Failing the Syria Test

MADRID – On October 2nd in Istanbul, Syria’s disparate opposition movements gave the go-ahead for the formation of a “Syrian National Council.” This is the most important step yet taken by the fragmented forces that have been trying since May to lead a peaceful uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. The Council’s formation boosted the morale of those who have been demanding stronger and more unified representation.

But a mere two days after its creation, the embryonic Council suffered its first big setback. France, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Portugal, in collaboration with the United States, presented a draft resolution before the United Nations Security Council seeking to condemn repression in Syria and put an end to the use of force against civilians.

The draft was a sugarcoated version of a previous text, proposed last June. This one contained nebulous terms such as “specific measures” or “other options.” It stressed the sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of Syria, and emphasized the need to resolve the current crisis peacefully, by means of an inclusive political process – and called for a national dialogue led from within the country. The draft called for a 30-day period to study the options, up from 15 days in the earlier draft.

The object was plain: to gain a Russian, and consequently, a Chinese abstention. But Russia and China vetoed the proposal anyway, and only nine members of the Security Council voted in favor, with Brazil, India, South Africa, and Lebanon abstaining.