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July 21, 2017

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World stands quietly by as Syria reaches tipping point

UNITED NATIONS -- These are tumultuous times in Syria. Civil war has engulfed the country, fierce fighting plagues the capital of Damascus, a bomb blast decimated the ruling regime's top security chiefs, and the Arab League called on President Bashar al-Assad to step down. But as the world watches in suspended animation, the U.N. Security Council remains checkmated by Russian and Chinese support for the regime. Syria on the crossroads of the Middle East is heading full-throttle towards the abyss.

Civil war confronts the forty year plus Assad family rule. For the past 17 months, emboldened by the "Arab Spring," the violence has increased and over 20,000 people mostly civilians have been killed and according to the U.N. over one million people have been displaced inside the country. An additional 42,000 refugees are in neighboring Turkey, 35,000 in Jordan and 32,000 in Lebanon.

The ruling regime which is based in the Alawite sect of Islam (closer to that of Iran), and at odds with the majority Sunni, battles on with the ferocity of a cornered mongoose.

Significant U.N. Security Council actions to sanction Assad have been stopped short on three occasions, by double vetoes of Russia and China. First in October, then in February and now in July, cautiously optimistic U.S. and British diplomacy was jolted by the riveting realpolitik that both Russia and Mainland China are still willing to give Assad diplomatic cover fire in the Security Council despite the growing political collateral damage throughout much of the Arab world.

Knowing the political intransigence of both Moscow and Beijing towards any serious action by the Security Council, former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan made a mission to Moscow hat in hand to see Vladimir Putin. Annan was trying to revive his moribund peace plan, while at the same time trying to encourage Russian flexibility and support for a unified approach to Syria. His answer was Nyet. Additionally 300 U.N. military observers are now going to be phased out.

In the meantime globetrotting Secretary General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Beijing to try to persuade the PRC rulers to soften its stance backing the Syrian regime.

After the double veto, British Ambassador Sir Mark Lyall Grant stated he was "appalled by the decision of Russia and China to veto this resolution aimed at ending the bloodshed in Syria." American Ambassador Susan Rice rightly called it "a dark day," but that does not belie the Obama Administration's amateurish inconsistency in the U.N.

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