Syria vote may prove costly for three countries seeking more UN clout
Brazil, India, and South Africa all abstained in the Security Council vote condemning violence in Syria. That could cost them some support in their bids for council membership.
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Even before Tuesday’s vote, the Obama administration was making it clear that it was not impressed with what it was seeing from the three council aspirants known as the “IBSA” countries (India, Brazil, South Africa).Skip to next paragraph
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At a Monitor breakfast with Washington reporters last month, the US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, said that the US had been especially watchful of the international actions of council members who aspire to permanent council seats – and she then offered a downbeat assessment.
“It’s been a very interesting opportunity to see how they respond to the issues of the day, how they relate to us and others, how they do or don’t act consistent with their own democratic institutions and stated values,” she said. “Let me just say we’ve learned a lot and, frankly, not all of it encouraging.”
Ambassador Rice cited specific issues – Libya, Sudan, Cote d’Ivoire – where the US had been watching the council aspirants and said they had taken positions “that one might not have anticipated, given that each of them come out of strong and proud democratic traditions.”
In that context Rice’s unspoken list of council aspirants probably included Germany, which also holds a rotating council seat and which abstained in the March council vote that authorized enforcement of a no-fly zone over Libya.
No doubt the US will now add Syria to that list of test cases the IBSA countries have failed. (Germany voted for the Syria resolution).
IBSA diplomats and some diplomatic analysts say the abstainers are not voting “no” to democracy or in favor of repression, but are instead acting in favor of another traditional principle: non-intervention of outside powers in countries’ internal battles.
Several representatives of the abstaining countries said after Tuesday’s vote that they did not want a repeat of the Libya scenario where, in their view, Western powers used Security Council resolutions to intervene on behalf of rebel fighters.
In her comments on Tuesday’s vote, Rice called such an argument a “cheap ruse” from countries more interested in maintaining lucrative arms sales with the Syrian regime than with supporting the Syrian people.
The IBSA abstentions may have been “principled” from the perspective of those countries, but they are not likely to move them any faster from the long list of Security Council rotating members to the rarefied world of the permanent few.