As President Bashar al-Assad unsurprisingly wins the presidential battle in this most tenuous of democracies, Sigrid Kaag head of the joint UN/OPCW mission to rid Syria of its chemical weapons briefs the UN Security Council (Wednesday June 4) that there is little chance that the remaining 7%, which has been unreachable for six months, will be moved any time soon. Kaag is also now suggesting that there could be significant elements of the chemical and biological arsenal ‘unaccounted’ for. Is this all likely? Absolutely: Chemical weapons have created almost total inertia in the international community since August 21, 2013 and hence kept Assad in power. A winning general rarely gives up his battle-winning ideas; Wellington’s ‘Squares’ at Waterloo, Hitler’s ‘Blitzkrieg’ in WWII. But ultimately they can be defeated with imagination, not the ’same old, same old’. We also hear that the very brave civilians of the OPCW chlorine investigation team will report on June 17, 2014, a full 50 days after SecureBio and the Telegraph proved to the world that Assad was now using chlorine as a chemical weapon against unprotected civilians. This team is now out of Syria, blown up by an improvised explosive device most probably planted by the regime to prevent them getting to the truth.
Is there any hope? Of course there is, but it requires some good actors. There is no doubt that the regime is responsible for the chlorine attacks in Northern Syria, so there should be no more prevarication and sitting behind the need to wait for ‘official’ results. Chlorine is not very toxic: some basic survival lessons for the beleaguered populations targeted in rebel held areas–and some basic equipment that can only be used for defensive means–would go a long way toward nullifying the physical and psychological effects of Assad’s war-winning weapon. In the same way the Allies cut off fuel supplies to sap the strength of the blitzkrieg tanks of Hitler in the 1940s, so an indirect/unconventional approach is required to take chemical weapons in all their forms off the Syrian battlefield. The international community needs to provide protective equipment and training to the innocents of Syria.