The Middle East Channel

Britain to present resolution on Syria to the U.N. Security Council

Britain to present resolution on Syria to the U.N. Security Council

Britain will present a draft resolution to the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday "authorizing necessary measures to protect civilians" in Syria and condemning alleged chemical weapons attacks. The resolution will seek a chapter seven mandate, which would allow for the use of force. Russia and China have already vetoed resolutions on Syria at the Security Council and are expected to block any text that would approve military action. On Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned the United States that a U.S.-led military intervention "will lead to the long-term destabilization of the situation in the country and the region." The Russian Emergency Situations Ministry reported it evacuated 75 Russian citizens from Syria on Tuesday, with more evacuations expected Wednesday. Iran also cautioned against a U.S.-led strike saying it would be "a disaster for the region." The Arab League blamed Assad for the attacks and called for the Security Council to agree on "deterrent" measures. However, it failed to endorse a military strike. On Tuesday, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that the U.S. military has "moved assets in place to be able to fulfill and comply with whatever the president wishes to take." Meanwhile, U.N. inspectors are continuing their investigation Wednesday into the alleged chemical weapons attacks in the eastern Damascus suburb of Zamalka after postponing Tuesday’s site visits over security concerns. The United States is conducting its own assessment of the attacks, and the U.S. administration may release as soon as Thursday a report that it says would prove Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is responsible for the use of chemical weapons. According to the administration, U.S. intelligence shows how Syrian forces stored, assembled, and launched chemical weapons in the attacks on August 21.

Headlines

  • Bombings and attacks targeting mainly Shiite regions across Baghdad and its suburbs killed at least 71 people Wednesday in the worst wave of sectarian violence in Iraq in five years.
  • The Syrian Electronic Army, a pro-Assad group, has claimed responsibility for hacking the websites of the New York Times, Huffington Post, and Twitter Tuesday, causing some sustained damage.
  • Iran’s Parliament is considering a lawsuit against the United States for the CIA’s role in the overthrow of Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953.
  • Tunisia has declared the Salafist Ansar al-Sharia movement a "terrorist group" with Prime Minister Ali Larayedh claiming to have evidence it was behind the killings of opposition politicians Chokri Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi. 

Arguments and Analysis

Syria: The Kerry Statement‘ (Fred Hof, Atlantic Council)

"Kerry spoke eloquently about regime attempts at cover-up and the certainty of regime responsibility for the most recent chemical atrocity. This should not be regarded as mere rhetoric. No one — not even Vladimir Putin — could reasonably accuse this administration of looking for an excuse to put steel on the target in Syria. Were there any doubt at all with respect to culpability and accountability this administration would likely defer indefinitely any notion of military action. To suggest that the Obama administration is seizing with alacrity on something dubious to do what it has been yearning to do is to misunderstand and misrepresent everything of importance in the administration’s Syria policy.

Indeed, the administration would still likely welcome a diplomatic deus ex machina. At this point only a regime unilateral ceasefire followed by the rapid deescalatory steps called for by Kofi Annan long ago in his six-point plan could conceivably head-off a military operation. Such a step would also pave the way for a productive Geneva conference. The chances of the regime seizing such an opportunity are presumably nil.

Kerry’s statement is a powerful indicator that military action is coming. If, when it comes, it is perceived in the region or beyond as symbolic and weak, it will be worse than doing nothing. Doing nothing would at least have the merit of keeping alive hope (and fear) that something significant is under serious consideration. Merely checking the box will only aggravate the credibility problem Assad is trying to render terminal. Although it is a pity that it took chemical weaponry for the administration to perceive a moral obscenity and an obligation to act, the Syrian people and their neighbors will nevertheless welcome action that gives the perpetrators a strong dose of what they have been dishing out."

For U.S., Syria Is Truly a Problem from Hell‘ (Peter Bergen, CNN)

"The issue now in Syria is not simply that al-Assad is massacring his own civilians at an industrial rate, but he is also flagrantly flouting a well-established international norm by this regime’s reported large-scale use of neurotoxins as weapons against civilians. It seems inconceivable that the United States as the guarantor of international order would not respond to this in some manner.

But on what authority? There is scant chance of a U.N. resolution authorizing military action. When she was U.N. ambassador, Rice skillfully ushered a resolution through the Security Council that authorized military action in Libya in 2011. But Russia and China will almost certainly veto any similar kind of resolution on Syria.

Russia is one of Syria’s few allies, and Russia and China are generally staunchly against any kind of international intervention in the affairs of other countries, no matter how egregious the behavior of those states might be.

That leaves the possibility of some kind of unilateral action by the United States.

The U.S. regularly infringes the sovereignty of countries such as Pakistan and Yemen with CIA drone strikes on the novel legal theory that terrorists planning strikes on the U.S. are living in those nations and those countries are either unable or unwilling to take out the terrorists on their territory — and therefore their sovereignty can be infringed by drone attacks.

But making a claim that the Syrian regime threatens the U.S. is implausible, and therefore some kind of unilateral American action seems quite unlikely."

–Mary Casey & Joshua Haber