Syria at­tack is a warn­ing on Iran — & NoKo

New York Post - - NEWS - BENNY AVNI Twit­ter @ben­nyavni

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.

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