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Mainstream, VOL LI, No 43, October 12, 2013

Russian Proposal enjoys Global Support to the Chagrin of Warmongers

Monday 14 October 2013, by Benjamin Todd

Russia’s proposal to bring Syrian chemical weapons under control has been supported by the international community and several countries precisely because it has been regarded as a viable alternative to the US’ military project. The implementation of this proposal would help avoid the spread of the conflict in West Asia—a scenario too horrendous to even imagine for most of the states which wholeheartedly oppose such an outcome so as to prevent it from becoming a reality. Russia’s initiative enjoys the backing of the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, as also the General Secretary of the League of Arab States. The leaders and political elites of the Western nations, who are concerned over the escalation of the anti-war protests, have also joined in discussing the proposal in a bid to reduce the political tensions in their respective states. This initiative does indeed create conditions favourable to impart impetus to a peaceful settlement of the conflict and enable the UN to play a more active role in exploring ways and means to politically resolve the conflict without treading the military path. With that objective the UN must contribute to the early convening of the “Geneva-2” peace conference and initiating the national political process in Syria.

Washington has undoubtedly demonstrated its willingness to support Russia’s proposal but that doesn’t mean that the Obama Administration has given up the idea of conducting military operations in Syria. It needs to be understood that officials in Washington and Tel-Aviv, supporting the military option, will continue to exert pressure on the US President so that he eventually exercises that option. Turkey and the Gulf countries have expressed extreme scepticism to the Russian proposal. It therefore cannot be ruled out that these states will try to carry out provocative actions only with the purpose of disrupting Russia’s plan so as to establish before the international community the impossibility of settling the conflict by peaceful and political means. But simultaneously the peace forces are also active to demonstrate their resolve to find political ways out of the crisis while thwarting the provocative acts being plotted by the hawks.

Against this overall backdrop it is imperative for the White House to appreciate the move of the Syrian Government which unconditionally accepted the Russian proposal without any reservation. This definitely offers an opportunity to break the deadlock and strike a new path away from the one that is fraught with unforeseen consequences. And behind all this one finds a total lack of political and public support in the US itself to military operations and war. In this situation the Obama Administration practically admitted its mistake of planning to launch immediate military operations by taking advantage of the “chemical attack” in Syria. This was evident in Obama’s vague TV address on September 10 wherein he desisted from clarifying the US strategy on Syria. It would thus be safe to preclude a scenario in which the US prepares a more detailed plan to bomb Syria while the international community searches for steps to bring Syrian chemical weapons under international control.

However, it would be a mistake to fix any time limit to bring Syrian chemical weapons under control. Some countries have already suggested to do so. It is clear that this process will require drawing up joint and coordinated actions under the sponsorship of UN structures for the successful implementation of the peaceful initiative. Use of chemical weapons requires careful and meticulous handling.

Syria has agreed to sign the CPCW and destroy its chemical weapons stockpile. This means that many international organisations with their mechanisms will be involved to implement the Russian initiative. The United Nations needs to play the leading role in this process and gradually build up its authority. The UN is the primary institution capable of preventing the bombing of the sovereign state.

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