The Middle East Channel

Syria says it has evidence that rebels used chemical weapons

The Syrian government has turned over evidence to Russia that it claims implicates the Syrian opposition in a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs on August 21. Russia has criticized a report released by the United Nations Monday after a U.N. investigation into the attacks, calling the report "politicized, preconceived, and one-sided." Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the U.N. inspectors only investigated the attack in Ghouta and not the sites of three previous incidents. The report confirmed that Sarin gas was used in the attack, but did not assign blame. However, Britain, France, and the United States said the findings confirmed the Assad regime was responsible for the use of chemical weapons, and Human Rights Watch said evidence strongly suggested the government was behind the attack. The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council met Tuesday to work on a draft resolution on Syria for the hand over and destruction of the regime's chemical weapons arsenal. Russia reportedly is resisting elements proposed by Britain, France, and the United States that discuss the use of force in event of non-compliance. Meanwhile, a car bomb exploded at Syria's Bab al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey killing at least seven people. The attack has come as tensions are heightened a day after Turkey shot down a Syrian helicopter that had crossed into Turkish airspace.

Headlines

  • Bahrain has detained senior opposition al-Wefaq politician Khalil al-Marzooq, accusing him of instigating anti-government violence, raising fears of an escalating crackdown on dissent.
  • Egyptian police have arrested the Muslim Brotherhood's main English-language spokesman, Gehad el-Haddad, in part of a roundup of thousands of the group's leaders and members.
  • A series of bombings and attacks killed at least 23 people in the Iraqi cities of Baghdad, Mosul, and Fallujah Tuesday.
  • A French citizen has died while in Egyptian police custody, detained according to security sources for violating a Cairo curfew and beaten to death by other detainees.

Arguments and Analysis

'Too Little, Too Late' (Scott Williamson, Sada)

"Despite their continued support for July 3 and the crackdown against the Brotherhood, a growing number of liberal activists and secular politicians have started to push back, tentatively, against the resurgence of the police state. When Interim President Adly Mansour appointed military, police, and former ruling party figures as governors on August 13, activists were quick to express their disappointment. Tamarrod and the June 30 Front voiced reservations about the selections, while the spokesperson for the Egyptian Popular Current, a secular movement that opposed Morsi and supported Sisi's intervention, stated that the choices did not ‘bode well' for positive changes in the government.

On August 14, the security forces perpetrated what Human Rights Watch called the ‘most serious incident of mass unlawful killings in modern Egyptian history' when they violently dispersed pro-Morsi protesters in Cairo. Following the violence, Mohamed ElBaradei, vice president for international relations and the government's most high-profile liberal, resigned. While ElBaradei's resignation was opposed by most of his political allies, who supported the crackdown on the Brotherhood on August 14, the deaths of more than 30 detained protesters in police custody four days later sparked nationwide outrage. Prominent secular political leaders such as Hamdeen Sabahi, leader of the Egyptian Popular Current, and Amr Moussa, a former presidential candidate and prominent liberal politician, were joined by Tamarrod and the April 6 Movement in their calls for an investigation."

'Red Lines, Allies and Enemies' (Ray Takeyh, International Herald Tribune)

"While not bombing Syria may not have had a measurable impact on Iran's calculations, it is likely to condition Israel's response to the Islamic Republic's nuclear imbroglio. For Israelis, as with all small powers measuring the reliability of their superpower patron, intentions matter more than capabilities. It is not America's actual military power but its willingness to use that power that impresses its allies. What Israelis have seen of late is a Washington that, faced with a violation of its red line on the use of weapons of mass destruction, embraces a Russian effort at the United Nations Security Council. There are no two entities with less credibility in Jerusalem on the issue of unconventional weapons than Russia and the United Nations.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his hawkish advisers may yet conclude that any forceful resolution of the Iran crisis requires Israel acting alone. Whatever the probabilities of Israeli bombing Iran's facilities may have been prior to the Syrian crisis, those numbers have only gone up.

The recent Syrian melodrama indicates how little historical assessments penetrate governmental deliberations. The notion that we have to bomb Damascus to impress Tehran is short-sighted and without much analytical underpinning. There may be ample justification for the use of force against a regime that has used chemical weapons against unarmed citizens. Indeed, the tragedy of the Syrian civil war has long called out for a more determined international effort. However, in assessing the effect of the recent crisis one has to conclude that its impact will be felt more in Israel than in Iran."

--Mary Casey & Joshua Haber

ANWAR AMRO/AFP/Getty Images

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