Expressing “profound regret” over the hundreds of civilian deaths in Syria and widespread violations of human rights by Syrian authorities, the UN Security Council issued a presidential statement yesterday condemning the atrocities being committed across Syrian borders.
Even though members of the UNSC has condemned Syria, the presidential statement does not constitute future military intervention because of the geopolitical location of Syria in the Middle East, NATO’s experiences with foreign involvement in Libya, as well as the Russian relationship with Syria. Recently, Moscow has stood in the way of a communal agreement on a UNSC resolution because of the existence of a trade agreement, in which Russia has been supplying Syria with military assets, such as the T-72 tanks that have been turned against protesters. Nevertheless, even Putin’s patience with Bashar al-Assad has seemed to be fraying, resulting in secret negotiations between Assad’s regime and Russia over the rebels and human rights violations. The Russian Foreign Minister has even gone so far as to condemn the massacre in Hama, though that should not be too startling considering the hundreds that have died and the wide-spread destruction across Hama. Yet any kind of improvement and progress is welcome in Syria as security forces have continued assaulting rebels, rebels have continued retaliating, and civilians are dying in response. Even if actions may be delayed and weak, they do serve as a signaling effect. It will not serve anyone if Syria were to descend into an endless cycle of fragmentation, anarchy, and chronic violence.
“The Security Council calls for an immediate end to all violence and urges all sides to act with utmost restraint and to refrain from reprisals, including attacks on state institutions.” – President Statement of United Nations
However, both Russia’s actions and those of the UN have been long past due and are still weak initial responses. The presidential statement does not carry the weight of the resolution, due to resistance by Russia, China, Brazil, India, and South Africa. Furthermore, the weight of any statement does not have much authority because the possibilities of influencing Syria from abroad are very limited: some sanctions here, a condemnation there, and a statement or two overall. So saying, the statement targets the acts of violence being committed by both the rebels and the UN, illustrating their purpose as a mediator, but it also displays the lack of resolve or action to be taken by the UN.
Moreover, Russia has been skeptical and critical of past UN actions, and has called the Western military actions taken in UN as a “military crusade”, stating that the countries involved are only interested in the nation’s oil and resources. However, with elections due in December for Russia’s parliament, there may be a “thaw” in the rigidity of Russia’s political stances. Coincidentally, multi-party elections have also been promised in Syria, supposedly a recent promise from Bashar al-Assad. Following the UNSC resolution, Bashard al-Assad issued a decree authorizing a multi-party system. The purpose of the decree is to grant citizens the right to establish political parties with the aim of contributing to political life “through peaceful and democratic means”. The diction comes as a slight to the recent protests and deaths that have come as a price to the not so peaceful or democratic means used by rebels. Sadly, the promise must only be taken at face-value, as many rebels have stated that the decree is merely for show and in the past, many other socialist nations have instituted the same elections but results have always been controlled by one dominant party.
The direct actions of the international community are slim, and this statement may be the only form of intervention that may come out of the UN, or any other organization. The international community will not be able to make any commitment towards the actions of Syria, and the tone of the statement illustrates that the UN will only serve as a foreign mediator, condemning all violence, but not directly intervening. For the people of Syria, the fight will only grow worse but standing alone, the events may serve as a rallying call to help bring the people together and strive for their objectives and peace.
Read my previous blog: Syria: Alone but United