As we learned late last night, the U.N. inspectors, who were sent to investigate the chemical attack in Syria that occurred on August 21, 2013, finally submitted their findings to the U.N. security council. With U.N. Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon of South Korea stating that the findings were "beyond doubt and beyond the pale" and clear evidence that a war crime had taken place. However, the U.N. report does not assign or address the issue of who was to blame for the attacks, and thus was largely a case of telling us what we already knew.
So with the U.N. now also confirming that chemical weapons had been used in Syria, and with the new Russian-American deal in place to deal with the issue; which demands that President Assad hand over an exhaustive list of his nation's chemical weapons stockpile to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), based in The Hague. The question that must now be addressed is whether or not President Assad will comply and hand over a exhaustive list of his nation's chemical weapons stockpile?
This is a question that from a historical perspective is very difficult to answer. This is because all recent accounts regarding Middle-East dictators complying with U.N. resolutions, would indicate that the answer to the question is a resounding no. With several dictatorships across the Middle-East, including Iraq (which defied 16 U.N. Council resolutions), Libya, and Iran (who has now defied 6 U.N. Council resolutions), refusing to comply to international demands and sentiment. With the first two situations leading to war, and the situation that is currently unfolding in Iran and Syria, where Iran backs heavily the Free Syrian Army, showing all indications that it will lead to the same place.
Yet, there are two wildcards that have never been in play before that could lead to the situation in Syria to unfold in a very different manner, and see President Assad comply with the U.N. resolution. The first is that Russia, who wants nothing more than to see Assad remain in power, does not want the United States to interfere in the region. Moreover, the notion that some are promoting, such as former United States Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton, that the threat of force was never serious to begin with, is a notion that does not seem to match the reality on the ground at the borders Syria has with Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan.
Since as we learned yesterday, it appears that the Russians want the time to strengthen Assad, and the United States wants the time to position its military for what appears to be an operation much greater than a limited military strike on Syria. Especially considering that the United States' Department of Defense released a report earlier this year stating that it would take at least 75,000 boots on the ground to secure and destroy the Syrian chemical weapons program. Not to mention that the United States has already moved/begun moving into place the sixth fleet just off Syrian waters. Also, several F-16's, drones, cargo and tanker planes, and over 1000 troops manning radar stations and Patriot Missile Launchers, who were supposed to be in the region for a simple military exercise a few months ago, are now remaining on the Turkey/Syria border at the Incirlik NATO base on high-alert, instead of returning home.
It should also be noted that Turkey has also moved its own tanks and anti-aircraft guns into place along the Turkey/Syria border. A move that has been mirrored to the south by the United States who along the Syrian/Jordan border have placed and built up their own tanks, troops, aircraft, and anti-aircraft weaponry. Furthermore, the U.N. has also begun to get in on the action by setting up their own military presence, including several hundred special forces personnel along the Lebanon/Syria border. Yet, perhaps most concerning of all is the fact that the USS San Antonio was recently diverted from another mission to join the U.S. Navy in the Middle-East at the port of Haifa, in Israel; just south of the Syrian border. Especially concerning, when one considers that this particular ship is capable of acting as a staging ground for U.S. special forces operations.
Thus, as can be clearly seen the threat of force is very real and the use of it is more than likely not, as Vice-President Joe Biden stated, "an believably small operation." Also, the other notion that is being advanced by Ambassador Bolton to suggest that the threat of U.S. force is a bluff, is that Obama needs the Congress' support and approval before launching an attack. A notion that is quite frankly laughable, when one considers that only two years ago in 2011, President Obama used force in Libya to overthrow Prime-Minister Muammar al-Gaddafi; both without any significant threat to the United States or her interests, and without any prior approval from Congress or the necessary approval from Congress 60 days after the war began according to both the Constitution and the War Powers act. Therefore, by all accounts not only does President Obama seem to not need Congress' approval to declare war, but he has already insured that the use of force is not a bluff, but a real logistical possibility that could easily spell the end for Assad and his regime; much to the dismay of the Russians.
This leads us to the second wildcard that is in play when it comes to President Assad actually complying with the U.N. resolution. The fact that no other Middle-East dictator and his regime in recent history has declared such a resolution a victory and a welcomed olive branch of peace. Mainly because no other Middle-East dictator in recent memory has been smart or rational enough not to challenge the supreme might of the United States military in a direct confrontation. This welcoming of the diplomatic solution by the Syrian government can be seen clearly in the comments made by the Syrian Minister of National Reconciliation Ali Haidar. Who when asked about the deal, stated that "we welcome these agreements" for "on the one hand, they will help Syrians get out of the crises, and on the other hand, they avert a war against Syria by removing the pretext for those [the U.S] who wanted to unleash one."
So while on the one hand recent history, and the military build-up of the United States and its allies in the region suggest that Assad will not comply with the resolution and the use of force will become necessary, according to President Obama. The fact that there are key wildcards in play, such as Russia and Syria's apparent willingness for peace in order to survive, suggest that things might turn out differently. Something that for many of us in the West is a welcome hope to have.
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Feel free to check more by clicking on the link(s) below:
Syria in One Week: Part 1 of 3 - What Does the New Deal Mean for U.S., Russia Relations?
Syria in One Week: Part 3 of 3 - Assad Complies, So What Happens Now?