Hilary Legge, ‘Doah Managing Editor
September 18, 2013
On Saturday, Aug. 31, Obama made the statement that he would be going to Congress to seek approval in a military strike against the Syrian government as punishment for their alleged use of the nerve gas sarin on its own citizens. The U.S. had planned to take action after it seemed that the United Nations Security Council would not do so itself. While many feared that this crisis would lead to another Iraq-style intervention by the United States, President Obama’s decision to wait has allowed more of the international community to have a role.
On Monday, Sept. 9, Russia proposed that Syria turn over its chemical weapons for destruction and sign the Chemical Weapons Convention, an arms control agreement the production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons. This move from Russia came as a surprise to many, as Russia is an ally of Syria, however, it is likely that President Vladimir Putin was looking for a way to avoid U.S. military intervention and put Russia on the national stage as a broker of peace.
On Saturday, Sept. 14, Secretary of State John Kerry and the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov came to an agreement for Syria to destroy all of its chemical weapons after three days of negotiations in Geneva. The deal would require Syria to have all of their chemical weapons, material and equipment destroyed by mid-2014. International inspectors would begin checking that Syria was complying in November of this year.
This deal marks a major turning point in the international debate on Syria as the U.S. and Russia are now working together to peacefully resolve the situation. If Syria fails to comply, the two world powers plan to seek a resolution from the U.N. Security Council to authorize sanctions against the war-torn nation.
On Monday, Sept. 16, the U.N. released a report which confirmed that there was a chemical arms attack in Syria last month that caused mass casualties. This report offered the first amount of extensive forensic evidence of the attack. “On the basis of the evidence obtained during our investigation of the Ghouta incident the conclusion is that, on 21 August 2013, chemical weapons have been used in the ongoing conflict between the parties in the Syrian Arab Republic, also against civilians, including children, on a relatively large scale,” it states.
The authors of the report did not explicitly name the Syrian government as the perpetrators of the attack, but the information contained within seemed to implicate them. While President Bashar al-Assad had previously claimed the attack had been carried out by the Syrian rebel forces. However, the weapons used had not been known to be possessed by the rebels. On top of that, said weapons were fired by large launchers. As the New York Times stated, “For rebels to have carried out the attack, they would have had to organize an operation with weapons they are not known to have and of considerable scale, sophistication and secrecy — moving the launchers undetected into position in areas under strong government influence or control, keeping them in place unmolested for a sustained attack that would have generated extensive light and noise, and then successfully withdrawing them — all without being detected in any way.” The points of origin of the rockets were also traced back to a Syrian military complex.
At this time, Syria has not made a statement on the report, but they had in the days prior agreed to join the Chemical Weapons Convention and to abide by Russia and the U.S.’s plan to eliminate the country’s stock of chemical weapons.
With the new information that has come to light in the last few days, as well as the potentially diplomatic resolution negotiated by the U.S. and Russia, it is now looking as though the U.S. will be able to avoid a military strike that was unwanted by much of the country.