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Is Assad going to hand over the chemical weapons?
Is Assad going to hand over the chemical weapons?
In a sudden shift an agreement has been devised that
just may avert a US intervention in the Syrian civil war. Syrian
The tentative plan came about after the US Secretary of State John Kerry stated that such a resolution might stave off an attack by the US.
And President Obama in an address to the country Tuesday asked Congress to delay its vote on a Syrian strike to let the UN hammer out the new plan.
This all started from a chemical weapons attack Assad is accused of deploying on a Damascus suburb in late August.
The question now — how realistic is a deal requiring Assad to give up the weapons? How complicated would such a venture be? Does the US need to trust Assad or does this require boots on the ground?
To help us answer all of these questions we now have
in studio here in Washington Greg Thielmann, senior fellow
of the Arms Control Association, former top intelligence official
In our Moscow studio we have Andrey Sushentsov, political analyst
from Moscow State University of International relations, expert
in US foreign policy. We also have there Alexander Kuznetsov,
vice president of the
And in London we have Jag Singh, political and digital strategist and a former Senior Advisor to Hillary Clinton for Presidential Campaign.
VoR: Let’s start with you, Greg. Because of your position, you’d be the person best to go ahead and answer this. How realistic is the deal requiring Assad to give up the weapons? Is it possible?
Greg Thielmann: It is a very complicated venture. It is difficult, but doable. The international community has faced some very tough challenges in the past: getting rid of Libya’s chemical weapons, the saga of Iraq chemical weapons, which was actually a success before the US and Britain invaded, which I was very much against when it happened ten years ago. Now you have to have a strong backing from the UN Security Council for following the various steps. The first step is easy: Syria has to agree to sign the Chemical Weapons Convention.
VoR: And if Assad doesn’t do that, the US will invade!
Greg Thielmann: That is certainly what President Obama said his intention is. And I think that the Russians have taken that seriously. In order to avert the US attack, they’re pushing Assad to get rid of his chemical weapons.
VoR: The US still possess chemical weapons, despite the convention signed in 1993. Is it a political issue or does it suggest how complicated it is to get rid of chemical weapons?
Robert Parry: It is difficult, but it is also a political problem. Countries don’t like to get rid of the weapons they have. Syria is forced to actually fully disarm itself, while the country has concerns whether Israel is going to attack them. That’s one of the reasons why Syria has kept chemical weapons.
VoR: The US knew about Israel’s and Hussein’s chemical weapons, but they only pressure Assad. Isn’t it hypocritical?
Greg Thielmann: The obvious conclusion is the
US doesn’t care much about chemical weapons, but they are very eager
to do anything which would hurt the Iranian regime and create
VoR: How is the US foreign policy in regards to chemical weapons perceived around the world?
Andrey Sushentsov: What is of premiere
importance — is the perception of the US’ unilateral steps. The
hesitation of American leadership towards these chemical weapons
in Syria is not very well understood internationally. The question
No1 for everybody outside the U.S., I think, is the tradition
of this unilateral behavior where America uses power to resolve some
quite complex international issues, like the one in Iraq
or in Libya or right now in Syria. In Russia
we do understand that US position on Syria indeed has some
political bias. And we remember instances of first American use
of chemical weapons during conflicts which happened at the second
half of the 20th century. And we understand quite pragmatically that
international circumstances change and the position of the US and its
presidents also changes. So thus, in Russia we do believe
in international law, but we don’t see that all the parties involved
in maintaining this international law on chemical weapons are
involved in having this regime
VoR: Alexander, what do you think of Bashar Al Asad’s position? He said that Syria will submit to this agreement by the UN and he also said that they haven’t decided to hand over the weapons because of American threats.
Alexander Kuznetsov: Assad’s position depends
VoR: Andrey, I want to go back to you for a second. The Convention was ratified in 1997 — we’re talking about the International Convention on Chemical Weapons. But Russia and the US both still have chemical weapons. The two biggest players in discussing of what should happen both have chemical weapons. Isn’t that an international policy issue that isn’t being addressed sufficiently?
Andrey Sushentsov: You know, I don’t think, that is the issue. Inside Syria many more people have died not from chemical weapons. US, Russia and three other countries have publically claimed that they have nuclear weapons and these are weapons of mass destruction. If they are used, it is of grave concern for everybody. But the current international crisis is not because of the chemical weapons, but of other types of weapons — light armament.
VoR: Jag, how people around the world perceive the US? Is Obama doing the job?
Jag Singh: This isn’t simply about Syria. The US has
stated a condition that committed to the intervention.
If it doesn’t act when there’s a clear violation. We’re not
talking about that it’s wrong for Syria to have those weapons. We’re
saying that it’s wrong for Syria and the Syrian regime to have used those
weapons on its own citizens. I think the US has learnt
to be considered not just with unfriendly regimes, but also what
could follow such regimes — Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya — they’ve driven
home the principle that deposing one regime means leaving with, I guess
you could call it, an imperfect successor. In those sorts
of interventions the outcome hasn’t been worth the price. But
in Syria, where you have the insurgents
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