I’ve already broken away from my personal pivot towards Asia so often you’d think that I was part of the Obama Administration. Again, I blame this on the working calendar of the UN Security Council. It’s not my fault that the hottest issue in Turtle Bay is all focused on the tragedy spiraling in the Syrian Arab Republic.
Most of my day has been consumed watching the various UN reporters I follow on Twitter put out as much as they could on the ongoing negotiations in 140 characters or less. At one point, Colum Lynch made it known that several UN diplomats believe that the latest Russian veto threat is just “grumpiness”, leading Dan Trombly of Slouching Towards Columbia to oblige me in making possibly the greatest picture ever.
A new version of the draft is being put in blue tonight, UN slang for the final draft printed out in blue ink, which is able to be voted upon within twenty-four hours, barring changes. I’m sure someone will get their hands on it sooner or later, but for now I have to be content to speculate.
The Europeans and America have dropped the preambulatory call for an arms embargo and the text encouraging other states to take on the Arab League’s economic sanctions, more or less as I predicted they would, to gain Russia’s support. The most tension on this text is focused around what was previously Operative Clause 7 in this now outdated version.
The debate is focusing around two words. Literally. The Europeans are pushing for the clause to read that the Security Council “fully supports” the Arab League’s political plan for Syria, having dropped all of the specifics from the text. Russia, and presumably China, want it to read that the Council is “taking note of” the plan. A compromise is being floated that the UNSC is “welcoming” towards the roadmap.
These may seem like minute details, but it means the world for how strongly the resolution will be read and how seriously it will be taken outside the Council’s chambers. The first option, “fully supports”, indicates that the United Nations backs, without saying as much, the provisions of the Arab League’s plan, and that Assad should hand over power to his deputy in advance of creating a unity government with the opposition.
“Welcoming” the Arab proposal says that the Security Council is pleased that the Arab League has issued a way forward and agrees in general with many of the ideas contained within. “Taking note of”, in UN parlance, means that the Council acknowledges that, yes, there is in fact a plan of some sort concocted by the Arab League. They may or may not have read it.
Two little words mean all the world in such a tense environment. It’s easy to see why the Russians, and to a lesser extent the Chinese, Indians, and Pakistanis, are hesitant to endorse the Arab League’s plan. But endorse it they must if this resolution is to even have the veneer of a chance of being effective on the ground in Damascus. Otherwise, they’ll be taking note of an undeniable uptick in violence, counter to everyone’s aims and interests.