By Ayesha Nawaz, WEEKLY PULSE MAGAZINE, November 04, 2013
On August 21, 2013, the world witnessed horrific poison gas attacks in the suburbs of Damascus. Currently there is a civil war going on in Syria. Syrian regime has a stockpile of various chemical agents including VX, mustard gas and sarin. It is believed that Syria possesses around 1,000 metric tons of chemical weapons. Artillery and rocket attack was executed to deliver chemical agents in the early hours of 21stAugust. The areas which were targeted include KafrBatna, Jawbar, AynTarma, Darayya and Mu’addamiyah. A number of videos were uploaded of visibly sick children and adults who showed no signs of any external injury. The patients, who were treated at three hospitals in Damascus, showed symptoms of exposure to a neurotoxin. They had difficulty in breathing, excessive saliva, nausea, vomiting, blurred vision and eventually unconsciousness. Initially, it was difficult to establish death toll precisely due to the chaos which resulted because of a large number of casualties. Preliminary assessment by U.S government determined that 1,429 people were killed, out of which 426 were children.
The West accuses Syrian government of the use of nerve gas sarin to gain upper hand against the rebels; Syria puts the blame on rebels while Russia asserts that there’s no proof either way. According to Human Rights Watch, “eyewitness accounts, medical records and remnants of the weapons all show that Bashar al-Assad’s forces fired poison on Damascus civilians”. On the contrary, Syrian regime has consistently denied any involvement in the attacks, claiming opposition forces were responsible. While there’s sufficient proof that government possesses the technology to load and fire such devices, there isn’t any evidence that the opposition forces do. It’s an atrocity to use chemical weapons. By the Geneva Protocol of 1925, Syria is bound not to use chemical weapons in warfare. Syria is one of the seven countries that have not yet joined the 1997Chemical Weapons Convention which bans all production, development and deployment of deadly chemical arms.
The tragic August 21 attacks have been condemned globally by the leaders. President Obama said: “I want to make sure that the norm against [the] use of chemical weapons is maintained”. He said that a limited military intervention was necessary to punish Asaad’s regime and to maintain America’s credibility. However, it was decided that a political solution is better than a military solution to the war in Syria. Asaad’s ally and military supplier called upon Syria to give up its chemical weapons stockpile. U.S and Russia agreed on a deal, according to which Russia would legally oblige Syria to relinquish its chemical arms. Syria welcomed Russia’s call. As a part of this U.S-Russian deal adopted in a UN resolution, Syria agreed to join Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). Syria has submitted initial destruction plan of its chemical weapons arsenal. The OPCW said the document would assist in providing the basis for “a systematic, total and verified destruction of declared chemical weapons and production facilities”. U.S requested Norway to receive Syria’s chemical weapons bulk for destruction, but this request was turned down by Norway as it doesn’t possess the capabilities to complete this task by the given deadline.
Whether or not Syria cooperates in the destruction of its chemical weapons, the credibility of Russia is not in question. Russian president spotted that U.S was reluctant to launch attack of any kind, so Putin took it as an opportunity, came forward with a proposal and brokered a deal with U.S and maneuvered a win-win situation. It was accepted by US as an olive branch to escape a military action. Russia has ensured the safety of its ally. Syria can’t be allowed to create a dangerous and deadly situation for its neighbours. The US and other countries in the region with interests in Syria must overcome their differences to help prevent any further use and proliferation of Syria’s deadly arsenal.