The Syrian Chemical Weapons Dilemma – From Critical Objective Lenses
By Binneh s Minteh
When we take an in-depth look at the political tension that erupted between Permanent members of the United Nations Security Council following chemical weapons usage in Syria, it was evident that world politics continue to be driven by the interaction of power, interests and institutions on the international stage. In the case of Syria, divisions were not only evident of usual global power realignment, with Russia and China on one side of pendulum and the United States (US), Britain and France on the other side, but the divisions among the Western aligned nations of the US, Britain and France emerged as another interesting shifting political tides of our times. In the midst of the growing fray, the British Parliament voted against Prime Minister Cameroon’s interventionist approach, while the Obama administration was met with growing opposition among Congress and the population in the quest of seeking Bipartisan support for his Syrian policy. France on the other hand has shifted to seek a United Nations mandate with military action in the language of the said resolution. This has made the Syrian case a quandary entrenched in the politics of power and interest.
But how did the world get to such an abysmal state of uncertainty and confusion in the midst of human quandary? What lessons have we drawn from Gas Chambers of Nazi death camps, in Treblinka and Auschwitz? What about the Halabja chemical weapons usage against ethnic Kurds of Northern Iraq by Saddam Hussein? These are some of the questions that could better help understand the challenges and contradictions of our times.
Arguably, our historical experiences has helped rekindle the building of institutions and mechanisms in support of our collective human conscience barring the use of chemical weapons and laying foundations for their tight knit grip. This led to the birth and growth of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction. Syria’s failure to support the global efforts of controlling chemical weapons does not in any way absolve the international community of its responsibilities towards the common good. As a human community, the international community has a moral obligation to raise an alarm when a country either piles large stocks or used limited amounts of such deadly arsenals on its very own citizens. All moral conscience was lost, and global leadership and governance was defined by the competition for power and influence in a complex changing times of the modern world.
Additionally, when the Syrian crisis began reaching the apex of humanitarian concerns in the midst of tumbling dictatorships in the region, the international respond to the crisis was marred by geopolitical and geo-economic interest. All UN efforts to reach a common resolution were crippled by veto by Chinese and Russian vetoes entrenched in the politics of “interest” and a disregard for human dignity. China’s non-interference policy does not mean that Beijing has no interest in Syria. Chinese yearly investments in Syria amounts to over $1 billion. Similarly, Russian policy has its roots in geopolitical and geo-economic that is entrenched in social integration and strong bonds with ethnic Syrians predominantly from the minority Alawitte ethnic group.
In both theoretical and practical terms, US policy is one of strategic realignment entrenched in the uncertainty of actors operating within an opposition camp characterized by both radical and moderate groups. In the same vein, a change in US policy to support moderate groups in the opposition was largely driven by US designated terrorist organizations, such as Hezbollah and other Iranian groups operating alongside Syrian Government Forces in support of the Assad regime. President Obama’s policy of intervention to degrade Syrian government capabilities in using Chemical Weapons must therefore be understood from both a national and regional security threat to US vested interest. Similarly, President Putin’s diplomatic roadmap was one of reasserting Russian influence in the region. Putin’s Russia approach must best be understood as a geopolitical power squabble for prominence and influence in a region that is slowly paying farewell to entrenched authoritarianism.
Although there was a formidable opposition to the Obama interventionist approach in Syria, it is worth understanding that concrete historical experiences made his case legitimate on the implications of Syrian chemical weapons usage on American National Security and the World at-large. Similarly, even though Putin’s opposition to US approaches was seen by many as an erosion of US influence in the region, Russian policy can best be define as a test to the indomitable American Power and influence in the region. Arguably US foreign policy shift to more of multilateralism in recent years is entrenched in a strategic realignment framework to effectively deal with challenges of our times. By far the united States continue to weld the most influence in the region as the most powerful country with the most powerful “military architecture” in the world.
Whereas President Barack Obama painted himself as a national and international security guardian, Vladimir Putin presented Russian approach as an only alternative to end the crisis in Syria. Perhaps confronting such crisis in the future requires drawing concrete historical lessons and using moral conscience to end human quandary.