Thursday, September 26, 2013

BEARDING PUTIN IN HIS DEN: Syria’s Chemical Weapons: The Russia Factor | Human Rights Watch

September 26, 2013

Russian diplomacy has dramatically changed the trajectory of Western response to the Syria crisis and put the Kremlin at the center of international negotiations to control Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal. But the Russian government’s insistence that chemical weapons were used by rebel forces now places it on the fringes of a serious debate over what to do next to end the atrocities in that embattled country.

In his op-ed for the New York Times, President Putin made the case for pursuing diplomacy over military strikes in Syria. He also wrote that there is “every reason to believe” the attack was carried out by opposition forces to provoke a Western military intervention.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has continued to claim that the “obscure case of the August 21” attack was “clearly fabricated.” Last week in Damascus, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov announced that Russia would be analyzing new “evidence” from the Syrian government that exonerates their forces for the attack.

Syrian opposition forces are indeed responsible for serious crimes in their conduct of war, including attacks against civilians, summary executions, kidnappings, torture, and other abuses. They include extremist Islamist elements that should be of real concern. But they are not responsible for the August 21 chemical weapons attack, and a review of the evidence demonstrates that.

The United Nations inspection team remains the only independent group to have accessed the site of the attacks. When US military strikes against Syria appeared imminent, Russian diplomats urged the world to wait for the UN inspectors’ report. But now that the report points clearly to Syrian government responsibility for the attack, the same officials are dismissing it as “politicized,” ”biased,” and “one-sided.”

UN inspectors were able to visit sites and interview victims and eyewitnesses, but it was not within their mandate to state explicitly who they thought was responsible. But they have provided substantial evidence of Syrian government responsibility, and that evidence is backed up by a 21-page research report by Human Rights Watch, an independent, nongovernmental organization......

FULL ARTICLE HERE: Syria’s Chemical Weapons: The Russia Factor | Human Rights Watch

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