When superpowers play ‘Diplomacy’, there is a temptation to forget that the
world is not a board game.
The report that the United Nations Secretary General laid on the table late on
Monday shows that on August 21, hundreds of people were deliberately killed
using the chemical nerve gas sarin.
They are not able to go back to ‘Start’.
They died in excruciating pain, and they died because on that particular day,
those in power decided to arm surface-to-surface rockets with a chemical
substance designed to murder unsuspecting civilians and spread death and
terror in a suburb of the Syrian capital Damascus.
There is only one term for such behaviour: War crime.
The task now is to secure a rapid dismantling of President Assad’s arsenal of
This will also serve as an important and promising step in international arms
control, including an important signal to Iran.
It would also serve to avoid the Russo-American agreement providing renewed
recognition for Assad, and a breathing space which he could use to continue
murdering the civilian population.
With a bit of luck, the seemingly constructive dialogue between the United
States and Russia may prepare the road for the demise of Assad’s regime of
terror, and a controlled transition to a new government that is able to stop
the civil war and end the humanitarian catastrophe.
The hope is a slim one. But it is the best we have.
There is one state that is in a class of its own in avoiding its real
responsibility. That state is Russia. And its leader is called Putin.
He and Foreign Minister Lavrov hold not only the key to attempts to rid Syria
of chemical weapons, but also to stop the person responsible for using
chemical agents to murder people.
To date, the latter is something Russia has refused to do.
On the contrary. Russia has refused to let the United Nations investigate who
fired the sarin-packed surface-to-surface missiles. The reason for this can
only be that Putin is worried that his client will be exposed as having used
That sort of reasoning is despicable. It may protect the murderer, but it also
tars his mentor with the same brush.
Putin and Lavrov have gone on the diplomatic offensive as if the world was a
board game, preventing any decision on Syria being taken without a nod from
the Russian president.
This might be an impressive move in ‘Diplomacy’.
But in the real world, Russia’s move will fade into ignominy if it continues
to play such a cynical game with the destiny of the Syrians.
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