Syria: Chemical Weapons or Just a Poor Justification?
Do you believe that the regime used chemical weapons?
We currently hear about an upcoming foreign intervention in Syria. The main reason of such an intervention are allegations that the Syrian regime is using chemical weapons.
Recently, President Obama presented a touching video footage to the representatives of the American Congress which showed victims exposed to a chemical weapon minutes before their death. There is a high probability that Obama will obtain an agreement from the people's representatives in USA to take military action in Syria. And soon, we would see American ships and planes bombarding "carefully chosen targets" within Syria in order to "deter the regime" from using illegitimate means of war.
So what we have is a really bad regime which does not even restrain itself from using chemical warfare against its own people. We have no less than 1300 victims of this hideous crime, and we have our world's beloved sheriff willing to take action. So everything seems to be in its place. But is it really? Waaaaaaaaaaait! No it isn't. Something smells fishy in here. I will try to highlight what exactly.
Is it the fact that Syria has never signed any international agreement which would forbid this country from using chemical weapons? No, I'm really far from making such claims. Some actions are obviously immoral and unacceptable even if there is no piece of paper that actually states it. This statement is equally true in regard to using chemical weapons, as well as in regard to throwing down a nuclear bomb on a city full of innocent civilians. Such acts should be commonly treated as unacceptable, inhumane and in all cases criminally prosecuted as soon as there is a possibility of bringing the perpetrators to justice.
Is it the fact that Syria is an independent state entitled to have its own internal security policy? I would not base my claims on this sole fact. The doctrine of foreign intervention in order to remove a tyrant has been known even before the Middle Ages. It is obvious that state sovereignty is not something like a God-like empowerment to do with the subjects whatever the state authorities may actually think of, even if such actions constituted gross violations of basic morality.
Is it the fact that USA previously, by some miracle, did not restrain itself from using unethical means of war or supporting regimes which used chemical warfare (like Saddam Hussein in the 80's)? No, I am also far from making such claims. Let's say I strongly believe in the sentence "Hypocrisy is a compliment vice pays to virtue". You've seen some thugs robbing a granny on the street? OK, beat them up if you have the muscle. Perhaps you had robbed five grannies before. Start leading a good life from now on.
Or is it maybe the case that Obama is willing to act without any empowerment of the UN Security Council required by the UN agreements? Well, here we have a serious problem. After the Second World War, the countries agreed to restrain their "ius ad bellum" in order to bring some order to the matter of waging war and prevent some hyperactive states from making their own justice. The agreeing parties knew what they were doing. We must remember that it is often the case that an obviously illegitimate military aggression was being, in this or another way, justified by humanitarian reasons. This includes Italian aggression on Ethiopia before the Second World War (after occupying Ethiopia, the Italian government even mercifully abolished slavery which existed there prior to the occupation) and - yes, yes - Hitler's aggression on Poland which started the Second World War. Did anyone within the aggressive states care that the allegations made by the governments were partially or even entirely (in the Hitler's case) false? As we can see, there was an obvious purpose on imposing the UN regulations that require consent of the Security Council for any military action. If things are so, then why are those regulations being ignored? Recently, the President of Russia asked all the states that had claimed that they have proof of the Syrian regime using chemical weapons against the civilians to kindly present this proof to the UN. We may like Mr. Putin or not, but it cannot be denied, he was right. Did any of the states bother to do as Mr. Putin asked? Do not count on it.
So the country with the largest army in the world is currently giving a bad example. There is no reason to doubt that any other state, as long as no action against it will be expected, will also wage war without any UN empowerment. Do I claim that there is no right to war outside UN empowerment? Well, we have to be realistic. All the members of the Security Council play their own games. We should not expect that they are Holy Elders, willing to impose justice all the time. This claim is equally true, whether we speak about USA, France, Russia or China. There are, therefore, as I believe, cases in which it is legitimate to take military action without any international consent. But only for a really good reason, as all those UN regulations really serve some purpose. I would not await any state to sacrifice its national sovereignity or other vital interests in order to wait for a Security Council approval. But this is not the case here. There are reports of the Syrian opposition committing crimes against the civil population and al-Quaeda activists taking part in the rebellion. So is there any good reason to ignore the UN and just act? I do not think so.
But the main reason is that it is highly unlikely that al-Assad's regime has used those weapons. I am far from stating that the Syrian authorities consist of innocent people. A realistic view of the Middle East makes it more than wise to claim that any of the regimes based there would not hesitate to commit a serious crime in order to maintain power (I am still not sure about using chemical weapons though). Yes, al-Assad is not a saint, but al-Assad and his supporters are also not idiots. It has been about two years since Obama drew a "red line" for the Syrian regime. This "red line" was the use of chemical warfare. It is obvious that if chemical weapons had been used and USA did not intervene after having declared to do so, it would mean that, not only Obama, but the whole USA will lose face. It is obvious that no American president would let himself lose prestige in such a way. It is also equally obvious that the Syrian authorities know it. They also know that the American military potential is more than enough to smash the Syrian Arab Army.
The regime in Syria is currently winning the war. After regaining al-Qusayr and gaining assistance of Hezbollah, the Government is able to remove the rebellion from Syria. There were moments when the situation of the regime was much worse. And yet, there were no claims about the use of chemical weapons. Is al-Assad an idiot, willing to commit suicide or does he have no control over the actions of the Syrian army? Well, in both cases he would not be the president of a Middle East country already.
Therefore, I would not believe the accusations. Some states, including Israel and Germany claim that they have proof of the use of chemical weapons in the form of recordings of conversations within Syrian military staff obtained by their secret services. Someone explain this to me then - why weren't those alleged proofs presented to the UN Security Council? Independent UN investigators could compare voice samples from the recordings with voice samples of Syrian military commanders. If the Syrian government did not agree to such a scrutiny, it would be a clear indication that their hands are dirty. Why is there no willingness to make such an obvious move? You really do not have to be an Einstein to know the answer.
There are at least four states in the Middle East which would benefit from creating fake "conversations" of Syrian military staff and triggering a military intervention in Syria. It is enough to employ an Arabic speaker and have some knowledge about military communication systems. At the same time no proof from satellite recording regarding transportation of chemical weapons by the Syrian government is being presented or even mentioned. Any more questions?
The future of Syria, whether there is an intervention or not, just doesn't look good. At this point, it is not easy to find any reasonable solution. The war may take years and a victory of any of the parties cannot guarantee peace for the Syrians. The wisest thing for now is to pray for those poor people. There are many possibilities of further military and political developments in Syria. Enough to write a book.
One thing is extremely obvious here. Someone really used chemical weapons. There are many victims and someone, whoever it is, must be punished for this action. Hopefully, the truth will be uncovered as soon as possible.