Whereas Libya’s regime was unpopular with just about everybody in the Arab world and the West, Syria – and the regime of Bashar al-Assad – is Russia’s last remaining ally in the region as well as the most important ally of Iran.
Various international agreements made since 1945 might seem to give legitimacy to international intervention, specifically to attempts to give effective aid to victims attacked by the Syrian government and its militias.
Chapter VII of the UN charter authorizes “such action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security.” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius invoked this provision in mid June 13 when he said France would push the UN Security Council to enforce Kofi Annan’s peace plan and ceasefire. A probable ongoing Russian veto in the Security Council makes such a resolution unlikely to be adopted.
The would-be interveners would be left with only a “Kosovo” option: NATO actions, independent of the UN. Yet even in the Kosovo crisis, the Serbian defeat depended on Russia’s eventual withdrawal of support for Milosevic as much as it did NATO’s bombing.