Written by Andrew Baugh, Media by Mikey Courtney
Tensions were high last week as the United States edged close to launching a military strike on the country of Syria over reports of the government’s use of chemical weapons on civilians. Much to the relief of many people, the military strategy seems to now be taking a backseat to a more peaceful option.
On Thursday, September 12th, Syrian President Bashar Assad agreed with a plan that would allow Russia to seize and dismantle the government’s chemical weapons. “We agreed to put Syria’s chemical weapons under international supervision in response to Russia’s request and not because of American threats,” Assad said. However, Bashar noted that his acceptance of the plan hinged on the promise of the United States to stop threats of military action. “We want a pledge that neither it (the U.S.) nor anyone else will launch an aggression against Syria,” said Syria’s Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil (Yahoo News).
While the U.S. has agreed to talk about the problem, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that military force still might occur if diplomacy over the chemical weapons situation does not succeed. “Expectations are high. They are high for the United States, perhaps even more so for Russia, to deliver on the promise of this moment,” Kerry said in a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva on Thursday. “This is not a game… it has to be real. It has to be comprehensive. It has to be verifiable. It has to be credible. It has to be timely and implemented in a timely fashion, and finally there ought to be consequences if it doesn’t take place” (Reuters). Consequences, of course, means that military action is a very serious possibility if the proposal fails.
Syria seems to be complying with the requests. In fact, Syria became a full member of the Chemical Weapons Convention on Thursday, after submitting relevant documents to the U.N.. “Legally speaking Syria has become, starting today, a full member of the (chemical weapons) conventions,” said Syrian U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari to reporters in New York. Members of this convention are required to entirely destroy their stockpiles of chemical weapons. Syria was one of the few countries not to have initially joined the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention. (Reuters).
Joining the convention was the first step for Syria in an outline of the proposal that Lavrov gave. The next part requires Syria to reveal the locations of its chemical weapons and give all details of its program. The final phase allows experts to decide on what specific measures need to be taken (BBC)
Syria has been told that it must give a complete inventory of its chemical weapons within one week, have all production equipment destroyed by November, and have all chemical weapons taken away from Syria or dismantled by mid-2014. Military force is said to be a “last-ditch” option, should the other plans fail. French President Francoi Hollande has supported the possibility of military action. “The military option must remain;” he said in a TV address, “otherwise there will be no pressure” (BBC).
It is important to remember that while the government of Syria may not be using chemical weapons anymore, there is still a large amount of other weapons being used in its civil war. The U.N. estimates that over 100,000 people have perished since the uprising began in 2011, and that number can only go up. While getting this chemical weapons situation under control is extremely important, Syria must also try to find some way to end the internal conflict that has been ravaging its country.