Syria Intervention Could Spell End of UN Golan Force

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August 29, 2013 – The future of the UN force monitoring the line of separation between Israel and Syria following the end of the 1973 war will be further jeopardized by threatened military intervention.

UNDOF has already been hit by the loss of troops from Austria, Croatia and Japan because of repeated attacks and abductions of blue-helmeted forces.

Departing peacekeepers are being replaced by promised contributions from Fiji and Ireland, with the initial contingent of Irish troops set to deploy Sept. 4.

But the threat of intervention is likely to lead the Irish government to delay the deployment, while a western strike inside Syria will see the UN face calls to withdraw its troops by those countries whose forces are currently deployed, leaving behind a dangerous security vacuum on the Israel-Syria border.

- Denis Fitzgerald

Photo: Austrian peacekeepers raise the UN flag on Pitulim Peak on Mt. Hermon following the withdrawal of Israeli Armed Forces, June 1974. UN Photo/Yutaka Nagata

Arab League Backing This Time Around Not Enough to Sway China and Russia

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August 28, 2013 – When the 22-nation Arab League on March 12, 2011 endorsed calls for a no-fly zone over Libya, it cleared the way for the UN Security Council to authorize military intervention five days later.

The endorsement by the regional group was enough for China and Russia to withhold using their veto. Both countries abstained in the March 17 vote, along with Brazil, Germany and India. China’s envoy Li Baodong specifically mentioned the endorsement of the Arab League as reason why Beijing had not blocked the action.

Similar calls are being made to the Arab League these days to back military action against the Syrian regime, but an endorsement by the League this time around will not get the same response from China and Russia.

Notwithstanding Russia’s diplomatic and military support for Assad, Beijing and Moscow have both expressed concerns that the Security Council mandate in Libya – the protection of civilians using all necessary means – was used as cover for regime change.

Some months after the Libya vote, Baodong distanced himself from his stance on March 17, telling reporters that the Security Council should not be influenced by the decisions of regional groups. 

While Syria’s Arab League seat has been given to the opposition Syrian National Coalition, there is opposition against military intervention by other Arab League members, particularly Algeria, Iraq and Lebanon. Egypt too has spoken against intervention.

The League meet next week in Cairo and reports are that  the group will pass a resolution blaming Assad for the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack and call for referral to the ICC, but not back military intervention.

- Denis Fitzgerald

photo: UN Photo/Marco Castro

UN Security Council in Emergency Meeting over Alleged Chemical Weapon Attack Near Damascus

August 21, 2013 – The UN Security Council are meeting in an emergency session 3pm ET Wednesday over allegations that chemical weapons have been used in an attack near Damascus early this morning local time. 

The reports of a chemical weapons attack come as UN inspectors probing the use of such weapons begin their first week of work in Syria. 

The inspectors are mandated to investigate whether chemical weapons have been used, not who may have used them. But if they confirm that proscribed chemical weapons have been used in a targeted and large-scale attack, as the opposition are reporting, suspicion will immediately fall on Assad forces who are known to have these weapons and the means to deliver them.

- Denis Fitzgerald