Sidelined on Syria, the U.N. Security Council Grapples With Irrelevance

Sidelined on Syria, the U.N. Security Council Grapples With Irrelevance

If the critics of the United Nations were to design a scenario to make the organization seem absolutely irrelevant, it would look a lot like this week’s debacle over Syria.

On Wednesday, the U.N. Security Council was meant to vote on a Western resolution to impose sanctions on Syria unless the government of embattled President Bashar al-Assad ceased significant military operations within 10 days. The vote was delayed after three high-ranking members of Assad’s inner circle, including his brother-in-law Assef Shawkat and Defense Minister Gen. Dawoud Rajiha, were killed in Damascus that day. But with fighting escalating in Syria, the vote took place Thursday. Russia and China vetoed the resolution, just as they had stymied similar initiatives to pressure Assad to step down in October and February.

Despite the previous deadlocks in New York, China, Russia and the Western powers have until now made concerted efforts to contain the Syrian crisis through the Security Council. They have received dedicated support from U.N. envoy Kofi Annan and a small team of military observers deployed to Syria itself. Yet a mixture of dishonesty, intransigence and incompetence has created a disaster.

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