The Security Council is meeting to discuss a resolution on Syria that would call for the ouster of President Bashar al Assad. The Council is split on this issue–with Russia so far opposed. Today’s meeting should be a rather contentious event. The Secretary General of the Arab League is present, as are several foreign ministers (including Hillary Clinton).
Watch it live. (If the embed is not working, go here.)
Expert Commentary from excellent Twitter users:
UPDATE: Here’s Secy Clinton’s remarks:
Remarks by Hillary Rodham Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State, At a
Security Council Debate on Syria, January 31, 2012
Thank you, Mr. President.
Let me begin by thanking Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim and Secretary
General el Araby for their thorough briefing. The Arab League has
demonstrated real and important leadership in this crisis.
For many months, the people of the region and the world have watched in
horror as the Assad regime executed a campaign of violence against its
own citizens. Civilians gunned down in the street. Women and children
tortured and killed. No one is safe, not even officials of the Syrian
Arab Red Crescent. According to UN estimates, more than 5,400 civilians
have already died – and that number is rising fast.
The regime also continues to arbitrarily detain Syrian citizens — such
as the activists Yahia al-Shurbaji and Anas al-Shaghri — simply for
demanding dignity and universal rights.
To date the evidence is clear that Assad’s forces are initiating nearly
all the attacks that kill civilians, but as more citizens take up arms
to resist the regime’s brutality, violence is increasingly likely to
spiral out of control.
Already the challenges ahead are daunting: a crumbling economy, rising
sectarian tensions, a cauldron of instability in the heart of the Middle
East. Fears about what follows Assad, especially among Syria’s minority
communities, are understandable. Indeed, Assad and his cronies are
working hard to pit Syria’s ethnic and religious groups against each
other, risking a descent into civil war.
In response to this violent crackdown, the Arab League launched an
unprecedented diplomatic intervention, sending monitors into Syria’s
beleaguered cities and towns and offering Assad many chances to change
course. These observers were greeted by thousands of protestors eager
to share their aspirations for universal rights and their stories of the
regime’s brutality. But as the Arab League report makes clear, the
regime did not respect its pledges or the presence of the monitors, and
instead responded with excessive and escalating violence.
In the past few days, the regime’s security forces have intensified
their assault, shelling civilian areas in Homs and other cities. This
weekend, the Arab League suspended its monitoring mission, pointing to
the regime’s intransigence and the mounting civilian casualties.
Now, responding to the will of the people and nations of the region, the
Arab League has come to this Council seeking the support of the
international community for a negotiated, peaceful political solution to
this crisis and a responsible, democratic transition in Syria.
We all have a choice: Stand with the people of Syria and the region or
become complicit in the continuing violence there.
The United States urges the Security Council to back the Arab League’s
demand that the Syrian Government immediately stop all attacks against
civilians and guarantee the freedom of peaceful demonstrations. In
accordance with the Arab League’s plan, Syria must also release all
arbitrarily detained citizens, return its military and security forces
to their barracks, and allow full and unhindered access for monitors,
humanitarian workers, and journalists.
And we urge the Security Council to back the Arab League’s call for an
inclusive Syrian-led political process to effectively address the
legitimate aspirations and concerns of Syria’s people, conducted in an
environment free from violence, fear, intimidation, and extremism.
I know that some members here are concerned that we are headed toward
another Libya. That is a false analogy. Syria is a unique situation
that requires its own approach, tailored to the specific circumstances
on the ground. And that’s what the Arab League has proposed – a path
for a political transition that would preserve Syria’s unity and
This may not be the exact plan we ourselves would have designed. I know
that other nations feel the same way. But it represents the best
efforts of Syria’s neighbors to chart a way forward, and it deserves a
chance to work.
It would be a mistake to minimize or understate the magnitude of the
challenge Syrians face in trying to build rule of law and civil society
on the ruins of a brutal, failed dictatorship. This will be hard. The
results are far from certain. Success is far from guaranteed. But the
alternative – more of Assad’s brutal rule – is no alternative at all.
We all know that change is coming to Syria. Despite its ruthless
tactics, the Assad regime’s reign of terror will end and the people of
Syria will chart their own destiny. The question is how many more
innocent civilians will die before Assad bows to the inevitable, and how
unstable a country he will leave behind.
The regime in Damascus has driven Syria to the brink of chaos, and the
longer Assad continues, the harder it will be to rebuild after he is
gone. Citizens inside and outside Syria have begun planning for a
democratic transition, from the Syrian National Council to the
courageous grass-roots Local Councils across the country who are
organizing under the most dangerous and difficult circumstances. But
every day that goes by their task grows more difficult.
The future of Syria as a strong and unified nation depends on thwarting
Assad’s cynical “divide and conquer” strategy. It will take all Syrians
working together – Alawis and Christians hand-in-hand with Sunnis and
Druze, Arabs side-by-side with Kurds – to ensure that the new Syria is
governed by the rule of law, respects and protects the universal rights
of every citizen regardless of ethnicity or sect, and takes on the
widespread corruption that has marked the Assad regime.
For this to work, Syria’s minorities will have to join in shaping
Syria’s future, and their rights, and their voices, will have to be
heard, protected, and respected. Let me say to them directly today:
We hear your fears and we honor your aspirations. Do not let Assad
exploit them to extend this crisis.
Leaders of Syria’s business community, military, and other institutions
will also have to recognize that their futures lie with the state and
not the regime. Syria belongs to its 23 million citizens, not to one
man or his family. And change can still be accomplished without
dismantling the state or producing new tyranny.
It is time for the international community to put aside our own
differences and send a clear message of support to the people of Syria.
The alternative – spurning the Arab League, abandoning the Syrian
people, emboldening the dictator – would compound this tragedy, mark a
failure of our shared responsibility, and shake the credibility of the
The United States is ready to work with every member in this chamber to
pass a resolution that supports the Arab League’s efforts to end the
crisis, upholds the rights of the Syrian people, and restores peace to
That is the goal of the Arab League, that is goal of the Syrian people,
and that should be the goal of this Council.