Home » MIDDLE EAST » The Crystal Ball of Disarmament in Syria: The Long Term Direction of U.S. Foreign Policy

The Crystal Ball of Disarmament in Syria: The Long Term Direction of U.S. Foreign Policy

Simultaneous, contradictory claims made by both the U.S. against Bashir al Assad’s regime and Assad against the rebels over the usage of chemical weapons resulted in a sharp intake of breath as Obama stated that he was pushing for a military strikes in Syria on government targets. As the world looks on at the accelerated “disarmament process”, questions about the future stability of the region are left unanswered as the U.S. appears to be heading towards a Libya/Gaddafi-esque removal of the Assad regime.  Claims of chemical weapons usage in Syria became the primary issue against Assad’s government and was touted as the breaking point from which the United States seemed poised to “intervene” in Syria. The “proof” of the  chemical weapons, specifically Sarin nerve gas, was verified by the U.N. shortly after August 21st. However, as the actual disarmament commences this week, it still hasn’t been universally established which side perpetrated the attack, and what the purpose of using chemical weapons in a relatively urban area was.

Persuasive diplomacy

The United Nations commenced an inquiry into the usage of chemical weapons in Syria as requested by the Syrian authorities. The United States was and still is adamant that there are multiple sources establishing both the regime’s approval and usage of such weapons. This claim has not been directly addressed by Russia who co-presented this diplomatic alternative to a U.S. military strike despite Assad claiming evidence of rebel acquisition of these weapons as a means of inviting international intervention.  As U.S. opinion dominates the international platform and Assad lacks a glowing humanitarian political record, there is little publicly known information on said evidence from either faction.

“…Security Council shows diplomacy can be so powerful, it can defuse the worst weapons. If this resolution is implemented, we will have eliminated one of the biggest chemical weapons arsenals on earth, in one of the most volatile regions on earth.” John Kerry’s words of “hope” for one of the most “volatile regions of the earth” thinly masks the ongoing U.S. foreign policy towards Iran and its affiliates. As implied, this policy aims at maintaining the status quo of the Middle East with specific reference to Syria’s close ally, Iran. The Security Council is notorious for being one of the most ineffective international committees in the United Nations. Due to the power of the veto vote, resolutions rarely get passed, and international intervention is usually halted. The Security Council, at the advice of Russia, managed to avert a direct American military intervention and instead passed a ‘Framework Agreement’ , which is to be facilitated by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). It involves an accelerated dismantling of Syria’s official chemical weapons stockpile and has generally been seen as a victory for the Security Council.

The labelling of this U.N.-conducted mission in Syria as one of ”disarmament” is an often-misleading title because it implies that these actions reflect a willingness from Assad to integrate into the international forum, and that this indicates his acceptance of a strict adherence to international norms. This “willingness” of Assad is criticized by some to be a move to legitimize his authority, yet this action in itself does not assure meaningful reform. That being said, questions concerning whether this chemical weapon stockpile will actually be destroyed rather than merely moved or traded off are valid; thoughts on if Syria will merely send some of these weapons to Hezbollah can be supported. The point is to accept that no weapons convention or international agreement made on the U.N. platform can be thoroughly enforced or ratified solely in the spirit of diplomacy. The issue of sovereignty and stability is something the U.N. has always and will always struggle with.

A familiar call to disarmament

The ultimate purpose of calls for Syrian disarnment is to change  the status quo in the Middle East, post Arab-Spring, and asserting a tired imposition of U.S. hegemony. In 2003, the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, John Bolton, said in a radio interview regarding the calls for non-proliferation of Libya’s chemical weapons stockpile that, “the invasion of Iraq “sends a message” to Libya, as well as Iran and Syria, “that the cost of their pursuit of weapons of mass destruction is potentially quite high.” This mentality continues to be the U.S.’s approach to all matters concerning the rise of extreme politics with links to Iran as the remnants of a Bush-era attitude towards state-sponsored terrorism.

The United Nation’s role in this situation is minimal at best, and has been used primarily as a way of advocating and supporting the U.S.’s desire to address yet another Iran-related threat.  “We assess that the regime’s frustration with its inability to secure large portions of Damascus may have contributed to its decision to use chemical weapons on August 21.” (US GOVT). The immediate loss of life and morals of certain actions are never justifiable by “the bigger picture” but disarmament as a concept, when enacted, transcends its own morality and plays into the dominant state’s political strategy.Assad conceding to chemical weapon disarmament demonstrates that U.S. foreign policy regarding Syria is going to turn over a new chapter in the global power struggle, and further the reign of U.S  interventionism in the Middle East.

– Hiba Ganta

Featured photo : Attribution FreedomHouse, Creative Commons, Flickr

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