Worrisome Security Council Presidential Statement on Syria
Stephen Lendman, Mar 23 2012
After months of internal wrangling, UNSC members unanimously endorsed efforts to end Syrian violence. Or did they? Presidential statements are non-binding. However, with vague language, they risk potential slippery slope trouble. Media reports called unanimity a setback for Assad. The statement’s also characterized as “Western.” Clinton called it “a positive step. The UNSC has now spoken with one voice.” She also said Washington is working with Syria’s opposition “to strengthen its preparation to participate in the Syrian-led transition process that the UNSC has endorsed.” By any other name, she means regime change. That alone suggests softened Russian support for Syria, or perhaps something else went on privately to cut an imperfect deal unlikely to end conflict. A greater one may follow, but only the fullness of time will tell. Russia’s UN envoy, Vitaly Churkin said:
We are very pleased. The UNSC has finally chosen to take a pragmatic look at the situation in Syria.
Russia and China won concessions, but not enough. Interviewed on Kommersant FM radio, Foreign Minister Lavrov’s comments left unanswered questions. He said:
It is true that some people have taken up arms to defend their homes and families, but that’s not the whole story.
He also described a plot to replace Assad with a Western/Saudi/Qatar-backed Sunni regime. In addition, he criticized Assad, saying:
We absolutely do not justify the Syrian leadership. We consider that they reacted incorrectly to the rise of nonviolent protest, that despite the promises that were made in response to our numerous appeals, they are making many mistakes, and those steps being made in the proper direction are happening late.
He suggested a transition similar to how Yemen replaced Saleh with al-Hadi but left the regime in power. It’s hard imagining why he believes changing names and faces suggests new policies differing from current ones. He left Syria’s new Constitution unaddressed. It constitutes a roadmap for change. It lets Syrians, not other nations, decide. In previous comments, Lavrov strongly endorsed the process. He did again to avoid Western-style regime change. Russia’s got good reason to worry. Besides strategically important Syrian interests, Washington’s Ukraine and Georgia color revolutions put pro-Western regimes on its borders. Putin especially fears Moscow may be next. His concerns are well justified. Washington wants unchallenged global dominance. Achieving it requires client states replacing independent ones. Russia and China are ultimate targets. Moscow is Washington’s main military rival. Between them, they control about 97% of the world’s nuclear arsenal with sophisticated delivery systems able to target strategic global sites. China’s an economic powerhouse. It also has significant military strength, including hundreds of nuclear warheads, sophisticated delivery systems, and other strategic weapons. Beijing and Moscow both are justifiably wary of US belligerence, its quest for global dominance, and schemes to control or eliminate potential rivals by any means, including war. It’s perhaps why Lavrov told Kommersant radio:
Neither the UN, nor any other body or group of countries have the right to decide who should and who should not govern a sovereign state. The eventually inevitable departure of Assad should not look like a regime change.
On the one hand, Lavrov sees Assad’s departure as certain. On the other, it’s for Syrians to decide either way and who replaces him if he leaves. Under international law, it’s their right. Perhaps they’ll get it under new constitutional provisions. They provide a framework for change, but the fullness of time alone will determine how and what follows. On Mar 21, Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, endorsed Assad as Syria’s legitimate leader. He also stressed Russia’s commitment to end violence, as well as restore and preserve security and order. In addition, he deplored opposition violence without calling it Western-backed. Moscow also got a UNSC press statement. It condemned last weekend’s Damascus and Aleppo bombings “in the strongest terms.” Calling them “terrorism,” it stopped short of blaming responsible Western-backed killer gangs. Russia and China yielded. Both know Assad’s more victim than villain. Yet they gave more than they got. At issue is why? The press statement is both flawed and worrisome. Though non-binding, it potentially facilitates what Russia and China fear. Washington’s longstanding policy wants pro-Western leadership replacing Assad. All means will be employed to achieve it, including war. The statement doesn’t explicitly endorse Assad stepping down. However, it tacitly backs a process for achieving it, saying:
The UNSC expresses its full support for the efforts of the Envoy (Annan) to bring an immediate end to all violence and human rights violations, secure humanitarian access, and facilitate a Syrian-led political transition to a democratic, plural political system.
