, said that, having listened carefully to the briefing on the phases of the crisis, and on the consequences of the confrontations that had claimed innocent lives and led to severe suffering on the part of civilians, Morocco hoped the Security Council would support the Arab plan to allow Syria to regain national harmony, peace and stability. In particular, he noted, the two officials briefing the Council had stressed the importance, relevance and efficiency of the Arab initiative in dealing with the situation and in laying the ground for a solution based on dialogue and national reconciliation.
Noting that his country had been among the first to contribute to the Arab observer mission that had reached areas in which confrontations had been taking place, he said Morocco had kept its observers in the field until the end of last week, even in the face of difficulties and obstacles to fulfilling their humanitarian mission. While applauding the observer mission’s efforts, he said he understood fully the reasons that had led to the decision by States of the Gulf Cooperation Council to withdraw their observers, adding that he also considered fully justified the decision by the Arab League to suspend the mission, a decision prompted by the dangerous escalation by the security forces, which had claimed a large number of victims.
He went on to say that the mission had actually been a good opportunity to establish conditions conducive to the calm necessary to start a new era free of violence. However, it had been the conclusion of the Arab League’s Council of Minister that Syria’s implementation of some of its commitments had not been sufficient, he said, expressing hope that today’s meeting would lead to a consensus within the Security Council that would give impetus to the launch of a political process involving the Government and the opposition in serious and responsible dialogue to start a new era in Syria.
MICHAEL LINK, Minister of State at the Federal Foreign Office of Germany, said the Arab Spring had demonstrated the wish of people in North Africa and the Middle East to shape their future peacefully, through negotiations and discussions, not at gunpoint and in an atmosphere of fear and violence. More than 10 months since events in Derra and Damascus had sparked peaceful protests against the Assad regime, thousands of Syrians had been left dead in the wake of the regime’s brutal crackdown on its own people. That violence must stop immediately, he stressed, noting that the Syrian people had been calling for freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, as well as the ability to choose their leaders freely, while President Assad had responded be sending in his tanks.
Commending Arab League efforts to resolve the crisis, he recalled that three months ago the organization had elaborated a work plan to which the Government had signed up. However, the Assad regime had not complied fully with the agreement. As a result, the violence had not ceased, not all those arrested had been released, and there had been no military withdrawal from cities and residential areas. On the contrary, there had been a notable increase in regime violence over the past few days, which had forced the suspension of the Arab League observer mission’s activities. Reminding the Council that most of the demonstrations had been overwhelmingly peaceful, he said the reaction of the authorities had been excessive, as confirmed by the findings of the international commission of inquiry established by the Human Rights Council. Germany advocated a separate Security Council commission of inquiry, he said, pointing out that the Arab League had turned to the Council for support. “We must seize this opportunity,” he declared. “Now is the time for the Security Council to act.”
ABDULLAH HUSSAIN HAROON ( Pakistan) said the Arab League had “seized the moment” and shown that regional organizations could find solutions to serious problems. Indeed, reports of ongoing violence should not be taken lightly by anyone, he said, condemning the use of force against peaceful protestors. He called on both sides to shun violence and pursue the path of dialogue towards a peaceful resolution of the problem. “We have to be mindful of the fact that any decisions made within these hallowed walls will have long-term implications not only in Syria, but in the Middle East as a whole,” he said, adding that that region could ill afford to bear more instability. Council members must also bear in mind the tenets of the Charter, especially those on State sovereignty, territorial integrity and the peaceful settlement of disputes, he said, stressing that the aim of the Arab proposal was not military intervention or regime change; all such matters were for the people of Syria to decide. In all its work, the Council should strive to achieve consensus, “for a unanimous message will always be more effective” in reaching goals regarding Syria, he said.
VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) welcomed the Arab League initiative, saying that an escalation of the crisis into full-scale conflict could have “lethal” consequences for Syria and the region. As the Russian Federation had long insisted, promotion of an inclusive, Syrian-led process should be the focus of international efforts, rather than threats of sanctions or military force. In that effort, the Russian Federation had stepped in to help the League reach agreement with the Syrian authorities, and had played a role in reducing violence. The observers’ report showed that all sides, not just the Government, must take measures to end the violence, he said, adding that it had shown that the armed elements were the cause of much of it.
