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Syria Gas Attacks: If Assad Is Not Responsible, Who Is?

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Syria Gas Attacks: If Assad Is Not Responsible, Who Is?

2013-09-20 09:55:28

-by Alex Mangini, Staff Writer; Image: Children on the ground after a possible gas attack in Syria (Image Source: The Young Turks Video Screenshot)

Just as it appeared that the United States and Russia had begun to move forward in an amicable partnership in their efforts to alleviate the ongoing situation in Syria, an alarming new rift seems to have been formed between the governments of Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin.

When United Nations weapons inspectors visited the war-torn nation last month, the global organization confirmed the beliefs of the U.S., France, Great Britain and others: that chemical weapons attacks involving sarin gas had been unleashed on suburban civilians via a rocket attack by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The “technical details” in the 41-page report “make clear that only the regime could have carried out this large-scale chemical weapons attack,” U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power said. “It’s very important to note that the regime possesses sarin, and we have no evidence that the opposition possesses sarin.”

Russia, however, one of Syria’s major international allies and a continued thorn in the side of the State Department, has dismissed the report as inaccurate, claiming that Assad has provided them with evidence that it was, in fact, the rebel fighters who unleashed such a heinous strike.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov voiced his skepticism earlier this week, calling for a further look into the strike on Ghouta, one that is “impartially, objectively, professionally investigated.”

“The truth has to be determined,” he said.

“We are disappointed, to put it mildly, about the approach taken by the U.N. secretariat and the U.N. inspectors, who prepared the report selectively and incompletely,” his deputy Sergei Ryabkov told Russian state-run news agency RIA. “Without receiving a full picture of what is happening here, it is impossible to call the nature of the conclusions reached by the U.N. experts ... anything but politicized, preconceived and one-sided.”

As of just last week, the U.S. looked to have made significant progress with Russia in working towards getting Assad to surrender his chemical weapons. This process seemed to have been hastened by President Obama's address, in which he called for a calculated strike on those responsible for the gassing of citizens, including children.

That, though, is now in doubt. Assad and his regime are denying they possess the weapons in question, leaving the world with a great “Whodunnit?”

The answer, as of now, is unclear. Yes, there are reports about jihadists and other strains of militant groups within the rebel force, but there is no evidence that they would have access to the chemicals used, or a motive to gas civilians.

Also raised has been the possibility of exterior forces, such as al Qaeda, being involved in some way, though constructed terrorist organizations are usually the first to take credit for such actions, as to boost confidence in the cause.

The situation, then, remains murky. Without the support of the Russians, Obama will find it increasingly difficult to strike Syria without creating a serious schism in the spectrum of foreign relations with the country. He already runs this risk of severing any hope of improving his country's relationship with Iran.

Now, the world is stuck in a waiting game. Most of the governing world agrees that all evidence, and motivations, points to Assad and his people being behind the chemical attack. The question now is, with a country as globally powerful as Russia refusing to believe it, what ramifications could an American alliance with the rebels bring about elsewhere?

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