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Developing Iranian nuclear weapons threat and the transfer of Syrian chemical or biological weapons to terrorist hands

Stalemate Continues On UN Chemical Weapons Investigation In Syria


Joseph A. Klein, CFP United Nations Columnist image

By —— Bio and Archives April 30, 2013

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H.E. Bashar Ja’afari, Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations, held an hour long press conference today at UN headquarters in New York where he complained of “fraudulent accusations” against the Syrian government that it has used chemical weapons against the Syrian people. He said that such charges leveled at his government, including those based on unreliable intelligence assessments, lacked “any corroborated facts” and reminded him of the unfounded weapons of mass destruction charges leading up to the Iraq war in 2003.

Ambassador Ja’afari singled out certain permanent members of the UN Security Council (presumably France and the United Kingdom) for pressuring Secretary General Ban Ki-moon into diverting attention away from the Syrian government’s request for an independent UN investigation of its own allegation that the armed opposition used chemical weapons in March in Khan al-Assad, near Aleppo. After the Syrian government made this request, both France and the United Kingdom alleged the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government last December in Homs, which they want investigated by the UN along with Syria’s allegation. The difference, according to the Syrian ambassador, is that the Syrian government provided detailed evidence to the UN Secretariat backing up its allegation while Syria’s “enemies,” who want regime change, have not shared any details to support their allegations.

Ambassador Ja’afari complained that forty days have elapsed since the Syrian government first asked UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to launch an independent investigation of the Khan al-Assad incident, with nothing to show for it to date.  Ambassador Ja’afari added that just yesterday opposition forces allegedly used unknown chemicals against residents in the town of Saraqib and then sent the victims to hospitals in Turkey, one of the countries seeking regime change in Syria.  He claimed that the objective was to frame Syrian President Bashar Assad’s army for using the chemical weapons.

The United Nations’ position on the mission of the on-site investigation is that it cannot send its expert team into Syria to investigate only what the Syrian government alleges, without also investigating allegations made by the United Kingdom and France regarding the Syrian government’s possible use of chemical weapons in Homs last December.

“A credible and comprehensive inquiry requires full access to the sites where chemical weapons are alleged to have been used. I again urge the Syrian authorities to allow the investigation to proceed without delay and without any conditions,” UN General-Secretary Ban Ki-moon told reporters at UN headquarters yesterday as he welcomed to New York the head of the UN fact-finding mission he appointed, Dr. Åke Sellström. In other words, the Syrian regime must agree to admit the UN team into Syria with unfettered access to investigate all allegations of chemical weapons use, whether such allegations came from the Syrian government or other governments. The Khan al-Assad investigation could occur first, since the request for this investigation was received first by the UN. However, the UN would not agree to any conditions that could encumber its subsequent access to the site of the alleged Homs incident. 

Ambassador Ja’afari claims that he had a commitment in writing from Angela Kane, the UN’s High Representative for Disarmament Affairs to investigate the Syrian government’s allegations right away, while “assessments” of the other allegations proceeded in due course. He held up a copy of what he said was an April 3, 2013 letter from Ms. Kane containing this commitment, but claimed that he was not free to release the letter to the press. Two days later, Ms Kane handed Ambassador Ja’afari another letter, which he characterized as going “back on the deal” he thought he had with Ms. Kane. The ambassador did not hold up a copy of this letter, much less release it to the press.

When I subsequently asked the UN Secretary General’s spokesperson Martin Nesirky whether his office could release the full text of the April 3rd letter,  he said that would not be possible.  Thus, it is impossible to verify Ambassador Ja’afari’s claim of an ironclad commitment by the UN’s High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, retracted shortly thereafter, to investigate his government’s allegation regardless of whether the other allegations submitted by France and the United Kingdom ever moved beyond the preliminary assessment stage.

However,  Ambassador Ja’afari undermined the credibility of his position in one significant respect. On the one hand, he derided the lack of detailed information to back up the French and British allegations, such as blood samples, testimonies of injured persons, medical reports or footage that he said the Syrian government had furnished to the UN Secretariat in support of its allegation. Yet, on the other hand, even if such information were supplied by France and Great Britain to the satisfaction of the UN’s technical team as sufficient to warrant an on-site independent investigation of their allegations, Ambassador Ja’afari refused to say whether Syria would consent to allowing such an investigation.

“The Syrian government is still waiting to receive information on these situations,” Ja’afari said. “Then, if the Syrian government and the secretary-general and the Security Council members feel that these allegations are also credible, the Syrian government might — might — examine the possibility of asking for further investigation…then it would be up to us.”

Meanwhile, in Washington, President Obama stated at his own news conference that he was waiting for definitive proof of the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons before deciding on next steps. “We don’t know how they were used, when they were used, who used them, we don’t have a chain of custody that establishes what exactly happened,” he said. Such proof “would cause us to rethink the range of options that are available to us,” he added.

President Obama’s caution makes sense since the alternative to the Assad regime may be even worse - a regime under Islamist control, taking charge of Assad’s chemical and biological weapons that the jihadists will be all too happy to use against infidels world-wide. Offering more humanitarian aid to innocent civilians impacted by the fighting in Syria is fine, but Obama would only be helping our jihadist enemies take over Syria if he decides to provide military support to the forces fighting the Assad regime. The jihadists dominate those forces.

While we wait for the UN to sort out its differences with Syria on the scope of the on-site investigation of alleged use of chemical weapons and for more conclusive evidence from intelligence gathering, we need to maintain our focus and pinpoint our counter-strategies on the gravest threats in the region to American interests and international peace and security - the developing Iranian nuclear weapons threat and the transfer of Syrian chemical or biological weapons to terrorist hands.


Joseph A. Klein, CFP United Nations Columnist -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Joseph A. Klein is the author of Global Deception: The UN’s Stealth Assault on America’s Freedom.