Cameron accused of seeking UN 'blank cheque' on Syria

By staff writers
August 28, 2013

UK Prime Minister David Cameron is submitting a draft resolution to the UN Security Council seeking use of "all necessary measures" in relation to a strike on Syria.

The pretext for the draft is safeguarding civilians under the auspices of the United Nations-agreed Responsibility to Protect (R2P).

But critics say that the move amounts to a "blank cheque" request and is designed to embarrass the Russians and Chinese, potentially to provide a UN fig leaf for a US-led punitive attack on the Assad regime, and to thwart attempts to wait for the UN inspectors' report on the use of chemical weapons in the country.

Even if, as is likely, the resolution falls, protagonists of armed action will argue that the situation is an emergency, and that an attempt was made to get the UNSC to acknowledge its R2P legal responsibility.

Others suggest that the PM is actually privately uncertain about further direct military intervention in the troubled region, and knowing that such a resolution is likely to be vetoed, wants the issue to go to a wider UN conversation, and potentially the General Assembly.

The move is also being seen as a gambit ahead of tomorrow's UK parliamentary debate to argue that Britain is not simply a junior partner being called into line by the Obama administration, as part of a concerted attempt to persuade MPs to support Western armed action.

The UNSC resolution ostensibly condemns the use of chemical weapons in Syria, allegedly commissioned by the regime, though armed opposition groups are also known to have had access to such WMDs.

Both the Conservative-led government and the main Labour opposition look as if they will fall in behind intervention, despite disquiet on their back benches. Parliament is recalled tomorrow, and the indication is that a vote on the Syria question will be whipped.

Liberal Democrats mostly opposed the Iraq war, but as coalition partners the party has lurched to the right over the past three years and is unlikely to do so this time.

Considerable pressure is being exercised by party whips to get their members to support the government, whichever way it goes.

Some minority parties, including outspoken Green MP Caroline Lucas, will oppose pre-emptive military action.

Public opinion remains 60 per cent opposed to military action, and anti-war campaigners are planning extensive lobbying and demonstrations over the next few days.

* 'Syria: what lies behind the clamour for military strikes?', by Simon Barrow: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/18911

* More on Syria from Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/syria

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