The League’s decision to end its monitoring mission and impose sanctions was counter-productive, he said, adding that it showed the threats its observers faced from armed groups. Its work should continue with support from all sides. In addition, it was now more important than ever to encourage dialogue. In that light, the Council should be guided by the principle of “non-imposition”, he said, adding that the Russian Federation would not stand for any sanctions or for the creation of any window for military intervention in the future. A solution must not be imposed on Syria, he emphasized, pointing out, however, that the text presented by Morocco incorporated many of the elements previously suggested by his own country. The Russian Federation was, therefore, hopeful that consensus would be reached soon.
LI BAODONG ( China), describing Syria as an important country in the Middle East, said its security and stability concerned the entire region. The Syrian people’s demand for reform needed to be respected, and it was important to end the violence and end the killing of civilians. At the same time, a political process must be started without delay, he stressed, adding that the aim should be to resolve all differences peacefully through dialogue and negotiations, and to embark on a path of overall development. Syria and its people were committed and resourceful enough to find a solution, and the international community could provide assistance to a political settlement by promoting dialogue.
Since Syria was a member of the Arab world, China hoped to see a solution from within the Arab League, he said. To that end, China supported the regional body’s efforts and attached great importance to the report of its observer mission, and would continue to stress that all actions taken by the Security Council must be in compliance with Charter principles, help to ease tensions, promote political dialogue and help to promote peace and stability in the Middle East. China had always taken a “cautious approach” to the imposition of sanctions, which could lead to further complications, he said, adding that his country was also firmly opposed to the use of force and deliberate attempts to force regime change, which contravened the principles of the Charter. China supported the proposal put forward by the Russian Federation and took note of the text tabled by Morocco, he said.
TOFIG MUSAYEV ( Azerbaijan) noted that, despite all attempts by the Security Council to end the violence, including the presidential statement issued last August, the situation continued to deteriorate. Indeed, the series of terrorist suicide bombings that had occurred in Damascus since 23 December were striking illustrations of the dangerous escalation and its unpredictable consequences. Azerbaijan had long supported Arab League efforts and would continue to look forward to their overcoming the crisis in Syria, he said. He recalled that the August presidential statement stressed that the only way out of the crisis was through a Syrian-led political process, with the aim of addressing effectively the legitimate aspirations and concerns of the Syrian people. Such a process should include free democratic elections that allowed the participation of all political factions.
It was indisputable that united and coordinated efforts within the Security Council were vital in ensuring that it carried out its primary duties regarding the maintenance of international peace and security, he said. As such, Azerbaijan would continue to support and be open to timely consultations among all Council members on all elements of the situation in Syria, and looked forward to constructive dialogue to that end, as well as to the report of the observer mission. “The international community must not only demand certain steps from the Syrian Government, but also focus its efforts on persuading the opposition to reciprocate,” he said, stressing that only measures commensurate with the situation, in conformity with Article VI of the Charter, and which supported the Arab League’s efforts, should be considered. Whatever the differences, it was crucial that all actions respect Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
KODJO MENAN ( Togo) condemned the human rights violations in Syria, calling on the Government to end the violence, and on the military to return to barracks. Implementation of the Arab League plan depended on the goodwill of the Government, which did not seem willing to step down or take part in the transition process recommended. For that reason, he said, “the road map will have little chance to be implemented”. The Council had been put in the difficult position of protecting civilians without undue intervention, and must seriously consider its options, he said. It was clear, however, that an urgent appeal for an end to the violence was needed. However, the violence of all sides must not be placed in the same category, he stressed, adding that the opposition must return to its original objectives and a genuine dialogue must begin. A fully fledged civil war with disastrous consequences must not be allowed to develop.
