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The Dynamics of the Crisis in Syria. Conflict Versus Conflict Resolution. (Part 3)
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The Dynamics of the Crisis in Syria. Conflict Versus Conflict Resolution. (Part 3)
(Part 1)(Part 2) –Dr. Christof Lehmann. – After 19 months of violent conflict in Syria a feasible solution seems farther removed than ever. The influx of fundamentalist Salafist or Wahabist fighters which have been streaming to Syria since the failure of two major Free Syrian Army assaults on Aleppo in June and July 2012 made it increasingly difficult to build a coherent and credible Syrian political and military opposition among the proponents of regime-change. The international anti Syrian alliance has difficulties in identifying a political or military opposition that could be used as an argument for regime change. The Turkish-Syrian conflict risks to spiral out of control with potentially catastrophic consequences for Syria, Turkey, Lebanon and the region. After the violence has begun spreading into Turkey and Lebanon, increasing the risk of a regional war with potentially global bearing, the containment of the crisis is becoming increasingly difficult. The international community is as divided as the Syrian opposition. The pressure is on all sides to resolve the crisis. Opinions about how to solve the crisis differ widely. The article offers the necessary analysis, suggests possible solutions and the potential consequences of a protracted and widening conflict.
Appraisal of the Supranational, International, Regional, National, and Other Key Stakeholders. The Interplay between Stakeholders Convergent and Divergent Political, Geo-Politic, Security and Energy Needs as Key to the Crisis.
The United Nations.
The role of the United Nations in the Syrian Crisis is as complex as it is problematic. The United Nations engagement in Syria is reflecting the deep-rooted structural, systemic and judicial crisis which is increasingly diminishing its credibility and potential for playing a constructive role in resolving situations like the crisis in Syria. The crisis of the United Nations is predominantly elicited by the situation at the UN Security Council, the UN Human Rights Council´s Independent Commission of Inquiry, the Joint UN – Arab League Peace Mission, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the implicit interplay between these UN Agencies.
The UN – Security Council (UNSC).
The UNSC has been widely criticized for the erosion of national sovereignty and the abuse of the UNSC as instrument for lending apparent legitimacy to aggressions that serve permanent members geo-politic interest. The institutionalization of humanitarian interventions and the principle of a responsibility to protect since the 1980s have aggravated this problem. According to an article by Black, Fetzer, Mezyaev and Lehmann (21) these modern constructs are legally questionable, highly problematic and have severely aggravated the systemic, structural and legal problems related to the UNSC.
The most recent example of a successful abuse of the erosion of national sovereignty under the pretense of a manufactured responsibility to protect is NATO´s abuse of UNSC Resolution 1973 (2011) on Libya. Russian, Chinese, Syrian, Iranian and other nations concerns with respect to violations of national sovereignty have been further aggravated because the US Permanent Representative to NATO, Ivo H. Daalder, and the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, and Commander of the US European Command, James G. Stavridis have praised NATO´s intervention in Libya under Resolution 1973 as "teachable moment… and a model for future interventions". An appraisal of the implications of this interpretation was published in an article by Lehmann. (22)
According to the UN Charter a UNSC resolution requires the concurring votes of all permanent members. Russia and China abstained from Resolution 1973 taking a calculated risk. Even though the UN Charter requires the concurrent votes of all members it has become practice since UNSC Resolution 4 (1946) on Spain that an abstention can be interpreted as not preventing the implementation of a resolution by its proponents. It was however, also commonly agreed practice that an abstention was interpreted as a signal by those who abstained, that those UNSC members who then would begin implementing the not formally adopted resolution should not exceed any of the provisions, powers or limitations that have been specified in it.
The USA, France and the UK abused not only the UN Charter but also this informally social contract when the USA and its allies abused Resolution 1973 to wage a de facto war of aggression against Libya, to bring about regime change with the aid of special forces and mercenaries, and to assassinate Muammar Ghadafi.
A repetition of this abuse, directed against Syria, has so far been successfully prevented by Russia and China who since have consequently vetoed resolutions on Syria which would violate international law. In response, the United States has recently vetoed a Russian sponsored Resolution on Syria which was drafted and proposed to counter the illegal provision of weapons and funds to the foreign backed insurgents, as a means for reestablishing security, stability and a climate in which negotiations and reforms can take place.
