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Saudi Arabia has a flare up, China and Russia take a stand on Syria

This may or may not be ominous, but in Saudi Arabia there were some isolated riots in the oil-rich coast city of Qatif, according to Al Jazeera.  Details are limited.  The Saudis are blaming the riots on foreign instigators; it is likely that they have Iran in mind.  The article I’ve linked is frustrating in that it is ambiguous, seemingly hinting that we may be dealing with a powder keg, and equally likely that we are dealing with nothing.  Certainly, among all of the states in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia is the most likely candidate for the United States to aggressively support the government in quelling protests that cause instability and order.

Al Jazeera is also reporting on the Chinese and Russian veto of a UN resolution that sought to condemn Syria and create minor actions against the Assad regime.

“The United States is outraged that this council has utterly failed to address an urgent moral challenge and a growing threat to regional peace and security,” Susan Rice, the US ambassador, said, condemning countries that “would rather sell arms to the Syrian regime”.

For months, Russia, China, Brazil, India and South Africa – the BRICS countries – have criticised the US and European council members for allegedly allowing NATO to overstep its Security Council mandate to protect civilians in Libya.

Personally, I’m inclined to agree with the position taken by China and Russia on this one.  The likelihood of this resolution peacefully resolving conflict in Syria while still allowing the Assad regime to keep power is low.  Rather, its intention is to lay groundwork for eventual regime change.  I suppose that in my own view I am hypocritical, as I would like to see regime change in Syria, but do not believe the West should be the catalyst.  Yet without the West as catalyst, Assad’s regime would have to be incredibly inept to not eliminate the present challenge to its regime.  If we intend on interfering with Syrian sovereignty to the degree of achieving regime change, there had better be an explanation of how such action is a national security imperative than what was offered regarding Libya.  Do you all agree?  Consider also Ambassador Rice’s point, that the veto prevents the international community from preventing human rights violations in Syria.  Do you believe that a UN resolution could have been the critical factor in stopping human rights violations as Syria carries out a campaign to quiet activists?

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2 Responses

  1. While the resolution was unlikely to have a significant effect on the realities of the situation, it was important symbolically to show the Assad regime that it did not have the right to act violently against its own civilians. Russia and China’s vetoes have ultimately told the Assad regime, go ahead, kill as many people as you want, we will not stop you. I think the idea that action against Syria would violate their sovereignty is an outdated idea. In today’s political system, sovereignty only goes as far as the regimes legitimacy. While I am not necessarily advocating outright war on the Syrian regime, military action must be on the table in whatever way that may come. If regimes are given absolute authority to kill their own people, then there is no point to having an international body with a stated mission of preventing genocide.

  2. From the MENA House blog (menahouse.wordpress.com), i.e. my blog…yes, shameless self-advertisement:

    Russia and China aren’t exactly known for their open and transparent political systems, free and fair elections, respect for freedom of speech and assembly, or protection of human rights – to name only a few. Their ruling parties are interested more in self-preservation and self-enrichment than facilitating the development of civil society and respecting civil liberties. The fact that we seem on the verge of an additional two terms of Tsar/Premier/President Putin is proof enough of this. The regimes have lives of their own, so to speak, and will allow nothing to jeopardize their monopolies on domestic power.

    To that end, neither state can allow a legitimate multi-national assembly to interfere with popular intrastate uprisings – particularly in states with whom they have large arms sales contracts. To allow the U.N. to intervene in Syria would set a dangerous precedent vis-a-vis Moscow and Beijing: that the international community will openly support revolutionary movements around the world and pressure incumbent regimes to either offer enough concessions to end hostilities or perhaps even cede political power completely. Further, such a measure would legitimize the placement of U.N. peacekeeping forces in the rebellious state to ensure the regime’s potential for increased violence against the opposition is curbed. As the Russian Ambassador to the U.N. stated yesterday, “We see this as a policy of regime change.” For China and Russia, such a policy is obviously unacceptable.

    The example of NATO’s engagement in Libya looms large for both states and it is safe to say that neither will support further intervention in the region, regardless of how many Syrian civilians die at the hands of their government in the coming weeks and months. It’s truly unfortunate. But it isn’t at all surprising.

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