News & Current Affairs
29 September 2014
by David Singer
Obama, Putin and Rouhani can deal IS out
President Obama's sudden about face in deciding to attack IS in Syria on 21 September - without express approval of Syria or a resolution of the United Nations Security Council - has provoked a strong response from Russia and Iran - President Assad's main supporters in his three years struggle to remain in power in Syria.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on 23 September:
Such actions must be carried out exclusively within the boundaries of international law. That means not formal unilateral 'notification' of strikes but the clearly expressed approval of the government of Syria or the passage of a decision by the United Nations Security Council.
Iranian President - Hassan Rouhani - reportedly said the US-led airstrikes were illegal and constituted an attack on Syria - while also condemning Islamic State militants as "barbarians."
Their strictures were issued following the admission made to Chuck Todd on Meet The Press by America's ambassador to the United Nations - Samantha Power - on 19 September - that training of moderate rebels in Syria would help both US efforts to destroy IS as well as the rebels' ongoing struggle against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad:
But may I add, the training also will service these troops in the same struggle that they've been in since the beginning of this conflict against the Assad regime...
Putin and Rouhani would have been very concerned that the US led attacks on IS in Syria were undertaken with the active support of Jordan, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia – all members of the "London 11" – whose communique released on 22 October 2013 had declared:
We agree that when the TGB [Transitional Governing Body] is established, Assad and his close associates with blood on their hands will have no role in Syria. There must be accountability for acts committed during the present conflict.
It is clear Assad will not be inviting anyone into Syria if there is any suspicion that they are there to preside over his demise. It is equally clear that when someone like the Iranian President calls IS "barbarians" – that international action must be taken to eliminate IS at the earliest possible opportunity.
Rouhani did not directly condemn the US-led air strikes against IS in Syria when addressing the United Nations on 25 September –but issued the following warning:
I believe if countries claiming leadership of the coalition are seeking to perpetuate their hegemony in the region, they'd be making a strategic mistake. Democracy can't be delivered in a backpack. It's not a commodity to be exported from west to east. It needs a foundation.
Rouhani offered this sage advice:
Obviously, since the pain is better known by the countries in the region, better they can form coalition, and accept to shoulder the responsibility of leadership to counter violence and terrorism. And if other nations wish to take action against terrorism, they must come to their support.
I warn that if we do not muster all our strengths against extremism and violence today, and fail to entrust the job to the people in the region who can deliver, tomorrow the world will be safe for no one.
Boris Kalyagin - international journalist and professor at Moscow's Higher School of Economics - told Pravda.Ru on 23 September:
We believe that no decision related to such major international questions as the struggle against aggressors, particularly terrorist regimes, can be taken without a UN resolution. The United States has repeatedly demonstrated that it takes actions bypassing UN decisions, that's why they want to deprive us of our voice, to feel like masters at the Security Council.
Russia and Iran's ground rules are very clear - if Obama wants to degrade and destroy IS he needs to act under the authority of a Security Council Resolution passed under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.
America and Russia dealt with the issue of destroying Syria's chemical weapons stockpile by navigating Resolution 2118 through the UN Security Council - preventing threatened air strikes by America on Syria to degrade its chemical weapons.
That resolution weakened Assad's position - but nevertheless Assad understood that was the price he had to pay for Russia and Iran's continuing support.
Two Security Council Resolutions condemning some activities of IS - 2170 and 2178 - have already received American and Russian backing.
They have been inadequate however to stop IS and the Al-Nusrah Front in their tracks.
Withdrawal of American plans to train moderate rebels to destroy IS in Syria whilst assisting them to overthrow Assad - at best a mindless pipe dream – can be ended by America and Russia jointly procuring the passage of a Security Council resolution:
- Deploring the illegal acquisition by IS and the Al-Nusrah Front of parts of the sovereign territory of Syria and Iraq.
- Condemning their cruel and inhumane conduct in murdering civilians and displacing entire communities in Syria and Iraq
- Calling on them to surrender control over those parts of Syria and Iraq occupied by them to a duly constituted United Nations Force within 72 hours.
- Reserving the right to take such further action as it considers fit in the event of non-compliance
Obama, Putin and Rouhani have their problems with other pressing issues - Ukraine and nuclear weapons.
On the IS and Al-Nusrah Front their national interests are identical.
The UN Security Council stands ready to help them cut a deal.