Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Subjecting Syria’s Chemical Weapons Stockpiles To International Control: A Fool’s Errand?

Despite Syrian strongman Bashar Al Assad now fully agreeing to surrender his military’s chemical weapons stockpiles to full international control, is the task making this possible nothing more than a fool’s errand? 

By: Ringo Bones 

Even though Syrian strongman Bashar Al Assad managed to reach a deal with both America and Russia without the Obama administration ever firing a single shot on surrendering his military’s chemical weapons stockpiles to international control, I, like many others, have doubts whether this can even be practically achieved within the mid 2014 deadline. There are a number of reasons on why this now looks more like the proverbial fool’s errand and quite a “Quixotic Task” for the international community to fully implement.
As respected international organizations not controlled by Russia shall now be designated to be in charge in putting the Syrian military’s chemical weapons stockpiles more or less under UN control, the difficulty of the complicated process of subjecting Assad’s chemical weapons stockpiles under international control and subsequent destruction by mid 2014 has yet to be fully discussed. After all, we all got to this point because Assad allegedly used his chemical weapons on Syrian civilians not loyal to him during their still on going civil war. 

The difficulty of controlling Assad’s chemical weapons centers upon the very fact that UN weapons inspectors are not UN Peacekeepers. They are primarily trained for chemical weapons detection and the supervision of their dismantling once declared – not as UN sanctioned global policemen in charge of peacekeeping via keeping warring factions from harming unarmed civilians / refugees.
Another “fly-in-the-ointment” about the Bashar Al Assad now agreeing to surrender his chemical weapons stockpiles in order to avoid an American lead military intervention is that the UN is utterly unsure about Assad’s honesty and sincerity in the declaration of all of his existing chemical weapons stockpiles for international inspection and subsequent destruction on the agreed timetable. This is where the agreed proposal of the US and Russia on what to do with Assad’s chemical weapons stockpiles devolves into a fool’s errand. 

And the on-going civil war in Syria where tens of thousands of unarmed civilians are already killed via conventional means and millions of refugees fleeing the fighting had now become a humanitarian concern for countries surrounding Syria. Imagine the difficulty of UN weapons inspectors dodging small-arms fire while trying to detect the barest of traces of the evidence of chemical weapons being used that will be used in a case for charging Syrian strongman Bashar Al Assad for war crimes in The Hague when the time comes.
As the UN weapons inspectors begins in Syria, the proverbial “boots on the ground” – more likely via US special forces operatives – will be a necessity to protect the UN weapons inspectors doing their work in the middle of Syria’s on going civil war. It might be either via UN Peacekeepers or a small cadre of US troops providing an escort role to insure safety of the weapons inspectors, but this might attract attacks from rebel factions of the Syrian civil war with ties to Al Qaeda further complicating the issue. If this doesn’t pass muster as a “fool’s errand”, I don’t know what does? 

Syria Surrendering Its Chemical Weapons to International Control: A Landmark Peace Agreement?

Even though it still won’t halt the on-going bloodshed of Syrian civilians being decimated by conventional weapons, should the Assad government’s agreement to surrender its chemical weapons stockpiles considered a landmark peace agreement? 

By: Ringo Bones 

Let’s make it clear, Syrian strongman Bashar Al Assad now agreeing to surrender his military’s chemical weapons stockpiles to international control in the wake of overwhelming evidence that chemical weapons were used – though by which side is still under investigation – in the ongoing Syrian civil war back in August 21, 2013 is a clear violation of the 1925 Geneva Protocol that prohibits the use of toxic and asphyxiating gases and chemical agents will not end the ongoing slaughter of Syrian civilians being decimated by conventional means. A “tentative” time-table has now been agreed by US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, to destroy surrender and put under international control all of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles by the middle of 2014. Given the alternative of the Obama administration launching Tomahawk Cruise Missiles with conventional explosive warheads as a punishment to the Assad regime of using Sarin gas on Syrian civilians not loyal to the regime, is the agreement of Bashar Al Assad surrendering chemical weapons to international control more or less a landmark peace agreement on behalf of the Obama Administration? 

A few weeks ago, US Secretary of State John Kerry somewhat “jokingly” suggested that the Syrian strongman Bashar Al Assad could avoid a military strike via conventionally tipped Tomahawk Cruise Missiles as a punishment for its alleged use of chemical weapons on Syrian civilians not loyal to his regime if he surrenders his military’s chemical weapons stockpiles to international control. Inexplicably, Russia – who as one of the permanent seat-holders of the UN Security Council and been blocking an international intervention against the Syrian civil war since it started two years ago – agreed with State Secretary Kerry’s suggestion. Unfortunately, right-wing Christian conservatives in America had always criticized this recent Obama Administration decision on not launching any retributive strike on the Assad regime since Kerry and his Russian counterpart agreed on this relatively peaceful settlement. 

From a political and philosophical perspective, the 1925 Geneva Protocol that prohibits the use of poisonous and asphyxiating gases and chemical agents and of biological methods of warfare during times of war – primarily born out of a painful tactical experience during World War I over the indiscriminate way chemical weapons kills everyone on the battlefield and the potential carnage it can inflict on unprotected civilians had never been easy to enforce under existing international law – then and now. During Nazi era Germany, fascist era Italy under the behest of Benito Mussolini and with Nazi top brass as observers used newly discovered nerve gases that were not yet invented during World War I on Abyssinian separatists with impunity. While back in March 6, 1988, Saddam Hussein ordered one of his loyal henchmen Chemical Ali to drop Sarin, hydrogen cyanide and mustard gas on the Kurdish of Halabja over their suspected loyalty to Iran while the then Reagan Administration never spoke out about the incident. 

Part of the difficulty of the enforcement of the 1925 Geneva Convention is that even though most countries had signed it back in June 17, 1925 on behalf of the United States and many other powers, the United States Senate has refrained from giving its full consent to the ratification of the 1925 Geneva Protocol and is therefore not binding to the United States. Even as relatively recently during the Vietnam War, the United States could be considered a non-signatory of the 1925 Geneva Convention. It wasn’t until April 10, 1975 that the United States was in full binding agreement with the 1925 Geneva Protocol. 

Sadly, even if Assad surrenders the entire Syrian military's stockpile of chemical weapons within the agreed timetable, he could still "exterminate" those Syrians not loyal to him by conventional means. And by that time, the death toll in Syria's ongoing civil war could exceed one million.