Tuesday’s World #3 – U.N. Security Council meets after suspected chemical attack in Syria

UN Security Council Meets After Alleged Chemical Attack in Syria

(CBSNews/AP, Updated Apr 9, 2018 7:28pm EST) – The U.N. Security Council held an emergency meeting Monday to discuss the suspected chemical attack in Syria. The attack killed at least 40 people, including families found in their homes and shelters, opposition activists and local rescuers said.

The attack on the besieged town of Douma came almost exactly a year after a chemical attack in the northern Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun killed dozens of people.

The U.S. is urging the council to adopt a new resolution that would condemn the continuing use of chemical weapons in Syria “in the strongest terms” and establish a new body to determine responsibility for chemical attacks.

The draft resolution, obtained Monday by CBS News, singles out Saturday’s attack on Douma in the Damascus suburbs, and expresses “outrage that individuals continue to be killed and injured by chemical weapons” in Syria and “determination that those responsible must be held accountable.”

It was circulated ahead of Monday’s emergency Security Council meeting.

During the meeting, U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said it seemed pointless to once again share photos of children killed in chemical attacks because such images no longer have an impact on council members. She said those who carry out these attacks are “monsters.”

“Now, here we are, confronted with the consequences of giving Russia a pass in the name of unity. Here we are in a world where chemical weapons use is becoming normalized,” Haley said. “This council does nothing. What we are dealing with today is not about a spat between the U.S. and Russia.”

“There can be no more rationalizations for our failure to act,” she continued. “Our priority must be to help the starving, the sick and the injured who have been left behind … The international community must not let this happen. We are beyond showing pictures of dead babies. We are beyond appeals.”

After a bitter debate full of recriminations and threats in open chamber, Security Council diplomats went into closed-door consultations to see if there was anything to salvage from the three proposals on a way forward, CBS News’ Pamela Falk reports from the U.N.

“The United States is pushing for a vote tomorrow,” a Security Council diplomat told CBS News.

“The U.S. position was that they were negotiating in good faith but the world is watching for the Council to act… The U.S. said it took many of Russia’s concerns into account with its draft and was ready to work with all council members to find consensus on this issue, but that we need to move quickly,” the diplomat said.

Diplomats leaving the meeting agreed that protection of civilians and an inspection of the site were the highest priority, along with assigning blame, Falk reports, in order to stave off a military confrontation.

Peru’s Ambassador Gustavo Meza-Cuadra, as President of the Council emerged from the Council to tell reporters that the experts would be working to make a consensus document.

President Trump blamed Syrian government forces for what he called a “mindless CHEMICAL attack” and warned that there would be “a big price to pay.” He said Monday morning that he would decide on a potential military response within 24 to 48 hours.

The Russian military’s Reconciliation Center in Syria said it has sent officers into Douma to negotiate with the rebels there. It claims experts inspected the areas in Douma where chemical agents were allegedly used and found no trace of them. They also claimed they inspected Douma’s hospital and found no patients with chemical poisoning symptoms.

The White House said Monday afternoon that the U.S. is “very confident” that the Syrian regime is behind the apparent attack.

The Russian military denounced the White Helmets, opposition-linked first responders who reported the attack and the death toll. It called them “shameless rebel accomplices,” saying they made false allegations to derail a local truce.

Russia is a key ally of President Bashar Assad and has been waging an air campaign in support of his forces since 2015.


1. For SYRIA, give the following information:

  1. capital
  2. location/the countries that share its borders
  3. the religious breakdown of the population
  4. the type of government
  5. the chief of state (and head of government if different) If monarch or dictator, since what date has he/she ruled? – include name of heir apparent for monarch
  6. the population

Find the answers at the CIA World FactBook website. For each country, answers can be found under the “Geography” “People” and “Government” headings.

NOTE: Before answering the following questions, read the info under “Background” below.

2. For SYRIA:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) What is the U.S. asking the UN Security Council to do?
c) What is the purpose of the UN Security Council?
d) What did President Trump say about the chemical attack on Syrian civilians?
e) Who did the White House say is behind the attack?
f) How did Russia (one of the 5 permanent UN Security Council members) react to the attack?
g) In April 2017, the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack that killed more than 80 civilians. The Trump administration carried out a missile strike in Syria in response to the attack. At that time, President Trump said, “Tonight, I ordered a targeted military strike on the air base in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched. It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.”

If the UN refuses to act against Syria, do you think the U.S. should launch a similar targeted military attack? Explain your answer.


ON THE U.N. SECURITY COUNCIL: (from the website un .org)

  • The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is charged with the maintenance of international peace and security.
  • Its powers, outlined in the United Nations Charter, include the establishment of peacekeeping operations, the establishment of international sanctions, and the authorization of military action. Its powers are exercised through United Nations Security Council Resolutions.
  • The presidency of the Council is held by each of the members in turn for one month, following the English alphabetical order of the Member States names.
  • There are 15 members of the Security Council, consisting of five veto-wielding permanent members (China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States) and ten elected members with two-year terms [these are not eligible for immediate re-election]
  • The ten elected members are elected by the General Assembly for two-year terms starting on January 1st, with five replaced each year. …
  • Security Council members must always be present at UN headquarters in New York so that the Security Council can meet at any time. …
  • Each Council member has one vote.
  • Decisions on substantive matters (including imposing sanctions on a country) require nine votes, including the concurring votes of all five permanent members.
  • Under the UN Charter, all 191 Member States (countries) of the United Nations agree to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council.  While other organs of the United Nations make recommendations to Governments, the Council alone has the power to make decisions which Member States are obligated under the Charter to carry out.
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