HARDEEP SINGH PURI ( India) said his country had called for a peaceful and inclusive political process to address the Syrian people’s aspirations to play a greater role in shaping their destiny. Neither repression nor outside intervention could accomplish that goal. “The Syrian people demand and deserve empowerment so that a Syrian-led and Syrian-owned political solution can be found in an atmosphere free of violence and bloodshed,” he said. India had conveyed its condemnation of the violence, by whomsoever perpetrated, and the Arab League mission showed that there was an armed opposition element that was responsible for violent acts, he said, adding that a lot of information in the media was misleading.
He said continued presence of the observers could have helped reduce the violence and present a more accurate picture of developments, but it also needed to be accompanied by a political process to address the people’s grievances. Such a process must be led by Syrians and respect the country’s sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity, building on the package of political reforms already announced by the Syrian leadership and acceptable to the widest range of Syrian society. The international community should play a constructive role in that process, he said, pledging to work for consensus in support of the Arab League initiative to expeditiously resolve the Syrian crisis.
NÉSTOR OSORIO ( Colombia) said that, by acting together, the Council could pave the way for a political solution in Syria and end the violence under way there for some 10 months. At the same time, he stressed that the Government had the primary responsibility for maintaining law and order and protecting civilians. Colombia was alarmed at the continuing violence and would support regional initiatives aimed at finding a peaceful solution to the situation.
He said a long-term solution must be Syrian-led and maintain the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. As for the draft resolution before the Council, it was a good basis for negotiations, and offered an opportunity for the Council to incorporate elements of the Arab League proposal. He chiefly noted that the proposal called for all parties to cease violence and begin a peaceful negotiating process. Colombia was prepared to support all efforts underpinned by the abiding duty of the United Nations to ensure international peace and security, he said.
Council President BASO SANGQU ( South Africa), speaking in his national capacity, said his delegation was deeply concerned about the deteriorating political, security and humanitarian situations in Syria. Condemning the continuing loss of life, he called for all parties to exercise maximum restraint, and emphasized the urgent need for the violence to end immediately. “It is our hope that the situation will be resolved in a peaceful manner, in accordance with the will of the Syrian people,” he said, reiterating that any solution to the crisis should be Syrian-led, based on genuine national dialogue and devoid of any form of intimidation and outside interference.
He went on to urge the Syrian authorities to initiate an open, transparent and all-inclusive political process to address the people’s grievances and guarantee their fundamental political rights and freedoms, including the rights to free assembly and free speech. South Africa also encouraged the opposition to participate in that process with a view to ensuring sustainable peace. “A comprehensive political solution must be found that would lead to political reform based on respect for democratic principles, rule of law, justice and human rights,” he said.
He also welcomed the Security Council’s engagement with the League of Arab States on the matter and hoped such cooperation would lead to a coherent, united voice for the peaceful resolution. “We strongly believe that any solution should uphold the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Syria, and at the same time respect for the purposes and principles enshrined in the Charter,” he said. The critical question at this juncture was what positive contribution the Council and the wider international community could make towards bringing the Syrian parties closer to resolving the conflict. To that end, South Africa welcomed all diplomatic measures aimed at finding a solution and urged stakeholders to avoid taking any action that risked polarizing the parties and escalating tension. Military intervention — as had been shown in the case of Libya — often had unintentional consequences.
SHEIKH HAMAD, taking the floor a second time, said he had not come to New York to ask the Council to approve military intervention. “We are not interfering in Syria’s internal affairs; it is up to the Syrian people to decide who governs the country,” he stressed. As for the statement by Syria’s representative, he said Qatar had not been colonized and was proud to stand with all its Arab brothers “who need our assistance”. Indeed, Qatar wished to work alongside the people of Syria to carry out reforms and relaunch democracy. He said his country had no open relations with Israel — Qatar had a clear position on that issue — but it readily and actively provided assistance to the Palestinian people. He also refuted the Syrian delegate’s statements regarding Qatar’s relations with Iraq.
Mr. AL JA’AFARI ( Syria) said that, while it was true that his country had participated in liberating Kuwait following its occupation by Iraq, it had never participated in the invasion of Iraq or the attack on Libya. Asking whether Qatar was a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) or the Arab League, he sought to know how it had come to join in the destruction of Libya. Despite assurances that there would be no military intervention in Syria, who could guarantee that what had happened in Libya, Kosovo and elsewhere would not happen there? he asked. Regarding the victims of violence, he said the sadness of others could never reach the depth of Syrian sadness in the present situation. That was why Syrians must put an end to the spilling of blood.
