Diplomacy In Syria

By Chandrashekar (Chandra) Tamirisa, (On Twitter) @c_tamirisa

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The idea that American military strike against Syria would not take place if Syria renounces its chemical weapons program has made room for diplomacy in the Syrian conflict.

Syria has agreed to surrender its chemical weapons to Russia and the international community for their eventual dismantling, putting off a US military strike.

Diplomacy in Syria has always proceeded on two parallel tracks: United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and outside the UN channels.

Thus far US president Barack Obama has been willing to punish the Syrian regime for chemical weapons use in the Syrian civil war in contravention of the Geneva Protocol of 1925 with a military strike with or without the support of the US Congress and the UNSC. The UNSC has been willing to condemn Syrian chemical weapons use in its civil war by perhaps both sides but unwilling to authorize a military strike against Syria.

After Syria accepted the Russian proposal that Syria give up its chemical weapons program, this time Russia wants to engage in diplomacy outside the UNSC just as the US has done thus far: Russia wants to draft a detailed plan for dismantling Syria’s chemical weapons program and preferably implement it without UNSC involvement but have the world informally on its side.

Syria’s commitment to let its chemical weapons program be dismantled, Russia expects, will become the basis for the Geneva Peace Conference (Geneva II) between the two warring sides in the Syrian civil war to end that war. The UNSC resolution process does not factor in this calculus at all just as it has not for Barack Obama when he threatened a military strike.

To be sure, UNSC mandate is needed for a non-self-defense military strike against a member country but is not needed for Geneva II peacemaking, though a UNSC resolution can help with ensuring compliance with the obligations of the Chemical Weapons Convention which Syria has committed to becoming a party to thereby preparing the ground for Geneva II.

Russia must be supported by US in its efforts to dismantle Syria’s chemical weapons program and in Geneva II.

Should Syria renege on its commitment to destroy its chemical weapons arsenal despite full cooperation of the United States and its allies UK and France with Russia and should Geneva II fail, after diplomacy – including any UNSC sanctions regime – has run its due course, the use of force in Syria to hold those responsible on both sides of the civil war accountable for war crimes at the International Criminal Court (ICC) would be the last option with or without a UNSC resolution.


About Chandrashekar (Chandra) Tamirisa

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