West weighs its interests over Syria intervention

With 20 people reportedly killed by Syrian security forces in anti-government protests on Friday, opposition activists are now urging protesters to rally for a no-fly zone over the country – a move tantamount to foreign intervention.

­Stop the War Coalition activist Jim Brann believes that the reason why the US and its allies haven’t yet pushed for a no-fly zone over Syria is the country’s strategic significance in the Arab world.

“Libya was seen opportunistically as the weakest link and the most productive link for intervention, whereas Syria is seen as being much more problematic,” he said. “And that’s the main reason they haven’t pushed the intervention. Clearly, the Syrian regime is much more firmly based than the Gaddafi regime was. Also, Syria is much more firmly entrenched in the Arab World.

“Gaddafi was clearly out on a limb and they could paint him as being some kind of weirdo, which they certainly cannot do with Assad,” Brann added.

Brann believes that the West has not decided whether the intervention in Syria is in its interest, and is therefore using quite soft language when talking about the current regime.

“It they wanted to get rid of Assad, they would say it much more clearly,” Brann explained. ”They are saying that his ‘time is up’ etc. But they are using words that are quite muted compared to what they could say. I think they have not quite decided that they want to intervene, that it’s in their interest.”

Nevertheless, Brann believes that the US and its allies could make a move against Assad’s regime without a UN mandate as soon as they define their interests.

“We have the example of Iraq, and we have the example of Libya, and in fact we have the example of Afghanistan,” he said. “We have all these precedents, so yes, it is entirely possible. But I think it is less likely.”

The most recent UN figures suggest that over 3,000 people have died in Syria in clashes with government forces since unrest broke out seven months ago. Fridays have become the main day for regular and massive anti-regime rallies throughout the country, with ever more vocal demands for a multi-party political system and the resignation of the president.

The Syrian government claims that the country is facing a “terrorist threat” and is ready to present a list of more than 1,100 people killed by the protesters in the ongoing unrest.

“My country has suffered numerous threats of war over the last seven months: media war, disinformation, lies of all kinds and deception,” Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faysal Mekdad said earlier this month.

On October 17, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad said he was working on a political solution to the conflict and promised to set up a constitutional committee to debate constitutional reform with the opposition. But the protesters vowed to continue rallies until Bashar al- Assad steps down.

Moscow slams Western draft resolution on Syria

The Western draft resolution on Syria could provoke a Libyan scenario in the country, Russian Prime Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday.

He underscored that Russia is opposed to Syria sanctions.

“The Western resolution is fraught with the repetition of a Libyan scenario although its co-authors are trying to convince us otherwise,” he said.

The main problem with the document is that it lays the blame squarely at President Bashar Assad’s doorstep, which Lavrov described as a “one sided approach.”

On October 4, Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council draft resolution that urged the Syrian regime to immediately stop using violence against protesters or face “targeted measures.”

The draft resolution, sponsored by France with Britain, Germany and Portugal, was supported by nine of 15 Security Council members. Four others – Brazil, India, South Africa and Lebanon – abstained.

President Assad said in late August that Washington and its European partners were hindering the political changes that represent the only way out of Syria’s crisis.

 

UN veto ‘last call’ for Syrian government, opposition

Russia’s veto of a UN Security Council resolution is the last warning for the Syrian authorities and opposition to sit down at the negotiating table, a senior Russian lawmaker said on Monday.

Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council draft resolution last Tuesday that urged the Syrian regime to immediately stop using violence against protesters or face “targeted measures.”

“Russia’s veto of the Syria resolution is no carte blanche for Syria’s current ruling regime to do what it pleases, not a free ride for the regime or the opposition,” Mikhail Margelov, head of the foreign affairs committee in the upper house of the Russian parliament, said.

Russia has exhausted “the array of tools” provided by international law, he said.

“The Russian veto is the last call for the authorities and the opposition to sit down at the roundtable and start nationwide dialogue,” he said, adding that Russia was ready to facilitate it with its “political influence and political authority in the international arena.”

His remarks echo those by President Dmitry Medvedev who said on Friday that Syria’s leadership should carry through reforms in the country or leave office.

