How Low Can the Security Council Go on Syria?

For the past three days, diplomats in New York have been tweaking that initial draft resolution in order to prevent a Russian veto. And by “tweaking” I mean watering down the resolution to the point where Moscow would simply abstain from the resolution.

This is pretty standard UN operating procedure. Countries don’t like to actually use their veto so they generally try to massage the wording in a way that satisfies some basic bottom line.

The thing is, we really don’t know what Russia’s bottom line is. We know for sure that they don’t want any foreign military intervention. But no one is suggesting this is even an option.  And just in case there was any question, the most recent draft is explicit on this point.

So what else does Russia want? A couple of days ago, the Russian Foreign minister said his country did not want to use the Security Council to impose regime change. But in the same interview he did show some daylight between Moscow and President Bashar al Assad.

EMMA ALBERICI: My very last question. 10 months on, 5,400 civilians dead, at what point do you, as a friend and ally of president Assad, pick up the phone and say, “It’s time to go?” In an effort to bring the parties together?

SERGEI LAVROV: We’re not a friend, we’re not an ally of president Assad. We never said that president Assad remaining in power is the solution to the crisis. What we did say is that it is up to the Syrians themselves to decide how to run the country, how to introduce the reforms, what kind reforms, without any outside interference.

Well, it would seem those words are no longer operative.  As it was originally drafted, the resolution explicitly endorsed the Arab League plan that Assad step aside and delegate state power to a deputy who would oversee a democratic transition. It gave him 15 days to comply. This isn’t necessarily “regime change,” but it does track with Foreign Minister Lavrov’s take.

Now  that clause is gone from the most recent marked up draft. To the sure, the resolutions still references the Arab League plan, but the reference to Assad stepping down is no longer as explicit.

My question is: How diluted can this resolution get and still have a political effect of isolating the Assad regime internationally and emboldening internal dissidents?  Have we passed that point yet? I’m not sure.