Democracy Arsenal

« The Pakistan Earthquake and Why We Need (a Competent) FEMA International | Main | Bush's Presidency ends...and our challenge begins »

October 24, 2005

Time for the UN to Step Up to the Plate on Syria
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

Having praised the UN for its tough-minded report on the Hariri assassination, its now time for the organization's supporters to call on the world body to follow up with action.  Tomorrow the Security Council will meet to consider next steps.  The US and France are reportedly united in pushing for a resolution that would require full Syrian government cooperation with the next phase of the investigation, including access to all witnesses and suspects, and backing those demands with the threat of sanctions.  The US is calling for a meeting of Foreign Ministers of all Security Council members as soon as this Friday.

That France is solidly on board and even fronting the issue bodes well, in that their bona fides in the Arab world are a lot stronger than ours right now.   This is not a case where the US is moving unilaterally or pursuing a self-serving agenda.  Recognizing that, the rest of the Security Council membership should rise to the occasion.   

There's reason for hope because:

1) Syria's actions do not raise the usual Chinese and Russian concerns about infringements on sovereignty - on the contrary, the assassination of Hariri was a grave insult to Lebanese sovereignty;

2) Syria's relatively isolated among the UNSC membership - while China and Syria have strengthened ties it won't get the level of protection that, for example, the Russians afford to Iran;

3) mercifully this issue sidesteps the quicksand of UN debates that pit developed versus developing countries - ordinary, disenfranchised people throughout the Middle East seem to get what happened to Hariri and want to see justice;

4) Syria's only strong ally among the UNSC membership would appear to be Algeria which has just 2 months left in its term;

5) Europeans and others on the Council can make a strong argument that in acting, the UN can prevent the US from taking measures against Syria on its own - after all that's gone down in relation to Iraq, that's got to have powerful appeal;

6) After flirting with the edge of irrelevancy after its failed September Summit on reform, the organization would benefit from proving its worth on an issue that matters to its host country and largest member state, the US.  This imperative won't be lost on the Council membership.

We can expect the usual to-and-fro over whether to include sanctions in an initial resolution, what the sanction triggers should be, and how far the measures should go.  But Russia, China and others ought to realize that for the sake of Lebanon, of the principle of sovereignty, of the stability of the Middle East and of the future of the UN, now is as good a time as any to prove that the world body is something more than a debating shop.

Oh, and a word to the Bush Administration:  there's plenty to blame Syria for right now, but John Bolton and colleagues had best not freight up an initial Hariri resolution with other US-specific hot-button issues that will only complicate the negotations and stand in the way of consensus.  After all, the Administration needs a success on this even more than the UN does.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Time for the UN to Step Up to the Plate on Syria:


I generally agree with these comments. But Bolton is going to have to learn how to sit in the back seat and shut up if the US genuinely wants to get this done. If the French are going to be allowed to take the lead, then let them take the lead.

Every time Bolton opens his mouth, international support for action will take another hit. I can't avoid the suspicion that Bolton's own prefered course would be to make a lot of very loud and threatening noise for a few weeks, push away potential allies with belligerent comments, force the resolution to crash and burn, and then blame the failure on the weakness of the UN and of French diplomacy.

So let's see how the Bush administration plays this, and who is really in charge here.

By the way, the resolution should set a timetable that puts a premium on identifying the responsible figures as quickly as possible, and settling this matter expeditiously. The region is not well-served by icing Syria away in a semi-permanent "time out", and slowly applying the thumb screws to the Syrian power structure as jihadists rush in to fill the vaccuum. There are not many saints over there. But when it comes to choosing between jihadists and Arab nationalists, I go with Arab nationalists.

What action should the UN take about this?

J Thomas: Josh Landis posts a good discussion of some of the issues.

Thank you!

So we will have a set of demands for syria, including:

1. No inteference in lebanon -- they will probably go along with that one.

2. Seal the border with israel -- they probably can't do it, the USA has paid more money than syria has, to help israel seal their border with the West Bank.

3. Seal the border with iraq -- they probably can't do that, the USA hasn't been able to seal that border in the other direction.

So we'll use the investigation into this murder to make them promise things they can't actually do, to give us a good excuse to invade them when they fail to do those things.

It's a good thing nobody was in position to do this to us over the Allende murder in chile. Or the Diem murder in vietnam.

J Thomas: Um, they actually have the border with Israel sealed quite well.

Y'see, the Golan Heights are fortified a lot like the Korean DMZ.

Please, corroborate your theorizing with reality.

John Penta, I said that we spent more to seal israel's borders than syria can afford.

I didn't say that the US treasury couldn't do it for israel, I said that the syrian treasury can't do it for syria.

And I'm saying you miss the point: We don't need to.

They're already sealed. Nobody infils from Syria to Israel, the problem is that stuff is run out of Syria.

We're not asking for them to put even more troops on the Purple Line, we're asking them to go kick in doors in Damascus.

We are demanding them to seal the iraq border. And we're demanding they kill palestinians inside their own country.

If the british had demanded we crack down on the irish-american community to make sure they weren't supporting the IRA....

As you point out, they aren't breaking laws in syria or from syria. They're just there, conspiring.

We are demanding them to seal the iraq border.

I am so with you,rolex watch
luxury watch

The comments to this entry are closed.

Sign-up to receive a weekly digest of the latest posts from Democracy Arsenal.
Powered by TypePad


The opinions voiced on Democracy Arsenal are those of the individual authors and do not represent the views of any other organization or institution with which any author may be affiliated.
Read Terms of Use