With the UN Security Council literally frozen it is unlikely that it can play a constructive role in resolving the crisis unless a settlement between the two primary blocks of stakeholders can be reached. As it will be detailed below, one of the major preconditions for a settlement would be negotiations with regard to a lack of convergence in the energy-security and geo-politic needs of Qatar, the E.U. Turkey, Bahrain, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the USA on one hand, and Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Russia and to a lesser degree China on the other.
Until such negotiations are beginning to be successfully implemented on all levels it is likely that the UNSC will remain unable to contribute to resolving the crisis in Syria.
The UN Human Rights Council´s International Independent Commission of Inquiry.
On 16. August 2012 the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria (CoI) of the United Nations Human Rights Council issued its first report on the human rights situation in the Syrian Arab Republic. 23
The report has been widely criticized, but serious concerns about the objectivity of the commission were voiced before it even began its inquiry. The CoI has violated several basic principles from its inception. The the appointment of commissioners lacked transparency. The UNHRC failed to involve representatives from the major belligerent factions and to agree on expert commissioners whose objectivity, neutrality and integrity was beyond a reasonable doubt.
The appointment of Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro as chair and the appointment of Karen Koning AbuZayd who together issued the 16. August report (ibid.), is highly problematic, symptomatic for the serious systemic and structural problems at the United Nations and in effect counterproductive.
Before being appointed as chair of the CoI in 2011 Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro served as United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. 25 The fact that it has been documented that U.N. Agencies have been playing and continue to play an active role in the manufacturing and aggravation of the violence in Myanmar´s Rakhine State should have led to the disqualification of Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro. Details about the involvement of U.N. Agencies in the manufacturing of the violence in Myanmar, including details about the arrest and conviction of employees of the WFP and the UNHCR in Myanmar Courts in 2012 have been documented in two articles by Lehmann which were published in 2012. 26 – 27
Karen Koning AbuZayd is serving at the Board of Directors of the United States based Middle East Policy Council which advises US administrations on Middle East Policy. 28 The involvement of the USA in politically and materially supporting both the pro regime change political opposition and the armed insurgency and the fact that the Middle East Policy Council has a strong pro US American bias suggests that the appointment of Karen Koning AbuZayd is counterproductive to unbiased reporting on the human rights situation in Syria.
The recent discussions about the appointment of the former chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court in The Haag, Carla Del Ponte, as additional member of the CoI is by many considered as the last straw that is breaking the proverbial camel´s back.
Even though Carla Del Ponte has written a book in which she has distanced herself from the ICC and criticizes the International Criminal Court, her previous involvement in selective prosecution at the ICC and other violations of international law to which she admits, is by many perceived as sufficient to disqualify her.
Many international analysts, including international lawyer Christopher Black who has first hand experience with Del Ponte from his work on the defense of the former President of Yugoslavia, Slobodan Milosevic at the ICC, consider Del Ponte as a western intelligence asset. With appointees as Pinheiro, AbuZayd and Del Ponte one cannot seriously expect an unbiased investigation into the human rights situation in Syria.
The CoI report from 16. August 2012 has been subject to serious critique. Marinella Correggia, a prominent member of the Italian No-War-Network-Roma, issued a detailed analysis. The main points of critique of Marinella Correggia´s analysis are that the commission uses a simplistic narrative and that it makes the unsubstantiated claim that the Syrian government has authorized the Shabibha, that is volunteer forces who defend Syria alongside the regular military, to commit war crimes and human rights abuses.
According to Correggia´s analysis the report also lacks credibility because the investigators did not obtain the same relatively free access to the country that the U.N. Observer Mission had enjoyed before them. She continues by emphasizing that the commission itself has stated that a lack of free access has significantly hindered the commission´s ability to fulfill its mandate.
Another serious reason for concern, so Correggia, is the methodology that has been used by the commission, stating that widely distributed and randomly chosen victims and eyewitnesses could not be interviewed in person. Correggia points out that especially access to victims of opposition violence was limited, and that interviews of victims who belong to the Syrian military or the Syrian government are virtually non-existent.
Another serious concern about the validity of the report and the commissions work is, so Correggia, that the commission uses data from NGO´s such as the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is using a suspect methodology and which is highly biased, while the commission has failed to cooperate with Syrian NGO´s such as the Catholic media center Vox Clamantis which could have furnished witnesses and victims of violence to be interviewed by the commission even by phone.
