Syria crisis rocks UN Assembly

Special to

metzlerBy John J. Metzler

UNITED NATIONS — The reverberations of the Syrian conflict continue to rock the UN General Assembly and Security Council as the shock waves of a churning war, a deepening political crisis, and a widening humanitarian disaster plague both the region as well as the wider world community.

Syria has become a catchword for the growing global security disorder which has among its subchapters Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and, this is just the Middle East.

Prime Minister John Key, of New Zealand who heads the Security Council this month, exclaimed, “The Syrian civil war is the most devastating conflict of the 21st century.” He added “After more than five years of violence, Syria has become a byword for failure.”

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.

But failure Key scolded, rested not only with the warring parties but with the world community for “failure to respond to the crisis early to prevent the tragedy and a collective political failure including by this Council, to do what must be done to end the conflict.”

Britain’s new Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson stated his case bluntly, “I don’t think the people of the world are remotely fooled by what is going on in Syria. They know that it is not just a civil war. They know it is a barbaric proxy war, and that is a conflict that is being fed, and nourished, and armed, and abetted, and protracted and made more hideous, by the actions and inactions of governments in this room.”

Foreign Secretary Johnson added, “There can be no political process without a genuine ceasefire and there can be no ceasefire unless there is a genuine political agreement that we can have a transition away from the Assad government.” Over 400,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed thus far in the five year conflict aimed at toppling the authoritarian Assad regime.

Yet Syria’s short lived cease fire, brokered by the USA and Russia seemed in tatters as both sides were accused of airstrikes, which mistakenly hit the wrong targets. American warplanes mistakenly struck a Syrian military position which Washington conceded was a horrible mistake.
Russia is accused of bombing a UN humanitarian convoy outside the besieged city of Aleppo.

Political pyrotechnics continued as both Russia and the USA traded accusations which evoked Cold War rhetoric; Sergei Lavrov blamed the chaos in the Middle East on “foreign military interventions.” Secretary of State John Kerry accused his Russian counterpart of living in a “parallel universe.”

During the General Assembly’s annual debate speakers offered a litany of proposals and plans concerning Syria which could solve the conflict and the burgeoning millions of refugees
pouring out of this tragic cauldron.

French President Francois Hollande proclaimed, “Aleppo is a city of martyrs.”

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May stated, “Clearly we need to continue our efforts to bring an end to the conflict and the appalling slaughter in Syria and get aid through to those who need it.”
U.S. President Barack Obama, in a wide-ranging and pedantic speech, dealt little with “Syria’s tragic civil war and the mindless medieval menace of ISIL.”

The Spanish Civil war of 1936-39 became a tragic proxy conflict among Nazi Germany and Italy on one side and Soviet Russia and the International Left on the other. Today Syria has emerged as a global cause for all sides to either help the oppressive Assad regime as do Russia and Iran, or to support a gaggle of militant rebel groups as does the U.S. The deepest danger comes from Islamic State (ISIL) terrorists backed by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states.

Significantly, Syria has become a laser-like rallying point for jihadi radicals from Britain to Belgium and France and even the USA.

But beyond the war there are the refugees. Neighboring Turkey, Lebanon and the Kingdom of Jordan have given refuge to the overwhelming number of the 4.8 million who have fled Syria. Many of those migrants head for Western Europe, over a million of whom flooded into Germany and Sweden last year alone.

But even Lebanese Prime Minister Salam warned, “We declare that our country is not a country of permanent asylum and that it is a final homeland for the Lebanese only.” He added tiny Lebanon hosts displaced Syrians that equal one third of its population.

Let’s face it, of the six million displaced people inside Syria, any wider escalation of the conflict will send new waves of people fleeing the country and often towards Europe.

The international community has done an admirable job in helping Syrian’s humanitarian symptoms. Politicians must find the talent and courage to solve the political problem.

John J. Metzler is a United Nations correspondent covering diplomatic and defense issues. He is the author of Divided Dynamism the Diplomacy of Separated Nations: Germany, Korea, China (2014). [See pre-2011 Archives]