A resolution along these lines could have been passed five weeks ago if the U.S., France, and the United Kingdom had been willing to accept Russia’s trivial amendments to the resolution offered at that time. They refused, leading to the vetoes by Russia and China that Secretary of State Clinton and French Foreign Minister Juppé in particular have so strongly condemned.
If the U.S., France and the United Kingdom continue to insist on explicitly setting forth in the resolution the order in which the violence must stop, much less calling explicitly for Assad to step aside, the only possible resolution at all would be one focused on relieving the immediate humanitarian crisis and generally supporting Kofi Annan’s continued efforts at mediating a ceasefire.
When I asked William Hague MP, British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, whether getting something on the record indicating the Security Council’s condemnation of what is currently occurring in Syria would be better than nothing at all, he responded with characteristic diplomatese:
These of course are the issues we are all considering and tackling now. I think it was very clear over the last few months, that the best plan on the table, the plan on the table, was that of the Arab League and they put forward a very good plan for the political process in Syria. That was one that we’ve been happy to support and continue to support. As you know, we’ve had a difference of view with Russia about that, and that was the real basis of the disagreement on the last Resolution, but we are considering all these issues in negotiations and will continue to do so.
While the UN Security Council has yet to pass even the mildest of resolutions regarding the violence in Syria, at the other end of the spectrum a major Syrian opposition exile group has increased its calls for international military action and arming of the rebels. Senator John McCain is pressing for the imposition of a no-fly zone. The Obama administration has wisely resisted these calls so far. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned of the risks and complexities of military intervention, during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Syria earlier this month.
The Obama administration should continue to stay out of this fight, even if, as was the case with Libya, the French, British and Arab League urge armed intervention. Our role should remain strictly humanitarian and diplomatic in nature.
The conventional wisdom is that Iran will be the big loser if Assad is overthrown. That may or may not be true, depending on who takes over. In the meantime, Iran’s full-blown support for the Assad regime is diverting valuable Iranian resources, such as some of its elite Revolutionary Guard forces. Iran is also demonstrating to its Arab neighbors that it is on the wrong of the “Arab Spring” freedom movement, causing a potentially serious rupture with its Hamas allies.
If and when Assad does eventually fall despite all of Iran’s backing, the humiliation that Iran may well suffer in squandered influence will be all the more satisfying. If Assad remains in power for the foreseeable future, Iran will continue to be diverted and will be further isolated, along with its client state, Syria, from the rest of the region. In the meantime, we must not lose sight of the far graver global security threat posed by Iran’s nuclear arms development program.
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