It is the world’s most important organization, yet remains one of the most dysfunctional.
The Great Debate
For years governments told us in meetings that an Arms Trade Treaty was a fanciful idea – merely a twinkle in our campaigning eye. But earlier this month an Arms Trade Treaty was adopted by an overwhelming majority at the United Nations General Assembly. Thanks to the democratic process, international law will for the first time regulate the $70 billion global arms trade.
Diplomats from six world powers are due back in Kazakhstan on Friday for talks with Iran about its controversial nuclear program. From the hawkish “bomb-bomb-bomb-Iran” crowd to the “jaw-jaw-not-war-war” folks, there is no shortage of ideas about how to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue.
“Red lines” are all the rage this year. Even as the swirl of Middle East headlines focus on Gaza and Egyptian politics, the region remains under two “red lines.” If Iran and Syria, respectively, cross the nuclear and chemical weapons thresholds, it would generate a strong, if undefined, Israeli and American response.
The United States and China have been searching for a new way to frame their relationship. President Barack Obama’s trip this week to Southeast Asia, the focus of much U.S-Chinese tension, reminds us that with new leadership now set in both countries, it is time for them to carry on with that important task.
Bashar al-Assad continues his war on the Syrian opposition, despite the presence of United Nations observers. His efforts have generated extremist reactions, including major bombings. The Syrian opposition continues to fragment, even as protesters manage to mount peaceful demonstrations in many parts of the country. The conflict is increasingly sectarian in character and has overflowed to Lebanon’s Tripoli.
The United Nations estimates that since Syria’s uprising began over a year ago, more than 9,000 Syrians have been killed. A recent assessment from Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellow Elliot Abrams puts the total number of Syrian refugees at almost half a million. Worse, it appears that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces are continuing to torture, imprison and kill Syrian civilians. It also seems that the recent peace plan promulgated by U.N.-Arab League peace envoy Kofi Annan, which Assad’s government agreed to, is dead. According to Turkey’s prime minister, Assad “is not withdrawing troops, but he is duping the international community.”
A year into the crisis in Syria, it’s time to admit that the world is prepared to allow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to slaughter his people. Unless force is used to back diplomacy, the international community will let Assad kill tens of thousands more than the 7,500 already lost.