By: Yuram Abdullah Weiler
“We should not lose sight of the broader perspective of the Syrian crisis. The terrible loss of life on 21 August was the result of one of many attacks that have collectively killed more than 100,000 people in Syria during the past two and a half years, ” UN Secretary General Ban Ki - moon.
Following a tense military buildup in the Mediterranean in anticipation of a cruise missile attack on selected targets in Syria, the United States and the Russian Federation suddenly reached an agreement that for now has put military action on hold, at least temporarily. The agreement between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov requires Syria to sign the Chemical Weapons Convention(CWC) and turn over its stockpile of chemical weapons for destruction. Hailed as a “victory for Syria, ” the September 14 agreement entitled “Framework for Elimination of Syrian Chemical Weapons” proposes an ambitious schedule for the elimination of Syrian chemical weapons to the Executive Council of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons(OPCW): completion of initial OPCW on - site inspections of declared sites by November, destruction of production and mixing / filling equipment by November, and complete elimination of all chemical weapons material and equipment in the first half of 2014. Two days later in what could perhaps be described as a highly dramatic non - event, UN Secretary General Ban Ki - moon announced the findings of the Mission of UN inspectors dispatched to Syria to investigate allegations of chemical weapons use on August 21 in the Ghouta area of Damascus. Stating what amounted to non - news that most of the world had already concluded, he announced that “chemical weapons were used on a relatively large scale in the Ghouta area of Damascus in the context of the ongoing conflict in Syria. ” The report prepared under the direction of mission head Ake Sellstrom confirmed that “the environmental, chemical and medical samples we have collected provide clear and convincing evidence that surface - to - surface rockets containing the nerve agent Sarin were used … in the Ghouta area of Damascus. ” While providing significant detail on the munitions used, the report, by design, fails to conclude what the world really wanted to know: namely who carried out this horrendous attack, the Syrian forces or “the opposition? ”Interestingly enough, the UN mission, which was not authorized to determine responsibility, was in the “custody” of the “opposition forces” while carrying out their investigation “to ensure the security and movement of the Mission, to facilitate the access to the most critical cases / witnesses to be interviewed and sampled by the Mission and to control patients and crowd in order for the Mission to focus on its main activities. ” It is important to recognize that the investigators were in insurgent territory and, as they point out in their report, “During the time spent at these locations, individuals arrived carrying other suspected munitions indicating that such potential evidence is being moved and possibly manipulated. ”
One very interesting part of the report concerns evidence discovered at what is referred to as impact site 1 in Moadimiyah. Investigators concluded that the ordnance used matched “one of the variants of an M14 artillery rocket with either an original or improvised warhead. ” One source identifies this weapon as having been fired from a Soviet - made BM - 14 140mm multiple rocket launcher, which was a weapon used by the Taliban in Afghanistan, and most likely was in the hands of Jabhat al - Nusra insurgents.
One video posted on You Tube shows a multiple rocket launcher, which appears to be a BM - 14, mounted in the back of a pickup truck being fired by militants. Another, earlier video posted in May 2012 shows members of the so - called Free Syrian Army with captured long - range Syrian rocket launchers, which combined with the UN report should provide ample evidence that the insurgents possessed and used these weapons. The United States, of course, came to a completely different conclusion about the perpetrator of the chemical attack. Based on the Cyrillic lettering on one of the intact shell casings found implying it was Russian - supplied ordnance, and because of Syria’s alignment with the former Soviet Union, western authorities were quick to conclude that Damascus was indeed responsible. US representative to the UN Samantha Powers insisted this was proof while UK Foreign Secretary William Hague stated that the findings were consistent with previous allegations of the al - Assad government’s responsibility. Previously, White House Chief of Staff Dennis McDonough admitted that the White House had no “irrefutable” evidence that President Bashar Assad was behind the gas attack. Russia’s Ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, pointed out that the report does not present “bulletproof data or conclusions. ” Meanwhile, six men from the al - Qaeda - linked Jabhat al - Nusra and Ahrar ash - Sham terrorist groups have been indicted in Turkey for attempting to buy chemicals that could be used to make Sarin nerve gas. Disposal of highly toxic chemical weapons requires special technology, experience and extreme care, for a single drop of nerve agent can kill a human within minutes. Basically, two methods of “demilitarization” are used: high temperature incineration and low temperature neutralization. The United States and the Russian Federation are primary sources of these technologies, which are provided to other CWC member states for their use in disposal of chemical munitions. Also, the time allotted for Syria to destroy its chemical munitions is much less than initially prescribed by CWC, which requires states to start destruction of their Category 1 chemicals such as VX and sarin within two years and finish within ten years. And it seems as though there is agreement among officials that the only country capable of tackling the huge task of disposing of Syria’s chemical arsenal is Russia. This leads one to speculate that perhaps the framework agreed to by Russia and the United States proposes a destruction timeline impossible for Syria to meet. Already there is discussion over whether or not the UN resolution will invoke military force under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov insisting that it will not, while US Secretary of State Kerry insisting that it does. Basically, Chapter 7 Article 39 of the United Nations Charter states that it is up to the Security Council to “decide what measures shall be taken in accordance with Articles 41 and 42, to maintain or restore international peace and security. ” Article 41 covers measures not involving the use of armed force and Article 42 covers action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security. Concerning the chemical attack, Secretary General Ban Ki - moon bemoaned, “This is the most significant confirmed use of chemical weapons against civilians since Saddam Hussein used them in Halabja in 1988. ” And just as the US facilitated the use of chemical weapons in Iraq, it seems to be doing the same in Syria. President Obama has signed a waiver to Sections 40 and 40A of the Arms Export Control Act(ACEA), which prohibit supplying munitions, credit or licenses to countries supporting acts of terrorism and require end use monitoring, to allow chemical weapons aid to go the insurgents. Also, the US, Britain and France have all agreed to increase assistance to foreign - backed rebels, pressure Syria into complying with the UN to turn over its chemical weapons, and continue seeking to oust President Bashar al - Assad. So it appears to be business as usual for the US and its western “partners. ” To see the broader perspective, one must keep in mind that the US still sets the world order, dividing the world into “partners, ”“client state” and “rogue” states. Partners include the major economic powers such as Russia and China, and the colonial states such as the UK and France. Client states, such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Egypt do as they are instructed by Washington, acting as local agents for furthering the US imperial agenda. Finally, rogue states are those countries that resist the US - imposed imperial order such as Iran, Syria, North Korea and Cuba. As a result, any deal cut with another state will not be in direct conflict with broader US “interests” and the agreement with Russia over Syria is no exception.
US interest in Syria has been clarified by Obama, who stated that he is still prepared to “strike” Iran over its nuclear program despite the decision to back off a military threat against Syria. “I think what the Iranians understand is that the nuclear issue is a far larger issue for us than the chemical weapons issue, that the threat… against Israel that a nuclear Iran poses is much closer to our core interests, ” said Obama in an interview on ABC Sunday, September 15. So the “deal” may simply be that the US waived an attack, and in exchange, Russia will destroy Syria’s chemical weapons. The US and its “partners” can continue to support the Takfiri militants, thereby weakening Syria militarily should the US decide to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities.
In any event, whatever bargain was struck between Kerry and Lavrov in Geneva, it must have been in line with US regional goals, as Obama stated, “If Russia wants to have some influence in Syria post-Assad, that doesn't hurt our interests.” Although a US military strike has been temporarily averted, this is no victory for the Syrian people who continue to deal with the daily agony of an externally imposed war. As Obama indicated, Syria is merely a stepping stone on the path to the long-range US imperial goal: regime change in Tehran.