Toothless UNSC Condemnation of Syria shows Russian, Chinese Clout

The United Nations Security Council on Wednesday issued a “presidential statement,” one step below a resolution, chiding the Syrian government for its violent repression of protests (but also condemning violence by the protesters, which is a little like complaining that Jack the Ripper’s victims tried to scratch him with their fingernails). The statement was hailed as a turning point by French foreign minister Alain Juppe, and defended as an important step forward by US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice.

Diplomacy is the art of the possible, and one understands Juppe’s and Rice’s emphasis on the achievement here. But the statement contained no sanctions. So it was toothless. Russia and China are running interference for the Baath regime of Bashar al-Asad, and there is no prospect of them allowing UNSC sanctions on Damascus. So not only does the statement not contain any practical steps, it is unlikely to be followed by any resolution more decisive or robust.

The USG Open Source Center translates remarks of Russian UN ambassador Vitaliy Churkin on the Syrian crisis:

‘UN envoy explains Russia’s viewpoint on Syria
Rossiya 1
Wednesday, August 3, 2011 …
Document Type: OSC Summary…

Different approaches to the events in Syria have prevented the UN Security Council from adopting the revised resolution on Syria, Russia’s permanent representative at the UN Vitaliy Churkin told journalists after the latest consultations, as carried by official Russian state channel Rossiya 1 on 3 August.

“It is no secret that our Western colleagues believe that Damascus and the Syrian government are to blame for everything and the best the Security Council can do is to put maximum pressure on Syrian authorities or even intimidate them with further actions on the part of the Security Council. There are a number of other members of the Security Council, Russia among them, who see the situation as more complicated. This analysis of the situation makes us believe that that task of the Security Council is to maximally encourage all sides in Syria to hold a dialogue that would allow the country to find a way out of the current crisis,” he said.

(Description of Source: Moscow Rossiya 1 in Russian — Large state-owned network broadcasting to almost all of Russia (formerly Rossiya TV)) ‘

In other words, Churkin does not admit the right of Syrians to peaceably assemble for protests, perceives them as violent attackers of the Baath Party status quo, and urges that they negotiate with the government that has mown down some 2000 of them and rolled tanks against them. The old Soviet Union was a major patron of Syria, and the present Russian Federation appears to be interested in picking Syria back up as a client.

Still, the various positions on Syria in the Russian government are diverse, and some, at least, are taking a genuinely post-Soviet line, condemning the Syrian government’s violence in no uncertain terms.

The Open Source Center translated remarks of Mikhail Margelov, the special envoy for Africa of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, which show a high level of ethical commitment and clear, analytical thinking about Syria:

‘ Russian envoy for Africa slams Syrian regime
Ekho Moskvy Radio
Wednesday, August 3, 2011…
Document Type: OSC Translated Text

Text of report by Gazprom-owned, editorially independent Russian radio station Ekho Moskvy on 3 August

(Presenter) The Russian president’s special envoy for Africa, Mikhail Margelov, is confident that the Syrian leadership has displayed utmost cruelty in its suppression of the opposition. Thus the incumbent Syrian regime has condemned itself to certain death.

(Margelov) Tank attacks against one’s compatriots and coreligionists, unacceptable at any time, look especially defiant during the Holy Month of Muslim fasting, Ramadan. In fact, the Syrian government preferred a war with its civil population to reforms long overdue. This is an obvious manifestation of the weakness of the regime.

With his massacres Syrian President Bashar al-Asad extremely complicated a transition to a political settlement of the situation as he caused justified bitterness against the regime and himself both within the country and beyond its borders.

The activities of the Syrian government are only exacerbating the situation and the hopes for a political dialogue are disappearing with every attack of government tanks and infantry. Thus the incumbent regime is putting itself in a position when a blood stamp appears on it, and in this day and age such regimes are doomed, if not tomorrow then over the foreseeable historical term.

(Description of Source: Moscow Ekho Moskvy Radio in Russian — influential station known for its news coverage and interviews of politicians; now owned by Gazprom but largely retains its independence) ‘

World action on the Syrian regime’s crimes depends very much on whether it is Churkin or Margelov who wins the argument inside Moscow.

21 Responses

  1. Russia’s position should be seen for what it is, which is backing the Bashar al-Asad regime. The reality is there probably are not more views within the United Russia Party and they will not back Mikhail Margelov expressed view. Russia will listen to their experts on the Middle East instead of to Mikhail Margelov, especially with what is going on in Libya; Russia will not want to lose more influence to the west.

