By: Stefan Koolen
According to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction, 1993, the majority of the world’s countries reached an agreement to abolish the use and production of chemical weapons. However, Syria was not a part of this agreement, along with few other countries –including Egypt, Israel, Angola, Burma, North Korea, Somalia and South Sudan. Based on that broadly supported agreement, the use of chemical weapons by the former Iraqi régime of Saddam Hussein was explicitly condemned. Therefore, the reluctant attitude of the international community towards the reported use of chemical weapons by the Syrian régime recently could be a source of suspect regarding the credibility of the international powers.
Chuck Hagel, US secretary of defense, already issued a statement claiming that there is a strong indication to the use of chemical weapons in Syria (sarin gas), but verification is needed. A crucial question to propose with regard to this issue is whether further verification is needed indeed. Is there no enough evidence?
First of all, some facts need to be taken into consideration: 1) Syria possesses chemical weapons. 2) The Syrian régime has earlier threatened with the use of those weapons against foreign intervention (NY Times, July 23, 2012). 3) Syria claimed that chemical weapons have been used (although they claimed the “foreign backed” Free Syrian Army or FSA used them). 4) Syria considers the rebels foreigners or foreign backed fighters. 5) The régime has a track record involving the use of non-discriminatory, from any point of view disproportionate, weapons, capable of killing many “innocent” citizens (i.e. Hama, 1982). 6) The régime does not allow independent backed observers into conflict areas and finally. 7) Syria has not signed the relevant treaty forbidding chemical weapons.
Recently, ARA News reported a chemical attack in Aleppo on April 24, revealing some details on the incident. The reporter himself suffered some strange physical problems and residents claimed a helicopter fired a rocket. A Reuters’ photographer observed many patients in Aleppo “suffering breathing problems, who told him there was chlorine in the air immediately after the attack in Khan al-Assal” (Voice of America, March 19, 2013). These are not the only reports about the use of chemical weapons in Syria. Other reports uncovered the use of those weapons in the city of Homs as well.
Thus, if we reconsider what has already been said in the course of this article, it seems to me that there is a situation that confirms, as credible as can be, that chemical weapons have been used by the régime. No comparable evidence can be delivered against the FSA. I do not think further evidence is possible and that the lack of “independent” confirmation is a result of the régime’s attitude towards the international community.
Currently, international leaders seem reluctant or extremely careful in claiming the use of those weapons by any side in the conflict. Unfortunately, it seems that the international community is more occupied with politics than with a clear and just policy towards Syria in order to protect the Syrians. The search for evidence is, in my opinion, not really a search for the evidence itself, since there is sufficient, but a way to create more time and gather support. Syria continues to be a victim of the interests and attitudes from other states, like Russia, Turkey and the US. As a result, Syria seems to be a topic for an endless debate among international decision makers.
An international condemnation concerning the use of chemical weapons in Syria may follow the war, but most likely on the basis of the same evidence in hand at the moment.
Source: ARA News
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