In this story the Syrian government has agreed to let some UN folks in to investigate the possibility of the armed forces using nerve gas to quell protests in a suburb of Damascus. How nice of them.
The bones of story, if you haven’t followed it (and many have not) is that the Syrian Army of Bashar Assad gassed people with Sarin, killing either a dozen, several dozen or thousands, depending on what source you use. Medecine Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) has the smallest axe to grind in the region and have put the number around 355 deaths and 3,600 with symptoms of exposure to a nerve agent. We’re inclined to go with their count as the closest to reality.
The UN has finally got weapons inspectors on the ground, looking at what evidence they can, aside from testimony of hundreds of eyewitnesses. The UN folks have their hands tied however, they have to stay within the tight proscription of their mandate. Find evidence of the munitions and tie that to the Syrian Government. Unless they find an unexploded warhead, loaded with Sarin, with a shipping tag signed “Bobby Assad, Prop. Syria” with a photo of Assad and a copy of last week’s Daily Worker stuffed inside, like the classic Lee Harvey Oswald shot, that won’t be good enough to pass the nut of the UN. They’ll come back with a suitably couched diplomatically-weasel-worded ‘Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t’
Here’s the problem. Assuming the Syrian Government did fire off Sarin-loaded munitions and had them successfully detonate, gassing 350 or so ‘rebels’, what the hell can the UN do about it?
The fast answer is absolutely nothing. Even if the UN finds video of Bashar Assad loading the munitions himself, the UN can do absolutely nothing except complain. They can’t even bring a motion of censure in front of the General Assembly because Russia and China, both members of the Security Council, have vetoes and have already promised to use them if the UN Weapons Inspectors find anything.
Why? First off is money. Russia sells a lot of military gear to Syria. China sells the rest to them. Secondly is money. China needs oil. Syria has oil. Third, it will piss off the Americans, which is a sport in China and Russia. They both know that American can’t do anything about Syria without incurring the wrath of the rest of the Middle East. Fourth, they know the UN is nothing more than a Toyota Land Cruiser full of mentally constipated bureaucrats who can’t decide to take a dump without fifteen nations being involved in negotiations for the next six months, then a resolution to take a dump put before the Security Council, then the General Assembly.
Then the UN would have to undertake a study of the paperwork involved, likely meeting in Berne, Delhi, Sao Paolo and Auckland to determine if they should wipe from the front to the back, or back to the front, with a certain kind of paper, or just a page from a newspaper. But which newspaper? Is it Eco-friendly newsprint (+20% post-consumer recycled) with low-VOC inks from vegetable and sustainable sources? Which hand?
So who’s left to do something? The US can’t. If they so much as take out an ad calling on the UN to do something, every nation in the Middle East will claim the US is but a puppet of Israel. If Israel so much as coughs deeply, then the Jews are trying to take over Palestine and the rest of the Arab world with their nuclear warmongery trying to wipe the Arab nations off their rightful inheritance of all those maps coordinates that don’t actually get printed on Arab maps, as Israel doesn’t actually exist.
The EU that counts (Britain, France and Germany) dare not so much as clear their throats for fear they get asked to actually cowboy up and do something. The UK conceivably could, but knows it opens a can of pan-Arab whoopass. It would start with bombings in London wrapped up with a side order of Palestine in 1947, Besides, the UK Parliament said “Thanks, no”. France couldn’t organize a two car funeral procession without endless protesting from the polar extremes of their five-dimensional political spectrum from the punctuation-phobic Social Democrats to the four guys in Lyon who can actually name the President and think his wife is a babe
Germany is too busy trying keep the Greek, Italian, Hungarian and Spanish parts of the EU from being sold at a garage sale next week in Bonn. Turkey, more or less next door, isn’t interested. They’ve got enough refugees from Syria running across the border already. Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Saudi, Jordan, or anyone else in neighbourhood with more than two shotguns and a guy in a camo vest won’t touch it. They all know it’s a zero-win proposition and if they do step up to knock Assad down, then someone will look a little too closely at how they have kept their own house in order.
That leaves Chad, Burkina Faso, Bermuda, Afghanistan, Iceland and, wait for it, Canada. Unfortunately out airplane is up on cinder blocks right now. The batteries for the starter are back ordered at Canadian Tire and nobody has jumper cables. Oh, and our helicopters fall out of the sky if you try to make them fly against their will.
Short form? Assad has gotten away with it. Nobody is going to do anything. Nobody can do anything about it.