What Just Hap­pened?

Tehran Times - - ANALYSIS & INTERVIEW - By Eric Zuesse

MOD­ERN DIPLO­MACY - What hap­pened right af­ter the sec­ond di­rect U.S.-mis­siles in­va­sion of Syria, which had oc­curred on the night of April 13th, could turn out to have mo­men­tous im­pli­ca­tions — far big­ger than the at­tacks them­selves.

The Or­gan­i­sa­tion for the Pro­hi­bi­tion of Chem­i­cal Weapons head­lined on April 14th, in the wake of this U.S.-UKFrance in­va­sion of Syria that was al­legedly pun­ish­ing Syria’s Gov­ern­ment for al­legedly hav­ing used chem­i­cal weapons in its bomb­ing in the town of Douma on April 7th, “OPCW Fact-Find­ing Mis­sion Con­tin­ues De­ploy­ment to Syria”, and re­ported that:

The Fact-Find­ing Mis­sion (FFM) team of the Or­gan­i­sa­tion for the Pro­hi­bi­tion of Chem­i­cal Weapons (OPCW) will con­tinue its de­ploy­ment to the Syr­ian Arab Repub­lic to es­tab­lish facts around the al­le­ga­tions of chem­i­cal weapons use in Douma.

The OPCW has been work­ing in close col­lab­o­ra­tion with the United Na­tions Depart­ment of Safety and Se­cu­rity to as­sess the sit­u­a­tion and en­sure the safety of the team.

This means that the ef­fort by the U.S. and its al­lies on the U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil, to squash that in­ves­ti­ga­tion, has failed at the OPCW, even though the ef­fort had been suc­cess­ful at block­ing U.N. sup­port for that spe­cific in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The OPCW is not part of the U.N., nor of any coun­try; it, in­stead (as in­tro­duced by Wikipedia): is an in­ter­gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tion and the im­ple­ment­ing body for the Chem­i­cal Weapons Con­ven­tion, which en­tered into force on 29 April

1997. The OPCW, with its 192 mem­ber states, has its seat in The Hague, Nether­lands, and over­sees the global en­deav­our for the per­ma­nent and ver­i­fi­able elim­i­na­tion of chem­i­cal weapons.

In con­form­ity with the un­chal­lenged in­ter­na­tional con­sen­sus that ex­isted dur­ing the 1990s that there was no longer any ba­sis for war be­tween the world’s ma­jor pow­ers, the Con­ven­tion sought and achieved a U.N. im­pri­matur, but this was only in or­der to in­crease its re­spect through­out the world. The OPCW is based not on the U.N. Char­ter but on that spe­cific treaty, the Chem­i­cal Weapons Con­ven­tion, which was for­mally ap­proved by the U.N.’s Gen­eral Assem­bly on 30 Novem­ber 1992 and was then opened for sig­na­tures in Paris on 13 Jan­uary 1993. Ac­cord­ing to the Con­ven­tion’s terms, it would enter into ef­fect

180 days af­ter 65 na­tions signed it, which turned out to be on

29 April 1997.

So, al­though the treaty it­self re­ceived U.N. ap­proval, the re­cent Rus­sian-spon­sored res­o­lu­tion at the U.N.’s Se­cu­rity Coun­cil to have the U.N. en­dorse the OPCW’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the 7 April 2018 Douma in­ci­dent, did not re­ceive U.N. ap­proval. It was in­stead blocked by the U.S. and its al­lies. Nonethe­less, though with­out a U.N. en­dorse­ment, the OPCW in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the in­ci­dent will move for­ward, de­spite the in­va­sion. This fact is mo­men­tous, be­cause a cred­i­ble in­ter­na­tional in­spec­tion, by the world’s top in­ves­ti­ga­tory agency for such mat­ters, will con­tinue to com­ple­tion, not­with­stand­ing the ef­fort by the U.S. and its al­lies on the U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil, to block it al­to­gether. This de­ci­sion was reached by the OPCW — not by the U.N.

Among the 192 sign­ers of the Chem­i­cal Weapons Con­ven­tion are U.S., Rus­sia, and Syria, as well as China, Iran, and Iraq, but not Is­rael, nor North Korea and a very few other coun­tries. So: all of the ma­jor pow­ers have al­ready, in ad­vance, ap­proved what­ever the find­ings by the OPCW turn out to be. Those find­ings are ex­pected to de­ter­mine whether a chem­i­cal at­tack hap­pened in Douma on 7 April 2018, and, if so, then per­haps what the spe­cific banned chem­i­cal(s) was(were), but not nec­es­sar­ily who was re­spon­si­ble for it if it ex­isted. For ex­am­ple, if the ‘rebels’ had stored some of their chem­i­cal weapons at that build­ing and then Syria’s Gov­ern­ment bombed that build­ing, the OPCW might not be able to de­ter­mine who is to blame, even if they do de­ter­mine that there was a chem­i­cal at­tack and the chem­i­cal com­po­si­tion of it. In other words: sci­ence can­not nec­es­sar­ily an­swer all of the ques­tions that might be le­gal-foren­si­cally nec­es­sary in or­der to de­ter­mine guilt, if a crime did, in fact, oc­cur, there.

If the in­ves­ti­ga­tion does find that a banned chem­i­cal was used and did cause in­juries or fa­tal­i­ties, then there is the pos­si­bil­ity that its find­ings will be con­sis­tent with the as­ser­tions by the U.S. and its al­lies who par­tic­i­pated in the April 13th in­va­sion. That would not nec­es­sar­ily jus­tify the in­va­sion, but it would prove the pos­si­bil­ity that there had been no ly­ing in­tent on the part of the U.S.-and-al­lied in­vaders on April 13th.

How­ever, if the in­ves­ti­ga­tion does not find that a banned chem­i­cal was used in the Syr­ian Gov­ern­ment’s bomb­ing of that build­ing, then in­con­tro­vert­ibly the U.S.-and-al­lied in­va­sion was a crim­i­nal one under in­ter­na­tional laws, though there may be no in­ter­na­tional court that pos­sesses the au­thor­ity to try the case.

So: what is at stake here from the OPCW in­ves­ti­ga­tion is not only the in­ter­na­tional le­git­i­macy of Syria’s Gov­ern­ment, but the in­ter­na­tional le­git­i­macy of the Gov­ern­ments that in­vaded it on April 13th. These are ex­tremely high stakes, even if no court in the world will pos­sess the au­thor­ity to ad­ju­di­cate the guilt — ei­ther if the U.S. and its al­lies lied, or if the Syr­ian Gov­ern­ment lied.

For us his­to­ri­ans, this is very im­por­tant. And, for the gen­eral pub­lic, the sig­nif­i­cance goes much far­ther: to spe­cific Gov­ern­ments, to their al­leged news me­dia, and to the ques­tion of: What does it even mean to say that a gov­ern­ment is a “democ­racy” or a “dic­ta­tor­ship”? The find­ings from this in­ves­ti­ga­tion will re­ver­ber­ate far and wide, and long (if World War III doesn’t pre­vent any such find­ings at all).

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