Inflaming the situation and creating a contraband arms trade must not be countenanced, he stressed, noting that some neighbouring countries were now harbouring armed resistance whose members were bombarding Syrian infrastructure. Al Jazeera should cease to fan the flames and thus contribute to ending the bloodletting, he said. The Arab League was no longer credible in the situation, he said, adding: “Without Syria there is no Arab League.”
Recalling the bombing of Syrian neighbourhoods by foreign forces in the 1940s and the thousands of Algerians killed following the Second World War, he said “J’accuse” to those involved in undermining Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity following its assistance to Lebanon and its economic partnership with Turkey. The President of Syria could not end the crisis alone, he said, adding that he needed help from Turkey, Arab countries and the Security Council. He concluded by asking why parts of the Arab League report were missing.
The Arab League has demonstrated important leadership in this crisis. And for many months, the people of the region and the world have watched in horror as the Assad regime executed a campaign of violence against its own citizens. Civilians gunned down in the streets, women and children tortured and killed. No one is safe, not even officials of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent. According to UN estimates, more than 5,400 civilians have already died, and that number is rising fast.
The regime also continues to arbitrarily detain Syrian citizens, such as the activists Yahia al-Shurbaji and Anas al-Shaghri, simply for demanding dignity and universal rights. To date, the evidence is clear that Assad’s forces are initiating nearly all of the attacks that kill civilians, but as more citizens take up arms to resist the regime’s brutality, violence is increasingly likely to spiral out of control. Already, the challenges ahead for the Syrian people are daunting – a crumbling economy, rising sectarian tensions, a cauldron of instability in the heart of the Middle East.
Now, fears about what follows Assad, especially among Syria’s minority communities, are understandable. Indeed, it appears as though Assad and his cronies are working hard to pit Syria’s ethnic and religious groups against each other, risking greater sectarian violence and even descent into civil war.
So in response to this violent crackdown on peaceful dissent and protest, the Arab League launched an unprecedented diplomatic intervention, sending monitors into Syria’s beleaguered cities and towns and offering President Assad many chances to change course. These observers were greeted by thousands of protestors eager to share their aspirations for their universal rights and also the stories of what had befallen them and their families. But as the Arab League report makes clear if you read the entire report, the regime did not respect its pledges or the presence of the monitors, and instead responded with excessive and escalating violence.
Now, in the past few days, the regime’s security forces have intensified their assault, shelling civilian areas in Homs and other cities. And this weekend, the Arab League suspended its monitoring mission, pointing to the regime’s intransigence and the mounting civilian casualties.
So why is the Arab League here before this Security Council? Because they are seeking the support of the international community for a negotiated, peaceful political solution to this crisis and a responsible, democratic transition in Syria. And we all have a choice: Stand with the people of Syria and the region or become complicit in the continuing violence there.
The United States urges the Security Council to back the Arab League’s demand that the Syrian Government immediately stop all attacks against civilians and guarantee the freedom of peaceful demonstrations. In accordance with the Arab League’s plan, Syria must also release all arbitrarily detained citizens, return its military and security forces to their barracks, allow full and unhindered access for monitors, humanitarian workers, and journalists.
And we urge the Security Council to back the Arab League’s call for an inclusive, Syrian-led political process to effectively address the legitimate aspirations and concerns of Syria’s people, conducted in an environment free from violence, fear, intimidation, and extremism.
Now, I know that some members here may be concerned that the Security Council could be headed toward another Libya. That is a false analogy. Syria is a unique situation that requires its own approach, tailored to the specific circumstances occurring there. And that is exactly what the Arab League has proposed – a path for a political transition that would preserve Syria’s unity and institutions.
Now, this may not be exactly the plan that any of us ourselves would have designed. I know that many nations feel that way. But it represents the best effects and efforts of Syria’s neighbors to chart a way forward, and it deserves a chance to work.
