The UN Security Council is likely to produce a resolution this week on Syria, initiated by Germany with the support of France, the UK and Portugal, condemning the government’s use of its armed forces to suppress the nationwide rebellion. Russia, which had previously resisted any action by the UNSC, now says that it won’t oppose a UNSC resolution. Unlike the UNSC’s action on Libya, however, it isn’t going to endorse military action, and both Russia and France declared that they’re against the idea of direct action. And that’s a good thing.
The mess in Syria has been made worse by the US/NATO war against Libya, which bolstered the Syrian opposition into adopting aggressive measures and convinced the Syrian government that it must, at all costs, prevent the emergence of a Benghazi in Syria. It was the counterattack by Libyan government forces against Benghazi in March that spurred the Obama administration to tilt toward war on the specious grounds that it was acting to prevent a humanitarian disaster.
The Russian foreign ministry said, of the possible UN action on Syria: “If there are some unbalanced items, sanctions, pressure, I think that kind of pressure is bad because we want less bloodshed and more democracy.” That means no military action or tough sanctions will be authorized. Meanwhile, the French, opting to reassure Russia and China, said: “The situation in Libya and Syria are not similar. No option of a military nature is considered.”
Over the weekend, the Syrian government launched a massive attack on Hama, the city in central Syria that has emerged as the focal point of the result. Earlier, the Assad government had refused to crack down on Hama, which was the scene of a brutal battle in 1982 that left thousands dead. Although the Syrian army hasn’t entered central Hama yet, still poised on the outskirts, its bombs and shelling have left scores dead, provoking Russia to call Assad’s actions “unacceptable” Turkey’s president, Abdullah Gul, to say that he’s “horrified.”
In the United States, hawks are calling for tough actions. Yet another Washington Post editorial decries the alleged inaction by the White House, demanding oil and gas sanctions and indictment of Bashar al-Assad by the International Criminal Court. And the unholy ttinity in the Senate, John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman, are once again urging the White House to adopt regime change, and the fall of the Assad government, as its policy. Though Obama has edged closer and closer to that policy, so far he’s resisted—in large part because there’s no way for the United States to enforce it or bring it about. (Even the war in Libya has proved less than effective in toppling Muammar Qaddafi, and Assad seems more firmly entrenched.)
Tomorrow will be a big day for US policy toward Syria, since US Ambassador Robert Ford will have his confirmation hearing. Ford, in a needlessly provocative act, joined the French ambassador on a visit to Hama in mid-July, an act that drew the wrath of the government and no doubt led the rebels to believe that they’d have US backing if they stood fast. Unfortunately, there’s little or nothing that the United States can (or should) do to intervene directly in Syria, which means that the rebels there are on their own. But Ford’s US embassy spokesman is talking tough: “There is one armed gang in this country, and it is the Syrian government itself.”