Inside Syria

Solving Syria's chemical threat

Russia and the US have agreed on a plan to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons, but is full disarmament possible?

Last Modified: 15 Sep 2013 13:00
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Russians and Americans have agreed on a plan to eliminate the Syrian government's arsenal of chemical weapons. It is hoped this deal will avert a US strike on Syria, but whether it can rid the country of chemical weapons is unclear.

The diplomacy is all part of an effort to head off a crisis that began with a double attack on opposition-controlled areas of Ghouta on the outskirts of Damascus on August 21.

The Americans can talk as much as they want about having facts that they don't release. We remember Iraq, how it was played in the same way and then we found out that all this intelligence was false. So for them to start telling us now that yes, they have facts proving it was Assad's regime behind that attack but they don't want to release it - excuse me, this does not stand any more.

Alexander Nekrassov, a former Kremlin adviser

Human Rights Watch says its investigation found evidence that a nerve agent - most likely Sarin - was dropped on the area using surface to surface rockets. It seems clear that scores of people died, but the exact number is very much in dispute.

Most intelligence reports deem the US' figures of 1,429 as inflated.

The US report also puts the blame on the attack on the Syrian regime, but there is a lot of doubt about that. Matthew Hoh, a former foreign service officer and captain in the US Marine Corps, says his military contacts are pleading with him to expose the US intelligence being presented in the case for strikes on Syria.

"The intelligence being presented is cherry picked. It is misleading. It is not completely thorough. There is other evidence that contradicts what we’re being told," he said.

It is also a concern for US lawmakers, like Darrell Issa, who has been in security briefings with top level officials, including the director of National Intelligence, James Clapper.

"When asking specific questions about evidence that should be available director Clapper did not have the answers to that, the evidence, but told me that they're still developing it. I can't go into specifics but the fact that my questions led to a 'more is coming' should be a concern to everyone," Issa said.

But Republican Senator John McCain, who has been pushing for US intervention in Syria for years, has also been a part of the classified security briefings. He told Al Jazeera there is much more evidence against President Bashar al-Assad that has not been made public.

However, while the US has appeared to make up its mind that it was the regime, the Russians have the opposite theory. Russia's President Vladamir Putin wrote in an opinion piece for the New York Times newspaper:

"No one doubts that poison gas was used in Syria. But there is every reason to believe it was used not by the Syrian Army, but by opposition forces, to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons, who would be siding with the fundamentalists. Reports that militants are preparing another attack - this time against Israel - cannot be ignored."

There have been several reports of chemical weapon attacks in Syria by both sides over the last few months. But it is the government that is being blamed for most of the allegations.

So, who has Syria's chemical weapons? Who has used them? Will they really give up the chemical wepons? And what does it mean for the ongoing war in Syria?

Inside Syria, with presenter Jane Dutton, is joined by guests: Alexander Nekrassov, a former Kremlin adviser and Russian analyst; Ibrahim al-Marashi, a professor of Middle East History at California State University; and Marwan Kabalan, a Syrian analyst from the Doha Institute.

"Most Syrians would like more [action] by the international community, especially the Russians and the Americans, who managed over the past few days to have this deal on disarming the Syrian regime from its arsenal of chemical weapons. So most Syrians are asking this question: if they could actually agree on this very complicated issue, how can't they agree on putting more pressure on all sides - not only on the regime - in order to have a political process started, in order to have the killings stopped, in order to have a ceasefire?"

Marwan Kabalan, a Doha Institute analyst


Al Jazeera
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