Why a watered-down UN resolution on Syria may still not pass
The UN Security Council vote could come as early as Tuesday afternoon. The US and European powers support the 'better than nothing' resolution, which contains only the threat of sanctions against Syria.
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Russia has said for weeks it would oppose even the threat of international sanctions on Syria, based on what Russian officials describe as the bitter experience of seeing Western powers use a UN resolution passed on Libya earlier this year to justify NATO intervention.Skip to next paragraph
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Last week, Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, told reporters in New York that his country was unable to support the revised draft resolution, even though it no longer included automatic sanctions, because its language still left the door open to an interpretation favoring regime change.
In that sense, Russia’s position has not softened over weeks of diplomatic wrangling on Syria. In late August, Ambassador Churkin said any Council action should be aimed at “moving things toward normalcy” rather than “creating more radical people among the Syrian opposition to pursue the slogan of regime change.”
Churkin says that Russia approved of a no-fly zone over Libya with the understanding that meant aircraft were not to be used in attacks on civilians. Instead, Western powers went beyond that interpretation to implement a bombing campaign in favor of Libya’s rebels, he says.
Still, some opposition groups in Syria are clamoring for the same kind of international intervention that buoyed Libya’s rebels.
A group of former Syrian Army soldiers calling themselves the Free Syrian Army is calling on the international community to implement a no-fly zone over a portion of Syria that could be the opposition’s haven. Also, earlier this week opponents of the Assad regime organized into the Syrian National Council, mirroring what is now Libya’s interim government, the Transitional National Council.
But the US and other Western powers say Syria is different from Libya and insist no one is envisioning military intervention. For one thing, the Arab League supported international action in Libya but has not in the case of Syria.
Regarding Libya, NATO had the “very broad backing of the neighborhood ... for military action,” the Western diplomat says. “But here we’re not talking about military action.”