Monday,11 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1167, (3 - 9 October 2013)
Monday,11 December, 2017
Issue 1167, (3 - 9 October 2013)

Ahram Weekly

Syrian opposition slams UN resolution

The decision to allow the Syrian regime to hand over its chemical weapons has been met with relief around the world, except in Syria, writes Bassel Oudat in Damascus

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Al-Ahram Weekly

The UN decision to strip Syria of its chemical weapons may have been seen as a victory for the West, but for Syrians suffering the horrors of an ongoing civil war it has been seen as a huge disappointment.

The authors of the UN Security Council resolution voiced their relief over the end of this threat to world security, but they left out any mention of the need to punish those responsible for committing the gassing of civilians in Syria, claiming nearly 1,400 lives in one location near Damascus.

The UN inspectors stopped short of blaming the regime for that attack, but they hinted at its involvement when they mentioned that the missiles that delivered the lethal chemicals had been fired from areas under the regime’s control.

The destruction of chemical weapons has never been a main aim of the opposition or its fighters, and some have considered the handover of the weapons to be a loss for Syria, still theoretically at war with Israel.

The Syrian opposition has also pointed out that the UN decision gives the Syrian regime a form of international legitimacy, allowing it to stay in power at least until the handover is completed, which will take nine months or more.

The UN decision says nothing about the 120,000 Syrians who have thus far been killed in the conflict, or the six million, almost a quarter of the population, who have been displaced.

It makes no mention of the need to protect the people of Syria.

The members of the Security Council did not ask the regime to provide safe passage for relief work or medical evacuation. They did not tell the regime to stop bombing hospitals and places of worship.

The resolution makes no reference to the regime’s use of planes and heavy artillery to shell civilians.

Nevertheless, the resolution has been called “historic” by the US State Department, even though, in practical terms, it allows Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad more time to attempt to quell the revolution and gives the regime an added opportunity to attack its opponents with added ferocity.

Divisions within the ranks of the opposition are likely to play into the regime’s hands, and the fact that jihadists have joined the conflict gives Al-Assad the moral argument he has been looking for.

Some 50 armed resistance groups, some of which used to fight under the banner of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), recently withdrew their recognition of the National Coalition of the Syrian Resistance and Opposition Forces.

A further 30 armed groups joined forces to form a 50,000-strong Islamist army with no known links to Syria’s political opposition.

However, the UN resolution was greeted with relief in Russia, the US, Israel, Europe, and Turkey, who said that the impounding of the weapons of mass destruction would reduce threats of a regional war.

The Arab countries welcomed the resolution, calling it a step towards regional peace, and the Syrian regime called on all regional powers to stop sending weapons to the opposition.

Even the planned Geneva II Conference on Syria no longer seems as attractive as it did to many of the regime’s opponents.

The UN Security Council has not threatened Damascus with punitive action under Chapter VII of the UN Charter if it fails to abide by the resolution.

If Damascus fails to honour its obligations, the matter will go back to the Council, giving Russia ample opportunity to throw a wrench into the works once again.

The FSA called the UN resolution “ineffective” as a result, pointing out that it included no measures to punish the perpetrators and overlooked the fact that the regime was using a whole range of conventional and non-conventional weapons against the population, including ballistic missiles, cluster bombs, and even napalm.

FSA spokesman Fahd Al-Masri told Al-Ahram Weekly that the UN resolution was a “terrible mistake” because it “allows murderers to go unpunished”.

“This resolution offers a way for some countries to shirk their international responsibilities with regard to security and regional and international peace,” he said, adding that the regime would not abide by the resolution, but would continue to move its chemical weapons to hiding places, or even to other countries, such as Lebanon, Iraq and Iran.

Riad Agha, a former minister and member of the Syrian opposition, said that the UN resolution was good news for Israel, since it robbed Syria of the means to establish parity in the regional balance of power.

“It is true that chemical weapons were used against the Syrian people. But you are supposed to punish the criminals, not blame the weapons,” Agha said.

Syrian rights activist Michel Shammas said that the problem was the regime, not the regime’s chemical weapons.

Speaking to the Weekly, Shammas said that “the major powers see chemical weapons as a threat to their security and to that of Israel. But the Syrian people see the problem as one of continued tyranny and bloodshed, as well as of the involvement of foreign fighters, including those of Hizbullah, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, and Al-Qaeda, in their country.”

The international NGO Human Rights Watch said that the resolution did nothing to help the victims of the conflict and called for those suspected of committing war crimes to be tried at the International Criminal Court.

Syrian opposition member Mohieddin Al-Laziqani told the Weekly that the Syrian regime was unlikely to implement the UN resolution because it did not now include any threat of force under Chapter VII.

“The criminal gang that rules Syria is safe in the knowledge that the Russians will protect it at any cost,” Al-Laziqani said. “But the Syrian revolution will press on with its objectives regardless. What matters for Syrians is not ridding the country of chemical weapons, but of corruption and tyranny.”

Syrian opposition member Fawwaz Tallu voiced the same misgivings, telling the Weekly that the regime had given Israel, the West, and America a huge gift by agreeing to hand over its chemical weapons.

“We have to abandon any hope that the West will bring down the regime. The West doesn’t care about the fate of the regime, and we don’t care about what the West wants. The only ones who will bring down the regime now are the revolutionaries,” he said. 

 

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