News / Middle East

    China, Russia Veto UN Resolution on Syria

    Margaret Besheer, Larry FreundAl Pessin
    Russia and China on Thursday vetoed a U.S.-backed U.N. Security Council resolution that would have imposed non-military sanctions on the Syrian government, putting the future of diplomacy in limbo as fighting continues in Syria.
     
    After delaying the vote for a day to try to find common ground, the Security Council's decision comes a day after anti-government rebels bombed a meeting of top Syrian security officials, killing three senior military figures with close ties to President Bashar al-Assad, and as government shelling of neighborhoods in Damascus continued.
     
    Thursday's vote was 11-2, with abstentions from Pakistan and South Africa. It was the third time during the Syria crisis that Russia and China have voted against the resolution.
     
    Syria's Armed Forces

    • Ground Forces
    200,000 - 250,000 ground forces
       4,950  main battle tanks
          590  reconnaissance vehicles
       2,450  armored infantry fighting vehicles
       1,500  armored personnel carriers
       3,440  artillery pieces

    • Air and Naval Forces
     30,000 air force personnel
       5,000 navy personnel
         300 fighter-ground attack planes
           48 intelligence/surveillance planes.
           22 heavy transport planes
           36 attack helicopters
         100 reconnaissance/transport helicopters
    The vote threatens the peace mission of U.N. special envoy Kofi Annan and leaves undecided the future of some 300 peacekeepers in Syria, whose mandate is scheduled to end Friday.
     
    Britain’s U.N. ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said his country was appalled by Russia and China's decisions to veto the resolution. “The effect of their actions is to protect a brutal regime," he said, describing the resolution as being aimed at bringing an end to the bloodshed in Syria. "They have chosen to put their national interests ahead of the lives of millions of Syrians."
     
    Speaking through a translator, Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said his country could not agree to a resolution that would have opened the path to external military involvement in Syrian domestic affairs, an opinion challenged by U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice.
     
    "Despite paranoid if not disingenuous claims by some to the contrary, it would in no way authorize nor even pave the way for foreign military intervention," said Rice, adding that escalation of what she called the Syrian government’s attacks against its own people is all the more troubling when considering its stockpile of chemical weapons.
     
    Kofi Annan, U.N. special envoy for Syria, expressed disappointed over the vote.
     
    The Security Council is now considering a resolution that would extend that mandate for a brief period, allowing the observers to make an orderly withdrawal from Syria.
     
    The Obama administration said Thursday it will work outside the U.N. process to help resolve the Syria crisis.

    • Smoke rises over the skyline in the Qaboun neighborhood of Damascus, Syria, during shelling by Syrian government forces, July 19, 2012.
    • A burnt car in the al-Midan neighborhood in Damascus, July 20, 2012.
    • A burnt car in the al-Midan neighborhood in Damascus, July 20, 2012.
    • Jordanians and Syrians living in Jordan hold pictures of President Bashar al-Assad and shout slogans against the Syrian Revolution during a demonstration near the Syrian embassy in Amman July 19, 2012.
    • This image made from amateur video released by the Ugarit News and accessed July 18, 2012, purports to show burning tires in Damascus, Syria.
    • This image made from amateur video released by the Shaam News Network and accessed July 18, 2012, purports to show a burning Syrian military tank in Damascus, Syria.
    • An image taken from Syrian television shows Syrian security forces taking position during armed clashes with gunmen in the Al-Midan district of Damascus, July 18, 2012.
    • This image made from amateur video released by the Ugarit News and accessed July 18, 2012, purports to show Free Syrian Army soldiers during clashes with Syrian government forces at Tadamon Police Station in Damascus, Syria.
    • Journalists wait at al-Rawda Square, near a road that leads to the national security building where a bomb killed at least three top aides to President Assad, after access to the area was blocked in Damascus July 18, 2012.
    • Men celebrate in the Lebanese town of Tripoli on July 18, 2012, after an attack in Damascus killed the Syria's defense minister, General Daoud Rajha.
    • General Fahad Jassim al-Freij is seen in this handout released by Syria's national news agency SANA on July 18, 2012. Syria appointed Freij as defense minister, replacing Daoud Rajha, killed in an attack.
    • In this image released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Fahd Jassem al-Freij, Syria's new defense minister, reads a statement after he was appointed by President Bashar Assad on July 18, 2012.
    • Assef Shawkat, brother-in-law of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who was assassinated in Damascus, stands during the funeral of late president Hafez al-Assad in this June 13, 2000 photo.
    Fighting continues

    Thursday was one of the deadliest days yet in the Syria conflict.  A human rights monitoring group, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said more than 250 people were killed in fighting in several parts of the country.
     
    Rebel forces claimed to have taken over border crossings with Turkey and Iraq, and to have attacked several government buildings in Damascus.  Thousands of Syrians fled across the border into Lebanon.
     
