By Anita Snow, Associated Press, in Toronto Star, February 4, 2012By Sonia Verma, Globe and Mail, January 31, 2012
Russia and China have vetoed a Security Council resolution backing an Arab League peace plan that calls for Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down.
The other 13 council members, including the U.S., France and Britain, voted Saturday in favour of the resolution aimed at stopping the ongoing violence in Syria.
The vote took place as Syrian forces pummeled the city of Homs with mortar and artillery fire that activists say killed more than 200 people in one of the bloodiest episodes of the uprising against Assad's regime.
The UN says more than 5,400 people have been killed over almost 11 months in a Syrian government crackdown on civilian protests
(At the United Nations) Arab and Western states joined political forces against Russia, which is threatening to veto the latest initiative to force Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step aside.
Syrian tank explosion caught on tape The resolution under debate at the UN Security Council stops short of calling for military intervention, but it presses Mr. Assad to step down or face “further measures” in 15 days.
“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,” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told the Security Council in backing an Arab League plan for the country.
It is unclear whether the plan's proponents – the Arab League, the United States, Britain and France – will succeed, even as violence intensified.
Syria is suffering its bloodiest days since the Arab Spring movement spread to the nation that has been ruled by the al-Assad family since 1970. More than 100 people have been reported killed so far this week and the latest figures from the United Nations suggest that more than 5,400 people have died in the revolt so far.
Neighbouring countries such as Israel and Turkey have expressed rising concern that Mr. al-Assad's hard-line response could threaten stability of the region. As violence intensifies, the heavyweights of the Security Council appear to be digging in ahead of Thursday’s UN vote.
As violence intensifies, the heavyweights on different sides of the issue appear to be digging in ahead of Thursday’s vote.
ARAB LEAGUE The Arab League’s call to condemn violence in Syria and demand Mr. al-Assad step aside is modelled on what analysts call “the Yemen plan,” considered more palatable than the “Libya option.”
The latest draft resolution also signals a growing consensus among Arab countries to ostracize Mr. al-Assad. In the 22-member Arab League only two are resisting the latest initiative. One is Lebanon, fearing violence along its shared border with Syria. The other is Algeria, whose authoritarian regime worries about its own hold on power.
Qatar has emerged as the most hawkish of the Arab countries on Syria. The Emir of Qatar, which sent warplanes to join in military strikes that aided rebels in Libya last year, recently went as far as to suggest that “some troops should go to stop the killing” in Syria.
The tiny but powerful country holds increasing sway over the debate, according to Murhaf Jouejati, a professor at the National Defense University’s Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies. “We know there is at least the political will for military in Qatar,” he said.
While Russia’s veto power makes such a move unlikely, Prof. Jouejati said that Washington might come around.
“Whatever the Arab League has adopted in this Arab Spring, the United States has more or less come to be supportive of,” he added.
THE UNITED STATES As the Security Council debates the latest draft resolution on Syria, the Republican Party primaries are winding down. The fact that this is an election year in the United States is lost on no one. With America’s fighting forces having left Iraq and drawing down in Afghanistan, the last thing Washington wants is another war, analysts said.
While Qatar has suggested sending troops into Damascus, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton played down such a prospect in her remarks yesterday. “I know that some members here may be concerned that the Security Council is headed toward another Libya,” she said, adding that “that is a false analogy.”
Washington appears to favour a more nuanced approach that would see Syrian government and opposition leaders negotiate an end to the conflict. It also is wary of getting pulled into a proxy war with Iran, and irritating its allies, Jordan and Israel, which fear regional destabilization.
“We can appreciate the need for what you might call a soft landing,” said David Mack, a former American ambassador in the Middle East and vice-president of the Middle East Institute, a Washington think tank.
“This is not a case of a government that seems out of control, like we saw in Libya,” he added. “In fact, one has the feeling of a rather calibrated use of force, but this has really gone on for too long.”
He said patience with Russia’s position is wearing thin. As he put it, “Are they so attached to their relationship with Bashar al-Assad that they’ll go down with him?”
RUSSIA Moscow has proved a staunch ally of Mr. al-Assad since the uprising began 11 months ago, its loyalty stemming from historic strategic and defence ties with Damascus. Russia used its veto power to strike down the first Security Council attempt in October to censure Syria’s crackdown and, today, shows no signs of altering its stand.
Russia is completely opposed to any draft resolution that sets the stage for foreign military intervention or even sanctions, according to Dmitri Trenin, director of the Moscow Carnegie Centre.
“They want the blame for the atrocities, the killings in Syria to be shared between the Assad regime and the opposition,” Mr. Trenin said.
With a Security Council vote coming on Thursday (February 2, 2012) e can all expect Russia to use the veto to quash any attempt at either military action to remove Assad, or any attempt to require his stepping down. And the council of nations that seeks co-operation and collaboration on behalf of the people of Syria, suffering at the hands of their own "government," one far different from the Libyan government of the former dictator, is once again finding its hands tied behind its own backs, unable to secure agreement to stop the bloodshed.
What these reports exclude is the flow of arms from Russia to the Syrian government, and the dollars that flow to Moscow in return. They also exclude the potential of military arms sales to the F.S.A. by the Americans. So, while the diplomatic skirmish is unfolding at the UN, the commercial side of the conflict is playing out behind different doors, without the scrutiny of the public media and the need for votes, arm-twisting and joint decision-making.
Unilaterally, and essentially without disclosure, both the U.S. and Russia could, conceivably bring about a long-term, financially viable conflict (to their respective ailing economies) through the backdoor sales of weapons to the opposing sides. And we think that by keeping up with the headlines, and the nuances of whether this is more like a Yemen plan, and not a Lybian effort to topple what is clearly a dictatorship, we can stay on top of the developments.
Naive, we are!
We need some public acknowledgement of the sales of arms, some documentation of its size and potential duration and some agreement to intervene in such "private" contracts at the international level, if such conflicts are not being compromised at one level, while such resolutions are being negotiated at the public level.
Diplomats from all sides cannot clap with one hand tied behind their backs. They cannot do their job while other agents of their own governments are secretly loading arms onto planes for shipment into Syria, no matter whether those sales are essential for the survival of the companies that manufacture those weapons or not.
People are dying in the streets as a result of the importation of those very weapons; and the conversations in New York have to be clouded by that information.
It is not only Assad who must be deposed; it is also the back deals for arms that have to be stopped, from both sides potentially, if this kind of conflict is to be contained, and stopped within days not months.