Syria may be growing increasingly isolated -- but it's not entirely alone.
China and Russia, the two U.N. powerhouses who vetoed a similar resolution in the U.N. Security Council two weeks ago, remained steadfast in their support for Syria, casting their votes again on Thursday against a U.N. General Assembly resolution condemning Damascus. It passed, 137-12.
China's Vice Foreign Minister Zhai Jun is expected to arrive today in Damascus in a show of support for the country's beleaguered president Bashar al-Assad, and reinforce a Russian initiative to restart political talks between the Syrian government and the opposition. "China does not approve of the use of force to interfere in Syria or the forceful pushing of a so-called regime change," said Zhai, according to Reuters.
The Syrian leader also got short lifeline from a handful of anti-Western governments, including Belarus, Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Iran, Nicaragua, North Korea, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe -- countries that have themselves have been the target of Western attacks on their own human rights records.
"We denounce before the world the fact that imperial powers and their allies are hoping to trigger a regime change in Syria," said Venezuela's U.N. envoy Jorge Valero, striking a theme that was common among the resolution's opponents.
But all in all, it was not a good week for Assad or other despotic regimes, who found that an informal bloc of repressive governments was beginning to unravel and could no longer be relied upon to come to their defense.
A number of countries with deplorable rights records, including Burma and Sri Lanka, kept their distance from Assad's regime, casting abstentions, while newly minted governments in Egypt and Libya denounced the Syrian regime.
The United States, and its Arab and Western partners, peeled countries like South Africa and India away from the Russian and Syrian camps. "Today the U.N. General Assembly sent a clear message to the people of Syria -- the world is with you," U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said yesterday in a statement.
Even Serbia, which has relied heavily on Russia's for support at the United Nations on Kosovo, broke ranks with its patron, voting in support of the Western- and Arab-backed resolution. In an effort to limit the damage, Serbia's envoy praised Moscow's effort to pursue a political settlement in Syria.
Indeed, Russia garnered broader support in the General Assembly than the vote would indicate for its efforts to negotiate amendments that would have placed greater demands on Syria's peaceful opposition leaders to dissociate themselves from armed resistance. It has warned that the Arab and Western sponsors may be exploiting the U.N. resolution to justify the ultimate overthrow of Assad's government.
In casting her country's vote for the resolution, Grenada's U.N. envoy, Dessima Williams, expressed trepidation about the prospects of having her action abused.
"Grenada understands that in and with this resolution the U.N. General Assembly is not voting on or for a resolution that directly or indirectly, or through interpretation or reinterpretation, can be used as the basis for the removal of governments through military intervention or other acts against the Charter of the United Nations, in letter or in spirit," she said. "With this understanding, and actually with a prayer and a hope, Grenada will vote for this resolution."
But despite the reservations the motion carried the day, underscoring the shifting center of political gravity at the United Nations, where the Arab League has upended decades of resistance to outside interference in its neighbor's affairs.
While Syria's U.N. envoy, Bashar al-Jafaari, chastised his Arab counterparts for serving the interests of Israel and the West, and pledged to thwart their efforts to undermine his president, he seemed to sense the winds were changing. "The Arab Trojan horse has been unmasked today," he said.
So, to get a better sense of who stood on the side of Syria, or who stood aside Turtle Bay decided to publish a list of countries that opposed the resolution condemning Syria's conduct, those that abstained and those that didn't bother to vote. Well make an exception for Burundi, Comoros, and Kyrgyzstan, who all showed up, but were prevented from casting their votes by faulty U.N. voting equipment.
Check out the full list, after the break.
St. Vincent and Grenadines
The No shows
San Tome Principe
Follow me on Twitter @columlynch
Longtime Washington Post correspondent Colum Lynch reports on all things United Nations for Turtle Bay.