SYRIA AND THE SECURITY COUNCIL

What happened in the Security Council on 4th October 2011 may serve as a case study for the way the big western powers now conduct their diplomacy and for the way in which questions of peace and war are now reported in the British and western press.

Contrary to what has been said in the western press all the members of the Security Council were agreed that the situation in Syria justified intervention by the Security Council.  Given that this was so agreeing the text of a Resolution that all Security Council members could support ought to have been straightforward.  That no Resolution was passed was as I shall attempt to show in this post due entirely to the actions of the western powers.  

Three months ago at the outset of the discussions in the Security Council the six powerful countries that make up the BRICS group (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) made clear that they would support a Resolution about Syria provided it did not place all the blame for the violence in Syria upon the Syrian government or threaten sanctions or the use of force.  This was based on an assessment that some at least of the violence in Syria was the work of the protesters and that the solution to the crisis lay in negotiations between the Syrian government and the protesters leading to a political solution to the crisis. 

The BRICS states sought a Resolution that would facilitate this process. As they repeatedly made clear they opposed regime change especially if externally imposed and opposed any Resolution intended to pave the way for regime change.  The western powers by contrast have placed all the blame for the violence in Syria upon the Syrian government.  They have also issued calls demanding that President Assad resign.  They have thereby made clear that they see the solution to the crisis in regime change

The proposed Resolution placed before the Security Council by the western powers reflects the western position.  It blames the Syrian government for the violence.  In its original form it apparently also specifically referred to sanctions against Syria if the Syrian government did not comply with its demands.  The text has not been published but summaries have been provided by the Russian and Chinese press and have appeared on the United Nations website. 

Western press reports over the last few days have suggested that to meet objections from the BRICS states the terms of the Resolution were watered down on no fewer than three occasions and all references to sanctions were removed.  The United Nations website shows that this was not so.  The final draft of the  Resolution put before the Security Council on 4th October 2011 continued to blame the Syrian government for the violence.  Whilst this draft apparently did not refer to sanctions as such, it threatened action under Article 41 of the United Nations Charter if the Syrian government failed to comply with its demands within 30 days. 

Article 41 is the article in the United Nations Charter that empowers the Security Council to impose sanctions.  These may include a land, sea and air blockade including a no fly zone.  Where action under Article 41 proves ineffective Article 42 gives the Security Council power to take further action including direct military action. 

In other words and contrary to western press reports, the changes made to the Resolution were purely cosmetic.  Its basic meaning and purpose were left unchanged. 

It takes no imagination to work out what would have happened if this Resolution had been passed.  The protesters would have been given a powerful incentive to intensify their protests in order to put further pressure on the Security Council when it reconvened after 30 days.  As a result the violence would surely have escalated or would have been reported by the western press to have escalated, which amounts to the same thing.  This would have provided the pretext the western powers would have needed to demand further action against Syria under Article 41 when the Security Council did reconvene.   Having conceded a Resolution that blamed the Syrian government for the violence the BRICS states would have found it difficult to resist such demands especially given the angry press campaign in the western press that would by then have been in full flood.  A further tougher Resolution doubtless including provision for a no fly zone (easily enforced from US bases in Turkey and Iraq) would in these conditions surely have been passed.  With the Syrian government by now under intense pressure and the protesters further emboldened the violence would have continued to escalate and the situation would have rapidly spiralled out of control.  This would of course have led to more demands for still more action and whether by means of a further Security Council Resolution or not such further action would surely have followed.  

It is difficult to see how this process could have ended in any way other than through western military intervention leading to regime change of the sort we have just witnessed in Libya and previously in Iraq.  Moreover that must have been the intention of the western powers from the start.  In the light of what happened in Libya earlier this year any other interpretation is naive.

In other words contrary to what western governments and the western and British press have been saying military action against Syria  is absolutely part of the agenda and a plan for military action against Syria most certainly exists.  If any further confirmation of this were needed then it has been provided by the Russian President Dmitri Medvedev in comments, which have been widely reported in the Chinese and Russian press but which have been completely ignored in the west.  Medvedev has confirmed that in order to break the deadlock in the Security Council the BRICS states at one stage proposed that a paragraph be added to the Resolution ruling out any military action against Syria.  The western powers rejected this suggestion outright.  If they have no plans for military action against Syria why would they do so?

There is a further twist to this story.  Again completely unreported by the western press is the fact that shortly before the vote in the Security Council the BRICS states had proposed an alternative Resolution to the one proposed by the western powers.  Again the full text has not been published but I gather it called on both sides to abstain from further violence whilst proposing negotiations leading to a political settlement under the auspices of an impartial mediator appointed by the Security Council. 

I may be wrong but I think the reason the western powers put their Resolution to the vote when they did was because they did not want this alternative Resolution discussed.  Had this alternative Resolution gained the support of enough of the non permanent members of the Security Council the western powers would have faced the uncomfortable choice of either supporting this alternative Resolution or of vetoing it.  In order to avoid having to make this choice the western powers put their Resolution to the vote even though they must have known that because of the objections of the BRICS states it stood no prospect of being passed.  The vote together with the chorus of outraged comments from the western delegations and the ostentatious walkout of the US and British ambassadors effectively prevented discussion of the alternative Resolution by closing down the whole Syria debate. 

 If all this seems too cynical let me say that the comments made after the vote by the ambassadors of the BRICS states show that this is a cynicism which they share.  Every one of them expressed their disappointment that the vote had been forced prematurely whilst negotiations were still underway and before the alternative Resolution had been discussed.

Regardless of whether or not I am right about this the conduct of the western powers throughout the Syrian crisis has been disturbing to say the least.  Though claiming to want an end to the violence in Syria they have promoted a Resolution whose effect would have been to increase the violence in Syria. Though saying that they have no plans for military action against Syria all their actions lead to the inescapable conclusion that they do have such plans.  In pursuit of these plans, whose objective can only be regime change, they have sabotaged a Security Council Resolution that might have resulted in a peaceful settlement of the Syrian crisis.  In the meantime the western press has played its usual supporting role, reporting some facts selectively whilst making up, ignoring and misrepresenting others.  Western publics meanwhile are kept in the dark about what their leaders are doing as those same leaders gear up to lead them into yet another Middle East war.

Notwithstanding the defeat the western powers on this occasion suffered on the Security Council it would be naive to think that they have abandoned their plans.  In the days just before the vote the western press suddenly filled up with stories about how the protesters having supposedly despaired of peaceful protest were now turning to violent insurrection.  I take this as a clear sign that arms shipments to the protesters (or perhaps we should now call them rebels) are being stepped up.  There are stories of a rebel army being formed in Turkey and of a rebel Council obviously patterned on the Libyan Transitional Council being set up there.  Apparently the French government will be the first to recognise this Council just as it was the first to recognise the Libyan Council in the spring.  One way or the other the war clouds are gathering.

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