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 chemical weapons.
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 chemical weapons.
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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Translated by Julian Isherwood