The draft resolution, sponsored by France with Britain, Germany and Portugal, was supported by nine out of 15 Security Council member states. Four others – Brazil, India, South Africa and Lebanon – abstained.

 

Yemeni president ‘will stay in power as long as it takes’

Another country that has suffered months of civil unrest is Yemen. Its president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, announced on Saturday that he is to step down in the coming days.

­This follows nine months of violent protests, with the opposition demanding an end to Saleh’s 33-year rule.

But Sabah al-Mukhtar, president of the Arab Lawyers’ Association, believes Saleh’s assurance that he will step down is nothing but an empty promise.

“Over the last nine months, I think, he must have made 130 odd speeches, and in every single one of them he said he is going to leave power. In every single one of them he promised that he doesn’t want to run as president, and in every single one after he finished, he stayed in power. This is absolutely no different from anything before,” al-Mukhtar told RT. “I think no one believes what he is saying.”

The lawyer insists it is the Americans who allowed Saleh to return to Yemen from Saudi Arabia, because “he is on their side.”

“This man is willing to stay in power as long as it takes. He is playing the same role, saying that if the Russians and Chinese can keep the Syrian regime there, the Americans will keep me here, especially as he is willing to do anything they want – whether he teams up with Al-Qaeda or against Al-Qaeda, with Iran or against Iran,” he said.

“When he went to Saudi Arabia, it was an exit policy, which the Americans have organized with the Gulf states, so that he stays away and then, somehow, he can leave power,” al-Mukhtar continued. “But now that they allowed him to go back, it is very clear that they intend to keep him there, and probably it’s going to be another bloody quagmire, similar to the one we have in [Syria], whereby the Americans will continue to back Ali Abdullah Saleh, and people [will] continue to be killed.”

Russia’s Medvedev to Syrian government: shape up or quit

Syria’s leadership should carry through reforms in the country or leave office, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Friday.

Like other countries, Russia is interested in an early end to the bloodshed in Syria and is making its position known to the Syrian leadership, he said.

“If the Syrian leadership is unable to complete such reforms, it will have to go, but this decision should be made not by NATO and certain European countries – it should be made by the people of Syria and the government of Syria,” Medvedev said.

Russia will not allow any one-sided sanctions at the UN to unseat “undesirable” regimes in different countries, he said.

“This is not what the UN was founded for,” Medvedev said.

On Tuesday Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council draft resolution urging the Syrian regime to immediately stop using violence against protesters or face “targeted measures.”

The draft resolution, sponsored by France with Britain, Germany and Portugal, was supported by nine out of 15 Security Council member states. Four others – Brazil, India, South Africa and Lebanon – abstained.

Russia to oppose one-sided Western UN sanctions

Russia will oppose attempts by some Western countries to use the UN Security Council to legitimize one-sided sanctions against ‘undesirable’ regimes, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said on Thursday.

“Some Western countries and regional associations have been increasingly resorting to the tactics of imposing one-sided sanctions against ‘uncooperative’ regimes,” he said.

“In making such decisions, they do not confer with other members of the international community.”

He described the trend as “disturbing.”

Earlier in the day Moscow queried NATO’s assertion that its Libyan operation Unified Protector has saved the lives of countless civilians.

On Tuesday Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council draft resolution urging the Syrian regime to immediately stop using violence against protesters or face “targeted measures.”

The draft resolution, sponsored by France with Britain, Germany and Portugal, was supported by nine out of 15 Security Council member states. Four others – Brazil, India, South Africa and Lebanon – abstained.

Russia and China veto UN resolution against Syrian regime


The US ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, attacks China and Russia’s veto of a resolution threatening sanctions against the Syrian regime Link to this video

Russia and China have vetoed a European-backed UN security council resolution that threatened sanctions against the Syrian regime if it did not immediately halt its military crackdown against civilians.

The resolution would have been the first such legally binding move adopted by the security council since President Bashar Assad’s military began using tanks and soldiers against protesters in mid-March. The UN estimates there have been more than 2,700 deaths.

