The Russians are stalling on Syria, America must be ready to act

by Dan McCurry

Sarin is invisible, odourless and deadly in tiny amounts. If it’s in your surroundings, you’ll soon know; typical symptoms include soiling yourself, and choking to death as your throat muscles contract.

The international convention to ban these chemicals came about following the killing of 5,000 Kurds in Iraq. Apart from a bizarre terrorist incident on the Tokyo subway, sarin hasn’t been used since, so the ban had been effective right up until Syria.

The fact that sarin has now been used, without consequence (so far), must have put ideas into the minds of other dictators. After all, it’s somewhat more effective than CS gas. This stuff can stop a riot in a minute and a revolution in a day. For dictators, possession of sarin ensures security of tenure is guaranteed.

No one disputes that this chemical was created by Assad’s regime.

We’ve now got Putin striding the global stage, negotiating to decommission the weapons. Prior to the negotiations Assad had lied for years claiming that he had no such weapons. Immediately prior to the negotiation Putin was claiming that the rebels had used the sarin on themselves.

Let’s be clear about the veracity of that previous claim. Putin now admits that Assad built the stock pile. Sarin doesn’t have any other use on Earth. It is a weapon. There is no dual purpose. It doesn’t come about by accident. It only exists in order to kill people. If Assad built this arsenal he must have been willing to use it.

Putin expects us to believe that when the rebels were approaching the centre of Damascus these weapons accidentally fell into their hands and they used them on themselves to gain sympathy. Western pacifists accepted this rambling foolishness and insisted that a higher level of proof would be needed.

I’ve worked for many years in the criminal justice system and it seems inconceivable that a jury in the Old Bailey, considering this evidence on the basis of “beyond reasonable doubt”, would not convict Assad unanimously.

The Russian president has destroyed the democracy of his own country. If the outdated security council were abolished tomorrow, Russia would have no substantial power in the world.  Syria is the one thing he has got; a toe-hold in the middle east through a backward and besieged client. Yet this incompetent, self-serving, liar is the man we are expected to negotiate with?

Once the weapons are destroyed, both Assad and Putin will no longer be important in the world. For this reason it is in their interests keep the issue bubbling away for years to come. It is in everyone else’s interest to not to allow this.

This afternoon, the American view of the Russian proposals is that they are “doable but difficult”. This doesn’t inspire confidence. Rather than allow continual prevarication, a clear timetable needs to be set with firm consequences if and when there is obstruction from the Syrians or Russians.

Proliferation must be disincentivised and seen to be so. Even if a potential attack against Assad does nothing more than send a token message, it is a message of importance.

Dictators of the world must be made to see that creating and stockpiling these weapons will deliver greatly more problems than solutions. Under the Russian plan for Syria, this doesn’t seem to be the case.

Dan McCurry is a Labour activist who blogs here

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9 Responses to “The Russians are stalling on Syria, America must be ready to act”

  1. swatantra says:

    Tosh! Although you may not like George Galloway, he has some genuine points to make (Daily Politics today), I think he would deal with most of the absurd arguments presented in this article. The fact is the US, UK, Israel etc have Bio weapons and WMDs. Syria is not an exception What are they doing to destroy their arsenals? B****r all. As GG, and I myself, have pointed many times before, the culprits behind all the troubles in the ME are Israel and Saudii Arabia, both firm friends of The West, and we’ve supplied them with sophisticated armaments. As GG says, its highly likely that either Saudi or Israel or both, supplied terrorists in the ME with Bio weapons , to create even more unrest. Nothing would please the Zionists and the Saudis more than the prospect of Arabs killing each other. The trouble is we’ve got the wrong kind of Jews in Jerusalem and the wrong kind of Muslims in Riadh, and the sooner they are removed the better.

  2. Jane says:

    Thank you for this article which I read with interest. I agree with it but would add that somehow I feel that Mr Putin has pulled a masterstroke and “played” the US President very well. I look forward to reading in due course the consequences of US Foreign Policy after this fiasco.

  3. steve says:

    “a clear timetable needs to be set with firm consequences”

    Ah yes, exactly the same was said before the Iraq invasion and, by Jove, weren’t the consequences “firm”?!

    After Iraq dictators throughout the world knew the game was up so they then threw in the towel and resolved to dedicate the rest of lives to the service of humanity.

    But the reality: more instability, more terrorism, more lives ruined, many more unnecessary deaths and our freedoms diminished in a permanent war supposedly fought to defend them.

    Yes, it’s all perfectly logical. Splendid!

  4. Dan McCurry says:

    @Jane, I agree. I think Obama wasn’t getting the vote through Congress, so Putin is able to strutt.

