Syria, Sept 22: Assad Declares His Chemical Weapons — And Now?

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SUMMARY: Syria met the Saturday deadline, set under a US-Russia framework agreement, to disclose information about its chemical weapons stocks.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons will now review the information about the program, which is believed to have about 1,000 tons of toxins.

The OPCW will issue a report on the information, but what happens next inside Syria is unclear. The OPCW wants to inspect facilities before handover and destruction of the stocks, but disagreement persists over whether there will be enforcement if Damascus does not comply.

There is also a lack of clarity over the timetable. The US has said it expects full destruction of the chemical material by mid-2014, but Russia has not committed to that date. President Assad has said it will take a year for the process to be completed.

Some diplomats had said they hoped a Security Council resolution would be in place in time for the UN’s General Assembly meeting on Tuesday, but that now looks unlikely.


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Videos from Aleppo: Destruction Inside Ummayad Mosque, Street Market

The Ummayad Mosque, built from the 11th to 14th centuries, after its devastation during more than year of fighting in Aleppo:

And life goes on in street markets:

Russia FM Accuses US of “Blackmail” Over Chemical Weapons Plan

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has declared, “Our American partners are beginning to blackmail us” over the plan to inspect and destroy Syria’s chemical weapons.

Lavrov said the US, Britain and France — “blinded” by their objective of regime change — were threatening to stop work on the process unless Russia supports a United Nations resolution authorising military action in the event of non-compliance by Damascus.

The Foreign Minister said Russia could contribute a small detachment of observers to the inspection teams, with
Arab states and Turkey as part of the monitoring.

Video: 15 Insurgent Groups Near Damascus Unite as “4th Division”

Opposition Coalition: We Will Attend Peace Conference…If There is Transitional Government

The President of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, Ahmad Jarba, has said the Coalition is ready to attend an international “peace” conference in Geneva if it aims to establish a transitional government with full powers.

The US and Russia proposed the conference in April, but the opposition has been demanding a commitment that President Assad will step down from power.

In a letter to the United Nations Security Council on Thursday, Jarba said the coalition “reaffirms its willingness to engage in a future Geneva Conference” but “all parties must…agree that the purpose of the conference will be the establishment of a transitional government with full executive powers”.

Jarba also called on the Security Council to include enforcement in any resolution to destroy Assad’s chemical weapons and to take the “necessary measures” to impose a ceasefire and release thousands of activists from prison.

Reuters, which obtained a copy of the letter, does not indicate whether it repeated the condition for an Assad promise that he will give up power in advance of a conference.

Casualties

The Local Coordination Committees claim 80 people were killed on Saturday, including 30 in Hama Province, 13 in Damascus and its suburbs, 13 in Aleppo, and 12 in Daraa Province.

The Violations Documentation Center puts the number of dead at 73,765 since the conflict began in March 2011, an increase of 105 from Saturday. Of the dead, 55,305 are civilians, a rise of 63 from yesterday.

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9 COMMENTS

  1. Everything you always wanted to know about……

    Syria’s Crisis of Transition
    Chester Crocker, The National Interest
    http://nationalinterest.org/article/syrias-crisis-transition-8141?page=show

    Excerpt:
    AS OF this writing [March 2013], one can make a few tentative comments on Syria’s trajectory in comparison with these varied scenarios. First, successful repression by the Assad regime appears to have failed. Second, a scenario of de facto—let alone de jure—partition of the country would compound the turmoil already facing the region and thus would find little favor in Turkey, Iran or Iraq. Third, an outright victory by opposition forces that effectively blows away the regime is highly unlikely. Fourth, there is little chance of decisive external combat intervention on behalf of the opposition. Syrian mayhem appears unlikely to prompt a repetition of the kind of NATO/UN military action seen in the Balkans, and Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad knows it.

    One implication of these observations is that Syria’s best chance lies in the possibility of an internationally led, negotiated transition that is subject to some measure of external monitoring or peacekeeping (UN/Arab League). The key to such an outcome would hinge on American and Russian negotiators with the assistance of UN–Arab League special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, the veteran Algerian mediator. To be sure, none of the above scenarios will be an exact “fit” for Syria. Something approaching scenario (vii)* may be the best hope.

