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When China and Russia use the veto

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Western mainstream media is tearing into the two countries which used their vetoes to stop a United Nations Security Council resolution on Syria. In the views of China and Russia, the draft resolution was hasty, would have ended all consultation, and would instead have provided the means to begin the ‘regime change’ cycle of destabilisation and war that have marked several countries in the Middle East region over the last decade.

Within minutes of the draft resolution being blocked by China and Russia, western TV channels and press media lashed out viciously against the governments of both countries. Several news agencies linked the escalation of violence in the city of Homs to the vetos, cynically twisting the reasons for the vetoes into neglect of the civilian toll of the unrest in Syria – “amid reports of a brutal crackdown, Russia and China prevented action being taken” was the general tone of such agencies, UPI amongst them.

Television channels in the USA immediately ran sound-bites by Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, saying that it had not been possible to work with Russia on a UN resolution “backed by the West and the Arab League” which basically wanted Syrian President Bashar Assad to quit, or face the consequences (the same consequences witnessed by other government heads in the Middle East during a year of uprisings). Since these consequences are directed by the USA, Britain, a few NATO countries and endprsed by Americam allies in the Arabian Peninsula, it is not in any way representative of what the ‘West’ likes to call the ‘international community’. Childishly, the US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice told ABC media that her country was “disgusted” by the vetos. However, Clinton was reported as forecasting bloodshed and civil war in Syria as an outcome.

The human rights organisation Amnesty International, whose apporach on the matter has become openly political in favour of the US government line, chose to moralise its discontent by complaining that the vetos are “a betrayal of protesters” and that the “UN Security Council has remained virtually silent on the violent repression in Syria since March 2011. This is a completely irresponsible use of the veto by Russia and China. It is staggering that they have blocked the passage…” etc etc. The news magazine Time turned to tabloid tactics with a headline: “Reports of Hundreds Killed in Homs, While Diplomats Fiddle” and fulminated that the draft resolution backed the Arab League’s call for Assad to step aside (indeed, in favour of what variety of puppet?). “On Saturday, Russia and China vetoed a watered down resolution, shielding their stalwart ally,” screeched Time.

Sober reporting on the vetos came from the Chinese media. CRI English reported that China on Saturday had voiced its regrets that Russia’s “reasonable” revision proposal on a Syria draft resolution was not taken into account. The news channel said that Li Baodong, the Chinese permanent representative to the UN, made the statement after he, together with his Russian counterpart Vitaly Churkin, vetoed an Arab-European draft resolution which backs an Arab League plan to promote a regime change in Syria.

“To push through a vote when parties are still seriously divided over the issue will not help maintain the unity and authority of the Security Council, or help resolve the issue,” Li said. “China supports the revision proposals raised by Russia, and has taken note that Russian Foreign Minister (Sergei Lavrov) will visit Syria next week,” Li said. “The request for continued consultation on the draft by some council members is reasonable. It is regrettable that these reasonable concerns are not taken into account,” he said.

In similar manner, Xinhua reported that Russia and China voiced their strong opposition to forced regime change in Syria. Xinhua said Russia warned some countries against meddling in the internal affairs of Syria, saying that the international community should prevent a replay of the Libya model, in which NATO military action help topple the regime of Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi. Hours before the Security Council entered into a scheduled meeting on Saturday, with Western powers pushing for a council vote on the draft, Russia insisted that the document be amended.

Xinhua quoted Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov: “We circulated an amended resolution which aims to fix two basic problems …(first), the imposition of conditions on dialogue, and second, measures must be taken to influence not only the government but also armed groups.” Lavrov had said this at a panel discussion at the Munich Security Conference, adding that these two issues are “of crucial importance” from the view of Russia.

At the UN, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed “deep regret”. The UN press briefing mentioned the crisis in Syria, “where thousands of people have been killed over the past year since authorities crackdown on a pro-democracy uprising”. Thirteen of the Council’s 15 members voted in favour of a draft text submitted by Morocco, the UN release said, but China and Russia exercised their vetoes (a veto by any one of the Council’s five permanent members means a resolution cannot be adopted).

“This is a great disappointment to the people of Syria and the Middle East, and to all supporters of democracy and human rights,” Ban said in a statement. “It undermines the role of the United Nations and the international community in this period when the Syrian authorities must hear a unified voice calling for an immediate end to its violence against the Syrian people.”

The UN release did provide the views of the Russian Ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, who said the text as it stood “sent an unbalanced signal to the Syrian parties,” with no call on the Syrian opposition to distance itself from extremist groups. He said a solution to the Syrian crisis must be “objective” and said some Council members had actively undermined opportunities for a settlement and pressed for “regime change.”

Churkin said Russia was actively involved in diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis and, to that end, the country”s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov would lead a delegation to the Syrian capital, Damascus, on Tuesday for talks with President Bashar al-Assad. China’s Ambassador Li Baodong voiced disappointment that the draft resolution did not incorporate amendments proposed by Russia, which China supported. He said an “undue emphasis” on pressuring Syria”s authorities would prejudice the result of dialogue and only complicate the issue rather than ending the fighting. He said the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Syria must be fully respected.

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So, why did the powers now attacking Libya easily tolerate Gaddafi for the last 10 years?

