White House Seeks U.N. Inquiry on Alleged New Syrian Chemical Strike

Global Security Newswire Staff
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Global Security Newswire Staff
Aug. 21, 2013, 10:02 a.m.

The White House on Wed­nes­day con­demned the pos­sible new use of chem­ic­al weapons in Syr­ia and called for a U.N. team now in the Middle East na­tion to in­vest­ig­ate with ur­gency.

“The United States is deeply con­cerned by re­ports that hun­dreds of Syr­i­an ci­vil­ians have been killed in an at­tack by Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment forces, in­clud­ing by the use of chem­ic­al weapons, near Dam­as­cus earli­er today,” Josh Earn­est, Pres­id­ent Obama’s prin­cip­al deputy press sec­ret­ary, said in a re­leased state­ment. “We are work­ing ur­gently to gath­er ad­di­tion­al in­form­a­tion.”

The spokes­man called on “those re­spons­ible for the use of chem­ic­al weapons” to “be held ac­count­able.”

The White House said it form­ally was re­quest­ing that Swedish arms ex­pert Ake Sell­strom and his U.N.-sponsored team probe the new al­leg­a­tions. The in­vest­ig­at­ors ar­rived in the Middle East na­tion late last week to look in­to three claims of pri­or chem­ic­al-arms use.

“The U.N. in­vest­ig­at­ive team, which is cur­rently in Syr­ia, is pre­pared” to in­vest­ig­ate the latest pos­sible chem­ic­al as­sault, “and that is con­sist­ent with its pur­pose and man­date,” Earn­est said. “For the U.N.’s ef­forts to be cred­ible, they must have im­me­di­ate ac­cess to wit­nesses and af­fected in­di­vidu­als, and have the abil­ity to ex­am­ine and col­lect phys­ic­al evid­ence without any in­ter­fer­ence or ma­nip­u­la­tion from the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment.

“If the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment has noth­ing to hide and is truly com­mit­ted to an im­par­tial and cred­ible in­vest­ig­a­tion of chem­ic­al weapons use in Syr­ia,” the spokes­man ad­ded, “it will fa­cil­it­ate the U.N. team’s im­me­di­ate and un­fettered ac­cess to this site.”

Sell­strom earli­er in the day ex­pressed his own in­terest in in­vest­ig­at­ing the fresh al­leg­a­tions of a ma­jor tox­ic gas strike, say­ing that he would lead the in­quiry in­to the pos­sible new at­tack if na­tions from around the globe re­ques­ted it, the As­so­ci­ated Press re­por­ted.

Re­ports of massive cas­u­al­ties from the in­cid­ent “sound sus­pi­cious,” and it ap­pears to be “something we need to look in­to,” Sell­strom told SVT tele­vi­sion on Wed­nes­day. “It will de­pend on wheth­er any U.N. mem­ber state goes to the sec­ret­ary gen­er­al and says we should look at this event. We are in place,” Re­u­ters quoted him as say­ing.

U.N. Sec­ret­ary Gen­er­al Ban Ki-moon is “aware of the re­ports,” his of­fice tweeted. “We are try­ing to find out more.”

Syr­i­an Pres­id­ent Bashar As­sad’s gov­ern­ment has re­jec­ted rebel as­ser­tions that its forces launched chem­ic­al rock­et strikes on the out­skirts of Dam­as­cus, Re­u­ters said sep­ar­ately. Re­por­ted death tolls from the al­leged as­sault con­flic­ted, but reached in­to the hun­dreds and pos­sibly totaled more than 1,000.

Brit­ish For­eign Sec­ret­ary Wil­li­am Hag­ue said his coun­try would refer the in­cid­ent to the U.N. Se­cur­ity Coun­cil, and he urged the As­sad re­gime “to al­low im­me­di­ate ac­cess to the area for the U.N. team,” Re­u­ters re­por­ted. France, Ger­many, Tur­key and the 22-na­tion Ar­ab League each in­di­vidu­ally re­ques­ted that the United Na­tions ex­pand its in­vest­ig­a­tion to in­clude the latest claims.

