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Russia still in denial over Assad’s use of poison gas



Published: Sat, September 21, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

Despite a United Nations report that not only confirms the use of poison gas in Syria but leaves little doubt that the Assad government was behind the attack, the Russians continue to spout the ridiculous claim that the rebels are to blame.

It’s unfortunate that Russia, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, is key to an agreement that has been reached to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile.

The agreement was prompted by President Barack Obama’s threat to launch a missile attack against Assad’s munitions facilities in retaliation for the chemical attack that killed more than 1,400 people, mostly civilians, including women and children.

Obama, who decided to seek congressional authorization for the military action, has made it clear that the use of poison gas even in a civil war that has claimed more than 100,000 lives is unacceptable.

By targeting civilians, President Assad has shown that there is nothing he won’t do to remain in power. He must be stopped.

Although a majority of the American people are opposed to any intervention by the United States, the situation in Syria threatens to spill over into the entire region.

The agreement worked out by Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that calls for the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal within a year can be the opening the United Nations has been looking for to end the civil war.

The U.N. Security Council should not only ensure that Assad lives up to his pledge to cooperate in the destruction of the chemical weapons, but that a solution to the two-year conflict is sought.

It’s not only the death toll that is cause for concern. There are about 1.5 million refugees in neighboring states. The camps are full, and Syrians are now living on the streets.

There’s a humanitarian crisis inside and outside Syria, and the longer the civil war continues the worse it will get.

President Obama is right in rallying European allies and others and using the chemical weapons attack as the moral imperative for action.

Assad and his henchmen are merciless in dealing with the opposition and there is no reason to believe that there will be a change in attitude now that the finger of blame for the poison gas is pointed at them.

“If Assad fails in time to abide by the terms of this framework, make no mistake, we are all agreed — and that includes Russia — that there will be consequences,” Secretary of State Kerry said after the agreement had been reached.

Retaliation

However, the Russians already are balking at the inclusion of any kind of retaliation in the Security Council resolution should Assad stall or otherwise refuse to cooperate with the experts who will be conducting an inventory of the chemical weapons stockpile.

The threat of a military strike must not be taken off the table. It is na Øve to believe that the government in Damascus has found religion.

In addition, the Obama administration must be mindful of the fact that the Russians are still not prepared to admit that Assad’s forces were responsible for using sarin gas against the civilian population.


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