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Syria: What Russia and China Have Learned From the Last NATO War

In the last few days, the UN Security Council passed two resolutions on the civil war in Syria, on the basis of which the first part of a UN mission was delegated in order to ensure a ceasefire. However, what the media coverage misses is the question of what position the Security Council is taking vis-u00e0-vis the use of force; that is to say, who will answer for acts of violence and violations of human rights.

Translated by Kumars Salehi.

In the last few days, the UN Security Council passed two resolutions on the civil war in Syria, on the basis of which the first part of a UN mission was delegated in order to ensure a ceasefire. However, what the media coverage misses is the question of what position the Security Council is taking vis-à-vis the use of force; that is to say, who will answer for acts of violence and violations of human rights. Yet the “question of responsibility” is crucial when, from this, certain countries intend to derive further coercive measures in the form of military force. Almost exactly a year ago, NATO justified its bombing of Libya through UN Resolution 1973. In this context, how are the current UN enactments with regard to Syria to be evaluated?

Indeed, the ceasefire is still fragile, nevertheless as it came to effect Syrians could already on the second day use their thereby-ensured freedom to demonstrate; albeit, despite massive mobilization of the opposition, only relatively few people took part in the demonstrations. At this point, the question is not only whom the “Syrian National Council“—which is recognized by the so-called “Friends of Syria” as a “legitimate representative” of Syria—actually represents, but also how strong its support among the population actually is. The “Friends of Syria“, comprised of the NATO nations already entangled in the conflict and the ultrareactionary Gulf monarchies, are proceeding according to the “classic” Libyan model: First, infiltrate the country with agents, then supply weapons, send funds, at the same time recognizing an opposition faction as synchronous with own interests as possible, and finally, force regime change.

The UN Security Council has twice already failed to position itself with respect to Syria, where the so-called Arabellion [“Arab Spring” in the English-language press – KS] has developed into a bloody civil war including numerous bombings. Both times, Russia and China used their Security Council vetoes, because the NATO nations intended primarily to establish partisan backing of the Syrian rebels on the part of the UN in order to reserve “further appropriate measures” for themselves against the Syrian regime and to apply them at the right opportunity. In doing so, the NATO nations are only nominally concerned with the protection of human rights: If this were really the case, they would have to oppose every form of violence – including the violence practiced not only by the Syrian government but also quite blatantly by the Syrian rebels.

Shifting perceptions of the civil war

That acts of violence are undertaken in the name of Assad’s regime is without question, and numerous, more or less serious western media report on this; yet the attitude differs towards the violence practiced by the armed opposition: After conspicuous, months-long silence on this subject, Human Rights Watch finally criticized in an open letter to the leader of the rebels the massive human rights violations in the form of kidnappings, torture, and executions. Some articles have even appeared in der Spiegel, heretofore characterized by an astounding one-sidedness, e.g. “Rebellen in Syrien – Der Henker von Bab Amr” [“Rebels in Syria – The Executioner of Bab Amr”] – a piece very critical towards the rebels as well as the magazine itself which had – like most other western media – plainly ignored the violence of the rebels for many months. At the same time, the report of the Arab League observer mission, which visited Syria in December and January, showed that neither side surpassed the other in its use of violence – only its release was at first successfully blocked by Qatar for transparently power-political reasons. The coordination between western politics and the media towards the aim of escalation consists in the complete demonization of the enemy in order to set the stage for war – even to the point of comparisons with Nazi Germany, as Daniel Cohn-Bendit has willingly and repeatedly done, so that as in Kosovo or Libya a military intervention is propped up by a “moral imperative”. In this regard, this tactic appears in “the case of Syria” to come off only partially, due in large part to the dogged persistence of Russia and China in insisting that the violence of both sides be condemned. Thus, in Resolution 2042 (2012), not only is the “sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Syria” expressed, but also “Condemning the widespread violations of human rights by the Syrian authorities, as well as any human rights abuses by armed groups.”