I think it would be a mistake to minimize or understate the magnitude of the challenge that Syrians face in trying to build the rule of law and civil society on the ruins of a brutal and failed dictatorship. This will be hard. The results are far from certain. Success is far from guaranteed. But the alternative – more of Assad’s brutal rule – is no alternative at all.
We all know that change is coming to Syria. Despite its ruthless tactics, the Assad regime’s reign of terror will end and the people of Syria will have the chance to chart their own destiny. The question for us is: How many more innocent civilians will die before this country is able to move forward toward the kind of future it deserves? Unfortunately, it appears as though the longer this continues, the harder it will be to rebuild once President Assad and his regime is transitioned and something new and better takes its place.
Citizens inside and outside Syria have begun planning for a democratic transition, from the Syrian National Council to the courageous grassroots local councils across the country who are organizing under the most dangerous and difficult circumstances. But every day that goes by, their task grows more difficult.
The future of Syria as a strong and unified nation depends on thwarting a cynical divide-and-conquer strategy. It will take all Syrians working together – Alawis and Christians hand-in-hand with Sunni and Druze, side-by-side Arabs and Kurds – to ensure that the new Syria is governed by the rule of law, respects and protects the universal rights of every citizen, regardless of ethnicity or sect, and takes on the widespread corruption that has marked the Assad regime.
For this to work, Syria’s minorities will have to join in shaping Syria’s future, and their rights and their voices will have to be heard, protected, and respected. And let me say directly to them today: We do hear your fears and we do honor your aspirations. Do not let the current regime exploit them to extend this crisis.
And leaders of Syria’s business community, military, and other institutions will have to recognize that their futures lie with the state and not the regime. Syria belongs to its 23 million citizens, not to one man or his family. And change can still be accomplished without dismantling the state or producing new tyranny.
It is time for the international community to put aside our own differences and send a clear message of support to the people of Syria. The alternative – spurning the Arab League, abandoning the Syrian people, emboldening the dictator – would compound this tragedy, and would mark a failure of our shared responsibility, and shake the credibility of the United Nations Security Council.
The United States stands ready to work with every member in this chamber to pass a resolution that supports the Arab League’s efforts, because those are the efforts that are well thought out, and focused on ending this crisis, upholds the rights of the Syrian people, and restores peace to Syria.
That is the goal of the Arab League, that should be the goal of this Council, to help the Syrian people realize the goal of the future that they seek.
I think we saw once again the deep concern that the international community has over the situation in Syria and the determination to act, to try to bring an end to the killing and terrible abuses that is ongoing. We will have a concerted effort over the next days to reach agreement in the Security Council to put forth a resolution that sends a message to President Assad and his regime. I think it was made abundantly clear that the Arab League has played an essential leadership role, and we want to support the Arab League’s position, and we want to underscore that there is no intention to seek any authority or to pursue any kind of military intervention.
This is a crisis that should be resolved peacefully. In order to do that, the United States believes that President Assad should step away and permit others to begin the process of negotiating a political transition that will lead to elections and the fulfillment of the aspirations and universal human rights of the Syrian people.
So I am pleased at the statements that were made. And even those who have some concerns said today that they understand the need to act and that we do have to support what the Arab League has worked so hard to achieve. I think that’s the right position, and now the hard work about how to translate that into a resolution goes forward.
I’ll take two questions.
QUESTION: Secretary, if the Russians go ahead and block it, what options does the United —
SECRETARY CLINTON: You know what? We’re not – we’re going to be just working over the next two days very diligently to follow up on this extraordinary Security Council session, and I’m not prepared to anticipate what is going to be the outcome.
QUESTION: If I could try and follow up on that. I think you left no hint today – between your comments, the foreign secretary’s comments, and Foreign Minister Juppe’s comments, taken with a very tough statement by Ambassador Rice yesterday – that you think Russia is blocking movement by the Council. And over the last 48 hours, Foreign Minister Lavrov has publicly said that he doesn’t want to talk to you because he’s busy in Australia, and so clearly he’s skirting serious discussion with you directly on this issue.
