Syrian Agreement for Inspections–Why? | Charles Duelfer

Syrian Agreement for Inspections–Why?

If Damascus is permitting the weapons inspectors access to the sites of recent apparent CW attack sites (as reported Sunday 25 August 2013) then why, if they had a role in the recent attacks?

First, the weapons inspectors are only mandated to determine if CW agents had been used, not who used them. If the government was behind the attacks, the inspectors will only publicly confirm what appears obvious, that chemical agents were used. Damascus, could still maintain that there remains some ambiguity about who was responsible. Whatever the UN inspectors declare, it will be less definitive than what Washington is likely to declare. The result will still be that there is not a uniform international view on who is responsible (unless Russia and Iran are suddenly persuaded to reverse course on supporting Bashir–which would be a big surprise).

Second, if the US is now determined to conduct attacks on Syria, then the US will look bad if it launches strikes before the UN inspection process plays out. In a way, this would replicate the circumstances of George W. Bush in spring of 2003 when UN inspectors were still investigating on the ground when President Bush concluded independently of the UN that the time for military action had arrived. President Obama may find himself in the uncomfortable position of hoping the inspectors don’t get into the areas if the reports about taking military action are true.

As for the inspectors, they will have a difficult time operating in the area that is in rebel control. It’s obviously dangerous. Things can appear calm one moment–deceptively–and then attacks can occur. The areas may be contaminated. The sites have not been secure and evidence at some sites may have been “seeded”.” Nevertheless, they can take samples from the enviroment and victims, they can interview witnesses, they can collect debris, plot dispersal patterns, etc. These are all important…even after the passage of time.

As an aside, while their mandate is not to attribute responsibility for the attacks, data they collect, could point to the originator of the attack. For example, if they find debris of the munitions used to disperse the agent, that could say something about the origin. they nature of the munitions can tell something of the sophistication and potentially the manufacturer. For example, some CW munitions keep two separate reservoirs of constituent components of Sarin agent that are only mixed when a diaphram is broken when the munition is launched…thus the sarin is only created at the moment of use. This would indicate a sophisticated military weapon, not an ad hoc creation by non-state actors. But this is only one of dozens of things that inspectors might find.

The next few days will pose some dilemmas for all involved.

This entry was posted in Intelligence, Iran, Syria CW, Uncategorized, WMD and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Syrian Agreement for Inspections–Why?

  1. Nancy Bryant says:

    I am a Canadian journalist intern with the CBC bureau in London. We are trying to confirm that there is a Canadian member on the inspection team. Where can I get this information or can you confirm. Are you aware of any other Canadian connection? I can be reached at my desk at 0207 412 9231 if that is more convenient. Thanks for your assistance.

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