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Syrian regime using chemical weapon: Time for USA to stand and be counted
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Rakesh Kr Sinha | Date:15 Apr , 2017 2 Comments
Rakesh Kr Sinha
Former DIG and is associate member of Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA). Presently Special Advisor to the Chief Minister, Govt of NCT of Delhi.

In one of the most horrific acts in the human history of a State using chemical weapon in a civil war on its own citizen, Assad attacked the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun in the Idlib province killing at least 70 people, many of them children. The initial evidences suggest towards the use of nerve gas sarin as the chemical behind this attack. It may be noted that the Chemical Weapons Convention (Paris 1993) comprehensively prohibits the use, development, production, stockpiling and transfer of chemical weapons. Any chemical used for warfare is considered a chemical weapon by the Convention. In total, 192 nations are now signatories to the Chemical Weapons Convention with more than 90 percent of the world’s pre-existing chemical weapons stocks believed to have been destroyed by the end of last year. Article XII of the Convention provides for principal safeguard to protect State Parties against violation of the basic obligation by other parties. It provides means to remedy any situation which contravenes the provisions of the Convention.

President Donald Trump called this attack as an “affront to humanity” and taking an alibi of the above provisions and without waiting for any reference to Security Council, the U.S. military fired over 50 tomahawk cruise missiles from the USS Porter and USS Ross striking the airstrip, aircraft and fuel stations on the Shayrat Air Base in response to the chemical attack which the Pentagon says was used to store chemical weapons. In any case Russian would have vetoed any such retributive action on Syria. Russia maintains that the chemicals were accidentally released from a rebel weapons facility by a Syrian Government bombing raid.

Sarin is a clear, colorless, tasteless gas and has no odour in its pure form. It is described as “a human-made chemical warfare agent classified as a nerve agent. It is generally a liquid, however it can evaporate into a gas and spread into the environment. More extreme exposure may lead to a loss of consciousness, paralysis, convulsions and respiratory failure, all of which could result in death. In 2013, a team of U.N. chemical weapons inspectors confirmed that Sarin had been used in an attack that killed as many as 1,400 men, women and children in Ghouta, a suburb on the outskirts of Damascus, Syria. The attack was the most lethal use of chemicals in global warfare since the Halabja attack of 1988 when Saddam Hussein killed thousands of his own civilians by using the gas.

Syria joined the international Chemical Weapon Convention under U.S.-Russian deal and agreed to hand over its stockpile of about 2.8 million pounds of toxic weapons as well as disable its chemical weapons program following the 2013 Damascus attack. In 2014, Syria handed over the remaining 220,462 metric tons of toxic material it had reported to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which was set to be destroyed at sea. However, OPCW chief Ahmet Uzumcu told at the time that he could not confirm that that was the last of Syria chemical stock and that “all declared chemical weapons have left Syria (but) clearly we cannot say as the secretariat of the OPCW that Syria doesn’t possess any chemical weapons any more,” OPCW has further written in its communiqué that “OPCW had set up a Fact Finding Mission (FFM) in 2014 to establish facts surrounding allegations of the use of toxic chemicals, reportedly chlorine, for hostile purposes in the Syrian Arab Republic. The FFM interviews witnesses and obtains samples and physical evidence for analysis. In 2015, the OPCW Executive Council and the UN Security Council endorsed the continual operation of the FFM. The FFM’s findings established the facts surrounding allegations of the use of toxic chemicals as weapons in Syria and confirmed that chemical weapons had been used. The FFM’s findings were the basis for the work of the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM), an independent body established by the UN Security Council (Resolution 2235, 7 August 2015). The JIM’s purpose is to identify the perpetrators of the chemical weapon attacks confirmed by the Fact Finding Mission.”

It is a political hara-kiri on the part of Assad’s regime to launch a chemical attack in a civil war when the OPCW is already breathing over its neck. The odds are against it, so are the evidences and findings of being possibly only state with chemical stockpile. The Russian support to Assad regime seems to have been grossly misinterpreted by the Syrian authorities. It is for war against the ISIS and not a license to use chemical weapons. Syrian government appears to be demonstrating that it feels it can act against its domestic enemies with almost total impunity. That sends an alarming signal about the erosion of global rules and norms on weapons of mass destruction.

The world’s opinion was slowly turning in favour of Assad as he was seen as a lessor evil than ISIS whom he was purported to be fighting. The international community could have even re- legitimize Assad’s regime. The new Trump’s administration was willing to work with Russia and Assad against the Islamic State. Only last week statements from Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson and the ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki R. Haley, indicated effectively that Washington could accept Mr. Assad remaining in power. The removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was no longer a priority. Few days back NATO countries officials had met in Brussels to deliberate the option of billions of dollars in reconstruction to the Assad government even at the cost of dropping their demand for a political transition first. Now Tillerson is saying there is “no role” for Assad in Syria’s future. Nothing could have been more ill timed for Assad to have taken such a risk.

This also is an opportunity Donald Trump must have been waiting for. His unilateral action of firing missiles on Syrian touches the core of American mind space of “making America great again”. Usually hostile American print media is firmly standing behind Trump on this issue. The perceptible difference between the style of functioning Obama and Trump is now bare open to public. While Obama, in the aftermath of 2013 Damascus attack, had left it to Russian to sanitize Syria from its chemical weapon, Trump chose to attack Syria this time notwithstanding any possible Russian reaction. This is what he was voted for and this is what he wants the world to take note that the Americans are becoming great again.

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2 thoughts on “Syrian regime using chemical weapon: Time for USA to stand and be counted

  1. Mr. Sinha, Little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Please research and validate before you post anything.

    The chemical attack on Syrian population was a false flag operation conducted to bring in USA and possibly its NATO allies to bring down ASSAD as they have been gaining a lot of ground against ISIS.

    The reason west is after Syria and then move on to Iran was best described by General Wesley Clark in an interview with Aimee Goodman after the September 11 tragedy in the USA.

    No offence, but its people like you that represent everything wrong with India’s political and defense circles.

  2. What is sham article, far away from truth.
    This chemical attack was a false flag attack just like USS liberty attack by Israel. It was perpetrated to make Donald trump position more worse and force international opinion against Assad as they have been rapidly defeating ISIS ( a group directly indirectly funded by CIA.
    Some simple question can answer this.
    From interviews of Assad it can easily interpreted, he is not MAD.
    And if he is not why will be use chemical weapon when Donald Trump was ready to leave Assads fate to Syrian people.
    Second, there has to be rational around using chemical weapon, like hitting a hard target, in a unwinnable situation. Killing 100 in a micro chemical attack does not serve any strategic purpose. Had he tried to kill 1000s or 10000 then it seem to be a strategic move.
    This whole attack was orchestrated cos Trump, opposing the interestes of many was ready to leave Assad in power. As soon as his office said so, there was this false flag attack.

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