Less than one month after the massacre of August 21, on the outskirts of Damascus, United Nations weapons inspectors have issued a report finding high levels of Sarin gas in the tissue of victims, both living and dead, and throughout the blast site where one or more delivery projectiles fell. Most significantly, the report says the chemical agent was delivered by a military-grade missile, a weapon only the Syrian regime could have used, inside of Syria.
In delivering the report to the world press, the inspectors say there is now “absolutely no doubt” that the regime of Bashar al-Assad launched a chemical weapons attack against civilians. More than 1,000 people were killed, including more than 400 children. The attack is the largest-scale chemical weapons attack confirmed by on-the-ground testing since Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons against the people of Hallabja, in 1988.
Assad agreed just one week before the report’s findings to surrender all of his chemical weapons to international control, for their secure destruction. The disarmament process is now in the negotiating stages, with the Russian Federation, under the leadership of Pres. Vladimir Putin, working to build global support for a negotiated settlement and a multilateral, non-military solution to the crisis. The United States has placed strict conditions on the strength of the forthcoming UN Security Council resolution.
First of all, the US wants the disarmament process to be truly multilateral, and to begin immediately. Second, the resolution must call for the use of military force against the regime of Bashar al-Assad, should he not comply in full with all conditions of the international ban on chemical weapons, which he signed last week, and the UN Security Council resolution.
There is intense pressure on the US and French presidents to seek war crimes charges against Assad, even as the Russian president appears to be seeking some means of securing Assad’s position as Syrian head of state. It may be that the filing of war crimes charges may hinge on the disarmament process, though there will be third-party requests at The Hague to demand the arrest and prosecution of the Syrian dictator.
With more than 2 million people having fled the Syrian civil war, many nations are now laboring to cope with the strain of refugees in need. Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Palestine, and even Italy, are dealing with large numbers of direct arrivals. Germany and other nations are negotiating the arrival of asylum seekers, and the United Nations has issued an urgent plea for assistance from donor nations and other international backers.