says "details buried in the UN report point directly to elite military formations loyal to President Bashar al-Assad".
Here in the midst of the "information age" we are implicated in a "war of dis-information" with both sides doing what local politicians have been doing for centuries: throwing mud at their opponents.
And now the proxy war takes on ever more complications, similar to a "he said"...."she said" dispute in a divorce case in a courtroom.
However, the case of Syria has now drawn both the U.S. and Russia so deeply into a war of propaganda, it is highly unlikely the world will be able to discern the culpability of the parties for decades.
Meanwhile, every day dozens of Syrian people are being bombed, shelled, evicted from their homes and uprooted from their livelihood. As one caller to a recent NPR radio program put it, "What is the difference between being dead as a result of chemical weapons or as a result of a bomb attack?"
Of course there is a chemical weapons treaty that bans the use of chemical weapons, a treaty that Syria now says it will sign, provided the U.S. refrains from a military attack.
Will the UN Security Council have to become the "court of last resort" in discerning culpability?
That, apparently is not in its mandate.
Will the UN Security Council agree to include a Chapter V11 clause permitting the use of force, should Assad fail in his commitments to disclose the locations of all of his stockpile of chemical weapons or stop at a Chapter V1 clause which imposes sanctions that stop short of military action?
And as in domestic relations, so in public affairs, perceptions are provocative of human decisions and the actions resulting therefrom. Those tending to support one recounting of the evidence will favour an interpretation of responsibility that points to their proverbial enemy, and vice versa for those on the other side. Effectively, it will be public opinion in the several countries whose foreign ministers are carrying the freight for their respective populations in this dispute, the UK, the US, France, and eventually the EU.
Notice, however, the absence of any public strong sounds from Bejing...while opposing the previous US attempts to achieve a Security Council resolution that included a Chapter V11 clause.
There is a clear cultural difference in the approaches to the Syrian crisis: that of the "west" to that of the "east".
Typified by the US, the west prefers action over reflection. It has a much shorter attention span and a might higher discomfort with ambiguity, patience, and research. In fact, so embedded in an empirical, objective, somewhat sensational and melodramatic perception of the universe is the west, to varying degrees, that we even have police forces using the motto "deeds not words"....as if to say that only through taking action will those officers be adjudicated for promotion.
Nevertheless, while action and reflection are both required in most complex situations, the west is ill-equipped, both individually and institutionally, for sober reflection.
Grabbing the spotlight, as Putin did, (and according to former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger who appeared this week on CNN's GPS with Fareed Zakaria, we learn that Putin shares a fear of Islamic fundamentalism and the potential proliferation of chemical weapons in Chechnya) may put Putin back onto the world stage, where everyone can and will see the Russian leader playing a pivotal role in these delicate and complicated negotiations, replete with their accompanying propaganda campaign, respective to each side. However, there is a real danger that Putin may not be able to "deliver" on the promises made to him by Assad, should Assad's hold on power become so tenuous that he throws his Russian ally 'under the bus'...as the vernacular puts it.
One has to assume that, if we are getting conflicting reports of culpability in the public media, there are even more detailed communications in private between and among the players in the media campaign.
Even the commander of the rebel forces has now entered the media blitz with a scathing indictment of the Russian alliance with Assad, while also giving the US media some crumbs of petition for more help, accompanied with gratitude for the meager assistance already proffered by the US to his forces.
However, if, as reports suggest, the most effective fighters in the Syrian conflict on the ground are the AlQaeda affiliates, and if the rebels are joining them because of their inherent combative effectiveness, there is a very real and pressing danger that they will already have secured intelligence about the locations of Assad's chemical weapons, and already have pilfered some of them out of his control.
And that is a prospect that humanity cannot tolerate.
And one has to wonder which of the plethora of voices in this entanglement speaks for humanity....
Is that not one of the serious dangers in the conflict that there are just too many competing, conflicting and irreconcilable voices with too many different yet over-lapping ambitions, motives and perceptions?
Iran and Hezbollah also have a "dog in this fight" and their interests cannot be shouldered solely by Putin and Lavrov....just as Israel's interests cannot and must not be solely resting on US shoulders.
Both sides need allies, and one of those allies is "public opinion" on the world stage...and really the only way to secure that support is to cut through the rhetoric and start telling the full truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth....and we have to depend on the international "fourth estate" to stake out an independence and a courage that speaks for the long-term, humane and compassionate resolution of the dispute and the termination of the bloodshed.
Are they and their editors up to the task?
We will be watching.
From the BBC website, September 18, 2013
Syria has given Russia new "material evidence" that opposition fighters in the Syrian conflict have used chemical weapons, a Russian minister has said.Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov also said a report by UN inspectors on the alleged use of chemical weapons was "politicised, biased and one-sided".
He said the inspectors had only looked at evidence of an alleged attack on 21 August, not three previous incidents.
The UN team found that the nerve agent Sarin was used in the 21 August attack.
The report, however, did not apportion blame for the attack but Western nations blame the government forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Damascus - backed by Russia - says opposition forces are to blame.
By C.J. Chivers, New York Times, September 17, 2013
Details buried in the United Nations report on the Syrian chemical weapons attack point directly at elite military formations loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, some of the strongest findings to date that suggest the government gassed its own people.
“It is the center of gravity of the regime,” said Elias Hanna, a retired general in the Lebanese Army and a lecturer on strategy and geopolitics at the American University of Beirut. “It is the core of the regime.”