How not to get humanitarian aid to Yarmouk and Homs

Franklin Lamb Al Nebek, Syria — via Rebel News Feb 18, 2014

Palestinian children take part in a rally in solidarity with Palastinian refugees trapped in Syria's Yarmouk refugee camp in Jan 2014. Click to enlarge

Who authored the seemingly designed-to-fail UN Security Council Draft Resolution on delivering urgent humanitarian aid into the Old City of Homs and other besieged areas of conflict-torn Syria? When we know this, much may become clearer with respect to the cynical politicization of the continuing civilian suffering.

The draft resolution was put forward by Australia, Luxembourg, and Jordan, and according to a UN/US congressional source—one who actually worked on rounding up the three countries to front for the US and its allies—none was pleased with the decidedly raw and undiplomatic pressure they received from the office of US UN Ambassador Samantha Power.

When this observer inquired how such a poorly drafted, one-sided, adversary-bashing draft resolution could actually have seen the light of day and been submitted to the UN Security Council, the reply he received was terse: “Ask Samantha.”

Suspicions are being raised in Geneva, in Syria, and among certain UN aid agencies, in Homs and elsewhere, that efforts on behalf of those they are trying to save from starvation were ‘set-up’ to fail as a result of power politics and influences emanating from Washington and Tel Aviv.

This observer is not a big fan of conspiracy theories. No doubt it’s a personal congenital defect of some sort that makes him want to hear at least a modicum of relevant, prohibitive, material, non-hearsay evidence to support some of the wilder and internet-fueled claims ricocheting around the globe. However, some things are becoming clear as to what happened at the UNSC last week and why certain specific language was included in the resolution.

Ms. Power, it has been claimed by two Hill staffers who monitor AIPAC, owes her position as UN Ambassador to Israeli PM Netanyahu, who views her and her husband, AIPAC fund raiser, Cass Sunstein, as Israel-first stalwarts. Congressional sources claim the White House went along with her appointment so as not to provoke yet another battle—either with AIPAC’s congressional agents or the wider US Zionist lobby. As part of her continuing gratitude for her “dream job,” as she told an American Jewish Committee convention on 2/10/14 in New York, Ms. Power assured the AJC that the United States “strongly supports Israel’s candidacy for a seat on the UN Security Council, and we have pushed relentlessly for the full inclusion of Israel across the UN system.” Ms. Power is said to have assured AIPAC officials in private that evening that “one of Israel’s few survival reeds may be to grasp, in the face of rising anti-Semitism, a seat on the council.” Insisting that “there is growing and rampant hostility towards Israel within the UN, where a large number of member states are not democratic,” Ms. Power, continued” “I will never give up and nor should you.”

Following the standing ovation from her adoring audience, she repeated, according to one eye witness: “We have also pushed relentlessly for the full inclusion of Israel across the UN system.” What the Zionist regime still occupying Palestine knows, as does no doubt Ms. Power, is that the American public and increasingly even the US Congress is finally pulling back from the regime in favor of justice for Palestine. Thus the lobby’s strange reasoning that the UN system, where the American public is essentially absent, is increasingly important.

So what’s the problem with the US-mission-spawned Security Council draft resolution on Syria so dutifully submitted by three chummy and faithful allies?

Well, for starters, the resolution is DOA, as presumably every sophomore poli-sci, civics, or governance student would have recognized from the outset. The aggressive language—demanding the UNSC immediately take action by targeting only one claimed violator with yet more international sanctions—would have caused chaff and cringing among many, probably most. But even beyond that, Moscow, with a UNSC veto ready to use, sees the US-initiated draft as a bid to lay the groundwork for military strikes against the Syrian government, interpreting the language as an ultimatum: that if all this isn’t solved in two weeks then the Security Council will automatically follow with sanctions against the Syrian government.

As Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov told the media on 2/10/14, “Instead of engaging in everyday, meticulous work to resolve problems that block deliveries of humanitarian aid, they see a new resolution as some kind of simplistic solution detached from reality.”

The draft text, obtained by this observer from Reuters, expresses the intent to impose sanctions—on individuals and entities obstructing aid—if certain demands are not met within the next two weeks.

“It is unacceptable to us in the form in which it is now being prepared, and we, of course, will not let it through,” said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov.

One diplomat in Syria, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s permanent representative to the UN, had told the Security Council on 2/11/14 that Moscow opposes some 30 percent of the original draft, but did not specify what which parts. He added, “We’re not aiming for a Russian veto, we’re aiming for a resolution that everybody can agree. That is what we want.”

For his part, President Obama, speaking at a joint news conference in Washington with French President Francois Hollande, kept up the pressure for the Security Council to accept the US resolution. He insisted that there is “great unanimity among most of the Security Council” in favor of the resolution and “Russia is a holdout.” Secretary of State John Kerry and others have “delivered a very direct message” pressuring the Russians to drop their opposition.

“It is not just the Syrians that are responsible” for the plight of civilians, but “the Russians as well if they are blocking this kind of resolution,” Kerry claimed. “How you can object to humanitarian corridors? Why would you prevent the vote of a resolution if, in good faith, it is all about saving human lives?”

Among international observers, the draft resolution is widely viewed as one-sided, condemning rights abuses by Syrian authorities, demanding Syrian forces stop all aerial bombardment of cities and towns as well as indiscriminate use of bombs, rockets and related weapons. It also, parenthetically and somewhat obliquely, condemns “increased terrorist attacks,” and calls for the withdrawal of all foreign fighters from Syria, but the latter language is believed to be aimed mainly at Hezbollah. Sources in Syria claim that the draft heaps all the blame on the Syrian government without devoting the necessary attention to the humanitarian problems created by the actions of the rebels.

These gratuitous draft elements are not only aggressive, but frankly appear calculated to end serious discussion and to undermine a solution of the problem.

Being new on the job is one thing for Ms. Power (she has served as UN ambassador only since August of last year), but politicizing relief from starvation for a besieged civilian population is quite another. Likewise for promoting a draft resolution focusing all blame on one side. Such things violate a broad range of applicable and mandatory international norms, and if Ms. Power is hazy on this subject, the State Department’s Office of International Organization Affairs is not—or at least was not when this observer interned there following law school years ago.

Language that would have stood a much better chance of ending the siege of Homs, Yarmouk and other areas under siege was drafted this week by a Syrian law student at the Damascus University Faculty of Law. The widely esteemed university witnessed the death of 17 of its students, along with the serious injuring of more than 20 others, when rebel mortar bombs, on 3/28/13, targeted the canteen of the College of Architecture. Those responsible for the shelling later admitted they were trained and armed by agents of the US government.

The DU law student’s draft resolution on unfettered humanitarian aid into besieged areas of Syria will hopefully be widely discussed over the weekend at a news conference tentatively scheduled on campus. Perhaps the next UN draft resolution will reflect the student’s homework assignment.

The starving victims besieged in Syria, and all people of goodwill, are demanding immediate, non-politicized humanitarian aid without further delay. Virtually every American voter is in a position to pressure his or her congressional representative, and would possibly achieve much good by making the White House aware of their demands to end playing international ‘gotcha’ politics, and to cooperate to end the needless deaths by starvation that continue today.

Franklin Lamb is a visiting Professor of International Law at the Faculty of Law, Damascus University and volunteers with the Sabra-Shatila Scholarship Program (sssp-lb.com).

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