A Tougher Stance on Syria? Putin Might Have Something to Say About That

Congress is pushing for greater humanitarian access, but U.S. efforts could hit a familiar roadblock: Russia.

Supporters of Syrian President Bashar Assad's government hold a rally in Damascus on Sunday. The regime on Thursday surrendered its third batch of chemical weapons in less than a week, according to an international watchdog agency.
National Journal
Jordain Carney
April 1, 2014, 4:37 p.m.

Sen­at­ors are press­ing Pres­id­ent Obama to de­vel­op a strategy to com­bat Syr­ia’s hu­man­it­ari­an aid crisis, but there’s one prob­lem: how to get around Rus­sia.

The Sen­ate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee un­an­im­ously passed a res­ol­u­tion Tues­day that calls for Obama to sub­mit a strategy to Con­gress that deals with com­bat­ing Syr­ia’s hu­man­it­ari­an crisis and hu­man-rights vi­ol­a­tions in the coun­try and re­gion.

Re­pub­lic­an Sen. Marco Ru­bio of Flor­ida said Sen­ate pas­sage would “send a clear mes­sage to Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion that we need a new hu­man­it­ari­an strategy that in­cludes con­crete ac­tions to in­crease pres­sure on [Syr­i­an Pres­id­ent Bashar al-As­sad].”

The United States has donated $1.7 bil­lion aimed at help­ing those with­in Syr­ia im­pacted by the civil war, and refugees in nearby coun­tries, ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Agency for In­ter­na­tion­al De­vel­op­ment.

The res­ol­u­tion, co­sponsored by Ru­bio and Demo­crat­ic Sen. Tim Kaine of Vir­gin­ia, also presses for the in­ter­na­tion­al com­munity to back an in­crease in hu­man­it­ari­an-aid ac­cess and a de­crease in vari­ous forms of vi­ol­ence, which is where things get a little tricky.

The U.N. Se­cur­ity Coun­cil, which in­cludes the United States and Rus­sia, passed a res­ol­u­tion earli­er this year, which the Sen­ate’s bill backs, that calls for in­creased ac­cess for hu­man­it­ari­an aid and a de­crease in vi­ol­ence and con­demns al-Qaida backed activ­it­ies in the coun­try.

But an ini­tial draft of the res­ol­u­tion was scrapped after Rus­sia threatened to veto it. (Rus­sia is one of five coun­tries that have veto power on the coun­cil. The oth­ers are the United States, United King­dom, France, and China.)

And Rus­sia’s U.N. am­bas­sad­or stressed that the res­ol­u­tion doesn’t pave the way for sanc­tions against the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment over­seen by As­sad, which Rus­sia sup­ports.

Se­cur­ity Coun­cil mem­bers could take “fur­ther steps” if the res­ol­u­tion isn’t com­plied with — as sug­ges­ted by a re­cently leaked U.N. re­port — but those steps would have to be agreed to by the five per­man­ent mem­bers.

U.S. Am­bas­sad­or to the U.N. Sam­antha Power told re­port­ers last week that the United States will be­gin tak­ing steps to make sure the res­ol­u­tion is be­ing car­ried out. Asked about what those next steps could be, she said, “This is a con­sulta­tion, there’s noth­ing that I can do and that we can do uni­lat­er­ally to make the coun­cil do what we want.”

Rus­sia has ve­toed three Se­cur­ity Coun­cil res­ol­u­tions since the start of Syr­ia’s Civil War, but of­fi­cials have re­mained cau­tiously op­tim­ist­ic that the cur­rent ten­sions on Ukraine won’t spill over.

Power did ac­know­ledge that “it is no secret” that the U.S. and Rus­si­an per­spect­ives “on this is­sue have been deeply di­ver­gent for a long time.”

What We're Following See More »
STAFF PICKS
When It Comes to Mining Asteroids, Technology Is Only the First Problem
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Obama Reflects on His Economic Record
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Reagan Families, Allies Lash Out at Will Ferrell
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."

Source:
PEAK CONFIDENCE
Clinton No Longer Running Primary Ads
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-ex­pec­ted primary battle be­hind her, former Sec­ret­ary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton (D) is no longer go­ing on the air in up­com­ing primary states. “Team Clin­ton hasn’t spent a single cent in … Cali­for­nia, In­di­ana, Ken­tucky, Ore­gon and West Vir­gin­ia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “cam­paign has spent a little more than $1 mil­lion in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone back­er in the Sen­ate, said the can­did­ate should end his pres­id­en­tial cam­paign if he’s los­ing to Hil­lary Clin­ton after the primary sea­son con­cludes in June, break­ing sharply with the can­did­ate who is vow­ing to take his in­sur­gent bid to the party con­ven­tion in Phil­adelphia.”

Source:
CITIZENS UNITED PT. 2?
Movie Based on ‘Clinton Cash’ to Debut at Cannes
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."

Source:
×