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Lloyd Axworthy in the Huffington Post, "Will Obama Help Syria?"


by Rhonda Spivak, December 6, 2012

At the luncheon of the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba,[] on Nov 22 at the Fairmont Hotel I thought of asking University of Winnipeg President Lloyd Axworthy, the keynote speaker at the event,  about the dire situation in Syria. But alas, I didn't in the end because Axworthy was outlining his vision for downtown Winnipeg, not downtown Damascus.

Nonetheless Axworthy has been speaking out on the issue of Syria which is worth reflecting upon now. This is  especially the case as the news breaks that the United States and its allies could well have to  take military action since it appears that Syrian despot Assad in his state of desperation is considering using chemical weapons on his own people, or possibly even Israel. [As this is being written, the US is now huddling with Israel and other allies as Assad’s forces “load chemical weapons onto bombs”.]
On November 15, a week before he spoke at the Jewish Foundation luncheon, Axworthy, who is a former Liberal Foreign Minister of Canada wrote an article about the situation in Syria with Allan Rock,  a former Liberal Minister of Justice and  Canadian Ambassador to the UN  that appeared in the Huffington Post entitled “Will Barack Obama Help Syria?”

In the piece, Axworthy and Rock correctly referred to the fact that Syria has become a threat to the world, as a result of the failure of the international community to take appropriate measures do deal with it as they should have done much earlier. Axworthy and Rock called upon President Obama then to put Syria on his priority list and focus on getting the international community to take action [presumably well before we got to the point where Assad’s forces got to loading chemical weapons on bombs.]
 As Axworthy and Rock wrote on Nov 15:

"Perhaps most ominously, Israel and the Syrian government are beginning to trade salvos in the Golan Heights -- all a consequence of a vicious civil war that the international community has, through its failure to act, allowed to become a threat to regional peace and security."
Axworthy and Rock lament with justification the lack of action on the part of the international community:

"It didn't need to come to this. Indeed, the international community had begun making progress in protecting civilians from rapacious governments. But in the case of Syria, with deadlock at the Security Council, America distracted by elections and Europe consumed with fiscal woes, the spiral has been left to accelerate downwards.”
In the piece, Axworthy and Rock called on Obama to show leadership to take the “robust measures” needed, noting “ It is past time for a major humanitarian effort through protected zones on the borders and in the refugee camps.”  The two also note that a “no fly zone should now be actively considered, along with other measures such as a reference to the International Criminal Court.”
As Axwroothy and Rock write, “It is time that Barack Obama is asked to show the leadership needed if we are to end the slaughter and stop the cross-border spread of violence that threatens the whole region. With his new mandate, he is the only international figure with enough clout to rally support for the robust measures that are needed.”
They add, “David Cameron has already expressed an interest in partnering with Obama to make Syria a priority, and Canada should join them. Such a partnership should work closely with regional neighbours, mainly Turkey, but also Jordan and Saudi Arabia, and ask that they contribute the necessary resources.”
Axworthy and Rock conclude that Canada has a role to play:,
 “ .. above all, addressing the security and humanitarian threats in Syria must be at the heart of any new American foreign policy agenda.
“Canada can have an important role in this partnership. Stephen Harper has made recent and laudable efforts to influence Russia to step back from obstructing peace in Syria. But words need to be followed up by actions, and Canada's more active engagement can make a real difference to the shared cause.
 “The "Responsibility to Protect" doctrine was intended to move the international community beyond ad hoc interventions towards a more principled and predictable approach -- with the primary focus on the security of civilians. After success in Libya, Syria represents a step back to our old ways. It is time to refocus and re-energize international protection efforts under the aegis of the newly re-elected President of the United States.”
In regard to Canada’s role in regard to Syria, the Winnipeg Jewish Review spoke with Canada’s Minister of Public Securtiy Vic Toews on October 10, the day that the New York Times  reported that the  United States military has secretly sent a task force of 150 military planners to Jordon  to help Jordan to monitor chemical and biological weapons sites in Syria ,  bolster that country's military capabilities in the event that violence escalated along its border, and to help Jordan deal with refugees pouring over the border from Syria.


Since the United States was sending in military staff to Jordan, I asked Toews if he thought it was possible that Canada would join them and also send military/intelligence forces there.

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.