Chemical weapons in Syria: What can Latin America do about it?
Some Latin American nations voted against a UN resolution condemning violence in Syria this year. But the region can still send a message that the use of chemical weapons will end their support.
• A version of this post ran on the author's blog, bloggingsbyboz.com. The views expressed are the author's own.
In the past week, the Syrian government has been [reportedly] moving its chemical weapons stockpiles and mixing ingredients that would allow it to weaponize sarin nerve gas. The United States has made clear that the use of chemical weapons is a red line, one which will lead to direct US action.
Back in February of this year, Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela were five of only 12 countries in the world to vote against a UN resolution condemning the violence in Syria and endorsing an Arab League plan that called for President Assad to step down. Additionally, Venezuela has broken international sanctions to provide fuel to Syria.
Thus far, the US has publicly ignored ALBA's [The Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas] support of Assad. The reality is that ALBA has little real influence globally and its support is a small diplomatic buffer that isn't changing things on the ground in Syria. Their UN votes and a few ships of fuel aren't worth making a big deal over.
That said, Syria's potential use of chemical weapons would change that equation. It's a red line that no country or group of countries should step across with the Assad government. The US may take diplomatic actions against countries that continue to stand with Assad if he steps across that red line.
ALBA should send a message to the Syrian government that the use of chemical weapons will end their support (though that support should have been withdrawn long ago). It's a piece of leverage those countries have and for humanitarian and diplomatic reasons they should use it to convince Assad he would be making a big mistake.
Other Latin American countries, specifically Brazil, should make clear to ALBA that this step is a potential red line for them as well. If Syria uses chemical weapons, any Latin American country continuing to stand with Assad will be condemned.
I'd like to think that condemning the creation and use of chemical or biological weapons is one of the things that the hemisphere can agree on. In the coming weeks and months, ALBA may face a choice on that issue. It would be best to have a united hemisphere against Syria's potential use of chemical weapons. If some or all of the ALBA countries choose to walk with Assad as he steps over that red line, it may lead to some serious diplomatic consequences.
– James Bosworth is a freelance writer and consultant who runs Bloggings by Boz.
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