U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry places great hopes in a new resolution regarding Syria passed by the United Nations Security Council. The resolution, agreed upon by longstanding holdouts Russia and China, requires that all warring parties cease interfering with humanitarian aid distribution and allow such resources to reach Syrian civilians in need. The resolution is viewed as a significant rebuke to the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad as allegations have been made that government forces specifically seek to block aid access and that Assad is using disease and starvation as weapons against the civilian population.
Kerry called for the immediate and full implementation of the resolution, stating that such resolutions are meaningless without implementation. He called the resolution long overdue and encouraged the Security Council to put its full weight into implementation. Kerry said that the resolution could represent a critical “hinge-point” that could end the suffering of the people of Syria. His hopeful tone was based on the fact that Russia and China, two parties that have long resisted more forceful action in Syria, both gave their consent to the resolution.
It should be noted however that the resolution makes no mention of specific consequences should the warring parties fail to abide by the resolution. Language in the original resolution that threatened sanctions against Syria was removed in the final draft at the insistence of Russia. The only enforcement mechanism hinted to by the resolution is a 30-day reporting period after which Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon is obligated to give a report on Syria to the Security Council and that “further steps” may be taken if the conditions of the resolution are not met. Despite this lack of concrete enforcement, Kerry is placing great hope in this new Syria resolution.
The optimism from Kerry comes as pressure is increasing on the United States and the Obama Administration to take more tangible action in Syria. There is much disagreement about the form that action should take however. Obama himself encountered significant criticism last year when he proposed military action in response to the supposed use of chemical weapons in Syria by President Assad’s regime. More recently, U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) has suggested that something must be done to “change the balance of power” on the ground in Syria, but he also made clear he was not advocating for direct military intervention.
McCain said that the situation in Syria haunted him and the lack of action was a stain on the collective conscience of people everywhere. This strong language combined with the lack of support for direct military action limits the options of Kerry and Obama. Kerry may be expressing such optimism in the recent resolution because if Russia can be included in the diplomatic process, it may lead to a restart of the recent failed talks between the Syrian government and rebel forces. This could reduce the pressure on the U.S. to pursue a military option.
The humanitarian situation in Syria is critical. Access to essential services and commodities is limited and this resolution, if fully implemented, would address that. Combined with the cooperation of China and Russia, John Kerry is placing great hope in this new resolution to improve the situation in Syria.
By Christopher V. Spencer