Natalie Nougayrède writes: The ceasefire in Syria may not have been formally pronounced dead, but hopes to resurrect it are fast dwindling. After an aid convoy was destroyed near Aleppo, fighting again intensified and the US and Russia exchanged accusations in the UN. But in reality US diplomacy had collapsed before these latest events.
Last week, just hours after western coalition airstrikes mistakenly targeted Syrian government forces, killing more than 60 people, the US ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, made an extraordinary statement that served to highlight the contradictions at the heart of the Obama administration.
Power lambasted Russia’s “uniquely cynical and hypocritical stunt” for having convened an emergency UN security council meeting over the bombing of Syrian troops. She lashed out at how Russia had, over the past five years, consistently propped up the Assad regime and protected it from any consequences of its murderous policies. At length, she described Bashar al-Assad’s strategy of “death by a thousand paper cuts”: starvation sieges; the “horrifying, predictable regularity” of strikes on civilian targets; the “routine” use of chemical weapons; and “torture chambers” holding “tens of thousands of people”. Why, she asked, had Russia never once called an urgent security council meeting over such horrors?
There have long been two takes on Syria. One is the geopolitical realism line, which Barack Obama has chosen to follow largely because it fits with his reluctance to get involved in another war. The line is that US or western security interests are not at stake in an intractable, far-flung civil war that can more easily be contained than solved. The other is the moral imperative line that Power has repeatedly advocated within the administration. It refers to the doctrine of “responsibility to protect”, according to which a state’s sovereignty can be violated when a regime slaughters its own citizens. [Continue reading…]