Condemnation But No Resolution From U.N. On Syria

Aug 4, 2011
Originally published on August 4, 2011 5:10 am
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RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

Faced with the deaths of hundreds of demonstrators in Syria, the world has been noticeably muted in its response compared to the harsh denunciations that greeted similar violence in Egypt, Tunisia, and elsewhere during the Arab spring. Yesterday the U.N. Security Council did act. It adopted a statement condemning Syria's government for attacking civilian protesters and committing human rights violations. But as NPR's Jackie Northam reports, it lacks the weight or the impact of a full Security Council resolution.

JACKIE NORTHAM: But the increased bloodshed seen in the city of Hama since Sunday has proved to be something of a game-changer. Tanks rolled into the city and snipers fired at civilians. Andrew Tabler, a Syrian specialist at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, says that's helped convince some of the U.N. hold-outs to rethink their positions on President Bashar al Assad's regime.

ANDREW TABLER: You see the Assad regime using that kind of brutal force to clear major cities four months into a major uprising is not a good sign that the regime is at all changing their play-book or that they even have a political solution in mind. And I think the Russians and Chinese - who have oil interests in Syria - are looking at it and saying well, we're going to hedge our bets, perhaps the Assads aren't going to hold on after all.

NORTHAM: Russia and China may be wavering in their support of Syria, but not enough to support a full Security Council resolution. Tabler says, in part, they fear that could lead to military action against Syria, much like what happened in Libya. So, after three days of hard negotiations, the Security Council issued a weaker document, a presidential statement, condemning the violence and calling for restraint. Radwan Ziadeh, the director of the Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies, says the U.N. should have taken a tougher stand.

RADWAN ZIADEH: The presidential statement has no teeth and is non-binding. And this is why, actually, we are disappointed and really frustrated about the inactions of the Security Council has being taken on Syria.

NORTHAM: Jackie Northam, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.