For more than three years, heated discussions of the Syrian conflict have taken place in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). With few exceptions, the UNSC has been deadlocked by a clash between Russian and US interests, which has prevented a more decisive stance on Syria from the international community. This paper identifies both US and Russian primary interests and aims to analyze to what extent they have been advanced respectively in the UNSC. On what issues could cooperation in the UNSC be achieved and at what point has the great power rivalry stalled potential progress? An overlap of US and Russian interests exists in particular with regard to a common concern about the rise of radical Islamist groups as well as a shared interest to counter the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the region. The argument will be made that without the serious engagement of regional powers such as Iran and Saudi Arabia, no sustainable peace process will be successful. Russia’s long-standing relations with Iran and the United States’ alliance with the Saudi monarchy provide them with the necessary leverage to engage their respective partners and initiate a regional dialogue that could lay the foundation for a way out of the Syrian crisis.
This paper was written by Fabian Staudenmeyer, a Foreign & Security Policy trainee at the Heinrich Böll Foundation Washington, D.C. office.