Syria and chemical weapons: can we really get fooled again after the Iraq WMD fiasco?
The certainty with which the French and British governments have announced proof of the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian conflict presages an escalation of western intervention there.
The samples tested at Porton Down (yes, Britain’s own chemical warfare research unit) have proved positive although even the government’s certainty cannot be assured beyond doubt.
As a ‘senior British official’ told the Guardian ‘Are we confident in our means of collection, and are we confident that it points to the regime's use of sarin? Yes. Can we prove it with 100% certainty? Probably not.’
Following on almost immediately from the EU decision to end its arms embargo to Syria, which will enable Britain and France to ship arms to the opposition from August, the revelations about chemical weapons could not come at a more convenient time for William Hague. The foreign secretary is following up his bombing of Libya in 2011 (casualties at least 30,000 dead) with another attempt at regime change in the Middle East.Aided and abetted by his counterpart in France, Hague is trying to escalate an already deadly war. This is despite protests from aid agencies that have argued that this development will only worsen the war.
A new report by the UN Human Rights Commission echoes this point. It covers the period early this year and carries out interviews with those affected by the war. It describes a worsening situation in Syria, with war crimes on both sides, although the majority from the government side. It also makes it very clear that proposals like the lifting of the arms embargo can only have the effect of worsening the conflict and therefore the human suffering.
‘War crimes and crimes against humanity have become a daily reality in Syria where the harrowing accounts of victims have seared themselves on our conscience. There is a human cost to the increased availability of weapons. Transfers of arms heighten the risk of violations leading to more civilian deaths and injuries. A diplomatic surge is the only path to a political settlement. Negotiations must be inclusive, and must represent all facets of Syria’s cultural mosaic.’
This is a message that the Western powers and their followers seem not to want to hear. Instead, whatever their differences about the exact nature and timing of intervention, they fear that their goal of regime change is looking more remote. They worry that the Assad government and its allies is regaining the initiative in the war. They also fear that the proposed peace conference in Geneva will hinder them in this goal.
Meanwhile the situation in the Middle East is fast running out of control, most recently with fighting in Lebanon and Iraq spreading from Syria. Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdogan, facing huge protests across the country, is deeply unpopular over his role in the Syrian war.
None of this appears to bother the British government, which has backed various forms of financial, military and surveillance intervention for two years now, often carried out by reactionary governments such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar. No doubt as the war escalates we will be told that there should be more intervention in order to end the war. The problem is, at every stage such intervention has helped escalate it. So perhaps a change in policy might be a solution.
That’s certainly the approach that many people in Britain would like its government to take. A recent poll in the Observer showed less than a quarter of those polled favoured military intervention. This is because there is a widespread sense that what happened in Afghanistan and Iraq was wrong and that those wars have only brought further war, dispossession and terrorism. The same poll showed that nearly three quarters (72%) believe that the UK can no longer afford to act as a major military power.
In other words, Britain should stop intervening in other people’s countries and stop waging wars in regions that it wants to control. Its government should also stop lying about its real aims in the region, which have everything to do with power and control, and nothing to do with bringing peace.
Source: Stop the War Coalition