Tuesday, September 17, 2013

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. 

No comments: