Will Assad surrender the Chemical Weapons?
During a press conference in London, Secretary of State John Kerry was asked, “Is there anything Assad can do to avoid US strike?” He answered,
“He could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week.” Then he continued “He isn’t about to do it and it can’t be done obviously”
Whether Kerry meant it or not it does not matter anymore, as Russia ceased this opportunity to make an offer to Assad to put his Chemical Weapons under the International Community’s control and then later destroy it in order to avoid the US strike. Assad government welcomed the offer, but did not accept.
But is Assad going to accept surrendering his Chemical Weapons? Or should we trust that he would do go ahead with such an option?
Well lets look at the history in Syria since March 2011. In December 2011 the Arab league put forward sending a team of observers to document Assad’s crimes and to propose that to resolve the crises, Assad should withdraw his forces and release the political prisoners. He agreed to the proposal initially only to renege on his promise soon after. This was repeated with UN-Arab League joint special envoy for the Syrian crisis, Kofi Annan’s Geneva 1 proposal which Assad agreed to and again did not live up to honour it.
For three years, Assad maintained that he does not have Chemical Weapons, and now he suddenly is welcoming the offer to hand all of his Chemical Weapons, which he said he does not have, only in exchange for avoiding US strike. Why should we now believe that Assad did not use Chemical Weapons against civilian when he continuously lied about having them and about complying with International Community decisions?
What happen today was a massive lifeline for Assad as he figured this out: I can promise to give up Chemical Weapons’. The process will take a long time because:
1. No one knows how much Chemical Weapons Assad has.
2. Over the past few months and certainly recently Assad had moved Chemical Weapons stock piles and hidden it so it will be difficult to find it
3. Any UN decision about Chemical Weapons should include that if Assad does not comply with the promise, then UN’s Article 7 should apply, something Russia will defiantly veto.
Finally as the process takes a long time to be implemented, Assad will carry on killing civilians using conventional weapons with which he killed more than 110,000 people.
The world should not allow Assad to have a lifeline to carry on his killing rampage. If the UN is going to agree to the offer of handing over the Chemical Weapons, the decision must have teeth i.e. the decision must come out under UN’s Article 7, should have a defined short timeline, and should include a statement that ‘Assad must hand over power and leave’. Anything less than that, Assad will play a game of stalling and wasting time as he always did.