Doubts Persist on Syria Chem Probe as U.N. Team Reaches Damascus

Global Security Newswire Staff
See more stories about...
Global Security Newswire Staff
Aug. 19, 2013, 10:02 a.m.

A 20-per­son U.N. team reached Dam­as­cus on Sunday to as­sess the vera­city of claims that chem­ic­al arms have been em­ployed in Syr­ia’s civil war, the As­so­ci­ated Press re­por­ted.

The group is ex­pec­ted to launch its in­vest­ig­a­tion on Monday, ac­cord­ing to com­ments re­leased by U.N. Sec­ret­ary Gen­er­al Ban Ki-moon’s of­fice. U.N. of­fi­cials have said the probe will steer clear of as­sign­ing blame for any chem­ic­al strikes in the Syr­i­an con­flict, which have res­ul­ted in up­wards of an es­tim­ated 100 deaths. Con­ven­tion­al at­tacks in the two-year-old civil war have claimed more than 100,000 lives.

In­spect­ors are to travel to the town of Khan al-As­sal, the site of an al­leged March 19 sar­in nerve gas at­tack that Pres­id­ent Bashar As­sad’s re­gime has blamed on rebel forces. The op­pos­i­tion, in turn, has pinned the re­por­ted strike on the gov­ern­ment, the New York Times re­por­ted on Sunday.

The oth­er two in­spec­tion sites re­main un­dis­closed, but dip­lo­mats pre­vi­ously iden­ti­fied them to Agence France-Presse as Atay­bah, where a chem­ic­al at­tack is al­leged to have taken place in March, and Homs, re­portedly the tar­get of a chem­ic­al as­sault last Decem­ber.

A Syr­i­an dip­lo­mat said the gov­ern­ment wants “this team to find facts on ground, es­pe­cially about what happened in Khan al-As­sal.” Dam­as­cus is un­aware of “any oth­er cases” of chem­ic­al arms use in the coun­try, Syr­i­an Deputy For­eign Min­is­ter Fais­al Mek­dad told AP.

France, the United King­dom and United States have sub­mit­ted data ty­ing in­cid­ents of chem­ic­al-weapon use to the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment, and the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion linked its June an­nounce­ment of plans to arm op­pos­i­tion fight­ers with find­ings that As­sad’s forces had car­ried out sar­in nerve agent strikes. Syr­i­an res­ist­ance mem­bers and re­gion­al en­voys said U.S. arms had yet to reach any rebels, the Los Angeles Times re­por­ted on Sat­urday.

Louay Meqdad, spokes­man for the rebels’ West­ern-backed Su­preme Mil­it­ary Coun­cil, ar­gued that the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment would likely try to lead chem­ic­al in­vest­ig­at­ors astray, AP re­por­ted.

“This re­gime that has done everything from chan­ging signs with the names of areas to fab­ric­at­ing evid­ence with past del­eg­a­tions will do the same with this one,” he said.

The con­flict’s shift­ing battle lines have raised ques­tions about the safety of the U.N. in­vest­ig­at­ors, the New York Times re­por­ted. Op­pos­i­tion forces have prom­ised the U.N. team ac­cess to Khan al-As­sal, which they cap­tured in Ju­ly, ac­cord­ing to a rebel com­mand­er who spoke to the news­pa­per un­der a pseud­onym. The in­sider said he and oth­er rebels fear the U.N. in­spect­ors are As­sad re­gime “con­spir­at­ors.”

What We're Following See More »
STAFF PICKS
What the Current Crop of Candidates Could Learn from JFK
15 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Maher Weighs in on Bernie, Trump and Palin
16 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

“We haven’t seen a true leftist since FDR, so many millions are coming out of the woodwork to vote for Bernie Sanders; he is the Occupy movement now come to life in the political arena.” So says Bill Maher in his Hollywood Reporter cover story (more a stream-of-consciousness riff than an essay, actually). Conservative states may never vote for a socialist in the general election, but “this stuff has never been on the table, and these voters have never been activated.” Maher saves most of his bile for Donald Trump and Sarah Palin, writing that by nominating Palin as vice president “John McCain is the one who opened the Book of the Dead and let the monsters out.” And Trump is picking up where Palin left off.

Source:
×