So what is all this chest beating here at the United Nations for if at the end of the day, the Russians aren’t going to meaningfully work towards a solution? Or are you concerned that you’ll have to water down this resolution so much that it doesn’t take into the spirit of the Arab League report that you endorse?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, Elise, I am going to be speaking with Sergey Lavrov. He is traveling in Australia. I’ve actually traveled in Australia. It is sometimes difficult to make connections. I don’t think anyone should read anything into that. I think what’s important is the resolve that has been demonstrated so clearly today by the Arab League and by a majority of the members of the Security Council that action is called for. There was a repeating of the chronology, starting with the presidential statement back in August, and the numbers of deaths continue to rise. So this is not sustainable. We have to make a very clear statement from the Security Council supporting the Arab League’s leadership and calling for a path forward that will be followed by the Assad regime.
And obviously, the United States and I personally care deeply about what is happening in Syria. I also understand some of the doubts and concerns of the Syrian people, which I addressed directly today in my statement. If this were easy, it would have already been done. There are a lot of issues and concerns that have to be addressed.
But at the end of the day, every member of that Security Council has a choice to make. If you do not choose to try to stand on the side of the Syrian people, then you are standing on the side of the continuing killing and abuses that are carried out every single day. I know what side we’re on. I know what side the majority of the Council is on, and we will work until we can find a way to usefully support the Arab League’s initiative, send a clear message to the Assad regime and the people of Syria, and then work toward a peaceful resolution of this terrible conflict.
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
The sudden end of the bipolar confrontation and collapse of the Soviet Union launched a historic era in Security Council activism, making the past two decades the most productive in the Council’s history. Of the 2034 UNSC resolutions since 1945, a full 1351 of them have been passed since 1991, and use of the veto has declined precipitously. Yet the veto remains always in the background—as Russia has reminded the world in threatening to block an Arab League-sponsored resolution calling for Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad to step down in favor of a transitional government.
This historical perspective should temper our expectations for the Security Council and tame some of our frustrations with its current, mixed performance. The Council remains a powerful instrument, capable of delivering, as in the case of North Korea and Iran, crippling sanctions. But the Council’s work has become increasingly controversial, as it is asked not only to address matters of interstate conflict but also to redress massive human rights violations within states. With the veto built into the structure of the UN Charter, we cannot expect the Council to function smoothly at times of great power friction, especially when one of the P5—Russia in this case—declares a vested national interest in an issue under debate. If in the case of Syria Washington ultimately deems decisive action imperative, it may need to act outside the United Nations, as it did in Kosovo and Iraq. But it must weigh the costs prudently, since foregoing UNSC authorization will undermine the Council’s credibility and alienate influential nations, including emerging powers it seeks to cultivate as partners, like India and Brazil.
By Colum Lynch
The mission’s international standing was also diminished by the selection of its monitoring chief –General Al-Dabi, a close advisor of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court. Al-Dabi also served as a top military officer in Darfur, Sudan, at a time when the government was organizing local militia, known as the Janjaweed, that were involved in mass killings of civilians in the region. An Algerian member of the Arab team, Anwar Malek, resigned in protest, telling Al Jazeera that the mission was a “farce.”
“What I saw was a humanitarian disaster. The regime is not just committing one war crime, but a series of crimes against its people,” Malek. “The snipers are everywhere shooting at civilians. People are being kidnapped. Prisoners are being tortured and none were released.”
Al-Dabi has not commented on Malek’s claim. But the report notes that “some observers failed to honor their commitments and the provision of the oath they took. They contacted officials in their countries…and painted a very gloomy picture. This resulted in misunderstanding and faulty assessment by those officials of the situation.”
European diplomats, meanwhile, have questioned Al-Dabi’s accounts of events unfolding in Syria, including the observer mission’s report on the killing of a French television journalist. Al-Dabi writes simply that the “reports of the mission already indicate that the French journalist died, and a Belgian reporter injured, as a result of mortar attacks fired by the opposition.” But one European official said the report fails to mention testimony by other journalists traveling in the area that the reporter had been forced into the line of fire by pro-government supporters. “The account we received is that they were exposed to enemy fire deliberately,” said one European diplomat.
As for the monitors, the official said it was clear they were being used and manipulated by the Syrian government to gain time to crush anti-government protesters and armed opposition elements.
