UN General Assembly must review the role of P5 in ensuring global security
By Mohan Das Menon | Published: 08th September 2013 12:00 AM |
The possibility of an audacious US strike on targets in Syria is clearly looming large. Once President Barack Obama draws the US Congress endorsement, the sequencing and modality of attacks would be duly in place. In the aftermath of such an attack, global security and economic indices stand to recede further into an abyss of sorts with the moral authority of the United Nations internally trivialised because the five permanent members of the UN Security Council with veto power appear badly divided over Syria.
The post-attack scenario is thus fraught with uncertainty from a global security perspective impacting negatively in the process, the ambitious economic programming and plans of a number of economies. It will be a setback to India’s desperate efforts to return to a credible growth track before the onset of 2014.
Linked to the possibility of yet another military intervention by the US are other developments that would accentuate a range of uncertainties from a strategic perspective. It is not clear whether tactical military and financial outlays, currently in the works within the Pentagon and Langley precincts, have reckoned with the dynamics of a global economic fallout, especially the choking of the supply of oil and other critical cargo through sea routes.
British Prime Minister David Cameron’s shock defeat in the House of Commons is tantamount to the rejection of his proposal that Britain should take part in such a misadventure. It also reduces Cameron’s credibility and capacity to shape the future course of events in a highly disturbed Islamic state. Just days before the parliamentary vote, the British leader had dispatched RAF fighters to military bases in and around the Mediterranean Sea in anticipation of a yes vote.
In his recent address to the UN General Assembly, Cameron was frank enough to concede that the “Arab Spring is in danger of becoming an Arab Winter”. Labour leader Ed Miliband was echoing popular sentiment when he asserted that “the House of Commons had spoken for the people of Britain”, who wanted their government to learn from the lessons of Iraq. For once, the traditional US-UK synergy, much evident earlier in Iraq and Afghanistan military campaigns, has been thwarted.
Other grey areas still abound, particularly over the evidentiary value of the chemical signature associated with the alleged use of chemical weapons on the outskirts of Damascus against his own people by President Bashar al-Assad. Moscow has made it clear that the evidence is incredible and insufficient. The UN inspectors investigating the chemical attack are also yet to unearth any credible or compelling evidence that puts President Assad firmly on the mat. While ‘US boots on the ground’ approach has not entirely been ruled out, a strategy that finds broad endorsement of Western military experts is a calibrated and judicious use of missiles targeting Syrian military facilities, critical Syrian Army Special Force deployments and suspect chemical weapons storage dumps.
Meanwhile, Americans are still in guessing whether Obama will keep the nation in confidence before according his green signal for the attack. Obama himself appears a bit rattled by the rejection of the move by the UK House of Commons as well as the fervent opposition from Moscow and Beijing. The German and Italian rejection of his aggressive stance must also weigh on his mind even though the unstinted support accorded by French President Francois Hollande does somewhat bolster the White House position.
Another major strategic worry factor for the UN in general and Washington in particular revolves around a possible composite backlash from Iran and the Hezbollah and the attendant ramifications for Israeli security. Reported movement of Russian Navy, complements to the envisaged theatres of action, also contributes to the heightening of tensions in the region.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has already made it clear that the use of force is only legal when it is in self-defence or with Security Council authorisation, remarks that appear to question the legality of US plans to strike Syria without UN backing.
He has also suggested that a US attack could lead to further turmoil in conflict-ravaged Syria, where the UN says over 100,000 people have been killed in the country’s two-and-a-half-year civil war.
Russia, backed by China, has used its veto power in the Security Council thrice to block resolutions condemning Assad’s government and threatening it with sanctions. Assad’s government, like Russia, blames the rebels for the August 21 attack.
From a purely rational international perspective, it is time that the UN General Assembly reviewed the role of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council in ensuring global security through affirmative action. Given their avidly confrontational positions over Syria, each of these permanent members seems to be merely protecting its own presumptive “strategic turf”. This is bound to diminish the status of the UN itself, as it once again exposes the lack of capacity of the world body to exercise its authority judiciously.