Issue of chemical weapons in Syria, a guise for parties to blame each other

Wednesday, 2018-11-28 16:30:56
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A woman lies on a stretcher inside a hospital after what the Syrian state media said was a suspected toxic gas attack in Aleppo, Syria November 24, 2018. (Reuters)
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NDO – Russia has recently sent chemical experts to the Syrian city of Aleppo to investigate suspicions of the Syrian insurgents using chemical weapons. As everything is still in a state of “ambiguity”, the issue of chemical weapons has been used by the parties as a guise to blame each other. And, the true victims of the war are still the innocent civilians.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) says it will investigate the alleged use of chemical weapons in Aleppo after Syria’s state news agency reported that rebel forces had fired projectiles containing chlorine into the two neighbouring areas of Aleppo, leaving 100 people wounded. About 107 people were hospitalised with breathing difficulties and specific symptoms of intoxication. The OPCW has contacted with the United Nations Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS) to decide whether to send an investigation team to the scene or not. However, this is not the first time that there have been allegations of use of chemical weapons in Syria. The United States has also repeatedly stated that the Syrian government uses these types of weapons, although no objective independent investigations have shown any clear conclusions thus far. Russia has accused the US and its allies a number of times of creating fake scenes and making chemical weapons an excuse to oppose the Syrian government and to realise their targets in the Middle East country.

The aforementioned attack causing huge casualties in Aleppo occurred in the context of new developments in the Syrian battlefield. Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said it was a plot to undermine the Syrian normalisation process. In the field, supported by Russian air forces, the Syrian government troops have taken great strides, with hard victories in the south. The complexion of the war has changed rapidly as President Bashar al-Assad’s troops have currently reclaimed control over 95% of the Syrian territory. The failure of the insurgents also means a weakening of the role played by the US which inherently backs the opposition in Syria.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accused the US of making the attempt to kill terrorists of the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) an excuse for its continuous military presence in Syria. To clarify this point, the Russian diplomat recalled a recent statement made by the US Department of State which said that the IS had not completely failed and that a prerequisite to defeat this terrorist group was a change in the ruling government in Syria. Russia affirmed that Washington sees the anti-IS efforts as an excuse for its military presence in Syria and even “considers the IS almost an ally in the war aimed at the Syrian government”. Moscow pointed out Washington’s primary goal of changing the regime in Syria, not defeating the IS. According to the Russian side, the US has an “implicit agenda” in Syria, in addition to the public goal of destroying terrorism in the Middle East nation.

As the Syrian opposition has lost ground, in order to achieve its goals in this battlefield, the US seems to be merely counting on the Kurdish forces. However, Washington’s logistical support and arms provision to the Kurds in Syria have faced strong protests from Turkey. Ankara recently criticised the US plan to set up observatories in northern Syria on the grounds that it would help prevent conflicts between Turkish forces and Kurdish militias. Ankara said these measures would only further complicate the situation, while frankly stating that it would not hesitate to take the necessary measures to deal with the possible risks and threats arising from the US’s establishment of observatories on the other side of the border.

Successive victories on the battlefield have helped the Syrian army take advantage, aiming to liberate Idlib province, which covers an area of about 6,000 square kilometres and is the last major stronghold of tens of thousands of militants. The effective support for the Syrian army has given Russia a firm hold on the “Syrian chessboard”. As a result, any new developments on this battlefield will leave Russia and the Syrian government in suspicion of attempts to “reverse the game” from the opposition.