Syria in a bad corner: The US-Russia pact hits the Assad regime with numbing power of anesthesia

16 Sep

by Keffyalew Gebremedhin   –   The Ethiopia Observatory

After the three-day talks between the United States and the Russian Federation in Geneva culminated in the September 14, 2013 agreement, both Syria and the US are telling the world that they are extremely delighted by its outcome, more importantly by what the parties to the agreement called the Framework for Elimination of Syrian Chemical Weapons.

Diplomacy’s potency and especially its prevention of US-led war in Syria is welcome. I must, however, admit that the Geneva US-Russia accord has left me wondering how two antagonistic parties could praise an outcome that would leave one side in possible total demobilization.

John Kerry and Sergei Lavrov (Courtesy of CNN)

John Kerry and Sergei Lavrov (Courtesy of CNN)

President Barack Obama reiterated Sunday September 15, that the US-Russia deal is an ‘important step’; he cherished the moment of victory, indicating that America has the duty to keep the world free of fear of chemical weapons, according to CNBC.

I am certain that I do not need amplification for this, since already in the last two years the signals from Damascus have been troubling. One could easily relate to what the US president said, especially regarding the horrid crime perpetrated on August 21, 2013, in which over 1,400 Syrians – including children – were gassed.

For us Ethiopians, such action is a constant reminder of the sacrifices of what our citizens were subjected to by the invading forces of fascist Italy in the prelude to World War II. At the same time, for the first time the Ethiopian experience also exposed weaknesses of the international system in putting into practice its principle of collective security, a governing principle under the League of Nations, as is the case presently within the Security Council of the United Nations.

The Geneva Accord is now gaining support. China’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi told French Minister of Foreign Affairs Laurent Fabius in Beijing on September 15, 2013, “The Chinese side welcomes the general agreement between the US and Russia. This agreement will enable tensions in Syria to be eased.”

What is there for Syria to support the accord

As in the case of the United States, Russia, China and France, among others, Syria has also registered its support for the same Geneva agreement of last weekend between Secretary of State John Kerry and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

As Damascus’s first reaction, Syria’ Reconciliation Minister Ali Haidar already Sunday told Russian news agency Ria Novosti, “On the one hand, it [the agreement] helps Syria come out of the crisis and, on the other, it helps avoid the war against Syria depriving those who wanted to launch it of arguments to do so.” Further, he added, “It’s a victory for Syria achieved thanks to our Russian friends.”

He lost me there. I could not pin Syria’s argument especially the minister’s reference to Syria’s victory. I am sure this must be troubling to many Syrians.

They saw Assad destroying their country, their cities and villages. One of the world’s oldest civilizations was destroyed and looted in these past two years. Since Assad has been more preoccupied with his dynastic power, he has not shown any remorse for the country’s destruction and the over hundred thousand Syrians that have lost their lives.

Now, he is suspected of being the prime culprit in the use of the August 21 gas poisoning. He has no sense of guilt, when he tells the world now that Damascus is the winner in this conflict, though fortunately he did not make reference to the phrase “moral victory.”

As a student of society, I have learned, including from the experiences my country, political propaganda is potently addictive to the extent of blinding its author(s). It usually encourages dictators to feel free, even to contend against visible and tangible reality.

Again, this Syrian argument brought to mind Saddam Hussein’s last minister of information Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf, who for months he used to hit the airwaves with his bravado how Iraq would humiliate America. It is ironic that it also happened in the daylight of that same evening When Iraqis witnessed United States blitz on Baghdad on March 19, 2003.

We can examine the merit of Obama’s and Assad’s latest claims and rationale of satisfaction with the Framework for Elimination of Syrian Chemical Weapons.

A Syrian man mourns victims of an alleged poison-gas attack by regime forces in Damascus on Aug. 21, 2013. (AP Photo/Media Office Of Douma City)

What is the implication of the latest Geneva Accord?

Syria would be humiliated. It is unlikely for Assad and his regime to continue in power. Here is a brief summary of the September 14, 2013 agreement:

In what looks like its preamble, the agreement states that the US and Russia have reached “a shared assessment of the amount and type of chemical weapons involved, and are committed to the immediate international control over chemical weapons and their components in Syria.”

Consequently, the terms of this agreement, as made public by the US State Department, carry the fulfillment of the following conditions and actions:

    •       Syria is required to submit, within a week [Friday September 21, 2013] a comprehensive listing, including names, types, and quantities of its chemical weapons agents, types of munitions, and location and form of storage, production, and research and development facilities.

    •       In addition to chemical weapons, stocks of chemical weapons agents, their precursors, specialized CW equipment, and CW munitions themselves, the elimination process must include the facilities for the development and production of these weapons.

    •       The removal and destruction of all categories of chemical weapons (CW) related materials and equipment would be complete in the first half of 2014.

    •       To satisfy the needs of achieving accountability for their CW, Syrians must provide the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the Syrians must provide the OPCW, the UN, and other supporting personnel with the immediate and unfettered right to inspect any and all sites in Syria.

    •       The United States and the Russian Federation believe that the work of the OPCW and the UN will benefit from participation of the experts of the P5 countries.

The agreement also specifies that the extraordinary procedures to be proposed by the United States and the Russian Federation for adoption by the OPCW Executive Council and reinforced by a UN Security Council resolution shortly, as described above, should include a mechanism to ensure empowerment of the parties with this right to undertake those tasks.

Anyone who has gone to school and knows how to read a document could see what would happen to the Assads and their government, as these tasks of collecting and destroying the prohibited arsenals take place. One should also get sense of the new Syria that would possibly be stripped of its arrogance, its present to be humiliated into submission once this process is completed.

In ironic twist, while welcoming the US-Russia Geneva Accord on September 14, 2003, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also announced the formal accession of Syria to the international treaty on banning chemical weapons – a step it has been refusing for decades to come into force effective 14 October.

The Secretary-General’s Spokesman said, “The Secretary-General expresses his fervent hope that the agreement will, first, prevent any future use of chemical weapons in Syria and, second, help pave the path for a political solution to stop the appalling suffering inflicted on the Syrian people.”

Where is Assad’s victory? Where is Syria’s victory?

It is to be expected that, once the terms of the agreement start being carried out, Syria’s Assad would no longer be there to massacre his people. This agreement would inevitably entail the need to deal with the conflict and facilitate the post-Syria arrangements for that country.

There are very important lessons to be drawn by other states. The first is that, it may take time until they face justice; but no nation can get away hurting, humiliating and maiming helpless citizens, because of the arrogance of power. Justice would catch up with them.

It is equally important for those that have been thriving on political propaganda and deceits; they need to see Assad’s inebriation, which is even giving him the nerve to try to turn this agreement for his ego trip.

Before it is too late, dictators need to get check up to ensure that they are not failing to distinguish between their lies and the reality on the ground.


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