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A week of misreports: Syria and the UN’s useless resolution

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Originally published in The Pryer: 09/02/2012


Last week, Libya’s former ambassador to France, Omar Brebesh, died in the custody of a militia from possible torture, Human Rights Watch said. This was barely mentioned in the mainstream media.

On January 30th 2012, HRW reported that 35 Ethiopian Christians were awaiting deportation from Saudi Arabia for “illicit mingling” after police arrested them when they raided a private prayer gathering in Jeddah in December 2011. Saudi Arabia has no codified criminal law or other law that defines what “illicit mingling” actually is.

This is ever-so-slightly ironic, given that King Abdullah set up an international interfaith dialogue centre in Vienna while Saudi police are paying little attention to the rights of believers of others faiths. Again, this was not even mentioned in the mainstream media. Reporting of Syria has now taken precedence.

It is then a disgrace that western-European countries are allying themselves with a country that sent troops to Bahrain to face down violent protests. But I suppose one has to be selective about whose human rights one wishes to protect.

All week, the media has reported the conflict in Syria, and Russia and China’s veto of a Security Council resolution (let us leave aside for a moment that UN resolutions are toothless anyway) in a one-sided, rather biased manner. Headlines have screamed out, “Has Syria been given a licence to kill?”, “Lack of UNSCR resolution ‘encouraged Syrian government to step up its war on its people’, says secretary general” and, my personal favourite, “Assad’s forces free to bomb dissenters as Russia and China veto UN resolution”.

Further to the misleading headlines, the media have quoted random sources who cannot be verified, with death figures which also cannot be verified, yet they are stated as facts and very rarely questioned. Then there is the selection of ‘eye-witnesses’ who call for a no-fly zone.

Then there are the ‘predictions’ that the veto could push Syria could ‘slide’ into a civil war. This has been said for almost a year now – that is a pretty big slide. It is also an absurd link to make. The reporting has become dirty and a game of finger-pointing, with ambassadors such as Susan Rice using deaths to score cheap points.

US Ambassador Rice dramatically stated that Russia and China will have blood on their hands if the violence continued. By that logic then, the US has the blood of the Palestinian people on their hands, given their numerous vetoes in condemning the violence between Israel and Palestine. In 2009, the US vetoed a resolution that “calls for an end to the 22 day long Israeli attack on Gaza”. The US was the only UNSC member that refused to support the 8 January 2009 ceasefire resolution. What would Ambassador Rice say about that, I wonder?

Al Jazeera’s Inside Story asked ‘is this the end of the road for a diplomatic solution?’ but there has been neither diplomacy nor dialogue of any kind. Germany was the latest country, of several, to expel its Syrian ambassadors.

As I wrote in a previous article, it is a game of chess and monopoly. It sounds cynical, but there is very little concern over the loss of human lives in the Middle East. Their concerns are global, and political. Yazan al-Saadi wrote a great piece for Al Akhbar analysing the impact of Saudi Arabia’s policies in that region.

On Tuesday’s Newsnight, an analysis went through each country bordering Syria bar one: Israel. Israel has remained ominously silent on Syria. If Assad was to step down from power, there is no knowing who would take over the reins, and that alarms Israel more than anything. Unlike Libya, there is no united opposition or government-in-waiting. And of course, there is Iran.

Counterpunch’s Vijay Prashad hit the nail on the head when he wrote that the US and Israel are ‘currently hiding behind the Russians… in the UN Security Council. None of them have any interest in the removal of al-Assad from power’. Everyone knew that Russia and China would veto the resolutions anyway.

Think about it – if the US et al. really wished to stop the violence, they would not be putting through weak resolutions. They would also be paying attention to the uprisings in other countries too. Here is an excerpt from the recent resolution:

Condemns all violence, irrespective of where it comes from, and in this regard demands that all parties in Syria, including armed groups, immediately stop all violence or reprisals, including attacks against State institutions, in accordance with the League of Arab States’ initiative”.

Or what? What would the UN have done if neither side had ended the violence? It has been stated many times (Rory Stewart on Tuesday’s Newsnight reasserted this) that military intervention is not on the agenda, so there is very little that the UN will do.

Dialogue and diplomacy should be on the agenda, not expelling Syrian ambassadors and simply retorting “Assad must go”, because that is not a solution. And it is not helping anyone.

The British public, and indeed many around the world, are watching events unfold in Syria, wanting something to be done to help those in need. But their hopes and prayers are in vain. War with Iran is imminent and, unfortunately, Syria is just another piece on the chessboard.

Written by Iram Ramzan

February 9, 2012 at 8:40 pm

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