    Syria purchases massive amount of arms from Russia, and Russia economically needs Syria for their defense industry.

  2. Syrian politics are beyond my comprehension, but I do notice the increasing clout of Russia and China. What are we to do, tell Russia they can no longer sell natural gas to Europe, or forbid China to loan us any more money? All these nations (US and them) have major problems, but ours all relate to maintaining the fiction of international power when we borrow money to import oil, and theirs are the relics of prior authoritarian governments. They can reform and adapt; we can only pretend to refine more ethanol.

    At some point in the future, these realities will come knocking on heave^H^H^H^H^H Israel’s door.

  3. So you take only Western reporting of what is going on Syria, and use this as ground truth. Too bad for a blog labeled ‘informed’ comment.

    Why do you not inform us of the billions paid by Saudi Arabia into Egypt to kill the Arab Spring. You think Saudi Arabia is sitting by idly on Syria?

    The U.S. is so blinded by its thoughts of taking on Iran that it doesn’t care who runs Syria….as long as it isn’t someone that has ties to Iran. So Saudi Arabia pumps billions into a nominal segment of the protest movement. They have killed any chance of a united Syrian movement. It is now a bunch of fanatics leaving a mosque on Friday wanting blood. And a bunch of political hacks that knows that the administration will do anything to weaken to Syria.

    If you think that the U.S. or Saudi Arabia gives a damn about the average Syrian, you are blind. They only care about attacking the chinks in the Iranian armor. And they have the resources to create the media message. Or are you blind to the numerous Saudi owned sites and the recent Saudi-Qatari lovefest and how that has translated to a significant change in the tone of Al Jazeera reporting.

    Anyone in the U.S. in trouble for lying about going to war in Iraq? Of course not. In fact, most of the media and pundits that pushed that are still on TV. The think tanks that lied about the war still put out policy papers that are ‘respected’ by Washington.

    You used to come up with phrases like ‘the family of the house knows what is going on in the house than anyone outside.’

    Now you have turned into a pretend all-knowing being that passes judgement based on biased reporting.

    The Libyan opposition and regime are still fighting in the Brega area…which has changed hands several times in the last four months….and this is not a stalement? Only a NATO spokesman could sell that one.

    • I seriously doubt if prof. Cole is simply perusing MSM reports and deciding on what is true and what is not, and I tip my hat to him for allowing such an insult to be published on his own blog. Your willingness to defend the Al Assad regime, wether by omission or commission is only proof of the effectiveness of the regimes media black-out. HOWEVER, there are reports getting out, and I have personally seen footage of what is going on and have personally heard eye witness reports. There is no question that the Syrian government is murdering peaceful, unarmed protesters FULL STOP!!! I am as anti violence as the next guy, but there comes a time when even a x’ian runs out of cheeks to turn

    • “You used to come up with phrases like ‘the family of the house knows what is going on in the house than anyone outside.”

      Thank you for posting this Mick. The statement is most true.
      There are many intertwined deceptions and power players at work. The American people have been deceived for sometime, and eyes wide open do not know what has transpired in the recent past – they couldn’t have, only a few were aware, at least on some serious issues.

    • Slam dunk Mick. It really is all about Iran and the status quo in the bankster/oil/Israel game.

  4. Would it sway your opinion about Syria’s use of their military to suppress a revolt by elements SOME SAY are western financed if I mentioned that one of America’s ostensible allies is doing EXACTLY the same thing right now?

    How about if I throw in the fact that SecDef Leon Panetta, as one of his last acts as director of the CIA over-rode the wishes of that same country’s US ambassador and committed to a drone strike that killed thirty eight civilians and probably qualifies as premeditated first degree murder and felony reckless endangerment/Mayhem?

    Both sources Foreign Policy magazine Morning Brief… today.

  5. An SC 1973 (Libya no-fly zone) style resolution wouldn’t have a snowflake in hell’s chance of getting up. South Africa & Lebanon would abstain for sure and you can’t pass a resolution with 8 yes votes & 7 abstentions.

    Condemnatory SC resolutions aren’t worth the paper they’re written on, SC resolutions imposing sanctions aren’t much better, ICC warrants push people into a corner or are ignored etc etc.

    Here is an interview by US diplomat in Damascus last weekend, pay attention to his answer on the question “why Libya & not Syria” link to bbc.co.uk

    He seems to imply that the Syrian people want something different to the Libyan people – oh really!!!