    * (vii) prolonged strife that prompts powerfully backed, externally led negotiations leading to an internationally monitored transition and elections (Namibia, 1988–1991; Liberia, 2003–2005; Mozambique, 1990–1994; El Salvador, 1992–1994).

  2. Syria: life in the rebel strongholds
    Robin Yassin-Kassab, The Guardian (14 August)
    After more than two years of bloodshed the Syrian conflict is no closer to a resolution. Author Robin Yassin-Kassab takes a personal journey into the troubled nation
    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/aug/14/syria-life-in-the-rebel-strongholds

    Excerpt:
    The media image of the liberated areas suggests the regime has been replaced by heavy-handed militias. At least in Idlib province (Aleppo has suffered much more from thuggery, corruption and Islamist fanaticism, a fact much lamented by the activists and fighters I spoke to), it is not like that at all. No checkpoint stopped us. The men with guns were locals and were considered protectors, not oppressors.

    Many men have fought. They fight for a while, then take time off to visit their families in the camps or to harvest the fields (those that haven’t been burned). Most have no political aim other than defending themselves by ending the regime. Some are Islamists, usually moderate and democratic. One such is Abu Abdullah who, before his leg injury, fought with the rebel group Liwa al-Islam in Douma in the Damascus suburbs. He shocked me with his statement: “We aren’t fighting for freedom, but for Islam.” But the follow-up was more reassuring. “Europe,” he said, “is implementing Islam without being aware of it. It educates its people, it respects their rights, there’s one law for all.”

    This is an Islamist who shakes hands with unveiled women and opines that Christians often have more self-respect than Muslims. He doesn’t fight for “freedom” because to him the word means people doing anything they like, regardless of the rights of others. His vision of an Islamic state is one compatible with democracy; it wouldn’t enforce dress codes or ideological allegiances because (he quotes the Qur’an) “there is no compulsion in religion”.

    As for the foreign fighters, Abu Abdullah, like everybody I spoke to, views them with disdain. Syria has enough men, he told me. Syria needs weapons, not men. Foreigners only cause problems. They increase the sectarian element, as Assad and Iran want. They ruin the revolution’s reputation. In any case, most of them aren’t fighting but resting, waiting for “the next stage”.

    • Too bad no one tells the foreign fighters to stop by Iran. They would be out of the way of the Syrian revolution but stirring up trouble for the major foreign enemy of the Syrian people. It would be nice if the Iranian Ayatollahs had something to keep them busy at home and it might just restart the 2009 instability.

  3. TONY BADRAN REPORTS PUTIN IS PRESSURING OBAMA INTO EVEN MORE CONCESSIONS THAT WOULD GIVEN AWAY THE STORE & WHITE HOUSE HINTS HE MAY ACCEPT

    With no need to do so, the deal would needlessly sell out US national security interests, along with those of our European and Arab alllies, while allowing Iran and Russia a free hand to supply the regime with men and equipment.

    https://now.mmedia.me/lb/en/commentaryanalysis/obamas-new-credibility-gap

    I’ve made an alternate proposal of my own which makes sense because it would deal with the Al Queda problem and leave Assad and all those who aided him as losers rather than winners. It is the lead to my roundup today.

    http://iranian.com/posts/view/post/21255

    SOME ITEMS OF INTEREST IN THE ABOVE ROUNDUP:

    –Rebels have launched another offensive–this one south of Aleppo near the airport and Al Safira. Like the one north of Hama, it has started off with a bang–seven towns captured, many tanks destroyed, lots of regime casualties.

    –A video shows the new Ghost Battalions in action against a unit which reportedly contained quite a few “wanted men.” They quietly slip inside foxhole afer foxhole seizing guys without firing a shot or making a sound, capturing soldiers, shabihha and a shabiha commander.

    –Interesting video of a rebel sniper picking off a regime soldier involved in looting.

  4. Syrian opposition call Rouhani’s mediation offer “laughable”

    http://www.aawsat.net/2013/09/article55317621

    Rejecting the offer, the opposition coalition said the proposal “lacked credibility” and was “laughable” because Iran was “part of the problem.”

    In a related issue, a senior Kremlin official, Sergei Ivanov, said on Saturday that Russia would stop supporting Assad if it learned he was being deceitful about the chemical weapons program. The Russian Interfax news agency quoted his as saying that “what I am saying now is theoretical and hypothetical, but if we one day became certain that Assad was being deceitful, our position would change.”

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