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Security Council Situation Report 23 September 2019

This update complements the brief background notes already published in the AMUN Handbook. Please read the handbook before turning to this update.

The Situation in Saudi Arabia and Yemen

In the predawn hours of Saturday 14 September, a drone and missile attack caused extensive damage to the sprawling Saudi Arabian oil facilities at Abqaiq and Khurais. Crude prices soared in the aftermath, as the strike forced Saudi Arabia to halve its oil production. The attack was the worst on Gulf oil infrastructure since 1991, when Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi military forces burned the oil fields in Kuwait. While the Houthi rebels in Yemen have claimed responsibility, Saudi Arabia and the United States have implicated Iran, pointing to the recovered drone and missile debris and the direction of fire as evidence. Iran denies that it carried out the attack and warned of “all-out war” should Saudi Arabia or the United States retaliate with military force.

To assist with the investigation into the attack, the United Nations has dispatched a team of experts to the region under Security Council Resolution 2231, which implemented Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal. Secretary-General António Guterres underscored the severity of the situation. “We absolutely need to create the conditions to avoid a major confrontation in the Gulf,” he said. “As we have seen by the immediate impact on oil markets, if there would be a major confrontation in the Gulf it would have devastating consequences for the region and globally.”

Reinforcing the concern expressed by Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, that the Houthi-led attacks on Saudia Arabian oil facilities could drag war-torn Yemen into further conflict, a Saudi-led airstrike was carried out on Yemen’s port city of Hudaydah on 20 September. While the airstrike was seemingly in retaliation for the 14 September attacks at Abqaiq and Khurais, Saudi Arabia and the United States continue to accuse Iran of being behind the 14 September attacks. Despite Iran’s denial of involvement in the oil facility attacks, United States President Donald Trump has committed to deploy troops to Saudi Arabia for defensive operations.


Saudi Arabia vows to respond to oil attacks with ‘necessary measures’ (21 September 2019). BBC News

UN chief urges restraint following reported Saudi-led assault in Yemen (21 September 2019). UN News Centre

Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif warns of ‘all-out war’ (19 September 2019). Al Jazeera

Kalin, Stephen and Rania El Gamal (19 September 2019). Media visit Saudi oil plant damaged in strike blamed on Iran. Reuters.

The Latest: UN chief: Experts on way to probe Saudi attacks (18 September 2019). Associated Press.

Saudi Aramco reveals attack damage at oil production plants (20 September 2019). CNBC.

United Nations, Security Council (2015). The Situation in Iran. S/RES/2231.


The Situation in Syria

Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Urusula Mueller, appeared before the Security Council on 19 September to provide an update on the challenges Syrians face in accessing humanitarian aid and that humanitarian aid organizations have in accessing those in need. Mueller stated that an estimated 400,000 people in north-western Syria fled their homes between May and August 2019, and that $68.4 million would be required to accommodate shelter and non-food related needs. Unimpeded access to humanitarian aid also requires coordination with Member States including Syria, the Russian Federation, the United States and Jordan. 

The exposure of children to the violence carried out by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), as well as impeded access to humanitarian resources, has increased fears within the international community of a new generation of radicalized fighters. On 19 September, Belgium, Germany and Kuwait brought draft resolution S/2019/756 before the Council, which called for an immediate end to hostilities to prevent a deepening humanitarian crisis. The draft also demanded that Member States engaged in counter-terror efforts comply with international law and minimize harm to civilians. 

The vote on the resolution was twelve in favor, two opposed, and one abstention, with China and the Russian Federation both casting negative votes and effectively exercising their veto power. Instead, they brought their own draft resolution, S/2019/757, before the Council, which called for maintaining the ceasefire announced 31 August by the Russian Federation. It also stated that the cessation of hostilities would not apply to counter-terror efforts. Vassily Nebenzia from the Russian Federation, who is also serving as the Council’s President for September 2019, stated that Syria and the Russian Federation have only been conducting air strikes on terror groups and that civilians are not at risk through their continued military action. This resolution was not adopted, with a vote of two in favor, nine against, and four abstentions. 


United Nations, Security Council (2019). Draft resolution: The situation in the Middle East. S/2019/757. 

United Nations, Security Council (2019). Draft resolution: The situation in the Middle East. S/2019/756. 

United Nations, Security Council (2019). Security Council Rejects Two Draft Resolutions on Situation in Syria amid Divisions over Idlib Truce, Armed Groups. SC/13956. 

United Nations, Security Council (2019). Amid Funding Shortfall, Humanitarian Official Urges Security Council to Ensure Unimpeded Access for Millions Suffering in Syria, as Delegates Call for Unity. SC/13955. 


The Situation in Myanmar

More than 500,000 Rohingya refugees who have fled violence in the Rakhine state in Myanmar and settled in camps in Bangladesh have been issued identification cards “critical to safeguarding their right to return home.” A United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson, Andrej Mahecic, stated that the majority of the Rohingya are “stateless” and for most, “this is the first ID, a first proof of identity that they have.” The “clearance operations” carried out by Myanmar’s military has forced over one million Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh since 2017.

The United Nations Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar (FFM) released a new report to the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) on 22 August that expounded upon the “extreme physical violence, the openness in which it is conducted” against the Rohingya. After interviewing hundreds of survivors of sexual violence in the Kachin, Shan and Rakhine states, the authors of the report concluded that Myanmar military personnel have employed rape, gang rape, and other violent and forced sexual acts against the Rohingya, as “part of a deliberate, well-planned strategy to intimidate, terrorize and punish a civilian population.” 

On 16 September, the FFM released an additional report, which detailed attempts from Myanmar to “erase” the Rohingya identity and “remove them from the country.” The Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, informed the HRC that Myanmar had “done nothing to dismantle the system of violence and persecution” against the Rohingya. Lee continued further that the Rohingya live in the “same dire circumstances that they did” prior to the events of August 2017 that sparked the mass-flight to Bangladesh. 

Targeted violence and Myanmar’s “ongoing gross violations of international law” are not the only concerns of the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. Heavy monsoon rains have destroyed shelters in refugee camps, creating “havoc” for more than 16,000 Rohingya, according to the World Food Programme (WFP). WFP spokesperson Hervé Verhoosel stated the Rohingya “have nothing to cook [with], they have nothing to sleep [on], most of the clothes have been lost. Basically, the little things that they’ve rebuilt since they arrived … was lost in one night of rain.” Now, Bangladeshis are accusing the Rohingya of crime and taking jobs. Animosity toward Rohingya refugees is growing in Bangladesh, and refugees are saying, “here [in Bangladesh], we’re not safe. We’re very afraid.” 


Rohingya in Bangladesh face tide of hostility as welcome turns to fear (17 September 2019). Reuters

Genocide threat for Myanmar’s Rohingya greater than ever, investigators warn Human Rights Council (16 September 2019). UN News Centre

Monsoon destroys Rohingya shelters, sparking record emergency food agency response in Bangladesh (13 September 2019). UN News Centre

Myanmar military committed ‘routine, systematic’ sexual violence against ethnic minirities, UN experts find (22 August 2019). UN News Centre

More than half a million Rohingya in Bangladesh get ID cards for first time: UN refugee agency (9 August 2019). UN News Centre

United Nations, Human Rights Council (2019). Report of the independent international fact-finding mission on Myanmar. A/HRC/42/50. 

United Nations, Human Rights Council (2019). Sexual and gender-based violence in Myanmar and the gendered impact of its ethnic conflicts. A/HRC/42/CRP.4.

Top Myanmar general defends military “clearance operations” as 400,000 Rohingya flee bloodshed (17 September 2017). South China Morning Post

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