Just a couple of weeks, the prospect of a military intervention in Syria was high. A week later, things have changed. Most states were opposed to the idea, citing risks, international law and efficiency. Then all eyes suddenly turned to Russia who proposed to put Syria’s chemical stock under international control (ultimately for destruction). Intense negotiations between U.S. and Russian diplomats ensued, finally leading to a breakthrough on Saturday: an ambitious chemical arms-control agreement which involves the inventory and seizing of Syria’s chemical weapons. According to the framework, the Assad regime has week to provide an inventory of its arsenal and international inspectors will be in Syria by November to assess the situation.
But where will this really lead? An end to the civil war? Let me be skeptical here. First, the war continues, with or without chemical weapons. Considering the war has claimed the lives of more than 100,000 Syrians, the Assad regime has showed that it kill a lot of people with guns and bombs….Guns don’t kill people, PEOPLE do.
“Things are improving…These here were not killed by chemical weapons” – Côté
Second, what will happen in case of non-compliance? Anything can be expected from Assad. Russia and the U.S. have agreed that violations would be referred to the Security Council but the nature of potential measures against Syria remain undecided and will be decided at the UN. Since nothing is said about penalties, Russia could very well once again use its veto to prevent sanctions and certainly intervention. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, meanwhile, warned that the use of force remains a threat if the deal is not respect. In this case, we would be back to two weeks ago.
Third, the rebellion is completely fragmented and growing more sectarian every week. Two western hostages freed last week described the situation as chaotic and the rebel groups as “midway between banditry and fanaticism.” Detained by the rebels for 152 days, Italian journalist Dominico Quirico said a new movement within Syria: the emergence of gangs of thugs with no code of conduct, who take advantage of the revolution to “take over territory, hold the population to ransom, kidnap people and fill their pockets.” Treated like an animal, he said he found in Syria “a country of evil.”
If the Russian initiative truly works, only the issue of chemical weapons will be solved. Countries such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia will continue to arm rebels, especially radical Islamists. As Quirico explained, some of these rebel groups only care about money and weapons. At this point, arming the rebels is likely to lead to more conflict, more sectarianism and more human rights violations, especially against minorities such as Alawites and Christians.
While a Syrian resolution on chemical weapons would be significant, it would not end the crisis and world leaders should not feel relieved. This is not a long-term solutions since it does not deal with the root causes of the conflict and the many problems that have arisen since the revolution started. Syrians are still dying.