Posted by Ehsani on Wednesday, October 5th, 2011
After nearly three months of negotiations and concessions, the U.S. and its European allies were dealt a blow at the UNSC. Even after they agreed to a steady watering down of the language in the final text, both Russia and China still vetoed the UN resolution on Syria. This was a repeat of the same double veto by Russia and China back in 2008 against Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.
This would have been the first legally binding resolution by the UNSC against Syria. The demand was that Syria immediately end violence, allow fundamental rights and freedoms, lift all media restrictions and allow unhindered access for human rights investigators. The resolution would have allowed the UNSC to review Syria’s implementation of the above demand within 30 days, and “to consider its options, including measures under Article 41 of the Charter of the UN.”
Rather than admitting that this was a slap on the face to the sponsors of this resolution, France said that the veto showed a “disdain for the legitimate interests that have been fought for in Syria by protestors since March”. Susan Rice of the U.S. called the veto an “outrage” that utterly failed the Syrian people. The British Ambassador also talked about the impact of this veto on the Syrian people saying that there “will be a great disappointment to the people of Syria and the wider region that some members of the council could not show their support for their struggle for basic human rights”.
Ambassador Rice accused Russia and China of wanting to sell arms to the Syrian regime rather than stand with the Syrian people. Russia’s Ambassador did not take too well to the accusations.
This White House thought that they found a winning formula in Libya. The U.S. would use force but only if it had the U.N. Security Council’s imprimatur, and only if it had clear commitments that the UNSC gave its blessing. Once the Arab League also comes on Board, the road for a military assault is largely baked in the cake.
Mr. Obama had long favored a more multilateral engagement strategy. The more unilateral attitude of the Bush administration was often criticized by the new team at the White House. Such a low-key multilateralist strategy makes it easier to convince other states to support the use of military force to protect civilians.
This strategy was best described by Edward Luck, the senior vice president at the International Peace Institute when he said the following of the U.S. engagement in Libya:
“Historian have to look backward at the fact that the United States not being in the vanguard may have been helpful in the sense that it didn’t look like a U.S. effort to dominate Libya and intervene in the Islamic world,” Luck said. “It made it easier for others to get on board.”
While the Obama White House thought that they had a winner in Libya, both Russia and China were adamant that Syria does not become another Libya. Russia’s opposition of the resolution was because it was “based on a philosophy of confrontation” that contained an ultimatum of sanctions which was against a peaceful settlement of the crisis. China’s Ambassador, on the other hand, said that his country wanted to see speedy reforms but opposed the resolution because “sanctions, or threat of sanctions, do not help the situation in Syria but rather complicates the situation”.
The sponsors of the resolution met the above with disappointment and outrage. Indeed, the U.S. Ambassador was so outraged that she decided to exit the hall once Mr. Jaafari of Syria warmed up and found his stride. Mrs. Rice’s exit coincided with the reminder that the U.S. used its veto 50 times in support of Israel. By this time, the U.S. Diplomat knew that it was time to cut her losses, leave the room and call it a day.