WASHINGTON - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke to reporters at the UN headquarters in New York on Monday and did not try to hide his frustration with the helplessness of the Security Council in its handling of the Syrian regime's use of chemical weapons against its own people. But Ban's hands are tied and his lips are sealed.
Ban spoke to the reporters like a political analyst when he called the use of chemical weapons a "war crime" and said the international community must hold the perpetrators accountable. He could not state directly that Bashar Assad is responsible for the August 21 gas attack on the suburbs of Damascus in which more than 1,400 people were killed, including hundreds of children.
He cannot say this because despite the fact that everyone knows the Syrian dictator did not hesitate to use unconventional weapons against his own people whenever he sensed that his regime was in danger.
Ban, like a pundit on a news network, urged the Security Council to display leadership. This is all he can do, since he has no authority to determine the mission of the international inspectors, or any other mission for that matter.
Ban is essentially a high-ranking official who executes the decisions reached by the real owners of the UN building: the five permanent members of the Security Council- the US, Russia, China, Britain and France. Each of these countries can wield its anachronistic veto power and foil any resolution that is put up to a vote in the Security Council.
The US has vetoed several one-sided, anti-Israeli resolutions, but unfortunately this veto power is mostly used cynically by Russia and China. Over the past two and a half years these two superpowers have blocked every initiative related to the civil war in Syria.
Despite all the criticism and cynicism, Ban is a serious diplomat who is trying to soften positions wherever he can.
For example, when the UN General Assembly decided to launch an investigation into the IDF raid on the Turkish "Marmara" ship, most UN members – Muslim and Third World countries – wanted to investigate Israel's conduct in the affair and put it on trial for the massacre of innocents.
But Ban prevented this outcome by recruiting the UN to resolve the dispute between Ankara and Jerusalem.
Ban appointed three international figures, who were joined by two experienced Israeli and Turkish diplomats, and tasked them with reaching a settlement that would end the affair in which nine Turkish national were killed.
The agreements that were formulated by a committee set up by the secretary general, in coordination with Jerusalem and Ankara, were the basis for the compromise that was eventually reached between the two countries.
But Ban had no control when it came to the issue of chemical weapons. The UN inspectors in Syria were given a mandate to determine whether chemical weapons were in fact used against civilians, not to determine who used them.
The team found what it called "clear and convincing evidence" that the nerve agent sarin was delivered by surface-to-surface rockets "on a relatively large scale" in the suburbs of the Syrian capital Damascus, but if Ban will want to send the inspectors back to the Arab country to determine who was responsible for the firing of unconventional weapons, he will need the approval of Russia and its president Vladimir Putin, who will most likely reject the request.
Ban told the press conference in New York that the Security Council must show responsibility and quickly find ways to remove the chemical weapons from Syria, in accordance with the deal brokered by the US and Russia.
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