Syrian protesters criticize UN Security Council statement as insufficient

The UN Security Council yesterday condemned the Syrian regime's brutal response to a five-month uprising. But the Syrian opposition had hoped for a weapons embargo.

Social media website via Reuters TV
A tank is seen along a street in Hama, Syria, in this undated still image taken from social media website uploaded on August 3, and dated August 1. At least 45 civilians were killed in a tank assault by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces to occupy the center of Hama, an activist said on Thursday, in a sharp escalation of a military campaign aimed at ending an uprising against his rule.

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The United Nations Security Council ended months of diplomatic deadlock Wednesday night, coming together to condemn the Syrian government's brutal response to a popular uprising.

But those under the Syrian regime's thumb say that the UN response, which condemned the government for "widespread violations of human rights and the use of force against civilians by the Syrian authorities," doesn't go far enough.

The Syrian opposition wanted the regime's leaders to be referred to the International Criminal Court and a weapons embargo to be put on the government. Human rights activists said that notably missing from the statement was a call to investigate the killing of some 2,000 Syrians, The Christian Science Monitor reported last night.

The Security Council had been divided for months on how to respond to the five-month uprising. The tipping point was the Syrian regime's invasion of the city of Hama on Wednesday, according to a diplomat who spoke to The Wall Street Journal. Permanent members Russia and China and temporary members Brazil, India, and South Africa all blocked a UN response for months, but the escalation of violence in Hama "made it increasingly hard for them to prevent the Security Council from speaking out," the diplomat said.

According to Al Jazeera, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had "lost all sense of humanity."

According to the Washington Post, at least 100 people were killed in the three-day offense on Hama. The report paints a chilling picture of Wednesday's incursion into the city:

Terrified residents cowered indoors as shells crashed into residential areas and snipers deployed on rooftops to shoot at anything that moved. Hospitals were said to be overflowing with injured people, and there were reports of bodies lying uncollected in the streets because ambulances were unable to reach them. …

An activist contacted by satellite telephone as he hid in his home with his wife and two children described a city gripped by fear – and bracing for a massacre on the scale of one perpetrated in the same city by Assad’s father, Hafez, in 1982, in which at least 10,000 people were killed.

UN officials characterized the condemnation as a "strong step," but the statement – which differs from an official resolution – has no way of enforcing its demands and no sanctions, the Journal reports. Syrian activists and human rights groups said it was an inadequate response to Mr. Assad's repeated use of military force to crack down on entire cities and detain and kill thousands since March, when the uprising began.

The condemnation was a compromise move by the council, which had been working on a response since Monday – the US and its allies wanted a resolution, which carries the force of international law, but Russia and China said a resolution could lead to another Libya-style intervention, Al Jazeera reports.

But the US appears to have little appetite for another such "adventure," writes Blake Hounshell of Foreign Policy magazine in a guest column for CNN.

"Finally, there is frankly little support in the United States for another adventure in the Middle East. Obama only reluctantly joined British, French and Arab calls for intervention in Libya once it became clear that Moammar Gadhafi was willing to unleash hell on the citizens of Benghazi, prompting an eleventh-hour authorization from the U.N. Security Council.

Nobody is contemplating anything remotely similar in Syria, but the Libya precedent looms large over discussions about what to do with al-Assad -- both in Washington and in foreign capitals that will be key to moving forward with meaningful pressure at the United Nations: Beijing, Brasilia, Moscow, New Delhi and Pretoria. Are Americans really willing to bear sole responsibility for another collapsed state in the Middle East? I doubt it. This is why Obama will need the support of neighboring countries, which would be directly affected by al-Assad's fall."

Lebanon, whose politicians are split on whether to support Assad or the protesters, abstained from the vote, NowLebanon reports. The Daily Star, a daily paper based in Beirut, quotes numerous figures on each side of the debate over whether it was right for Lebanon to disassociate itself from the vote. The Hezbollah-led coalition government formed in March said that Lebanon shouldn't interfere in its neighbor's affairs, while members of the opposition said the Assad government had "failed."

Turkey, which has developed close ties with Syria the last few years, issued the strongest Turkish statement yet against Assad, calling the events in Hama an "atrocity."

"Whoever carries this out can't be our friend. They are making a big mistake," Deputy Prime Minister Arinc Bulent said, according to Reuters. Turkey's term as a rotating member of the Security Council ended on Jan. 1 of this year.

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