Syria: looking for ways to make agrression legal

By Alexander MezyaevStrategic Culture Foundation

The recent weeks events in Syria give rise to new apprehensions. A regular UN Security Council session took place on January 24. Thanks to Russia’s efforts the situation in Syria was not formally included into the agenda, so the issue was considered indirectly.

The official agenda was “The situation in the Middle East”. Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, assistant Secretary-General for political affairs, started with the Palestinian issue (preparation of comprehensive talks between Israelis and Palestinians, escalation of violence in Gaza strip and the West bank of the Jordan river), then he smoothly passed to the Lebanon-Syria border, and then to Syria itself. O. Fernando-Taranto attracted attention to insecurity of the Lebanon-Syria border and the fact 5660 Syrian refugees were registered in Lebanon in the middle of January. A good start to get at those guilty of approaching “humanitarian catastrophe” – that is the Syrian authorities. That’s the way the plan adopted by Arab League on January 22 started to get pushed through the Security Council. But the session ended with no resolution agreed on. Russia and China took a firm stand against intervention into Syrian internal affairs. Russian Security Council representative emphasized the Middle East is going through wide scale transformation period and called for self determination of the region’s nations. He said the outside efforts to exert remote control and bring to power certain political, ethnic and religious groups instead of others to meet someone’ own interests may is fraught with the most severe consequences.

The present UN Security Council situation is complex. The members are divided into two camps each submitting itsown draft resolution. The one submitted by the West was vetoed October 4, 2011 by Russia and China. Russia prepared the resolution of its own with China joining the elaboration process a bit later. It was announced some time ago that in fact the Council is dealing with the resolution of BRICS (1). It should be noted all the BRICS countries are Security Council members, besides Brazil (India and South Africa).

The West and Arab League took active part in the session’s preparation. M.L. Bogdanov, Russian deputy foreign minister responsible for the Middle East policy had received two envoys at once: first Syrian ambassador to Moscow R. Haddad (2) and then Jeffrey D. Feltman, Acting Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs (3) before the event. Meeting his US counterpart he put special emphasis on the fact that the world community reaction to internal processes in individual states should be responsible and checked to the limit, while the remaining problems must be solved by non violent means with UN Security Council playing a major role in providing for international peace and security. No matter the Russian foreign minister made it clear Russia had no reason to make excuses for arms supplies to Syria. The Russian Federation breaches no international agreements, no UN Security Council’s resolutions, the sales to Syria are not banned by international law (4). G. Feltman raised the issue of Russian arms supplies to Syria again.

At S.V. lavrov’s press-conference it became clear the Syrian situation is gradually sliding to military solution. He said he already heard the calls to resort to force. If someone made a decision to go to any length to use it Russia could hardly interfere with it. But let it be the initiators initiative and their responsibility. They’ll receive no authority from the UN Security Council – stressed Sergey Lavrov. But absence of sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council is hardly reassuring. The failure to justify the aggression with the help of a UN Security Council’s resolution makes look for other ways to achieve the goal. Nato started to talk about a “no fly zone” no matter such step is not envisaged by any international legal act and is a blatant violation of the UN Charter based on the principle of states sovereignty; air space is as much part of sovereign territory as land is.

The plan of “regional intervention” by the League of Arab League or some members of the organization is starting to take shape. It calls into attention the fact that is exactly the time UN General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon begins to look for new reasons to intervene in Syria (and not Syria only). That’s the time he called to use in practice the theory “responsibility to protect” as often as could be in all cases “states fail or doesn’t want to shoulder their responsibilities by themselves” (5). The theory is not part of any international legal act. In fact we see kind of virtual non existent international law taking shape with rules not established by anything but the very fantasy of some top international functionaries.

The Arab League activities make look for new ways too. The chief initiators of military adventure – Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and those who joined them – Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Oman slammed the door after the last League’s session took a decision to continue the Mission. They recalled their observers from the Arab League’s Mission in Syria (6). But they clearly failed to convince other Mission participants to do the same. The results of the Mission’s activities were not up to the “refuseniks” aspirations. Thus Sudanese general Mohammed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi, the mission’s head, said directly that the Arab League’s observers presence had positive results and lessened violence. He said with the mission on the ground the number of armed clashes between armed opposition and government forces started to gradually reduce and actually came to nought at present (7). Really so, while the Arab League’s Mission members were in Syria a number of positive turns took place. Thus December 28, 2011 912 “political: prisoners were freed that had been arrested after March 15 that is after active terrorist activities started in Syria. (8) On January 8 the president of the country freed 552 men more (9). Until then over two thousand and a half of “political: prisoners had been set free in November alone. By the way On March 7, 2011 Bashar Assad declared amnesty for all those who had been arrested till that date. There were seven amnesties during this period!