    Syria Conflict Deaths (Click to View)Syria Conflict Deaths (Click to View)
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    Syria Conflict Deaths (Click to View)
    Syria Conflict Deaths (Click to View)
    With the faltering international diplomacy and continued fighting, analysts say the coming month of Ramadan could be decisive in the struggle for power between the Syrian regime and its opponents.
     
    American University in Beirut political science professor Hillal Khashan said the events of the past few days have brought the 16-month-old crisis to a tipping point.
     
    “I think Assad's days are numbered," he said. "There are strong indicators that he left Damascus [for] Latakia. And we also know that from the way the Syrian army is deployed in and around Damascus, and the heavy shelling of the city, indicates that Assad's forces regard the city as an enemy city. That is not how to treat your capital.”
     
    Latakia is a coastal city where Assad's fellow Alawites have their stronghold. Khashan says if it is true that Assad has fled there, it would be similar to what Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi did just before he was overthrown; he retrenched to his tribal area for protection.
     
    Game changer
     
    Lebanese American University political science professor Imad Salamey agreed, calling Wednesday's bomb attack a game changer.
     
    “I think what happened yesterday is an earthquake," Salamey said. "It is a major blow to the regime's security apparatus. This will boost the morale of the opposition forces and will definitely make a turning point in events."
     
    The Muslim holy month of Ramadan, during which the faithful fast from dawn till dusk, likely will begin Friday in much of the Arab world. Salamey said this month could be critical.
     
    “I think the coming days, especially this month of holy Ramadan, will be decisive for Syria. I think we will be witnessing a dramatic situation, most probably the security apparatus in Syria will split and deteriorate fast,” he said.
     
    In addition to Wednesday's attack on President Assad's top security chiefs, there was the defection earlier this month of a senior army general, Manaf Tlass.
     
    Assad loyalty fading
     
    Salamey said this indicates Assad is having difficulty maintaining the loyalty of the Sunni leadership within the military. He said he expects more defections, especially in the coming month.
     
    “I think Syria after Assad will look more like Iraq after Saddam Hussein," he said. "In Iraq, the Kurds created their autonomous region and I think the Alawites will do the same.”
     
    President Assad appeared on state television for the first time since Wednesday's bombing.
     
    Analyst Torbjorn Soltvedt of the Maplecroft risk assessment firm in Britain said the bombing might have weakened domestic support for the Assad government.
     
    “It's becoming evident that this will have a significant impact on the conflict.  I think first and foremost, this will alarm core members of the regime and you may well see as a result increasing defections among key military and civilian officials as a result.”
     
    No defections were reported Thursday.
     
    Syria's population is just over 22 million people. The majority is Arab Sunni Muslim, but there are also significant numbers of minorities including Kurds, Armenians, Druze, Christians and the ruling Alawites.
     
    Khashan said he thinks in a post-Assad Syria these groups might set up a federal state.
     
    “I would not be surprised that after the demise of the regime in Syria we will have a federal order in Syria where each of the country's major ethic and religious groups will establish their own enclaves,” he said.
     
    But analyst Salamey sees a different possible scenario. “I think post-Assad Syria will not be an easy transition," he said. "It will be a difficult one. Eventually I do not think it will be a very fragmenting situation as most have been projecting, simply because it is not possible to divide Syria along sectarian lines demographically.” 

    Larry Freund reported from U.N. headquarters in New York. Margaret Bresheer reported from Cairo. Al Pessin reported from Beirut. 

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments page of 3
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    by: Anonymous
    July 20, 2012 12:14 PM
    Maybe because I barely read newspapers or watch TV, I don't actually know about the situation. But to my surprise, when I scanned comments on a famous Chinese website, most people lashed out because of Chinese Gov't. I don't know why, cuz Chinese Gov't said that they made this decision on purpose to protect Syrian people, to maintain peace or something. I am so confused right now...
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    July 20, 2012 3:04 PM
    It's no doubt that you are lying. What I have seen from main media is that the comments from most of average Chinese people support Chinese goverment's decision.

    by: Michel Telass from: China
    July 20, 2012 6:19 AM
    I did not completely agree to Mr. Mark L. Grant's comments: "They have chosen to put their national interests ahead of the lives of millions of Syrians. "Acutally, It is China Communism Party(CCP) who put their top officials' interests over the lives of Syrians. Chinese ordinary people have not interests in Syria. The Chinese ordinary prefer to punish Al-Sad's brutal government.

    by: CR from: China
    July 20, 2012 5:12 AM
    the westen countries is to gradually eat the middle east,and surround Russia and China.these are called their "human rights".

    by: Anonymous
    July 20, 2012 1:45 AM
    Support Russia and China!!!!!!!!!!
    Poor other countries, they were forced to choose supporting US because it's only one superpower in the world and has a bunch of permanent Europian followers.

