September 17, 2013
The UN weapons inspection team reported today that sarin was used in the Ghouta region of Syria on August 21st.
The team’s report implies that the Syrian government carried out the attacks.
But another UN agency previously hinted that rebels used chemical weapons earlier in the year. Specifically, Carla Del Ponte – a member of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Syria – said that there is strong evidence that the rebels used chemical weapons earlier this year, but that there is not evidence that the government used such weapons:
The Turkish General Directorate of Security … seized 2 kg of sarin gas in the city of Adana in the early hours of yesterday morning. The chemical weapons were in the possession of Al Nusra terrorists believed to have been heading for Syria.
Haaretz reported on March 24th, “Jihadists, not Assad, apparently behind reported chemical attack in Syria“.
And see this.
Indeed, the UN is investigating 14 chemical weapons attacks in Syria. As Reuters notes:
U.N. war crimes investigators know of 14 potential chemical attacks in Syria since they began monitoring Syrian human rights abuses in September 2011, the team’s chairman said on Monday.
“We are investigating 14 alleged cases of chemical weapons or chemical agent use. But we have not established the responsibility or the nature of the materials that were used,” Paulo Pinheiro, chairman of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Syria told a news conference.
While the weapons inspectors may confirm the use of a chemical weapon, it is up to the Commission of Inquiry to try to find out who was responsible and bring them to justice.
Without having access to the country, they gather information from witness testimony and try to verify and crosscheck reports from inside Syria.
“I think that the report from the special experts on the use of chemical weapons will be a big step for us, forward in our investigation,” Del Ponte said.
“But for sure we must enter Syria, to have a proper, judicial, formal investigation on that and to know exactly who was using chemical weapons.”
The use of chemical weapons is a war crime. But given that the rebels may have used chemical weapons – and the U.S., Britain and Israel have repeatedly violated the Chemical Weapons Convention – a negotiated solution to the Syrian crisis is better than war … even if the government is ultimately found to have carried out the August 21st attack.