Sunday, September 29, 2013

Diplomatic breakthroughs

Two major developments in the diplomatic sphere have taken place this week at the UN. First, the UN Security Council has passed unanimously the first joint resolution on Syria, after 2.5 years of deadlock, that calls for the removal of all chemical weapons from Syria and provides the means for their verification and destruction. Second, was the first official meeting between representatives of the USA and Iran in 35 years.

The SC Resolution was only possible because of the agreement between the US and Russia in Geneva two weeks ago and the agreement of Russia and China to the Western-initiated draft. Although the Resolution does not itself call for military action or force if Syria does not comply, it does indirectly invoke Clause Seven of the UN charter that allows the use of force or sanctions if UN SC resolutions are not implemented. Actual force would require a follow-up resolution, that might be blocked by a Russian/Chinese veto, but the US resesrves the right of unilateral military action in the case of Syrian non-compliance. For the moment, the new agreed Resolution is a major step in the right direction and shows that Russia, i.e. Pres. Putin, can be amenable, as long as his interests are protected.

The other significant outcome has been the first official meeting between representatives of the USA, Secty of State Kerry, and of the Islamic Republic of Iran, FM Javad Zarif, after 35 years without diplomatic contacts. This breakthrough has been subsequent to the election of the so-called moderate Hassan Rouhani as the President of Iran, and his more mild tone towards the West at the UN. But, Secty Kerry stated clearly that one meeting and a change in tone do not make a fundamental difference to the situation, what that requires is action on the ground. We will see if this meeting will bear diplomatic and practical fruits at the follow-up meeting in Geneva in October, but In the meantime the biting sanctions on Iran will not be lifted or reduced.

These developments do indicate that the UN, for all its anti-Israel bias and drawbacks, still has a useful role to play in the international sphere. It is unlikely that such breathroughs could have come about without the role played by the UN. Those of us who legitimately criticize the organization for its faults must also acknowledge that it still does have its positive uses.


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