THE RUSSO-CHINESE VETO IN THE UNITED NATIONS: WHAT DOES IT PORTEND?
"UNITED NATIONS — A United Nations Security Council effort to end the violence in Syria collapsed in acrimony with a double veto by Russia and China on Saturday, hours after the Syrian military attacked the city of Homs in what opposition leaders described as the deadliest government assault in the nearly 11-month uprising.
The veto and the mounting violence underlined the dynamics shaping what is proving to be the Arab world’s bloodiest revolt: diplomatic stalemate and failure as Syria plunges deeper into what many are already calling a civil war. Diplomats have lamented their lack of options in pressuring the Syrian government, and even some Syrian dissidents worry about what the growing confrontation will mean for a country reeling from bloodshed and hardship.
The veto is almost sure to embolden the government of President Bashar al-Assad, which brazenly carried out the assault on Homs on the day that the Security Council had planned to vote. It came, too, around the anniversary of its crackdown in 1982 on another Syrian city, Hama, by Mr. Assad’s father, Hafez, in which at least 10,000 people were killed in one of the bloodiest episodes in modern Arab history.
“It’s quite clear — this is a license to do more of the same and worse,” said Peter Harling, an expert on Syria at the International Crisis Group. “The regime will take it for granted that it can escalate further. We’re entering a new phase that will be far more violent still than what we’ve seen now.”
The Security Council voted 13 to 2 in favor of a resolution backing an Arab League peace plan for Syria, but passage was blocked by Russia and China, which opposed what they saw as a potential violation of Syria’s sovereignty. The support of those countries has proved crucial in bolstering the Syrian government’s confidence, despite an isolation more pronounced than any time since the Assad family seized power more than four decades ago.
After the vote, and the failure before that of the Arab League peace plan to stem the violence, predictions were grim about what is ahead in a conflict that the United Nations says has claimed more than 5,000 lives. To many, two inexorable forces were at work: a government bent on crushing the uprising by force and an opposition that, if not increasing in numbers, appeared to be growing even more determined.
“What more do we need to know to act decisively in the Security Council?” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton fumed at a news conference in Munich. “To block this resolution is to bear responsibility for the horrors that are occurring on the ground in Syria.”
Responding to the Russian foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, who asked, “What’s the endgame?” Mrs. Clinton replied: “The endgame in the absence of us acting together as the international community, I fear, is civil war.”
The attack in Homs, where Syrian opposition leaders said more than 200 people were killed, drew outrage from around the world and intensified pressure on the Security Council to act.
President Obama condemned what he called “the Syrian government’s unspeakable assault against the people of Homs,” saying in a statement that Mr. Assad “has no right to lead Syria, and has lost all legitimacy with his people and the international community.” He accused Syria of having “murdered hundreds of Syrian citizens, including women and children.”
The French foreign minister, Alain Juppé, said, “The massacre in Homs is a crime against humanity, and those responsible will have to answer for it.”
Protests broke out at Syrian Embassies around the world, including in Egypt, Germany, Greece and Kuwait, and Tunisia expelled Syria’s ambassador.
But at the United Nations, Russia, Syria’s staunch ally, had promised to veto any resolution that could open the way to foreign military intervention or insist on Mr. Assad’s removal".
Neil MacFarquhar & Anthony Shadid, "Russia and China Block UN action on Syrian Crisis." The New York Times. 4 February 2012. www.nytimes.com.
"Responding to the vote in the UN Security council on Syria, the Foreign Secretary said the following:
"Russia and China faced a simple choice today: would they support the people of Syria and the Arab League or not? They decided not to, and instead sided with the Syrian regime and its brutal suppression of the Syrian people in support of their own national interests. Their approach lets the Syrian people down, and will only encourage President Assad’s brutal regime to increase the killing, as it has done in Homs over the past 24 hours.
"The draft resolution, tabled by Morocco, supported Arab League efforts to resolve the crisis in Syria and called for an immediate end to all violence. It did not impose any sanctions, nor did it authorise military action. At every stage we worked to accommodate the concerns of some Council members and tabled a text which did just that. There was nothing in the draft to warrant opposition.
"More than 2,000 people have died since Russia and China vetoed the last draft resolution in October 2011. Over 6,000 people have died in the 10 months since the uprising began. Many more have been tortured and detained. How many more need to die before Russia and China allow the UN Security Council to act? Those opposing UN Security Council action will have to account to the Syrian people for their actions which do nothing to help bring an end to the violence that is ravaging the country.
"The United Kingdom will continue to support the people of Syria and the Arab League to find an end to the violence and allow a Syrian-led political transition."'
British Foreign Secretary William Hague, "Foreign Secretary Responds to UNSC vote on Syria." Foreign & Commonwealth Office. 4 April 2012, in www.fco.gov.uk
The Russian and Chinese veto in the United Nation's Security Council on Saturday past of the Western-Arab League resolution dealing with Syria kicks the problem squarely in the geo-political grass as far as the Security Council is concerned. For all intents and purposes that ally of diplomatic actions is effectively closed off hereafter. Which leaves only the following possible scenarios for a 'resolution' of the crisis in Syria: i) the regime `a la Saddam Hussein circa 1991-1992, gradually puts down the rebellion, using its still overwhelming monopoly of firepower. That and assistance from its allies in Iraq, Hezbollah, Persia, Russia & China (admittedly half-hearted), can probably be enough to perhaps see the regime through the next six months. After which, the rebellion, and any Resistance to the Assad Regime will gradually die-down; ii) with the rejection of the Security Council resolution, any illusions that remained by the Syrian opposition that the regime could be negotiated out of power by the international community are rendered null and void. With this in mind, and with the possibility of a Libyan Scenario no longer on the cards (if it ever was), the only avenue open to changing the regime is for those members of the Arab League who remain openly interested in a policy of overthrow: Saudi Arabia, Qatar as well as Turkey, beginning to arm the nascent opposition forces both inside and outside the country. The issue here is that unless the opposition is able to inflict a series of military defeats on the regime, or conversely, to gradually gain control of defined areas of the country, it is not entirely clear how or even why the regime's grip on power will lessen. Ultimately, as Mao pointed out, powers flows from a gun. And right now, that gun is almost exclusively being aimed by the Assad controlled military and para-military forces. Unless and until that changes, then do not expect much in the way of a positive resolution of the crisis in Syria 1.
1 Ian Black, "Syria on the Brink of Civil War." Syria Comment.
5 February 2012, in www.syriacomment.com. See also along these lines: Roula Khallaf & Abigal Fielding-Smith, "Syria intensifies attacks on Homs." The Financial Times. 6 April 2012, in www.ft.com.