Syria attack is a warning on Iran — & NoKo
SYRIA is proving a thorn in the side of those who wish to claim that UN-led inspections can banish the use of banned weapons of war.
After the suspected Syrian chemical attack in Douma, Bashar al-Assad and his patrons in Moscow called for inspections by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. According to Russia, the Douma incident, in which nearly 100 mostly noncombatants reportedly died with symptoms consistent with a gas attack, was staged by British agents. The OPCW would prove it. That didn’t convince Washington, and a US-led bombing of the sites took place over the weekend.
But as international inspectors arrived in Damascus on Monday, Russian and Syrian officials told them “there were still pending security issues to be worked out before any deployment could take place,” according to the group’s director general, Ahmet Üzümcü.
In the meantime, Üzümcü’s inspectors were offered interviews with 22 regime-approved “witnesses” from Douma — to take place in Damascus, presumably while chemical traces were being scrubbed from Douma.
The Assad regime has played hide-and-seek with inspectors ever since it signed the 2013 deal to destroy its chemical arsenal. That agreement saved the regime from retaliatory strikes by the Obama administration and ceded a large part of America’s influence to Russia.
It was in vain, as Assad’s continued use of chemical weapons proves.
Of course, Russia doesn’t see it that way. On Saturday, Moscow’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia cited the Iraq WMD debacle, and told the Security Council to ignore our intel and rely on UN inspectors instead.
The chemical-weapons sites America bombed Friday night, Nebenzia said, were inspected recently. And with “unimpeded access” to all facilities, he said, the OPCW “experts didn’t find any traces of activity that would contravene the chemical-weapons convention.”
Unimpeded? As UK UN Ambassador Karen Pierce noted, Üzümcü reported to the council after his visit that he “still has unanswered questions and discrepancies.” Back in 2014, then-Secretary of State John Kerry boasted that “we struck a deal where we got 100 percent of the chemical weapons out” of Syria. Unlike Kerry, OPCW initially reported the weapons only were out of Syria’s “declared” chemical sites.
That’s because the inspectors depend on their host countries for access.
And chemical warfare has long been a major component of the Syrian army’s military doctrine. Assad never really intended to end his reliance on sarin and other banned gases, or chlorine, which is permitted for water purification but is a no-no on the battlefield.
But back to Iraq: Yes, Western intel got it wrong — but the widely held belief that Iraq possessed WMDs stemmed from numerous reports by UN inspection teams that Baghdad blocked access to suspected sites. If Saddam Hussein violated Security Council resolutions and blocked inspectors, we concluded, he must be hiding something.
Once bitten twice shy, however. Now we’re told with a straight face that we can trust the International Atomic Energy Agency’s “confirmation” that Iran is “in full compliance” with the deal.
But read the IAEA reports, and you’ll find that, as in Syria’s case, inspectors rely on Tehran for access. As one example, when Iran says military sites should be offlimits (except for a one-time self-inspection), the IAEA has no choice but to forgo inspections there.
The IAEA’s only successful inspections, in fact, were in countries that truly wanted to be rid of nukes, like South Africa and some former Soviet satellites.
But, as in Syria’s case, inspections are useless if a country wants them to be. While Assad, with the full backing of Russia and Iran, got a gold star from the nonproliferation crowd, he managed to preserve his chemical capabilities that continue to provide shocking images of his brutality.
The ayatollahs in Iran, similarly, know they can have their yellow cake and eat it, too.
Expect the same nonproliferation crowd to advise President Trump to accept a North Korean denuclearization proposal at next month’s summit with Kim Jong-un that, like the Swiss cheese Iran and Syria deals, relies on international inspectors to verify it. If Trump has learned anything from the debacle in Syria, he won’t fall for it.
And how did that work out? UN inspectors cross into Syria in 2013.