Rus­sia also re­portedly called for a fair and pro­fes­sion­al in­vest­ig­a­tion in­to the new al­leged at­tack. For­eign Min­istry Spokes­man Al­ex­an­der Lukashev­icha said the in­cid­ent’s tim­ing sug­gests it is a “pre-planned pro­voca­tion.”

Former U.N. arms in­vest­ig­at­or Rolf Ekeus told Re­u­ters that “it would be very pe­cu­li­ar if it was the gov­ern­ment to do this at the ex­act mo­ment the in­ter­na­tion­al in­spect­ors come in­to the coun­try.”

“At the least, it wouldn’t be very clev­er,” he ad­ded. The latest event would be sim­pler to as­sess than the past al­leged strikes, be­cause “it is easi­er to do sampling and test­ing, and also to look at the vic­tims, if there are sick people or even dead people (on the scene),” the wire ser­vice sep­ar­ately quoted him as say­ing. “It is easi­er to get to doc­tors and get to the place where the event happened.”

A former European Uni­on In­sti­tute chem­ic­al weapons ana­lyst said he was “skep­tic­al” of pri­or chem­ic­al at­tack re­ports emer­ging from Syr­ia, but “it is clear that something ter­rible has happened” in the latest in­cid­ent.

“The scenes could not have been stage-man­aged,” he wrote in a Wed­nes­day blog post. “However, it is ex­tremely puzz­ling that gov­ern­ment forces would launch a chem­ic­al at­tack pre­cisely at the mo­ment when U.N. in­spect­ors are fi­nally in the coun­try to in­vest­ig­ate some of the earli­er al­leg­a­tions.”

Earn­est, the White House spokes­man, said Wash­ing­ton ad­di­tion­ally has “called for ur­gent con­sulta­tions in the U.N. Se­cur­ity Coun­cil to dis­cuss these al­leg­a­tions and to call for the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment to provide im­me­di­ate ac­cess to the U.N. in­vest­ig­at­ive team.”

The United States, he said, was ur­ging “all Syr­i­an parties in­clud­ing the gov­ern­ment and op­pos­i­tion, to provide im­me­di­ate ac­cess to any and all sites of im­port­ance to the in­vest­ig­a­tion and to en­sure se­cur­ity for the U.N. in­vest­ig­at­ive team.”

What We're Following See More »
BUT IS HE A YES VOTE?
Cornyn Attempting to Get McCain Back for Health Vote
7 minutes ago
THE LATEST
“TIME HAD RUN OUT” FOR ILL BABY
Charlie Gard’s Parents End Legal Fight
31 minutes ago
THE LATEST

"A lawyer representing Chris Gard and Connie Yates told the High Court 'time had run out' for the baby. Mr. Gard said it meant his 'sweet, gorgeous, innocent little boy' will not reach his first birthday on 4 August. 'To let our beautiful little Charlie go' is 'the hardest thing we'll ever have to do,' his mother said. Charlie's parents said they made the decision because a US doctor had told them it was now too late to give Charlie nucleoside therapy.

Source:
AGENCY SOUGHT TO DELAY IMPLEMENTATION
11 States Sue EPA Over Chemical Rule
33 minutes ago
THE DETAILS

"Eleven states have sued the Environmental Protection Agency over its June decision to delay implementation of a chemical safety rule" until 2019. "The state attorneys general, led by New York’s Eric Schneiderman (D), argue the rule is important for 'protecting our workers, first-responders and communities from chemical accidents' and should be allowed to take affect as planned by the Obama administration’s EPA.

Source:
ULTIMATUM ON ACA
Trump: You’re With Us Or Against Us
51 minutes ago
THE LATEST
$1.6 BILLION SET ASIDE FOR WALL
House Freedom Caucus Chair: Shutdown Over Wall Funding Unlikely
1 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) on Monday said that funding for President Trump's controversial border wall is unlikely to cause a government shutdown. 'The odds of a government shutdown are very minimal when it comes to that,' the conservative lawmaker said at an event in Washington, D.C. 'I do think the funding of the border wall will happen,' he added. Appropriators have set aside $1.6 billion to fund new wall and fencing sections on parts of the U.S.-Mexico border covering a few dozen miles."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login