  5. steve says:

    Dan: “so Putin is able to strutt.”

    And Obama didn’t do so badly – in effect Putin saved Obama’s bacon. Obama, in the face of a defeat in Congress, was scrabbling around trying to find a way out of a self-dug hole that would have been a catastrophe for his presidency. And then lil’ ol’ Pooty pops up with the perfect solution.

    Of course, there will now be much talk about “firm consequences” etc. But unless there’s another atrocity of such shocking enormity to cause traumatised populations of the West to sign up to whatever daft plans their governments put before them, it looks like situation will revert to grim normality.

  6. Dan McCurry says:

    @swatantra, You really need to calm down, mate.

    @Steve, I didn’t write that line. It was added to make the piece up to date with a fast moving story, but I didn’t phrase that. Too authoritarian for me.
    Otherwise, I greatly appreciate your sarcasm. Although it ignores what the world would have been like if the west permanently pursued a pacifist line.

  7. Dan McCurry says:

    @Steve, I agree with your analysis.

  8. bob says:

    Interesting, everyone is fixated by the use of Sarin, but how many thousands have been killed by conventional weapons. If you are killed by a burst of AK 47 fire, an RPG or an artillery barrage you are just as dead as being killed by Sarin.

    The problem with the deployment of a chemical weapon to be effective on a large scale is persistence of the chemical. VX, is a far more deadly weapon. Sarin has a relatively low persistence and it is influenced by heat wind light and area of deployment, a far better chemical is Mustard gas, which Assad is reported to have. Chemicals such as Sarin and VX have to be reapplied to a target area frequently to maintain its effect. Sarin can be made as a ‘bath tub’ version as has been seen in Japan with the Tokyo subway attack.

    Mustard has very long persistence as has been witnessed in France and Belgium when trees which were soaked in the gas in WW1 have burnt people in recent times when cut down.

    We have no way at present of knowing who deployed the weapon, was t Assad’s forces and if so the commander who use has a very short life expectancy as the UN inspectors in the country or rebel forces who have captured it. We await the UN report.

    Obama has shown a degree of weakness over the use of a declaration of a so called ‘red line’ and not able to do anything about it and Putin and the Chinese premier will in effect by supporting Assad in many forms will stop military attacks. Any attack would have to have an exit strategy and cruise missiles whilst they will do damage will not change the situation.

    As I said at the start we are fixated on Sarin, but many thousands more are dead from conventional weapons, you still as dead from them as a chemical weapon.

  9. Unfortunately for me I started a fortnights holiday in Sozopol, Bulgaria on the day of the recall of parliament, and was travelling from midday, so therefore I missed the parliamentary debate, and even more unfortunately, there were no English printed papers on display on what newstands there were, t.v. in the hotel seemed to havve no B.B.C. world service or C.N.N on the those available in rooms or reception/bars; strangely the few British people in the hotel/resort never mentioned the Syria crisis the whole fortnight I was there; so frustatingly I was only able to get up to speed on return to the U.K.
    The other night on B.B.C. news, a map/diagramme was shown of the alleged sites holding chemical weapons,(I don’t doubt that these were actual sites, but this is as much a war of propaganda, with America, Britain, France dancing to the tune of the Saudi and Qatari salafists who have only one purpose in Syria and that is to see regime change and Al Qaida jihadists in power in Damascus, with their barbaric medieval, brutal policies of decapitation of prisoners and even cutting the hearts and lungs out of living captors/p.o.w.s. Let nobody believe that the Saudi’s, Qatari’s are interested in freedom for the Syrian people or the more progressive/secular elements of the Syrian Free Army, rapidly losing support and men in the anti regime forces.Saudi Arabia and Qatar as champions of democracy and free elections? ask the Bahreini Shias about their democratic credentials when the Saudi’s invaded Bahrein to prevent the overthroe of the Emiir. Of course America wants Assad removed as it then has Iran’s only M.E. supporter removed, and in their eyes even more control of the M.E. and its oil, along with its willing puppet Israel)many of those sites were in what have been anti-regime areas; Therefore it is more than likely that the jihdists have had access to these weapons and imho would not hesitate to use them against anybody to achieve their aims.For me personally, while I do not believe that Assad would not use chemical weapons against his opponents, until there is absolute proof that Assads forces have used chemical weapons, and I don’t mean the word of Cameron, Obama or the Saudi’s; the balance of probabilities is that it was Jihadists who faced with defeat in this barbaric, brutal civil war, are prepared to use any means to start a campaign to drag a reluctant Obama into a air war on Assad’s regime

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