The United States has come down heavily on Russia for raising questions over a United Nations report that has blamed Syria’s dictator Bashar al Assad for using chemical weapons to kill innocent civilians.
The United Nations-Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (UN-OPCW) released last week its latest report on the Khan Sheikhun sarin gas attack on April 4, 2017 in Syria which had killed over 100 Syrians including children and women concluding that it was indeed the Assad regime that had released the poisonous gas.
The report by the UN-OPCW Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM), a body of experts formed by the UN Security Council unanimously, said “the panel was confident that the Syrian Arab Republic was responsible for the release of sarin at Khan Sheikhun on 4 April 2017” which was instantly countered by Russia, one of the few allies of the Syrian dictator.
Rejecting the JIM report and the experts behind it, Russia had said the panel of experts had failed to meet the norms of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) in case of Syria with serious lapses and an inept investigation concluding that “a thorough reading of the report showed it to hardly be professionally prepared and it was rather amateurish and was generally based on speculations and selective use of facts.”
Slamming the Russian stand, The White House said, “Russia’s attempts to undermine and eliminate the JIM show a callous disregard for the suffering and loss of life caused by the use of chemical weapons and an utter lack of respect for international norms.”
Calling the Russian bluff, The White House said this April attack was the fourth time the JIM confirmed use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime “underscoring the brutal and horrifying barbarism of Bashar al-Assad” and that protecting such a dictator by Russia even more egregious.
Refuting the Russian demands of a new set of rules for chemical weapons investigators in Syria, the US “implored the UN Security Council to renew the mandate of the JIM so that it may continue to identify the perpetrators of these horrific attacks and send a clear message that the use of chemical weapons will not be tolerated.” Last month Russia had vetoed a proposal in UNSC to extend the JIM’s work in Syria but later on had said that it would soon come up with its motion to set norms for JIM’s extension.
THOUSANDS KILLED IN SYRIAN CHEMICAL ATTACKS
Thousands of Syrians lost their lives in chemical attacks. Though under international pressure, in 2013, Syria signed the Convention on Chemical Weapons that bans production, storage, use and transportation of chemical weapons, it has been alleged that Syria never disclosed its full chemical arsenal for international inspection and destruction.
And these allegations are not baseless. An ABC News report earlier this year, quoting the White House, listed about at least over a dozen chemical attacks in Syria since 2012. These include the chemical attack of August 2013 in Aleppo which killed around 1500 people and left thousands crippled with symptoms of nerve gas attack. There was an international hue and cry but the responsibility could not be affixed.
Also, a BBC report in May this year, based on intelligence documents, said Syria was still making chemical and biological weapons at three sites. The report further said that both Russia and Iran were aware of it. Also, a Human Rights Watch report published the same month said there was evidence of use of nerve gas by Syria in multiple chemical attacks.
After Assad’s chemical attack on April 4 in Idlib city’s Khan Sheikhun, the US had launched a missile attack on a Syrian airbase that was reportedly used to launch the Idlib chemical attack. It was the first direct US military attack on Syria. Syria had then denied its hands and Russia had strongly defended it. On the contrary, it blamed the Syrian rebels for the attack, like it does every time.
ASSAD’S STRENGTH: RUSSIA, CHINA AND IRAN’S SUPPORT
Ignoring the global calls for isolating Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Putin has been standing firm to support him, morally and militarily. Russian fighter jets pounding Syrian rebels and Islamic State bases are a regular occurrence. Almost all major western nations are against al-Assad. If he is standing tall even after that, it is because of Russian support only.
Assad got another big world power in his favour when China, in August 2016, announced to join Russia in providing humanitarian assistance and military training to Syria.
In February 2017, Russia and China vetoed a United Nations Security Council Resolution aimed to impose more sanctions on Syria for using chemical weapons. Then Syria has Iran’s support. Shiite Iran has a religious connect to defend the Syrian government of Alawites, a Shia offshoot, and strategic interests in defeating Syria’s Sunni rebels.