By Steve Hynd
As expected by many, Russia and China have refused to back even a watered-down UNSC resolution on Syria, the only two of 15 member states on the council to vote against the resolution.
Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said after the vote that the United States was �disgusted� by the Russian and Chinese vetoes. The council has �been held hostage by a couple of members,� she said, adding that �these members stand behind empty arguments and individual interests while seeking to strip� any resolution of meaningful terms.
�A couple of members of this council remain steadfast in their willingness to sell out the Syrian people and shield a craven tyrant,� Rice said. She said Saturday�s action was even �more shameful� given Russia�s role in selling arms to Assad�s government.
[Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov] said that the resolution was impractical and unfair and voiced concern about adopting what he called �an absolutely unrealistic provision expecting that the government of Syria would withdraw from the cities and towns exactly at the time when the armed groups are taking over the quarters of those cities and towns.�
�We are not friends or allies of President Assad,� said Lavrov, who plans to visit Damascus on Tuesday. �We try to stick to our responsibilities as a permanent members of the Security Council, and the Security Council by definition does not engage in domestic affairs of member states.�
It seems to me there are two main reasons for the vetoes. The first is that of Of $8.2Billion in total arms sales to Syria since 2003, 98% came from Russia or China. The second is not unconnected with that venal motive: the initial wave of the Arab Spring provoked regime change in pro-US nations and both China and Russia were just fine with that, but the second upsurge of revolutionary fervor has been in nations that favored Russia and China, e.g. Yemen, Libya, Syria. Given the way in which Western nations twisted the UNSC resolution on Libya, which talked about separating fighting sides and an arms embargo, into bombing on behalf of the rebels and arming them, neither nation wants to set another precedent where regime change can masquerade as an R2P mission. This resolution was clearly a big step down that road and so it had to be vetoed.
So what next? Susan Rice was unusually blunt for a UN ambassador after the vote, saying that "the United States is disgusted that a couple of members of this Council continue to prevent us from fulfilling our sole purpose here-addressing an ever-deepening crisis in Syria and a growing threat to regional peace and security."
Were this 2002, we might expect some "coalition of the willing" would now be put together by the U.S. to take further steps up to and including military intervention, even without a UNSC imprimatur. But it isn't and Libya further increased international suspicion of R2P militarism. Thus Hillary Clinton is describing the Syrian best case scenario as "similar to what we see now in Yemen."