Al-Dabi disagreed, arguing that despite its shortcomings the monitoring mission was vital to the country’s stability.
“Any termination of the work of the mission after this short term will undermine the positive results — even if incomplete — that have been achieved so far. This may result in complete chaos on the ground given that [the] parties are neither qualified nor ready for the political process which aims at resolving the Syrian crisis.”
U.S. Mounts Further Military Build-Up in Persian Gulf
By Ben Schreiner
This rhetorical drawback by certain segments within the power structure has also been seen in Israel. On January 18, for example, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak refused to speculate on whether Israel would unilaterally strike Iran, while also going on to state that Israel was “very far off” from even making such a decision.
Barak, however, already seems to have changed course. Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Friday, the Israeli defense minister argued that the world must act quickly to stop Iran from reaching the point at which time a strike becomes ineffective. As he stated, “It seems to us to be urgent, because the Iranians are deliberately drifting into what we call an immunity zone where practically no surgical operation could block them.” Very far off appears to be rapidly approaching.
Indeed, writing in the latest New York Times Magazine (1/25), Ronen Bergman argues that Israel remains poised to strike Iran. As Bergman concludes his piece: “After speaking with many senior Israeli leaders and chiefs of military and the intelligence, I have come to believe that Israel will indeed strike Iran in 2012.” Of course, an Israeli strike would quickly ensnare the U.S., along with many others, in a regional, if not global, conflict.
Yet, even as all signs continue to point towards an impending war, a glimmer of hope has perhaps also begun to emerge. Organized popular resistance to yet another imperial conquest is now finally visible within the U.S. As was announced earlier this month, a “broad spectrum of U.S.-based anti-imperialist and anti-war organizations,” including many Occupy movements, have called for a coordinated nationwide protests on February 4 to resist the drive to war with Iran. The protesters will demand: “No war, no sanctions, no intervention, no assassinations against Iran.”
And with the power elite in both Israel and the U.S. still debating and divided over when to launch a strike against Iran, and with the Occupy movement already active in cities across the country, a window of opportunity exists (however brief) for a powerful working class-led push back to gain traction nationally against the further expansion of U.S. militarism into Iran. In fact, the only assured hope for warding off war–establishment doves, after all, rarely prevail against their hawkish counterparts–will be for the U.S. working class to demonstrate its opposition to imperialism by taking to the streets in protest. In the end, such resistance offers the only real hope for a peaceful resolution to the present crisis.
No Exit in the Persian Gulf?
by Michael T. Klare and Tom Engelhardt, February 01, 2012
Washington’s (and Tel Aviv’s) carefully calculated plans for Iran may go seriously, painfully awry. Now, in all honesty, wouldn’t you call that Kafkaesque? Or perhaps that’s a question for the Pentagon, where, it turns out, Kafka is in residence. I’m talking, of course, about Lieutenant Commander Mike Kafka. He’s a spokesman for the Navy’s Fleet Forces Command — believe me, you can’t make this stuff up — and just the other day he was over at the old five-sided castle being relatively close-mouthedabout the retrofitting of a Navy amphibious transport docking ship as a special operations “mothership” (a term until now reserved for sci-fi novels and Somali pirates). It’s soon to be dispatched to somewhere in or near the Persian Gulf to be a floating base for Navy SEAL covert actions of unspecified sorts, guaranteed not to bring down the price of oil.
Certainly, the dispatch of that ship in July will only ratchet up tensions in the Gulf, a place that already, according to Michael Klare, TomDispatch regular and author of the upcoming book The Race for What’s Left: The Global Scramble for the World’s Last Resources, is the most potentially explosive spot on the planet.
How Obama Became Vulnerable on Iran by Trita Parsi
U.S. and EU moves to sanction Iran’s oil exports have prompted worries about a disruption of global oil markets. A new CFR energy brief by expert Robert McNally outlines scenarios where rising tensions could affect the price of oil.
Background & Analysis
- China, India on Iran Sanctions
- Japan’s Iran Sanctions Dilemma
- Crisis Guide: Iran
- Oil’s Trouble Spots