The European sponsors of the resolution had tried to avoid a veto by watering down the language on sanctions three times, to the point where the word “sanctions” was taken out. The eventual vote was 9-2 with four abstentions: India, South Africa, Brazil and Lebanon.

It is the first double veto by Russia and China since July 2008 when they rejected proposed sanctions against Zimbabwe. In January 2007 they both vetoed a resolution against the Burmese regime.

Russia’s UN ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, told the council after the vote that his country did not support the Assad regime or the violence but opposed the resolution because it was “based on a philosophy of confrontation”, contained “an ultimatum of sanctions” and was against a peaceful settlement. He complained that the resolution did not call for the Syrian opposition to disociate itself from “extremists” and enter into dialogue.

China’s ambassador, Li Bandong, said his country was concerned about the violence and wanted reforms but opposed the resolution because “sanctions, or threat of sanctions, do not help the situation in Syria but rather complicates the situation”.

France’s UN ambassador, Gerard Araud, called the veto “a rejection of the extraordinary movement in support of freedom and democracy that is the Arab spring” and commended “all of those who fight against the bloodthirsty crackdown in Syria”.

Britain’s UN ambassador, Mark Lyall Grant, said the veto “will be a great disappointment to the people of Syria and the wider region that some members of this council could not show their support for their struggle for basic human rights”.

“By blocking this resolution, the onus is now on those countries to step up their efforts and persuade the Syrian government to end the violence and pursue genuine reform,” he said.

The US ambassador, Susan Rice, said: “The courageous people of Syria can now clearly see who on this council supports their yearning for liberty and human rights, and who does not.”

“Those who oppose this resolution and give cover to a brutal regime will have to answer to the Syrian people – and, indeed, to people across the region who are pursuing the same universal aspirations. The crisis in Syria will stay before the security council and we will not rest until this council rises to meet its responsibilities.”

Rice accused Russia and China of wanting to sell arms to the Syrian regime rather than stand with the Syrian people – an accusation vehemently denied by Russia.

From the outset of the Syrian uprising, the council has been split.

Western members, backed by some African and Latin American nations, demanded an end to violence, and when it was not heeded they pushed for security council action, including the threat of sanctions. On the other side Russia and China, along with Brazil, India and South Africa, pressed for more time for the Assad government to implement reforms and for political dialogue with the opposition.

It took four months of arguments between supporters and opponents of Assad’s regime for the security council to issue a presidential statement in August condemning the escalating violence. Britain, France, Germany and Portugal, backed by the US, then pressed for a council resolution calling for an immediate arms embargo and other sanctions.

But Russia, China, India, South Africa and Brazil have argued the UN resolution authorising the use of force to protect civilians in Libya was misused by Nato to justify months of air strikes against Muammar Gaddafi’s regime. They expressed fear a new resolution might be used as a pretext for armed intervention in Syria.

The final watered-down document called for Syria to end all violence, respect rights and freedoms, and let in the media and human rights investigators – or, after 30 days, the security council will “consider its options, including measures under article 41 of the charter of the United Nations“.

Article 41 authorises the council to impose non-military measures such as economic and diplomatic sanctions.

The defeated draft strongly condemned “the continued grave and systematic human rights violations and the use of force against civilians by the Syrian authorities” and called on all states “to exercise vigilance and restraint” in supplying weapons to Syria.

Syria’s UN ambassador, Bashar Ja’afari, the last speaker after the vote, criticised “the prejudice in certain western capitals against our country” and insisted a comprehensive package of pro-democracy reforms was being implemented by the government.

Without naming the US, Ja’afari said it had used its security council veto 50 times since 1945 to protect Israel and deny the Palestinians their rights.

Therefore, he said, it could be considered a party to “genocide, as this language is tantamount to turning a blind eye and supporting the Israeli massacres in occupied Arab lands.”

As he spoke, US diplomats, led by Rice, walked out of the council chamber.

US hits out at Russia and China after UN security council veto on Syria

The US ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, says China and Russia’s veto of a resolution on Syria showed ‘who on this council supports [Syrians’] yearning for liberty and human rights’. The European-backed resolution threatened sanctions against the Syrian regime if it did not immediately halt its military crackdown against civilians