It supports Kofi Annan’s six-point plan. Like current UN Sec-Gen Ban Ki-moon, he’s a longstanding imperial tool appointed at the behest of Washington to advance a pro-Western agenda smoothed with diplomatic language appearing even-handed. Assad’s right in saying:
No political dialogue or political activity can succeed while there are armed terrorist groups operating and spreading chaos and instability.
Yet Russia and China agreed with UNSC language calling on Syria to: “immediately cease troop movements towards, and end the use of heavy weapons in, population centres, and begin pullback of military concentrations in and around population centres.” Assad “should work with (Annan) to bring about a sustained cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties with an effective UN supervision mechanism.” “Similar commitments” are also sought from opposition elements, but only after Syria first initiates them. In other words, killer gangs may continue in the interim committing what Human Rights Watch (HRW) condemned. In a Mar 19 open letter, HRW explicitly explained opposition terrorism, including targeted killings, summary executions, kidnappings for ransom, torture, hostage taking, and other violent crimes. Assad confronted them. It’s his job. Ceasing may facilitate what he, Russia and China deplore: greater conflict producing Western-engineered regime change. It’s planned. The Mar 21 UNSC statement doesn’t deter it. It wants “the Syrian Government and opposition to work in good faith to implement ‘fully and immediately’ (Annan’s) six-point proposal (and to) commence a political dialogue” to do so. With Western backing, the foreign-based Syrian National Council (SNC) involved in violence refuses. The nonviolent internally-based National Coordination Body for Democratic Change (NCB) is willing.
The SC statement also calls for “ensur(ing) timely provision of humanitarian assistance to all areas affected by the fighting.” At issue is how. On Mar 22, The National headlined, “Turkey readies Syrian buffer zone plan,” saying: Ankara “discretely” began “preparations for a buffer zone on the Syrian side of the border between the two countries amid fears that hundreds of thousands could flee the fighting.” An unnamed official said “about 500 specialized soldiers” began inspecting border areas. Military options are considered. Turkey’s media reported similar plans. According to Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies analyst Veysel Ayhan, preparations show Turkey wants to be ready for an emergency refugee flood. He believes international efforts will be involved. On Mar 19, Turkey’s Today’s Zaman headlined, “No decision yet on buffer zone in Syria, says Turkey.” It quoted Erdogan saying:
There are considerations about creating a buffer zone and a safe zone. We are evaluating alternatives.
Buffer (safe) zones replicate no-fly ones. They require humanitarian corridors, easier access for foreign-supplied weapons, and military protection. It includes air support targeting Syrian defenses, as well as command and control sites. Doing so means NATO’s involvement in war. It’s precisely what Russia and China oppose. Yet endorsing the SC statement may precipitate it. It’s more likely given the statement’s final comment, saying:
The UNSC requests (Annan) to update the UNSC regularly and in a timely manner on the progress of his mission. In light of these reports, the UNSC will consider further steps as appropriate.
Emphasis is on undefined “further steps.” It suggests wiggle room enough to wage war. Expect it because:
- Washington wants regime change by any means;
- the road to Tehran runs through Damascus;
- weapons will keep flowing to Western-backed killer gangs; who’ll stop them?
- violence will continue;
- Assad must confront it; it’s his job; failure is dereliction of duty; all governments are required to protect their people;
- for doing so, he’ll be blamed for disobeying the UNSC.
“Further steps” will follow. It’s easy imagining which ones. Blame Russia and China for allowing what they oppose. If Assad falls, Iran’s next and may be targeted at the same time. Washington plans clean sweep regional regime change. Syria, Iran, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, and perhaps Hamas are targeted. Imagine what’s ahead to achieve it. A decade of war perhaps was prelude for potential armageddon. Nuclear weapons may target Iran’s underground facilities. Retaliation will follow. Expect Russia and China to intervene.