The Multilateralist

The Arab League’s 15 minutes are ending

The Arab League’s 15 minutes are ending

Colum Lynch surveys the effective diplomatic defense that Syria is playing at the United Nations. On the Security Council, China, Russia and Lebanon helped scupper a resolution condemning the government’s crackdown. A Western initiative to ensure that Syria wouldn’t win a seat on UN’s Human Rights Council also went down in flames:**

Last week, ambassadors from the Arab League issued a letter supporting Damascus’s bid for a seat on the Human Rights Council (HRC). The U.N.’s Asia Group had already announced in January its endorsement of Syria’s candidacy for the rights council, and the group plans to push for a vote in the General Assembly next month….

"Syria’s campaign for a seat on the Human Rights Council is a slap in the face to the victims of the current crackdown, and an embarrassment to those who have supported its candidacy," said Philippe Bolopion, the U.N. director for Human Rights Watch. "By supporting Syria’s candidacy, the Asian Group and the Arab League risk emboldening Syria’s bloody crackdown and making a mockery of the Human Rights Council." 

Is this the same Arab League whose support of a Libya no-fly zone was treated by the Obama administration and the West generally as legitimizing international intervention there? Could it be that this regional organization was in fact not acting on high principle–or motivated by the "responbility to protect"–but was instead simply seizing an opportunity to skewer the hated Gaddafi? It’s safe to say that the Arab League’s brief moment of being treated as Fount of International Legitimacy and Gateway to a Security Council Resolution has ended. Now it’s back to just being the Arab League. 

**UpdateSuzanne Nossel at the State Department upbraids me (correctly) for suggesting that the attempt to keep Syria off the Human Rights Council has failed:

We would have preferred they not run in the first place, but the important thing is that they not gain the seat. The debate over Syria’s bid for a seat on the Human Rights Council is hardly over, and is intensifying as countries recognize the severity and brutality of the crackdown being mounted from Damascus.