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article imageOp-Ed: The draft UN resolution on Syria

By Ken Hanly     Sep 27, 2013 in Politics
New York - The United States and Russia have finally reached an agreement on a draft resolution designed to rid Syria of its chemical weapons. However, the resolution addresses other issues as well such as a peace conference on Syria.
The full text of the resolution to be presented to the UN Security Council can be found here.
In the preliminary paragraphs, PP2. speaks of "Reaffirming its strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic". It is difficult to fathom exactly what this is supposed to mean. Many countries do not even any longer recognize the Syrian government that has a seat in the UN as representative of the Syrian people but instead recognize the "government" associated with the Syrian National Council. These countries include the US, France, and the UK. Many countries including Russia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the US, and others supply arms for one side or the other in the civil war. Those opposing the existing regime of Assad are surely not respecting the sovereignty of the country. Israel has launched attacks on Syria several times with hardly a peep from the international community. The country is already divided into areas held by the regime, and rebels, and also the Kurds.
PP7 acknowledges the UN report of September 16, and notes " the need for the Mission to fulfill its mandate, and emphasizing that future credible allegations of chemical weapons use in the Syrian Arab Republic should be investigated," This commits the UN inspectors to complete the investigations that they failed to finish because of the chemical weapons attack on August 21. The Russians were anxious for this to happen since they believe that at least one of those attacks was by the rebels. The inspectors are authorized to investigate any future reports as well.
The preliminary paragraphs also mention the need for a political solution to the crisis to be based upon an earlier agreement in Geneva on June 30 2012. PP12 also stresses the need for convene an international conference on Syria as soon as possible a task taken up by the US and Russia. Following the preliminary paragraphs are 22 parts to the actual resolution.
Among the prohibitions in part 4 are that the Syrian Arab Republic shall not use, develop, produce, otherwise acquire, stockpile or retain chemical weapons, or transfer, directly or indirectly, chemical weapons to other States or non-State actors.
In part 5 the prohibition is extended to the rebels as well: no party in Syria should use, develop, produce, acquire, stockpile, retain, or transfer chemical weapons;
Section 7 gives the OPCW and its staff a great deal of freedom of operation. This could very well lead to spying as happened with UN inspectors in Iraq. The information garnered was useful to the US-lead attack on Iraq and invasion later:7. Decides that the Syrian Arab Republic shall cooperate fully with the OPCW and the United Nations, including by complying with their relevant recommendations, by accepting personnel designated by the OPCW or the United Nations, by providing for and ensuring the security of activities undertaken by these personnel, by providing these personnel with immediate and unfettered access to and the right to inspect, in discharging their functions, any and all sites, and by allowing immediate and unfettered access to individuals that the OPCW has grounds to believe to be of importance for the purpose of its mandate, and decides that all parties in Syria shall cooperate fully in this regard; It is not clear how the UN will force all parties in Syria to cooperate. Many of the rebels may simply refuse, especially those with anything to hide but even if they do not they may not recognize UN authority.
For once, the UN is acting quickly as section 8 requires the OPCW to submit to the council its recommendations regarding the role of the UN in eliminating Syria's chemical weapons program. Section 10 encourages member states to provide " support, including personnel, technical expertise, information, equipment, and financial and other resources and assistance.." No doubt the process will be costly.
There is constant monitoring of the process. There is to be a report within 30 days of the resolution and for every month thereafter. Any instances of non-compliance are to be reported to the Security Council:13. Reaffirms its readiness to consider promptly any reports of the OPCW under Article VIII of the Chemical Weapons Convention, which provides for the referral of cases of non-compliance to the United Nations Security Council;
Section 14 also deals with non-compliance but includes acquisition by non-State actors of chemical weapons, their means of delivery and related materials in order to take the necessary measures. Section 15 expresses the Council's conviction that those who have used chemical weapons in Syria be held accountable for their actions. It does not identify who those people might be.
There are several sections that deal with the peace process: 16. Endorses fully the Geneva Communiqué of 30 June 2012 (Annex II), which sets out a number of key steps beginning with the establishment of a transitional governing body exercising full executive powers, which could include members of the present Government and the opposition and other groups and shall be formed on the basis of mutual consent; This section is carefully phrased to include "other groups" allowing for groups such as the Kurds to attend the meetings as a separate delegation. Section 17 calls for an international conference on Syria. This has been planned under the sponsorship of Russia and the United States for some time. However, it is not clear that any such meeting would end the civil war even if the main opposition groups agreed to a settlement, an unlikely event in itself. Many of the Islamist rebels do not recognize the Syrian National Coalition which would be the main representative of the western-backed opposition. The resolution is carefully phrased so as not to exclude Assad from the transitional government although the opposition will no doubt demand this in any negotiations.
Sections 18 and 19 deal with non-State actors acquiring chemical weapons and prohibits member states from supplying any help to such actors in developing, possessing or transporting them. It also includes nuclear, and biological weapons as well.
The final two sections deal with compliance. 21. Decides, in the event of non-compliance with this resolution, including unauthorized transfer of chemical weapons, or any use of chemical weapons by anyone in the Syrian Arab Republic, to impose measures under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter; The compliance sections make reference to using Chapter VII which could authorize use of force. However, the issue would need to come back to the Council. In spite of the phrase saying it would impose measures under Chapter VII, Russia could always decide to veto the resolution as not being appropriate in the situation. The compliance section is rather broad. It could include use of chemical weapons by rebels, or just the transfer of such weapons by either side.
All in all, the resolution is quite thorough and goes far beyond just dealing with the disposal of Syria's chemical weapons. While it is always possible there could be conflict between Russia and the US on issues of compliance, it is in the interest of both countries to see that the chemical weapons are destroyed so it is possible that the agreement will work out.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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