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A pernicious pattern at the UN

Forty-five years ago, in May, 1967, Egypt pushed its troops into the Sinai Peninsula, right up to the Israel-Egypt border.

The Egyptian move was one of many by Egypt in those fateful, pre-Six Day War weeks. These moves, which included Egypt’s closure of the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping, announced: We are about to make war.

While Nasser could close the Straits of Tiran unilaterally, he couldn’t move his troops up to the Israeli border unilaterally. For that he needed the complicity of the UN, and he got it.

After the 1956 Israel-Egypt war, the Sinai Peninsula was occupied by UN troops precisely to prevent another Egypt-Israel war. When Egypt announced its intention to violate the ceasefire in the Sinai, UN Secretary General U Thant simply folded.

He pulled out the UN troops, torpedoing the UN’s peace mandate, leaving Israel exposed to Egyptian firepower, and whetting Egypt’s appetite to use it.

Which it did.

Fast forward to 1995.

Serbs threatened to massacre Bosnians. UN “peacekeepers” stood by.  Again, warmongers got the message: the UN is spineless. The result was the Serbian massacre at Srebrenica.

Fast forward to 2012.

Last March, the UN sent its former Secretary General Kofi Anan to broker a ceasefire in Syria. The only difference between the Syrian response in 2012 and the Egyptian response in 1967 was that Syria announced it would obey.

Still, Anan’s mission had the same effect as the UN’s passivity in 1967 and 1995. Anan simply bought time for Bashar Assad to restrategize and reattack.

Assad has done this repeatedly since last March, but did it worst last Friday in Houla, Syria. His troops massacred some 108 people, including 40 or 49 children (reports vary).

In this, the UN mission of Anan was complicit, no less than the UN was in 1967 and 1995. Anan came to Syria calling on all sides to lay down their weapons. Moral equivalence! Anan equates the tyrant with the rebels against tyranny. The tyrant Assad has gotten Anan’s message loud and clear: He can kill with impunity.

Thus, the massacre last Friday.

Diplomats around the world wring their hands. Nations expel their Syrian ambassadors or charges de-affairs. President Obama counts it as a victory that, this time, Russia condemned the massacre — as if a condemnation saves lives.

There are still no sanctions by the UN of Syria. Nor is the Obama administration working on a military coalition outside the UN to stop the carnage in Syria.

That carnage now spills into Lebanon.

That carnage is now civil war in all but name.

That carnage opens Syria to the influence of al-Qaida, the Muslim Brotherhood and other extremists.

That carnage — ignored in all but word — paints a pernicious pattern in the UN and the West: the longer either takes to intervene in Syria militarily (directly or indirectly, by arming Syria rebels), the higher the price.

That price is increased instability and Iranian influence in the Middle East, more human suffering and  the moral stain of inaction in the face of cold-blooded murder.

“Never again,” except in Syria.

Another piece of the pattern: At each stage of the Syrian escalation, military opposition to the Assad regime becomes more difficult. The exact opposite is also true: It is easier to intervene now than later.

Iran arms Syria and backs Syria. Without Syria, Iran’s influence on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict drops drastically. Without Syrian help, Iran cannot arm Israel’s mortal enemy in Lebanon, Hezbollah. Iran sees its national interest in backing Syria to the hilt.

Is this not reason enough for the West to do all it can to bring down the ruthless regime of Bashar Assad?

P.S. Who still thinks that peace will be advanced by returning the Golan Heights — free of war since Israel captured it in 1967 — to Syria?

Copyright © 2012 by the Intermountain Jewish News

Hillel Goldberg

IJN Executive Editor |

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