Have been trying to figure out exactly where Thursday’s (Sept. 2) UN Security Council Resolution 1559 came from. All of a sudden. In a flash. Seemingly out of nowhere.
You’ve all heard of Res. 1559, I presume. Sponsored by the U.S. Government (though news accounts claim that the French Government played a supporting role), the resolution wasn’t even a sparkle in the Security Council’s eyes until maybe the previous weekend (Aug. 28-29).
Res. 1559 was adopted late in the evening hours of September 2 by the barest minimum of votes possible—by a “razor thin margin,” as a matter of fact, in the UN News Center‘s words: Nine votes in favor (the United States and Angola, Benin, Chile, France, Germany, Romania, Spain, and the United Kingdom) and zero against, with six abstentions (Algeria, Brazil, China, Pakistan, Philippines, and the Russian Federation). (Washington couldn’t even rein-in Pakistan and the Philippines on this one. Imagine that.) Rumors circulating at the time held that the margin for passage was so thin, the American Ambassador John Danforth was forced to cast the U.S. vote not once but twice to reach the constitutional minimum of nine member states assenting. As they used to instruct Chicagoans back in the heyday of Machine Politics: Vote early. Vote often.
Res. 1559 was immediately played up within the Bush regime as a kind of Lebanese sovereignty resolution, like a close cousin to the very dangerous Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003, with the Americans defending the right of the people of Lebanon to live in a fully sovereign state in every important sense of the word—including freedom from everything the American and Israeli governments hate the most about Lebanon today: Dependency on Damascus, including its armed forces; and the presence of other armed anti-Israeli and anti-American groups within Lebanese territory. (Though the resolution calls them “militias,” deliberately echoing the term that the occupying American forces use to characterize the armed resistance within Iraq.)
(About the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003 (Public Law 108-175, Dec. 12, 2003), see the prescient analysis by Stephen Zunes, “The Syrian Accountability Act and the Triumph of Hegemony,” Foreign Policy In Focus, October, 2003. True to the Act’s purpose and design, the White House lost no time issuing an Executive Order on May 11 of this year, increasing the sanctions on Syria for being what in the ideological literature is known as an “officially designated state sponsor of terrorism” for its support of the Arab side in the Arab-Israeli conflict. (See “Blocking Property of Certain Persons and Prohibiting the Export of Certain Goods to Syria,” the White House. Also see the “Fact Sheet” the White House issued the same date.))
These recidivist crashers of sovereign states weren’t joking, either. Aside from heightening tensions between the U.S. and Israeli governments, on the one side, and the Syrian and Lebanese governments, on the other (i.e., immediately after the Aug. 31 terrorist attacks by the Palestinian group Hamas on two buses in the southern Israeli town Be’er Sheva—the most severe suicide attacks in the past ten months, since a member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad bombed a Haifa restaurant last Oct. 4, killing 21)— members of the Israeli Government began to threaten Damascus with reprisals!), 1559 accomplished two other noteworthy objectives:
One, it took issue with the impending vote in the Lebanese Parliament on whether to amend the state’s constitution to allow President Emile Lahoud to serve an additional three years in office when his current term expires on November 27. (On this, see par. 5.) The U.S. Government hastily drafted and lobbied for 1559 in order to get the Security Council to adopt it prior to this past Friday’s (Sept. 3) vote by the Lebanese Parliament on extending Lahoud’s term, which it did by a margin of 96 to 29.
Second, and more important for the long term, 1559 “Calls upon all parties concerned to cooperate fully and urgently with the Security Council for the full implementation of this and all relevant resolutions…” (par. 6), and it “Requests that the Secretary-General report to the Security Council within thirty days on the implementation by the parties of this resolution and decides to remain actively seized of the matter” (par. 7)—thus defining a condition that neither the Lebanese nor the Syrian Government will likely meet in the foreseeable future, and establishing a mechanism whereby the American Government and its cohorts can keep placing this failure to meet 1559’s conditions before the Security Council, over and over again.