Even U.N. Observers, so Correggia are rarely quoted by the report. A detailed article about the Italian Anti war Movement and Marinella Correggia´s appraisal of the CoI and its report was published on nsnbc. 29 The complete analysis is published in Italian Language at the website of the Anti-War-Movement-Roma. 30
There is a strong correlation between the significant influx of foreign backed Salafist and Wahabist insurgents in Syria since late July 2012 and a significant increase in the most serious human rights violations and war crimes. Summary executions of Syrian military personnel and civilians who are under suspicion of objecting against the creation of a Salafist – Wahabist Syrian State have become almost daily occurrences. Kidnappings, torture, sexual violence and systematic abuse of womens´rights and other serious crimes have become epidemic.
The CoI reflects serious problems at the very foundation of the UN Human Rights Council and the United Nations as a whole. In its present form the CoI cannot fulfill the role which it could and should fulfill to prevent and to document human rights violations. It is unlikely that any reform process at the UN as a whole would manifest in time to play a significant role with regard to the crisis in Syria and human rights. There is however, an urgent need for effective change with regard to the composition and the role of the CoI.
The most effective way of implementing an immediate reform would be a meeting between the Human Rights Council and liaisons of the government de jure of Syria, those parties who are taking part in a constructive nonviolent reform process in Syria and those international stakeholders who reject the illegal support of militant organizations who are active in Syria. It is these stakeholders and the Human Rights Council who could unanimously appoint the commissioners.
To further safeguard objectivity the chairman and other members of the commission could be chosen among experts from nations who have no stake in the crisis, and with all parties being able to veto the appointment of commissioners whose objectivity is questionable.
The U.N. Observer Mission.
On 21 April 2012 the U.N. Security Council adopted UNSC Resolution 2043 (2012) and established the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) 31 The UNSMIS was initially established for a 90-day period, to monitor the cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties and to monitor and support the full implementation of the Six Point Plan of the Joint United Nations – Arab League Envoy Kofi Annan. 32
The UNSMIS failed when the Free Syrian Army initiated its two major military campaigns in June and July 2012. As detailed above, the campaigns were initiated with the intent to capture and hold the city of Aleppo as seat for a Transitional Government which then could have emulated the successful strategy used in Libya; that is, a Transitional Government that would have called for a no fly zone or military intervention.
On 20 July the UNSC extended the mandate of the mission for 30 days, stating that a further extension could be possible only in the event that the Secretary General reports and the Security Council confirms the cessation of the use of heavy weapons and a reduction in the level of violence by all sides, to allow the UNSMIS monitors to implement their mandate.
The significant influx of Salafist – Wahabist fighters and the increased financial and military support of Salafist – Wahabist organizations with funds and weapons from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other stakeholders however, effectively made a continuation of the UNSMIS inappropriate and impossible.
The mission ended at midnight on 19 August 2012. Due to its discontinuation the UNSMIS never came to fulfill a significant military or political role. The Syrian government remains relatively stable and enjoys broad public support. It is however, not unthinkable that there may be future discussions about a renewed mission if it comes to a relatively stable ceasefire between the armed insurgency and the Syrian military.
The UNSMIS was commanded by the Norwegian General Mood. It is very likely that neither Russia nor China would agree to a renewed mission under the command of a general from a NATO member state without also discussing mechanisms which can safeguard the neutrality of the mission.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR.
It is estimated that nearly 200.000 Syrians have been displaced by the violence. The majority of the displaced are seeking refuge in refugee camps in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. The largest number of refugees is registered in Turkey. While the UNHCR is making a tremendous effort at supporting them with basic necessities of life it fails to protect the camps and the refugees from being abused as military camps and as potential recruits. According to the Deputy President of the Workers´ Party – Turkey, Bayram Yurtcicek, the Apaydin Camp in Hatay is a camp that has been established to conduct and administrate terrorist and destructive activities in Syria. The Workers Party – Turkey has filed criminal charges against the Turkish government for direct involvement in financing, training, arming and supervising terrorist activities in Syria via refugee camps.33
So far the UNHCR has failed to respond to the abuse of the camps and the situation of the refugees, making the situation of the Syrian refugees in Turkey comparable to those of the Muslim Rohingya in refugee camps in Bangladesh, where the UNHCR remains passive while the military intelligence service of Bangladesh uses the camps to house the Al-Qaeda associated HuJI, and to recruit Rohingya refugees for taking part in the subversion in Myanmar´s Rakhine State. (ibid.)
The UNHCR´s failure to address the problem will potentially prolong the crisis and period of displacement.
Dr. Christof Lehmann
TO BE CONTINUED…
The Joint UN – AL Special Envoy . . . .