Russia: U.N. ‘Politicized’ Analysis of Syria Nerve Gas Strike

Global Security Newswire Staff
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Global Security Newswire Staff
Sept. 18, 2013, 9:02 a.m.

A Rus­si­an of­fi­cial on Wed­nes­day ques­tioned the valid­ity of a new U.N. ana­lys­is of an Au­gust sar­in nerve agent strike in Syr­ia, rais­ing the pos­sib­il­ity that Rus­sia could sty­mie any moves by the United States and its al­lies to im­pose pun­ish­ment on Dam­as­cus for not sur­ren­der­ing its chem­ic­al ar­sen­al, Re­u­ters re­por­ted.

“We are dis­ap­poin­ted, to put it mildly, about the ap­proach taken by the U.N. sec­ret­ari­at and the U.N. in­spect­ors, who pre­pared the re­port se­lect­ively and in­com­pletely,” Rus­si­an Deputy For­eign Min­is­ter Sergei Ry­ab­kov told his coun­try’s RIA Nov­osti news agency. He re­ferred to the U.N. forensic ana­lys­is, re­leased on Monday, as “politi­cized” and “one-sided.”

The United Na­tions’ ana­lys­is con­firms chem­ic­al weapons were used in the Aug. 21 at­tack in a sub­urb of Dam­a­cus, but doesn’t as­sign blame on the gov­ern­ment or rebel fight­ers.

The Syr­i­an re­gime, mean­while, has handed Rus­si­an of­fi­cials what Ry­ab­kov on Wed­nes­day de­scribed as “evid­ence that the [Syr­i­an] rebels are im­plic­ated in the chem­ic­al at­tack,” Agence France-Presse quoted him as say­ing after he met with Syr­i­an Pres­id­ent Bashar As­sad’s top en­voy. Mo­scow will “ex­am­ine the Syr­i­an ma­ter­i­als im­plic­at­ing the rebels with the ut­most ser­i­ous­ness,” he ad­ded in com­ments re­por­ted by Rus­si­an me­dia.

Speak­ing on Tues­day, Rus­si­an For­eign Min­is­ter Sergei Lav­rov said there are “ser­i­ous grounds to be­lieve that this [Aug. 21 at­tack] was a pro­voca­tion” in­ten­ded to prompt “for­eign in­ter­ven­tion” against the As­sad re­gime in the Middle East­ern coun­try’s bloody civil war, Re­u­ters re­por­ted. Lav­rov, at a press brief­ing in Mo­scow, called for the U.N. find­ings to be ex­amined along­side a re­port­er’s testi­mony, state­ments from “nuns at a nearby con­vent,” and data found on­line.

Wash­ing­ton’s en­voy to the United Na­tions, though, on Tues­day said the U.N. find­ings “make clear” that last month’s strike was the work of As­sad’s re­gime. The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has blamed the in­cid­ent for the deaths of more than 1,400 people, and only backed away from threats of an im­me­di­ate mil­it­ary re­sponse after ham­mer­ing out plans with Rus­sia for elim­in­at­ing the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment’s chem­ic­al-war­fare stocks.

“Rock­ets that the U.N. says were used in the at­tack and that tested pos­it­ive for sar­in are the same rock­ets used by the re­gime in pre­vi­ous at­tacks,” U.S. Am­bas­sad­or to the United Na­tions Sam­antha Power stated at a U.N. Gen­er­al As­sembly dis­cus­sion. “They bore none of the char­ac­ter­ist­ics of jerry-rigged, im­pro­vised weapons. They had soph­ist­ic­ated ba­ro­met­ric fuses to dis­perse the nerve agent in the air and not on im­pact.”

U.N. find­ings also in­dic­ate that sar­in from the strike was of high­er qual­ity than ma­ter­i­al once stock­piled by Ir­aq un­der Sad­dam Hus­sein, Power said.

“This was a pro­fes­sion­ally ex­ecuted mas­sacre by the [As­sad] re­gime, which is known to pos­sess one of the world’s largest un­declared stock­piles of sar­in,” she said.

French For­eign Min­is­ter Laurent Fabi­us offered a sim­il­ar take on the U.N. re­port, Re­u­ters re­por­ted. “When you look at the amount of sar­in gas used, the vec­tors, the tech­niques be­hind such an at­tack, as well as oth­er as­pects, it seems to leave no doubt that the re­gime is be­hind it,” Fabi­us said on Tues­day.

Rus­sia does not want an ini­tial U.N. Se­cur­ity Coun­cil res­ol­u­tion on the dis­arm­a­ment plan to en­dorse armed strikes or oth­er pun­it­ive ac­tion for pos­sible non­com­pli­ance by Dam­as­cus, though it has not ruled out al­low­ing such au­thor­iz­a­tion at a later date, en­voys told the New York Times for a Tues­day art­icle. Mo­scow wields veto au­thor­ity on the 15-na­tion body.

The United States will “con­tin­ue to press” for a U.N. meas­ure that per­mits pun­it­ive steps, U.S. Sec­ret­ary of State John Kerry said in Tues­day com­ments re­por­ted by Re­u­ters. Syr­ia’s chem­ic­al dis­arm­a­ment “will hap­pen only with the United Na­tions passing a strong res­ol­u­tion. It will hap­pen with the en­force­ment of the world, with Rus­sia stand­ing by us in this ef­fort,” he said.

Still, the United States “re­serves the right to take mil­it­ary ac­tion” in­de­pend­ent of U.N. au­thor­iz­a­tion, State De­part­ment spokes­wo­man Jen Psaki told re­port­ers on Tues­day.

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