War is an obscenity. Yet somehow a civil war transcends even that. Today Syrians are killing Syrians with an intensity and ferocity that seemingly knows no bounds. The sheer scale of the attacks now being launched by the Syrian State on rebels and civilians alike has bought about howls of anguish from across the Arab World and beyond.
The seemingly venal role played by the Russians and Chinese at the United Nations Security Council, has to all intents and purposes signalled a green light for an almighty offensive by the Syrian regime, determined as it is to snuff out all resistance to what has long been minority Allawite rule.
I've reported from inside Syria on a number of occasions, as well as from the United Nations where I was based as Al Jazeera's UN Correspondent. I have few illusions about the nature of the Ba'athist state that is Syria, although in common with others did believe for a time that President Bashar al Assad was a closet reformist. As for the United Nations, it remains the sum of its many parts, and just because China and Russia decided to set themselves against an unusual Western and Arab alliance, does not mean that the institution is somehow a failure. This is the shorthand of despair, property of the unilateralists.
To many, especially those facing the heavy weapons of their own regime in Syria, the decision to veto a Security Council resolution calling upon Assad to step down by the Chinese and Russians seems inexplicable and inexcusable. Commentary on virtually every Western media outlet has been uniform in its condemnation. Sometimes journalists have fallen into a vernacular of saying "There is nothing we can do". By way of explanation for the Russian veto, there is reflection on that country's historic ties with Syria which date back to the Cold War and the Soviet Union. But there is something else. Both Russia and China do not accept the idea of 'regime' change by international order. For today it is Damascus, yet one day it could be Moscow or Beijing.
There is something else too. Both Russia and China watched as the United States and Britain bamboozled the UN with tall tales of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. They watched as Resolution 1973, designed to protect Libyan civilians drifted into a mission creep of daily British and French sorties across Libya designed at regime change. And much as the more sensible Western voices urge proportionate action, the hot head American neo conservatives, championed by the likes of former US UN Ambassador John Bolton, champ at the bit. Their target is Damascus and then Tehran. Bolton and his apocalyptic friends mean war. Israel, they hope, will be their willing Sepoy.
There is now a very heavy duty of responsibility on the shoulders of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. His has been a consistent voice, one that has grown more determined as the weeks of mayhem and murder have disfigured Syria.
He has dedicated his second term as Secretary General in part to supporting the Arab Spring. In this he speaks boldly and clearly for a global majority. And he does so in the same way when he continuously counsels calm and a diplomatic solution for the Iranian imbroglio. He now has the unenviable position of once again having to try and square the circle within the UN Security Council, a task which history shows is far from being impossible. He also has to calm the hot heads whose urge for precipitate action threatens to set the Middle East on fire.
But above all, as UN secretary General, he does in the words of the respected former UN diplomat and British Foreign Office official, Lord Michael Williams, have the ability to invoke 'Responsibility to Protect'.
Syria's civilians, now sheltering from their president's murderous attacks surely deserve the protection that the international community was prepared to afford the people of Benghazi. But this time, any command to enforce RP2 must belong to the UN Secretary General, and not be freelanced out. Regime change on the other hand is a matter for the Syrian people - and people the world over will help them achieve just that.
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