By Finian Cunningham
But the deal struck by American Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov at the weekend looks rather like a postponement of US aggression than a step towards a peaceful resolution.
Already Western politicians and media are conflating the latest UN chemical weapons inspection report with the weekend admission by the Syrian government that it possesses such armaments.
The UN report only confirms that the toxic nerve agent sarin was used in an attack on 21 August near the capital, Damascus. But this finding is being spun to insinuate that the armed forces of President Bashar al-Assad are to blame and in that way justifying Western threats of retaliatory military action.
It is troubling that within hours of Kerry and Lavrov shaking hands in Geneva on a seeming breakthrough agreement they were both saying very different things about its consequences.
On his way back to Washington, Kerry met the French and British foreign ministers in Paris on Monday morning where they reiterated – with usual high-handed truculence – that the option of military force against Syria was still on the table if the Syrian government did not fully comply with the complete decommissioning of its chemical weapons.
For his part, Lavrov in response to the Paris statement appeared to be irked by the repetition of the militarist option by “our partners…this shows a lack of understanding of what John Kerry and I agreed on.” The Russian foreign minister added that any use of military threat might wreck the chance of a peaceful resolution.
Elsewhere, US President Barack Obama also stated that military force against Syria remained an option in spite of the Geneva pact to disarm Syria’s chemical arsenal through diplomacy. That position of wielding military threat was also backed by French President Francois Hollande.
The Americans, British and French want to finalize a resolution at the United Nations Security Council this week which will be “strong and binding,” meaning the authorization of military force if Syria does not deliver on handing over of its stockpile of chemical weapons.
Russia and China – the other two UN Security Council members – will no doubt veto any such resolution.
However, in that case, the US, supported by Britain and France, says that it will invoke a unilateral decision to go it alone in the use of military force outside of the UN. During his press conference with Lavrov in Geneva, Kerry responded to a question about what his country would do if it did not obtain a UN mandate, by saying “the [American] president always has the right to defend US interests.” In other words, the US president can do whatever he wants, including waging war on another country.
This unilateral move would leave the US open to charges of aggression. But knowing Washington’s arrogant capacity for self-justification, sophistry and long history of aggression, such a charge is by no means a deterrent to eventual US belligerence.
It is significant that the first destination for Kerry after Geneva was to fly to Israel to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The latter welcomed Kerry with open arms and was visibly pleased with the prospect of “stripping Syria of all its chemical weapons.” Some commentators have averred that the weekend Geneva deal was a slap in the face to Netanyahu from the Obama White House in that it steered away from Israeli war plans against Syria.
Such an analysis seems misplaced as it presumes, against all the evidence, that Washington does not have an inherent war plan for regime change in Syria. It is also misplaced given Netanyahu’s obvious glee on receiving Kerry. And why wouldn’t the Israeli warmonger be pleased?
The so-called Geneva “deal” may have halted US war plans on Syria for now, but the upshot is that Western aggression towards that country is even more emboldened and, bizarrely, has also now gained a veneer of legitimacy.
Syria was compelled to join the Chemical Weapons Convention and thereby surrender its arsenal of chemical weapons. While such weapons are an abomination and in an ideal world should be removed completely everywhere, the result of the Lavrov-Kerry arrangement is that Syria is obliged to unilaterally disarm. Israel has an equally dangerous stockpile of chemical weapons, as well as biological and nuclear arsenals.
Unlike the Syrian government, the Israeli regime has actually used its chemical weapons in the form of White Phosphorus against Palestinian citizens in Gaza. Yet, while Syria is being disarmed of its weapons that have acted as a deterrent against Israel’s weapons of mass destruction, the Israeli regime is free to increase its balance of terror.
Provocatively, the Western powers are still insisting that they have the right to launch a military attack on Syria if the latter does not conform to the chemical disarmament process. But this process is all one-sided. The West is swinging the threat of military force even though it is an unlawful act of aggression. The US and its allies should be indicted for this aggression against Syria, which they have been engaging in for several months and not just since the 21 August chemical weapon atrocity near Damascus.
The UN chemical weapons inspectors, led by Swedish scientist Ake Sellstrom, has confirmed that the deadly nerve agent sarin was used in the attack on 21 August. The UN team does not conclude who actually used the toxic gas despite Western insinuations. But there is plenty of evidence from alternative sources pointing to the Western-backed mercenaries fighting for regime change who committed this atrocity and others involving chemical weapons, such as at Khan al-Assal near Aleppo on 19 March this year.
As well as the US and its allies remaining armed and dangerous so too are the militants that are terrorizing Syria on behalf of Washington. According to recent reports, Washington is stepping up its weapons supplies to al-Qaeda-linked mercenaries – the same mercenaries who are beheading army captives and civilians, as well as poisoning women and children to fabricate crimes attributed to the Syrian army.
US-led all-out war on Syria may have been averted by the Lavrov-Kerry deal in Geneva at the weekend, but the price for that respite seems to be the West and its allies having gained even more leverage for their criminal agenda of regime change.
What Syria, Russia, Iran, China and other independent nations need to do is to widen the terms of any deal over Syria. This must include the complete cessation of weapons being funneled into Syria by the US and its allies; the immediate halt to threats of war by the US; and if we are going to have disarmament of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East then that process must include the Israeli regime as absolutely mandatory.
Finian Cunningham, originally from Belfast, Ireland, was born in 1963. He is a prominent expert in international affairs. The author and media commentator was expelled from Bahrain in June 2011 for his critical journalism in which he highlighted human rights violations by the Western-backed regime. He is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in journalism.