UN Day And The Syria Chemical Weapons Debate

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On 24th October 1945, after the conclusion of World War 2, 51 countries came together to sign a document. The document was the UN Charter, and it established the organisation of the United Nations to help maintain world peace.

72 years later, the UN is still working to maintain world peace and security. It provides assistance to countries in need and helps to promote development in the less developed parts of the world. It upholds international law, protects human rights, and promotes democracy. Most important of all, the member states are currently working together to fight global warming and climate change.

Margaret Huang, Interim Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, says that:

The UN is like your conscience. It can’t make you do the right thing, but it can help you make the right decision. 

Under the Charter, the Security Council maintains international peace and security. It has 15 members, each with one vote, and the ‘Big Five’ of the USA, Russia, China, France and the UK, who hold the power of veto over resolutions, thanks to their status as permanent members.

The Security Council is scheduled to vote shortly on the subject of alleged chemical weapons attacks in Syria. The vote on 24th October will determine whether the organisation should extend its investigation into who was responsible for these attacks.

Although broadly supported by members of the council, Russia has argued that the vote should not be held until the 26th, when the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) reports on who was responsible for the chemical weapons attack in the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun is released. More than 80 people are estimated to have been killed in Syria because of the attacks on 4th April this year. In 2013, Syria joined the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), an international treaty which prohibits the use and production of chemical weapons.

US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, advised the UN Security Council in the latest Middle Eastern discussions to follow the example of the US and confront Iran on ‘its aggressive, destabilizing and unlawful behaviour’ in the region.

On 18th October, a debate took place in Washington on the potential merits and pitfall of the United States pulling out of the international nuclear accord with Iran. US President Donald Trump has refused to certify the Iranian nuclear deal which was co-negotiated by the Obama administration, and now the US Congress will decide whether to recertify the agreement. Trump has bashed the nuclear accord with Tehran as ‘one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into’.

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According to Nikki Haley (pictured above), the US Ambassador to the UN, a new approach is needed:

The United States has now embarked on a course that attempts to address all aspects of Iran’s destructive conduct, not just one aspect. It’s critical that the international community do the same

The argument in support of the deal is made by Democrat Senator and former Hillary Clinton presidential running mate, Tim Kaine:

If you weaken diplomacy, you raise the risk of unnecessary war, and that’s what this president is doing… If we take a step back from the deal, Iran will take a step back. And what will they ask for, that they get to now increase centrifuges or get some of their enriched uranium back? I do not want to give Iran one thing back from this deal

‘We have given the power to the President to impose more sanctions on Iran for bellicose behavior, for activities in other countries, for violations of human rights, for violating UN Security Council resolutions on their missile program,’ Senator Kaine said. ‘The president should use the sanctions power we just gave him.’

Russian Ambassador to the UN, Vasily Nebenzya, tersely reminded Haley that the Middle East debate which had been convened was aimed at tackling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and that she ‘didn’t even mention the word Palestine’.

Turning to Iran, Nebenzia warned that: ‘Attempts to dismantle the architecture of the agreement on the Iranian nuclear program will lead to a negative reaction in the Middle East and beyond’.

The United Nations 2017 UN Card shows you 10 of the UN’s recent actions and its agencies as examples of the daily work of the organisation, which impacts the lives of people around the globe. Emblazoned on the front of the document, the message is clear: it’s the United Nations works for peace and security, sustainable development, human rights and humanitarian assistance.

 

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