Lavrov’s Plan | Charles Duelfer

Lavrov’s Plan

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has offered a plan that could provide a way out of the Obammá Syrian dilemma. Lavrov, who was Russian ambassador to the UN during the height of the Iraqi-UN weapons inspection activities, seems to have gotten Bashar al-Assad to agree to surrender his weapons to international weapons inspectors. This very close mirrors, on the surface, what we (UNSCOM, where I was the Deputy Executive Chairman) did in Iraq. I would point out that despite the international drama about our inspections–and there were many crises over access and deceptions by Iraq–it turned out we did a much better job disarming Iraq than anyone knew at the time.

It can work in Syria. However, there are critical elements that must be agreed in advance. First, there must be clear agreement that the burden of proof is on Syria. The inspectors must received declarations of CW inventory, production capacity, stocks of bulk chemical agent, munitions, etc. from the government. Then, they must have the authority to collect data to verify these data–interviews of individuals, access to sitea and documents. On access to sites, the inspectors must be able to go to sites they select as well as any the the government declares.

Other issues are the responsibility for security and movement of materials. That should be the reponsibilty of Damascus. Further, in Iraq, we ran a site (Muthana State Establishment) where we supervised the destruction of Iraqi mustard and sarin stocks using a hyudrolysis plant and an incinerator. Our international team (headed by a Dutch Army expert) operated for two years to safely (and inexpensively) destroy Iraq’s large inventory. This could also be done in Syria. Moving the weapons out of Syria would be extremely complicated, dangerous and expensive.

Interestingly the Norwegian government funded a guidebood laying out all the procedures and policy decisions requred for quickly establishing exactly this kind of system. (The Norwegian UN Ambassador’s office in New York will have this.) It is an unbiased manual that could inform the inevitable debate in the Security Council. I commend it highly (full disclosure: I consulted with the group preparing it based on my UN experience at UNSCOM)

One key point in the upcoming debate. Will the UN create this under Chapter 7 of the UN charter as France seems to favor? The is UN jargon for linking Syrian compliancde to the use of force. Russia has said that if Syria agrees, the use of force must be taken off the table. In the case of Iraq, there were two incentives to comply, one was the threat of military action, but the second was the existence of sanctions that would not be lifted until Iraq satisfied the weapons inspectors. What are the incentives for Syria? My guess is that wheterh or not the threat of force is explicit in whatever UN language is agreed, there will be an implicit threat based on the statements by the White House concering its unilateral interest in punishing Damascus for using CW. President Obama seems willing to suspend his sentence depending on Syrian good behavior as verified by UN inspectors acting as parole officers.

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