    The failure of SC1973 to bring a swift resolution to the Libyan situation (as was promised) has given Assad the green light to do what he’s doing.

  6. The current impasse over Syria is a direct result of the earlier Libyan intervention. An arms embargo and a resolution to protect the death of civilians has become an excuse for regime change, the supply of weapons, and six months of being the air force of one side of a rebellion. The Russians have made it clear this was not what they expected.

    The Russians now are more cautious where their actions will provide an opportunity for NATO to overthrow governments, The Syrian protesters are the victims of Sarkozy and Cameron pushing the limits of Security Council resolutions.

    • This is nonsense. China and Russia would have abandoned their ally and client, the Assad regime, if not for Libya?

      Ridiculous.

  7. Is the only way to get a contemporary state together through protest? If these states are securing themselves with violence, what are other ways of establishing a state? Perhaps an actual presentation of it?

  8. The resistance of Russia and the PRC to a UN resolution on Syria cannot be evaluated without looking at what happened after the UN resolution on Libya, which Russia and China reluctantly supported.

    • Sure it can. Syria is a Russian client state and has a close relationship with China. There was never any chance that either of those countries would allow a resolution with any teeth to target Syria.

      The Libya resolution was a fluke. This is business as usual.

  9. Russia and China have learned their lessons. Do not give a blank check to those who someday will come knocking at “their” door, telling “them” how to manage “their” society. With submission, being the order du jour.

  10. The present course of world history will lead to the temperature rise and resource scarcity of cataclysmic proportions. Russia and China I think understand this. Trust must be restored that others will not use military means to interfere among nations.
    Libya isn’t Syria and neither is Egypt or anywhere else in countries enveloped in change surrounding the Arab Spring.
    That change is happening and is worldwide in scope is apparent but there are locations tied essentially in knots like in Syria where repression allows those in power to keep things tied in knots..
    Either the world pulls a rabbit out of a hat or something and finds a way to break the impasses or there won’t be enough time for peace and good government worldwide to let industry build peaceful infrastructures and technological advances to restore environmental systems and secure the common good. Environmental systems so necessary simply are likely to stop working that keep the atmosphere and the Sea within tolerances suitable for life.

  11. So the US will do anything to hold onto its naval base in Bahrain, and Russia will do anything to hold onto its naval base in Syria. And “anything” means backing the status quo regime no matter how disgusting it is.

    Seems pretty straightforward to me. We need to start arms talks between the US and Russia to close down both bases, and blow off both regimes. The Saudis will have to take their chances in trying to control Bahrain and Syria at the same time; I’m sure Syrians are very aware there are Saudi occupation troops in Bahrain.

  12. Its never about a regime crushing its own people with tanks and torture, is it? Most contributors addressing the issue have to make it all about US hypocrisy. This attitude is almost as obsessive and inhumane as that of the neo-cons who live to see Iran incinerated.
    Syrians clearly want and deserve a say in how they are ruled, and they are being subject to unspeakable atrocities by a regime that ought to be called on it and isolated by the international community. And even though Libya may have reached a stalemate (which is dubious – a six-month civil war is not a long one, really), NATO intervention has saved the rebel areas from an almighty purge.

    • Actually, Assad Junior seems to have a lot fewer fawning fanboys here than Gaddafi, and I’d like to know why since he seems to tried a lot harder to find stopping places on his road to ruin than Muammar.

      But it’s hard to know how to feel about Assad’s increasingly doomed regime because:

      1. no one who posts here wants to do Israel any favors, given that the Greater Israel gang seems more powerful than ever.

      2. few who post here want to do Saudi Arabia any favors, and it seems to be the leading puppetmaster against Assad.

      Given that the remnants of the once-powerful Pan-Arab movement were the last defenders of anything remotely resembling secular progressivism in the region a year ago, it should have been hard for secular progressives to make a leap of faith to embrace the popular revolutions sweeping the Arab world.

      It’s different now. Said revolutions have gone far better than we had any right to demand, a real process of public engagement is underway and is mostly secular and forward-looking in nature, and in the broadest perspective the Arab uprisings are a continuation of a process of global rebellion that started in South America a decade ago against a seemingly invincible Wall Street-run neoliberal juggernaut. The two reactionary regimes that had most to gain from anything bad happening to Arabs, Israel and Saudi Arabia, look confused and paralyzed; clearly they didn’t see this coming, and now they’re afraid that their own populations will catch the bug. The Chinese, Russians, and yes, Washington are all scared as well.

      So it can’t be all bad.

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