Thursday, October 06, 2011

6-Oct-11: Can you understand how these diplomats live with themselves?

On Tuesday, the UN Security Council considered a resolution to condemn the brutal bloodbath being carried out for the past several months by the dictatorial Syrian regime of Bashir al-Assad. The targets of the despot are his fellow Syrian citizens. The Assad family have led their country to several military disasters but this one they're determined to win. The score until now: 2,900 dead Syrian civilians [source]. The BBC says 16 died in today's clashes alone, at the hands of the well-armed Syrian military forces.

Because this is how things work at the UN, the text of the UNSC resolution was already severely diluted ahead of the vote. It condemned “the grave and systematic human rights violations and the use of force against civilians by the Syrian authorities” but stopped short of imposing an arms embargo on the house of Assad. It called (such optimism!) for an immediate end to violence, support for fundamental freedoms, a lifting of media restrictions and unhindered access for human rights investigators. Powerful stuff, no doubt of it.

And predictably it was defeated in a UN vote.

Reason, once again, for Syrian
dictator and sociopath Bashir al-Assad
to rejoice
The ambassadors of China and Russia exercised their right to veto, bringing the initiative to a screeching halt. Given their history in the Security Council, this was appalling but not surprising. What was a bit less expected, and simply sickening, were the abstentions from India, Brazil and South Africa. The non-permanent members, and the years in which they have to exit, are Bosnia and Herzegovina (2011), Germany (2012), Portugal (2012), Brazil (2011), India (2012), South Africa (2012), Colombia (2012), Lebanon (2011), Gabon (2011), Nigeria (2011). Little was expected from Lebanon which everyone knows is essentially a Syrian puppet. (The five permanent UNSC members are China, France, Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States. Each of them has a right of veto in the Security Council.)

So what can be learnt from this? One commentator called the debacle "a sad example of the failure of the world’s large emerging democracies to live up to their domestic values and assume the responsibilities of power". Sounds a touch ambitious to us. The US State Dept's spokesperson said yesterday the US leadership "obviously consider that the Security Council failed yesterday to address the urgent moral challenge... History will bear out which nations were right and which were on the wrong side in this vote yesterday.” Fighting words. It's a huge comfort for Israel's citizens to know that the absurd decisions made by the world's parliament year after year are going to eventually be judged by "history".

The Syrians are not only known for being great fighters. They also possess a keen sense of humour. Otherwise how to explain their decision this past May to compete for a seat on the UN's Human Rights Council as one of four Asian delegates? Better than most, they knew the UN General Assembly - which does the voting - has a proclivity for granting membership to dictatorships with a history of violence against their people.

Norman Cousins, editor of The Saturday Review for more than 30 years, once said: "If the United Nations is to survive, those who represent it must bolster it; those who advocate it must submit to it; and those who believe in it must fight for it."

He must be turning in his grave.

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