Ever since President Obama drew a red line to prevent further use of poison gas by Bashar al-Assad to murder Syrian citizens, I have advocated action to enforce the treaty against the use of such weapons. The U.S. Congress refused to review and endorse Obama's call for action because Russia and other supporters of Assad said they would remove the remaining poison gas from Syria and take it to Russia. However, they did not actually fulfill this commitment. This lack of action was wrong, morally and legally.
Now, we can move forward—carefully. Let us take creative notice of the fact that Russia and Iran have been acting as the protectors of the use of poison gas. Let us state that clearly. Let us, the United States of America, stand for international law and justice for people worldwide. Let us continue to mend relationships with Arab leaders who also support law and justice. Let us continue our efforts to defeat ISIS and its violence against the people of Syria, Iraq and other nations, but let us note that this is above all a war of ideas. It is basically a war for human rights and a struggle for a peaceful world.
One important aspect of the situation is the fact that President Bashar al-Assad and his father, Hafiz al-Assad, are part of an ethnic-religious group, the Alawi, that represents only a small part of the population of Syria. This group does not need to rule all of Syria in order to have safety for themselves. Russia could be allowed to continue leasing the naval base in the Mediterranean on the Western edge of Syria. This matter could be negotiated as an end in itself and as part of an effort to improve Russian-US relations. Assuring Bashar al-Assad and/or his supporters control of Western Syria could open the way to free and fair elections for the rest of Syria, supervised by the UN, which has extensive experience supervising elections. This proposed solution would also provide space for many Kurds to live in peace and prosperity.
This Blog comes from Lucy Law Webster who worked as a Political Affairs Officer in the UN Department for Disarmament Affairs during the period when the International Protocol on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons was drafted, negotiated and ratified.