    by: Hu Zhiyang from: Inner Mongolia,China
    July 19, 2012 9:37 PM
    It seems that there are some supporters of China and Russia from western countries on this forum.Or,I'd rather say,some oppositions of western countries' government towards the affair of Syria.
    As a Senior high school student in China,I can tell you that not all the Chinese people,especially the young,believe that the Chinese government's attitude towards Syria is right.However,it is the majoy point of view of Chinese people.
    In China,the TV news usually blame the present horrible situation in Syria on the oppositions of Syria government and western countries.
    There is no doubt that China and Russia government think that human right isn't as important as stabilization and the "legal government" of a country.
    But,also I do not think a war will do some help for the human right of Syrian people.
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    July 31, 2012 12:23 AM
    Yoshi, it is very offensive to many Chinese that welcoming a UN intervention for a better government(yes the current government is far for good), it is basically foreigners hijacking local people's hope for better government for their own benefits. Chinese has been subjected to invasion from the west for many years, they want more than a fair society, they want independence from manipulation of the west, dignity as a proud nation with history. It is very condescending to think that there is only one US value, either with us or against us, as the matter arent simply human right but wrestling of powers, otherwise why US care anyway.
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    July 31, 2012 12:06 AM
    For average chinese, they dont know much about Syria nor they care, but they are sick of the arrogance of USA and the west who deem themselves as the world police and render "right" or "wrong" for their own benefits.
    In Response

    by: Yoshi from: Sappor
    July 20, 2012 7:47 AM
    Thank you for your rational comments. I agree war will not help protect human rights of not only Syrian people but all global people. When I read the reason China vetoed UN's rosolution this time was that she looked Syrian battles just as domestic matter, I remember Tiananmen Squere Protests. Was that only a Chinese domestic accident? How if at that time, UN had made resolution to impose not-millitary sunctions to Chinese government to help Chinese students' rebels? And how if the U.S. and U.K. vetoed the resolutions as sayng let it be because it is only a Chinese domestic conflict? I can not help suspecting that this times' Chinese veto seems its selfishness in order to surpress Chinese people's demand for democracy and freedom of speech. Could you speek ill of your government in public freely? Don't you want to live in such a country? How do you think can China change into such a democratic country? How do you young Chinese think can win such democratic rights? By revolution withouit either blood nor foreign power is the best way, I think. I hope you young Chinese peiople could accomplish such honorable revolution near future!!
    In Response

    by: steve from: spain
    July 20, 2012 5:36 AM
    another example of americas failed foreign policy .in their attempt to destabilise the region no thought is given to how many innocents will die .

    by: AJ from: Kandahar, Afghanisatn
    July 19, 2012 7:40 PM
    Same like always, who else you think should Veto UN resolution? of course Russia despite claiming that they are not any more communist regime still support world communist and anti West governments as well as China.
    UN until have China and Russia with Veto right it's useless.
    I hope after fall down of Assad regime Syrian people take their retaliation from China & Russia, most of Afghan normal people are sad about all the crimes that Assad do agents his own people.
    Thanks VOA to give us chance for comments.
    AJ Afghanistan

    by: Anonymous
    July 19, 2012 6:04 PM
    Who is the next? Saudi Arabia? Barain? or Yemen? There are so many dictatorial countries in Middle East. It's not hard for US to create some "rebels" in those country, and then everything will be same.....
    In Response

    by: Dave
    July 19, 2012 7:27 PM
    You are kidding right? What rock have been under? The Yemen dictatorship of Saleh has been gone since February

    by: Anonymous
    July 19, 2012 5:54 PM
    Poor Syria! US and its followers helped create "rebel" and then supported them all the time to against their government, and then killing each other started, and then US and its followers started to condemn ... and then ....
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    July 20, 2012 11:38 AM
    Are you kidding? You really don't know western countries control the media of the whole world and always pick up or create news that benefits to themselves? Or you just pretend that you don't know.
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    July 19, 2012 8:30 PM
    Are you kidding me? Don't you read the news? Assad killed lots of innocent people, the FSA stepped in to disable Assad and make their country comfortable and peacefull.

    by: Christo Nwagwu from: Manitoba
    July 19, 2012 5:51 PM
    Let's spin this the other way , what will supporters of the Syrian rebel army say if the act of brutality is meted by government army to the rebel leadership ?He re it is called victory the Western colution way , it is an act of brutality the other way ?This is the kind of justice that is making the planet less free and riddled with contradictions . Only the dumb will give credibi.lity to act of brutality of this nature , it makes it more difficult to have world free from dishonesty and continuos conflict .

    by: Eason from: New York, NY
    July 19, 2012 5:15 PM
    Sounds like, hey it's Russia and China's fault again. But let's look at what US did on Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan, they directly send troops there to massacre civilians. Does China have troops in Syria? I don't think so!
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    July 22, 2012 9:27 AM
    Everything different nations did is based on their national interests. Russia sold their weapons to Assad. U.S. messed the middle east by what they called democracy. What U.S. aimed is to tightly control the middle east. Did Egyptian get the democracy they expected and make their lives better than before???
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