MidEast

WSJ Editorial: Syria’s Chemical Weapons Use Raises Questions about Effectiveness of Iran Deal

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s continued use of chemical weapons against his own people, despite an accord signed two years ago to rid Syria of these weapons, raises questions about how effective the emerging deal with Iran would be in preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, an unsigned staff editorial (Google link) in The Wall Street Journal argued today.

The latest chemical violation—probably delivered via crude barrel bombs dropped from the regime’s helicopters—highlight the hollowness of the Obama Administration’s boasts about using diplomacy to disarm Syria of its chemical weapons. The 2013 deal with Russia always lacked enforcement teeth, since any Syrian violations of the agreement would have to be referred to the U.N. Security Council, where Moscow and Beijing have reliably protected Assad. …

By September 2014 the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the international agency that helped oversee the destruction of several hundred metric tons of the regime’s chemical stockpile, concluded that chlorine had been used “systematically and repeatedly” in Syria. Determining who was behind the attacks is “outside our mandate,” an OPCW spokesman told us. But it’s easy to establish Assad’s culpability, not least because the regime is the only party to the conflict that fields helicopters.

The Security Council in March this year passed a resolution condemning the use of chlorine gas in Syria without blaming any party. The Kremlin has continued to run interference for its Syrian client. “We categorically do not accept the possible use of sanctions . . . without an attempt to confirm use of such chemicals,” Russia’s U.N. Ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, told the Security Council.

The editorial concluded that the inability to enforce the chemical weapons agreement with Syria means that we can expect “more of the same after the same governments celebrate a nuclear deal with Iran.” Any decision to reimpose sanctions in the face of Iranian violations of a future nuclear deal would have to be approved by Russia.

The Journal‘s editorial comes on the heels of a report last Sunday night by Scott Pelley of 60 Minutes on the August 2013 chemical attack in Syria.

The rockets were types used by the Syrian army, and they were launched from land held by the dictatorship. U.S. intelligence believes the Syrian army used sarin in frustration after years of shelling and hunger failed to break the rebels.

With the threat of airstrikes, President Obama forced Assad to give up his chemical arsenal.

Pelley concluded his report by noting:

U.S. intelligence estimates 1,429 civilians were killed; 426 of them, children. Of course, Syria is dying too. Prosecution of this atrocity will have to wait for whatever civilization emerges from the ruin. But the dead will be waiting because a crime buried without justice is never laid to rest.

An editorial in The Washington Post over the weekend called for stronger action to be taken against Syria due to the regime’s continued use of chemical weapons.

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