Proposals put forward for international control of Syria's CBWs

By staff writers
September 9, 2013

Both the United Nations and Russia are independently involved in plans to push the Syrian regime to put chemical and biological weapons stocks (CBWs) under international control.

The aim would be to ensure that CBWs are not used again in the bloody conflict engulfing the country, and also to avert punitive US-led military strikes and their possibly dangerous consequences for the region.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said today (9 September 2013) that if his organisation's experts concluded that chemicals had been used in attacks on 21 August, he would consider asking the Security Council to set up a zone in Syria where the weapons could be destroyed.

Others have pressed for Assad to immediately sign the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and ratify the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC), and for evidence of the use of such weapons to be put into the hands of the UNSC and the International Criminal Court.

Meanwhile, Russia, as a member of the UNSC which has consistently opposed military action against Syria – the country that houses its own remaining bases in the Middle East – is now publicly calling on the country to put its chemical weapons stockpiles under international control as a prelude to their destruction.

The proposal arose in talks over the weekend between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Syrian counterpart Walid Muallem.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, who has refused direct talks with Mr Muallem, had said that Syria could avoid a US-led attack by handing over its chemical weapons "within the next week".

However, since the UN and Russian proposals have been made public, a spokesperson for Mr Kerry has insisted that his comment was "rhetorical", and sources within both the State Department and the UK Foreign Office have begun briefing against the idea idea of a international control and destruction, saying it is "unworkable" and "would allow the regime infinite possibilities for obfuscation".

Marie Harf, the State Department's main pro-war spin doctor, has said that the Secretary of State "was making a rhetorical statement about a scenario that we think is highly unlikely."

But critics of military intervention say that a properly monitored way of dealing with chemical weapons is far preferable to strikes which, the US claims, will "degrade" and "disable" them without specifying how this could be done – and in particular how it could be done without risking further civilian casualties and conflagration.

Israel, which has supplied the bulk of questionable intelligence being deployed by the US – questioned by recent German intelligence, and clashing significantly with statements from both the UK and France – seems determined to encourage a strike against its long standing enemy Syria, which it also hopes will weaken both Iran and Hezbollah. Its allies have been heavily involved in briefings over the weekend to persuade Congress members to vote for Mr Obama's intervention proposals.

The US government seems likely finally to seek to dismiss the latest WMD disarmament ideas by utilising heavy scepticism towards both Russia and the UN in Congress and among the American public, by seeking to impose an unrealistic timetable, or by trying simply to sideline them. However, President Obama said that he would give them initial "consideration".

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