Turkey’s role is to be especially emphasized. No matter there are objective factors of old tensions between Ankara and Damascus there is ground to suppose Turkey is made to take part in the adventure. It cannot be excluded that by taking part in armed intervention in Syria that has already started (even in “situation creeping” pattern), Turkey tries to avoid the same scenario concerning itself. It’s not an occasion the strange events took place in Turkey in 2010-2011 when a few hundreds of generals and senior officers were arrested upon suspicion of preparing a few (!) coup d’etats simultaneously. For instance, already on January 8 this year one more arrest took place. It was high positioned general ILker Basbug this time. The reason was the same – a conspiracy to overthrow the government. Not occasionally the trial of ex-president of the country general Kenan Evren for the 1980 coup started in November last year. Isn’t it the right time to put someone on trial for something done thirty two years ago?

There is information that 600 -1500 Libyan mercenaries are concentrated on Turkey-Syria border, Abdel Belhaj one of them (by the way it’s a good lesson for Syrian authorities not to cede to international “mediators” and have no amnesties for terrorists). It’s quite possible Ankara is willing to get rid of such presence. It’s evident Turkey is balancing on the brink of its own Arab spring. It’s only the media’s way to present information that lets it save face and pretend it enjoys “visible stability”.

The Syrian government published a list of states it prevented illegal arms supplies from (10) (Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Jordan among them), but the information hasn’t become an object of interest for media and in a mysterious way it is not included into the Secretary General’s reports. It’s only on January 26 that Ban Ki-Moon couldn’t remain silent when head of Syrian Red Crescent was killed. The UN Secretary general “condemned the killing” but then “called upon Syrian authorities to investigate”! Thus his “condolences” were expressed in such a manner that the murder looked like a deed of Syrian government. As before he never even mentioned the terrorists who committed this act!  (11)

The “UN Security Council” and “League of Arab States” operations failure made some League’s members come up with a new “initiative”. The plan envisages “a transfer of power from president Bashar Assad to the country’s vice-president and formation of a new government”. The delicacy of the situation is accentuated by the fact that there are two vice-presidents in Syria. One of them – Farouk ash-Shara, who had become an active Baath party member even before Bashar Assad was born. He was foreign minister when Bashar Assad was only twenty. The substance of the initiative is to destroy the leadership from inside. The idea is insidious though the very fact of its being put forward shows the Syrian government preserves unity. That’s why the new attempts to destroy it will go on and on.

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(1) sttement of the minister of foreign affairs of the RF, January 18 2012. http://www.mid.ru /brp_4.nsf/newsline /2E2C9EBA19FF4BE14425798900637AEA
(2) http://www.mid.ru/brp_4.nsf/newsline/069DE31B70A5905A4425798E005A243B
(3) http://www.mid.ru/brp_4.nsf/newsline/069DE31B70A5905A4425798E005A243B
(4) http://www.mid.ru/brp_4.nsf/newsline/2E2C9EBA19FF4BE14425798900637AEA
(5) http://www.un.org/russian/news/fullstorynews.asp?newsID=16806
(6) См.: http://www.fondsk.ru/news/2012/01/24/saudovskaja-aravija-i-ee-sojuzniki-pokidajut-siriu.html
(7) http://www.fondsk.ru/news/2012/01/23/glava-missii-lag-schitaet-chto-ona-uluchshila-situaciu-v-sirii.html
(8) Letter of Syrian permanent UN representative to UN Secretary-General and President of UN Security Council, // UN document: S/2012/1 (January 5, 2012).
(9) Letter of Syrian permanent UN representative to UN Secretary-General and President of UN Security Council, // UN document: S/2012/36 (January 16, 2012)
(10) Letter of Syrian permanent UN representative to UN Secretary-General and President of UN Security Council and Chairman of UN Security Council Committee, established in accordance with the resolution 1373 (2001) on fight against terrorism. // UN document:: S/2011/707 (November 15, 2011)
(11) UN press-release. January 26, 2012 года: http://www.un.org/ russian/news /fullstorynews.asp? newsID= 16859

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