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A Gadhafi supporter waves a regime flag on Green Square in the Libyan capital of Tripoli. Photo: Spiegel/Reuters

Right from the first, Muammar Gaddafi made no secret of his hatred for the Tunisian and Egyptian rebellions against Ben Ali’s and Mubarak’s dictatorial rule, this comment in l’Humanité in English has explained. In his own idiosyncratic way he has just hit upon the safest way to put the great post-colonial powers back into the saddle by providing the Tunisian and Egyptian former dictators’ accomplices with a pretext for bombing his territory. Paris, London or Washington are thus once more taking over the controls.

Des insurgés fêtent la destruction d'un tank des forces pro-Kadhafi après une attaque des avions français à 25 kmde Benghazi. Photo: Ouest-France/Epa

A smell of oil gives the neo-colonial powers’ real objectives away. Protection of the civilians is not among them. And this fuels criticism. Since resolution 1973 was voted by the Security Council last Friday despite the abstention and reservation of several states, French Rafale or British Tornado planes can drop their bombs on the tyrant’s hideouts. There are and will be major collateral damages, more civilian victims. As was the case twenty years ago, during the first Gulf war led by an international coalition where the US then played the most prominent part, France being content with playing the part of first-rank participant.

This time the French president Nicolas Sarkozy stands on the Western armada’s front line. Last Friday he was saying before the cameras that the aim is “to protect defenceless civilians” and to support the emergence of democracy. UNO’s resolution stipulates that the war objective pursued is only to protect “the populations and civilian zones under the threat of attacks in Lybia’s Arab Jamhiriya.” But these verbal precautions are meant to rally the countries that balk at approving the Security Council’s resolution, or at least to persuade them to abstain. They ill conceal the Western powers’ war-prone strategies.

Today Libya is the next biggest producer of oil in Africa after Nigeria. And it sits on huge reserves. Enough to stir limitless greed, even as, Japan’s nuclear catastrophe aiding, oil seems to be a most highly coveted fuel. The great capitalist powers easily came to terms with the Gaddafi regime during the last decade. Libya’s oil thus represents nearly 20% of Italy’s supply and at least 10% of France’s.

Pro-Gadhafi forces reportedly reached the outskirts of the rebel-held city of Benghazi on Tuesday. This image shows rebels retreating under fire from Gadhafi's troops. Photo: Spiegel/AP

The great Western capitals consider that part of the Libyan elite who have broken off with the guide might grab all or part of the oil and constitute an even more “pliant” partner than the present regime. Especially as they would stand indebted to the West for its military intervention and as the social question, which is incontrovertible in Tunisia or in Egypt, does not figure so prominently in Libya, whose population was somehow driven into exile: its migrants (4,5 million out of 10 million inhabitants) being caught between two fires, had no demands to formulate other than the right to save their skin by fleeing the country.

[Original French article is ‘L’aubaine pour reprendre la main sur le monde arabe’ by Bruno Odent, ‘Libya: A Golden Opportunity for Western Powers to Regain Control over the Arab World’]

“A puzzling question preoccupied commentators in the aftermath of the Obama administration’s apparent about-face sometime around March 16, the day before passage of UNSC 1973. Prior to that day, conventional wisdom held that the White House opposed military intercession, even in the shape of a no-fly zone, and despite the increasingly impassioned pleas of Britain, France and the Libyan National Council in rebel-controlled Benghazi.” This editorial statement, titled ‘Of Principle and Peril’, has been made by the editors of Middle East Research and Information Project (Merip).

Sur la route entre Benghazi et Ajdabiyah, un char des forces pro-khadafistes a été abandonné, touché par les bombardements de la coalition. Photo: Reuters

The objections to a no-fly zone, given voice before Congress by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, were pragmatic rather than principled. Among their number: Libya is a huge country, much larger in area than the twin swathes of Iraq the US and Britain policed in the 1990s; the necessary military assets, such as aircraft carriers, were not in theater; and Qaddafi’s helicopter gunships and tanks would be undeterred by an aerial exclusion zone, just as Saddam’s forces were in 1991, when they crushed the uprising in southern Iraq despite US mastery of the skies. Gates underlined for the legislators that imposing this measure would be, in essence, an act of war. “Let’s call a spade a spade,” he said on March 2. “A no-fly zone begins with an attack on Libya to destroy the air defenses.”

So why, in UNSC 1973, did the US push for and attain an authorization of force that not only includes a no-fly zone but also goes beyond it? Mainstream accounts, since they are molded by White House media outreach, have predictably emphasized the administration’s mounting worries about massacres as Qaddafi’s legions regained ground, as well as President Barack Obama’s desire to be on the right side of the struggle between peoples and autocrats in the Arab world. UNSC 1973 is portrayed as a victory for the humanitarian interventionist element of Obama’s foreign policy team, among them UN Ambassador Susan Rice and adviser Samantha Power, who are eager to expiate the sins of the Clinton administration in ignoring Rwanda. The resolution is depicted simultaneously as belated, but determined fulfillment of Obama’s pledge in his Cairo speech of June 2009 to revise the list of US priorities in the Middle East, bringing US interests into greater harmony with the aspirations of the region’s populace.

The more plausible explanation for the confused signals from the White House is that official circles were engaged in debate over whether Qaddafi would win. If, as it appeared in the second week of March, the Libyan strongman would rapidly quell the rebellion and reestablish his dominion across the country, there would be little point to Western intervention.

Written by makanaka

March 23, 2011 at 21:54