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The Politicization of Humanitarian Relief

How Not to Get Aid into Homs

by FRANKLIN LAMB

Al Nebek, Syria.

When the true authorship of the recent 2/12/14, seemingly designed to fail, UN Security Council Draft Resolution on delivering urgent humanitarian aid into the Old City of Homs and other besieged areas in conflict-torn Syria comes to light, much may become clearer with respect to the cynical politicization of  the continuing civilian suffering.

According to a UN/US Congressional source who actually worked on rounding up Australia, Luxembourg, and Jordan to front for the US and its allies and introduce a UNSC Draft Resolution, not one of the three was happy about the raw and decidedly undiplomatic pressure they received from the office of the Obama administrations recently appointed UN Ambassador, Samantha Power.

When this observer inquired about how such a blatantly political, adversary bashing, poorly drafted, one sided draft resolution could ever see the light of day and actually be submitted for consideration by the UN Security Council, the reply he received was terse: “Ask Samantha.”

Suspicions are being raised in Geneva, Syria and among certain UN aid agencies in Homs and elsewhere that 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 somehow related to 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, it is becoming rather clear that what happened at the UNSC last week and why the specific language of the subject UNSC Draft 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 with AIPAC’s Congressional agents and with 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.”  In private, Ms. Power is said to assured AIPAC officials in attendance 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 Security Council Draft Resolution, spawned by the US mission at the UN and presented by three faithful allies?

For starters, presumably every high school or college student who has ever participated in the thousands of Model UN (MUN) sessions held in virtually every country and during which students participate as delegates to various UN Committees research and formulate political positions based on the actual policies of the countries, the US pushed draft is DOA.    Surely, many but probably most would cringe at the draft resolution aggressive language demanding that the UN Security Council immediatly take action to end the humanitarian crisis in Syria and in the first instance in the besieged areas such as Homs and Yarmouk camp by targeting only one claimed violator with yet more international sanctions. Another reason is that Moscow, with a UNSC veto that its ready to use, sees the US initiated draft as a bid to lay the groundwork for military strikes against the Syrian government and that it contains an ultimatum that if they don’t solve all this in two weeks then the Security Council will automatically introduce sanctions against the Syrian government.

As Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov told the media in Moscow 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 resolution text, obtained by this observer from Reuters, expresses the intent to impose sanctions on individuals and entities obstructing aid and if certain demands in the resolution are not met within the next two weeks.

Predictably, Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov added to Moscow’s argument: “Its whole purpose and aim is to create grounds for future military action against the Syrian government if some demands it includes are not met.” “It is unacceptable to us in the form in which it is now being prepared, and we, of course, will not let it through,” One diplomat in Syria, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Churkin had told the Security Council on 2/11/14 that Russia did not like 30 percent of the original draft resolution, but did not specify what aspects he disagreed with. 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. Kerry is claiming that “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. 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?” he said.

Among international observers, the draft resolution is widely considered to be one-sided as it condemns rights abuses by Syrian authorities and demands that Syrian forces stop all aerial bombardment of cities and towns as well as the 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. 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 that are being 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, but these provocative elements are unnecessary.

Being new on the job is one thing for Ms. Power, politicizing relief from starvation of the besieged civilian population, by focusing on blaming one side is quite another. And it violates a broad range of applicable mandatory international legal norms. If Ms. Power in vague on this subject and what the law requires,  the US Department of State’s Office of International Organization Affairs is not, or at least was not, when this observer interned there following law school, years ago.

Rather, language that would stand a much better chance of ending the siege of Homs, Yarmouk and areas should be draft text as drafted this week by a Syrian law student at the Damascus University Faculty of Law, a widely esteemed University that witnessed the death of 17 of its students on 3/28/13 and the serious injuring of more than 20 others when rebel mortar bombs targeted the canteen of the College of Architecture. Those responsible for the shelling later admitted that they were trained and armed by agents of the US government.

Embargoed for the time being, the DU Law Faculty students draft resolution on unfettered humanitarian aid into besieged areas of Syria will hopefully be widely discussed over the week-end at a news conference tentatively scheduled on campus. Perhaps the next draft resolution will reflect the student’s homework assignment.

The starving victims in currently besieged areas in Syria and all people of goodwill are demanding immediate non politicized humanitarian aid into Syria without further delay.  Among them virtually every American voter is in a position to pressure their Congressional representatives and they would possibly achieve much good by making the White House aware of their demands to end playing international ‘gotcha’ politics and cooperate to end the needless deaths by starvation continuing 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).