News Release

Syrian Repression, The Chinese-Russian Veto and U.S. Hypocrisy


Zunes is professor of politics at the University of San Francisco and a contributor to Foreign Policy in Focus. He just wrote the piece “Syrian Repression, The Chinese-Russian Veto and U.S. Hypocrisy,” which states: “As unarmed civilians continue to be slaughtered by the Syrian regime, permanent members of the United Nations Security Council continue to put their narrow geo-political agenda ahead of international humanitarian law. Just as France continues to shield Morocco from accountability for its ongoing occupation and repression in Western Sahara and the United States shields Israel from having to live up to its obligations under international humanitarian law, Russia and China have used their permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council to protect the Syrian regime from accountability for its savage repression against its own citizens. …

“Since 1970, China has used its veto power eight times, Russia (and the former Soviet Union) has used its veto power thirteen times, and the United States has used its veto power 83 times, primarily in defense of allies accused of violating international humanitarian law. Forty-two of these U.S. vetoes were to protect Israel from criticism for illegal activities, including suspected war crimes. … Yet Secretary of State Hillary Clinton insists that it is the Russians and Chinese who have ‘neutered’ the Security Council in its ability to defend basic human rights.

“U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice expressed the feelings of many human rights advocates around the world in saying that she was ‘disgusted’ by the Russian-Chinese veto. Ironically, Rice herself disgusted many human rights advocates around the world last year when she vetoed an otherwise-unanimous UN Security Council resolution which simply reiterated a longstanding principle of international humanitarian law — codified in the Fourth Geneva Convention, four previous UNSC resolutions, and a landmark World Court decision — that Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank are illegal and there should be a freeze on further construction.

“By contrast, the call in Saturday’s resolution for an internationally-recognized government to effectively hand over power to the opposition — while justifiable in light of the extraordinary repression — is a virtually unprecedented move by the UN Security Council. While territories under foreign military occupation, like those occupied by Israel, are clearly under the purview of the United Nations, the willingness of the UN to challenge human rights abuses within a country’s internationally-recognized borders is relatively new.

“Obama’s veto last year, then, was on far weaker ground legally than last weekend’s veto by China and Russia. So were most of the other UN Security Council resolutions vetoed by previous U.S. administrations. …

“Another factor which may have helped prompt the Russian and Chinese veto was their willingness to allow passage last year of UNSC 1973 on Libya, which called for the establishment of a no-fly zone and other defensive measures to protect the civilian population from attacks by Gadhafi’s forces. Unfortunately, NATO went well beyond its UNSC mandate to protect civilian lives and effectively became the air force for the rebels — and even ended up being responsible for scores of civilian casualties themselves. …

“In a further irony, the primary sponsor of last weekend’s resolution on Syria was the government of  Morocco, a non-permanent member of UN Security Council, which is currently in violation of a series of UN Security Council resolutions regarding their illegal occupation of Western Sahara. …

“The Syria Accountability Act demanded that the UN remove Syria from its non-permanent seat in the Security Council because of its violation of UNSC resolution 520. No such demand has been made by the United States regarding Morocco’s seat on the Security Council, however, despite its far more numerous and egregious violations of UNSC resolutions.”

Background: “The Military Staff Committee: A Possible Future Role in UN Peace Operations?

Patrick Seale, author of Asad: The Struggle for the Middle East was on Democracy Now this morning — he also just wrote “The Syrian Crisis and the New Cold War.”