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Jornal de Angola, Angola

Chemical Weapons in Syria
And Barack Obama’s Position

By Benjamim Formigo

Translated By Jane Dorwart

19 December 2012

Edited by Lau­ren Gerken

Angola - Jornal de Angola - Original Article (Portuguese)

Barack Obama's recent announcement, in an interview with Barbara Walters, that his administration will recognize the Syrian Opposition Coalition as "the legitimate representative of the Syrian people" seems more like a shot in the foot of international diplomacy.

The announcement of the U.S. position was made Dec. 11 after the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) — some with direct involvement in financing the insurgency — Turkey, Great Britain and France have taken a similar stance. These recognitions do not help resolve the conflict. In the first place, the influence of the recognizers, outside of the exiled opposition, is doubtful, as it is not recognized by many of the groups of combatants. Secondly, they do not recognize the support Assad’s regime still has. As if this were not enough, the coalition has fundamentalist Islamic elements on the ground linked to extremists, including al-Qaida.

A photocopy of errors committed in Libya seems to have been taken by the U.S. and some of its most influential NATO allies, with the exception, at least for the time being, of the use of foreign air support. This is in spite of Turkish efforts to convince its allies of the necessity of an airspace interdiction to protect refugees in border areas. Arms, financed by Gulf countries and destined for the rebels or acquired by the government, have arrived at their addresses. Those for the rebels, through the Turkish border; those for the government, though Iraqi airspace. Everyone provides arms to this conflict that will only end with an arms embargo or a decisive diplomatic attitude from allies on both sides (or all three, or even four sides).

Obama's position is even more surprising because it follows a week of news in the American press stating that arms supplied to the Libyan uprising would have gone into the hands of groups linked to al-Qaida and that there is a known connection between Syrian fundamentalist groups and terrorist organizations. Also worrisome is the news that emerged at the end of last week, that NATO feared that the Syrian government would use its chemical weapons.

It is no secret that Syria owns chemical weapons. In contrast to what happened in Iraq, no observation mission is needed to prove the negative, according to Hans Blix (former chief UN weapons inspector, who monitored Iraq). They exist, openly and unapologetically. The alleged use of scud missiles against the rebels lead to fears, which have become public, about the use of chemical weapons. What remains is only the hope that this does not become a subject of a cross-border incident with Turkey, which could lead to a conflict desired by many. The so called "Arab Springs" now make clear that autumns will quickly follow.



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