Chapter 7 a Breakthrough in U.N.'s Syria Drama

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Making Russia agree to take U.N.-backed action against Syria if President Bashar Assad breaches a chemical weapons deal announced Saturday is a victory for the United States, diplomats said.

"Russia has been so hostile to U.N. action on the Syria war that this is a breakthrough by itself," said one U.N. diplomat.

However while Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter was cited in the U.S.-Russia deal announced in Geneva, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quick to stress "there is no talk of using force."

Chapter VII can also impose mandatory economic sanctions against a target government.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry did not immediately say whether he believes force could be used. A U.S. threat of a military strike against Syria over its suspected use of chemical weapons on August 21 sparked the current crisis.

"Lavrov knows he needed U.S. support for this accord and there was a price," added a second U.N. diplomat. "But the Russians will fight tooth and nail to make sure that the phrase 'all necessary measures' does not appear in any Security Council resolution against President Bashar Assad."

Russia and China have vetoed three previous western-drafted Security Council resolutions on Syria since the uprising against Assad started in March 2011.

Article 42 of Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter has been a worry for dictators and totalitarian regimes since it was agreed in 1945.

Chapter VII was a key part of the script when the United States led a U.N. force in the 1950-53 Korean War and to build a coalition against Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein after the 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

"All necessary measures" under Chapter VII were also allowed to justify the NATO no-fly zone over Libya in 2011 and in conflicts such as in the Ivory Coast the same year when Laurent Gbagbo refused to hand over the presidency after losing an election.

Article 41 of Chapter VII allows for sanctions, including economic and transport measures or the severing of diplomatic relations.

If the Security Council decides those measures are not strong enough then Article 42 states "it may take such action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security.

"Such action may include demonstrations, blockade, and other operations by air, sea, or land forces of members of the United Nations."

Among the five permanent Security Council members, Britain, France and the United States have backed tougher U.N. action under the "responsibility to protect" civilians doctrine agreed by world leaders after the 1994 Rwanda genocide and 1995 Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia.

In the other camp, Russia and China are worried about what they consider growing "unjustified interference". In the Syria case, Russia is Assad's last major defender on the international stage.

Russia has led complaints that western nations bamboozled others over Libya. Russia takes every opportunity to complain that NATO used a no-fly zone to protect civilians to launch strikes that brought down Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi.

The United States, Britain and France insist their action was legal and that the Security Council was fully warned of the strongarm measures that would be taken.

Emerging powers such as India, Brazil and South Africa are nervous about Chapter VII -- taking sides with Russia over the Libya case but also shocked by the horrors of the Syria war.

The United States had been ready to strike without Security Council approval on Syria, but U.S. diplomats admit that President Barack Obama had wanted to be able to justify any action under international law.

Comments 1
Thumb chrisrushlau 14 September 2013, 19:59

Kerry just got his nose bitten off, and he has to like it.