Chemical attacks in Syria: How will the West react

Taras Chornovil
20:30, 27 February 2018
World
656
Opinion
The chemical attack in Syria's Eastern Ghouta is an unconditional act of genocide and state-level terrorism on the part of Russia. There can be no other explanation here. And it is not about the actions by Bashar al-Assad's regime, it's the actions by the Kremlin.

There are many reasons to state this fact. Firstly, by delaying for three days the UN Security Council decision, Russia contributed to the aggression against a densely populated city, the bombing of streets full of hospitals and schools. Three days in this context is an incredibly long period, as hundreds of people were being killed throughout that period. But under severe pressure and public condemnation, Russia had to agree to the adoption of a UN Security Council resolution on an armistice. However, Moscow ignored the decision and further escalated the attacks.

This is an absolute indication of Russia's involvement in these events and its responsibility for the victims. And this is how the situation is perceived by major international players.

Secondly, a number of attacks, including those on the Eastern Ghouta, indicate a purely mercantile and ugly interest, especially of those close to Putin. This point is being widely discussed in the West. And this is beyond the limits of any evaluation of good and evil.

Russia's involvement in these attacks in Syria proves, in particular, the use of banned weapons there. Weapons with Russian markings were often revealed there. Moreover, this was partly brand new weaponry, produced after Russia has joined the convention on its prohibition.

Secondly, a number of attacks, including those on the Eastern Ghouta, indicate a purely mercantile and ugly interest, especially of those close to Putin

The use of chemical weapons is the most flagrant violation. But, nevertheless, such means have once again been used in Syria.

What will the consequences and reaction be then? The future of Bashar al-Assad is clear: Russia will have to give him in. Assad, like most of his generals, who used the terrible methods of mass war against the civilian population, will face death penalty.

Bringing Russia to responsibility is now inevitable as well. And the fact that Russia behaves more and more brazenly, becoming less responsive to the international community's demands, although treating it with fear, is merely an indication of its realization that it has crossed the line beyond which there will be no forgiveness.

The only problem here is that today, there are simply no global mechanisms today for reacting to the actions of an aggressor like Russia.

Among the legal or political mechanisms, there is the only one - the United Nations, which was created immediately after World War 2 as a system of checks and balances, so that neither the USSR nor the United States could dominate the United Nations. And Russia is actively exploiting it now. Therefore, there are probably no political options.

However, in response to what Russia is doing in Syria, the West might as well produce a portion of sanctions that can be quite harsh, painful, and they will only complement those that have already been imposed as a result of Russia's aggression against Ukraine.

Will the West respond by force? This is possible but difficult to predict. Syria has certain contingent lines of separation between the territory where U.S.-supported opposition forces stand and the area that Assad considers his own. In the areas where the United States has deployed its instructors and military, they can really strike at any attempt to cross the line. I think the United States can resort to such methods for crimes against humanity, which are chemical attacks.

Will the West respond by force? This is possible but difficult to predict

This could happen at any moment - today or in a few months. It is difficult to predict because we do not know the logic of the Americans and the intelligence they have. If they have precise coordinates of sites where, for example, chemical weapons are stored, then at any moment, American cruise missiles could be launched to strike military sites of the Assad forces.

So, the reaction of the West in this regard is rather unpredictable. They control and will strictly hold on to the demarcation line. But I can't really imagine how they will behave further. The West is very cautious in such cases, sometimes too much. This is why there's so much unpredictability, which Putin and Assad exploit to their benefit.

Taras Chornovil is a Ukrainian political analyst

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