With the American presidential election looming in just less than two months time, this gives the Bush-Cheney ’04 campaign another potentially threatening foreign-affairs situation with which to campaign, if it so chooses. (“Safety & Security,” is how these brigands package the art of governing by FEAR.)
But, reaching well beyond this, as we’ve seen with the American and British governments’ exploitation of the humanitarian crisis in Darfur throughout the course of 2004, and the success they’ve enjoyed at using two of the United Nations’ primary fora, the Security Council and the General Secretariat, to carry it out, once the Americans succeed in making their foreign affairs the affair of the United Nations, they’re able to make the United Nations return to these affairs on a regular basis and in a manner largely (if not entirely) prescribed by the Americans.
This last point, I think, above all, is where Resolution 1559 came from. All of a sudden. Almost out of nowhere.
And where 1559 is heading.
Postscript. The level of tension between Tel Aviv (and therefore Washington), on the one side, and Beirut and Damascus, on the other, has been running very high of late. And ascending.
One case in point: The day after the two Hamas suicide bombers blew up at least 16 passengers on two different buses in Be’er Sheva, with another 100 wounded (“16 die in Be’er Sheva bombings,” Haaretz, Sept. 1), a commentator for the Hebrew-language Yediot Aharonot wrote (as quoted in Patrick Aniejar, “Israel tightens squeeze on Syria with attack threats,” Agence France Presse, Sept. 2):
Israel has a long unsettled account with the Syrians. The fact that the leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad continue to reside in Damascus and to direct their organizations’ activities in the territories is an act of provocation and a perpetual threat to Israel. Israel has struck at Hamas leaders in the territories, which increased the influence of the Hamas leadership abroad—mainly the leadership based in Damascus.
Long unsettled accounts are at the root of everything here, I’m afraid. Large and small.
UN Security Council Resolutions (complete archive, 1946 through the present)
FYA (“For your archives”): Because Internet access to segments of the United Nations’ website are very touchy at times—UN Security Council resolutions being among the more temperamental of them all—I’m depositing here the text Resolution 1559, copied from elsewhere.
United Nations Security Council
2 September 2004
Resolution 1559 (2004)
Adopted by the Security Council at its 5028th meeting, on 2 September 2004
The Security Council,
Recalling all its previous resolutions on Lebanon, in particular resolutions 425 (1978) and 426 (1978) of 19 March 1978, resolution 520 (1982) of 17 September 1982, and resolution 1553 (2004) of 29 July 2004 as well as the statements of its President on the situation in Lebanon, in particular the statement of 18 June 2000 (S/PRST/2000/21),
Reiterating its strong support for the territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence of Lebanon within its internationally territorially recognized borders,
Noting the determination of Lebanon to ensure the withdrawal of all non-Lebanese forces from Lebanon,
Gravely concerned at the continued presence of armed militias in Lebanon, which prevent the Lebanese government from exercising its full sovereignty over all Lebanese territory,
Reaffirming the importance of the extension of the control of the Government of Lebanon over all Lebanese territory,
Mindful of the upcoming Lebanese presidential elections and underlining the importance of free and fair elections according to Lebanese constitutional rules devised without foreign interference or influence,
1. Reaffirms its call for the strict respect of the sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity, and political independence of Lebanon under the sole and exclusive authority of the Government of Lebanon throughout Lebanon;
2. Calls upon all remaining foreign forces to withdraw from Lebanon;
3. Calls for the disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias;
4. Supports the extension of the control of the Government of Lebanon over all Lebanese territory;
5. Declares its support for a free and fair electoral process in Lebanon’s upcoming presidential election conducted according to Lebanese constitutional rules devised without foreign interference or influence;
6. Calls upon all parties concerned to cooperate fully and urgently with the Security Council for the full implementation of this and all relevant resolutions concerning the restoration of the territorial integrity, full sovereignty, and political independence of Lebanon;
7. Requests that the Secretary-General report to the Security Council within thirty days on the implementation by the parties of this resolution and decides to remain actively seized of this matter.