NATO’s strategy blocked for now

Russia and China have, after the experiences in Libya, successfully opposed the model: condemnation of one side’s violence, partisan backing of the other side (in willful ignorance of its crimes) and the proclamation of “appropriate” or “necessary measures” which ultimately in Libya’s case ended in a seven-month bombing campaign – even though almost the entire western press repeatedly accused both nations of partisan backing of the Assad regime. Even a politician of the LEFT [Germany’s die Linken – KS], Stefan Lieblich, criticized Russia and China at the beginning of February—as a resolution was blocked by their veto—claiming that these nations should ultimately “clear the road” for the resolution proposed by the west, at a time when the draft consisted of one-sided partisan backing. In the face of the experiences with Libya, one must be vigilant and deeply skeptical in such matters, since a year ago Resolution 1973, which was presumed harmless, was used to the end of carpet bombing with 26,323 aerial units and 9,658 offensives through NATO with subsequent regime change, and to this extent was unrestrainedly overstretched and abused.

The US’s draft of UN Resolution 2042 was indeed somewhat watered-down in comparison with previous drafts, but once again condemned only the “widespread, systematic and gross violations of human rights […] by the Syrian authorities, but not the violations of human rights committed by the rebels. Furthermore, the Security Council wouldin the event that the Syrian government does not implement its commitments […] consider further measures as appropriate.” Finally, the resolution would have posed only a gradual difference between a threat of “necessary measures” (as with Libya) and one of “appropriate measures” (as with Syria) by the Security Council. Since the Americans’ draft is unavailable outside of quotes in the original, one cannot judge further whether or not this draft (as in Libya’s case) also empowers a group of states to intervene militarily in the event of noncompliance and violation of the aims stated in the resolution. Although no violation of the no-fly zone by the Libyan government was demonstrated, as the federal government [of Germany] acknowledged in a minor inquiry, the country was bombed for months all the same. That is to say: the danger that NATO nations would have exploited a resolution of this kind as carte blanche for so-called military strikes can in no way be dismissed – indeed, the danger appears all too realistic.

The road to Tehran leads through Damascus

Regime change in Damascus, which the NATO nations view as all but secured through a commensurate Security Council resolution and also wish to force if need be, is inserted into the overall strategic plan under the rubric: The road to Tehran leads through Damascus. In order to achieve this regime change, individual NATO nations have for months operated more or less covertly in Syria, such that e.g. 49 Turkish agents were detained, and presumed French journalists were exposed as military intelligence operatives. The conflict’s expansion from previously peaceful conditions and the destabilization of Syria are thus in NATO’s interest, just as the numerous bombings, presumably attributable to al-Qaeda and similar groups, feed the strategy of escalation. It is evident that with Damascus, Iran’s last weighty ally would be either won as a western partner through regime change, or else at least neutralized as regards foreign affairs through a protracted civil war. Sevim Dagdelen, foreign affairs expert of the LEFT in the German Bundestag, was therefore entirely correct in asserting with regard to requested transport capacity for the UN mission in Syria: “The UN Secretary General should rather have directed his request towards neutral states without strategic interests of their own.”

The peace plan of UN envoy to Syria Kofi Annan—whose politics are always important to consider as they may have some bearing on the implementation of the so-called “Responsibility to Protect”—did not as such jibe with the NATO nations, particularly since it was adopted by Russia and China. Indeed, although the west cannot openly torpedo the peace plan, numerous politicians in unison with much of the media declared that it had already failed, despite the fact that it had not yet even been implemented.

Also included in this strategy is that for months now, the corporate media from The New York Times to the Frankfurter Rundschau have been propagating unsubstantiated reports about the civil war from the “Syrian Observatory for Human Rights” in London; currently, for example, that the ceasefire was broken permanently and exclusively by the regime. The greater the media-generated pressure becomes – they do not even shrink from sheer fabrications like the report on allegedly killed babies—the more legitimized the NATO nations appear in intervening militarily. Neither international law nor Resolution 2042 provides legal justification for US plans to topple the Assad regime as soon as possible; and hope remains that Russia and China will continue to oppose an escalation of the conflict by NATO nations and push for a solution at the negotiating table, such that democratic reforms for Syria can be achieved. To this extent, Annan’s peace plan can only serve as a momentary time-out, since external, violently achieved regime change remains ever on the horizon, if US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s words prove prophetic: “The end of the story has not yet been written.”

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