Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Chlorine gas used in Syria this month?...what happened to the chemical weapons accord?

If there is not enough turbulence swirling around the world's political events, with a Jewish mayor being shot in the back in a city in eastern Ukraine, the Prime Minister of South Korea resigning over the mishandling of the ferry disaster where hundreds of adolescents and their adult mentors died and many will never be found, word comes out of Syria on two despicable fronts:
1) Assad has declared he will run in the upcoming elections
2) evidence points to chlorine gas attacks by the government this month in direct contravention of the agreement to dispose of all chemical weapons by Assad, by the end of June.
 (Reuters) - Chlorine gas attacks in Syria this month, if proven, expose a major loophole in an international deal to remove chemical weapons from the war-torn country and suggest chemical warfare could persist after the removal operation has finished.
President Bashar al-Assad agreed with the United States and Russia to dispose of his chemical weapons - an arsenal that Damascus had never previously formally acknowledged - after hundreds of people were killed in a sarin gas attack on the outskirts of the capital last August.
Washington and its Western allies said it was Assad's forces who unleashed the nerve agent, in the world's worst chemical attack in a quarter-century. The government blamed the rebel side in Syria's civil war, which is now in its fourth year.
Syria has vowed to hand over or destroy its entire arsenal by the end of this week, but still has roughly 14 percent of the chemicals it declared to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
In addition, chlorine gas that was never included on the list submitted to the OPCW is now allegedly being used on the battlefield, leading some countries to consider requesting an investigation, possibly through the United Nations.
Attacks this month in several areas of the country share characteristics that have led analysts to believe that there is a coordinated chlorine campaign, with growing evidence that it is the government side dropping the bombs. (By Oliver Holmes, Syria's chemical weapons wild card: chlorine gas, Reuters, April 22, 2014)
The question of trust hangs over the continuing conflict in Syria. Does anyone except Putin trust Assad?
Does anyone but Assad trust Putin?
This little cozy relationship is proving to be quite dangerous, apparently, given the kind of fall-out emerging from both the chemical weapons accord, and the Geneva accord, also including Putin on Ukraine.
And if the actions of those with whom the world has to negotiate counter the words of those people, as evidence in both arenas (Syria and Ukraine) seems to suggest, then what kind of confidence can the rest of us have in the work being done behind closed doors by our representatives.
Trust and verify used to be the mantra of President Ronald Reagan over nuclear weapons treaties.
Now it would seem that both sides of that mantra are in tatters, simply because the political rhetoric has dropped to a very low level of authenticity and expectation in too many quarters.
If we cannot trust the words of those with whom we negotiate, then one has to ask why are we sitting at the table with the expectation that any agreement will be worth its salt afterwards.
Given the level of espionage and cyber-scrutiny of which all major countries are capable, many details are piling up into mountains of evidence that would seem to assure that no signatory to any international agreement would risk sabotaging such agreements.
However, brazen disregard for the responsibility for following through on commitments, linked to excessive ambition and narcissism that "because we can, we will" has also crept into the unconscious of too many people in power, and the result is a system in which the public no longer takes seriously.
Observers in Ukraine are detained, and then released in a drip-by-drip fashion as if those detaining were clinging to their power by abuse of their hostages. Documents signed in Geneva are later trashed in the streets in eastern Ukraine. Today, word from Moscow is that Putin has told the Pentagon that he has no intention of invading Ukraine.
Take that to the bank, and I have some wonderful swamp-land  I would like to offer you in Florida.
We are not only living on a precipice with the unravelling of events that seem to be taking on a life of their own and will move in directions and toward outcomes no one wants. We are also living in a time when those responsible for leading our political negotiations are demonstrating that they care only for what they need to do to advance their personal agendas and that words are merely another of the 'bullets' in their arsenals.
When words replace bullets, shattering their own veracity and authenticity, while the conflict may shed less blood, in the end we will be further behind than when we began, because those denigrating the commitments they have made will also be laughing at our gullibility and our naivety and our demonstrated innocence, while they drink to their own macho bravado, at our expense.
Coming clean, if it is not demonstrated by those in leadership, will inevitably become a way of life for those of us observing from afar. And the stakes are too high to risk such irresponsibility.

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