Could Russia oppose enforcement of its own proposal on Syria?
Russia pushed Syria to agree to put its chemical stockpile under international control. But Putin's government is opposing a UN resolution that would outline strict consequences for Syria if it doesn't comply.
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Middle East Editor
Ariel Zirulnick is the Monitor's Middle East editor, overseeing regional coverage both for CSMonitor.com and the weekly magazine. She is also a contributor to the international desk's terrorism and security blog.
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When Russia succeeded in getting Syria to agree to put its chemical weapons under international control, it was hailed as a diplomatic victory that could avert war. But as negotiations begin today on a proposed United Nations resolution to place Syria's stockpile under outside surveillance, a new diplomatic impasse has cropped up.
Russia strongly objects to American and French demands for a UN Security Council resolution that would lay out "very severe consequences" if Syria doesn't give up all its chemical weapons. The Kremlin is also against the wording of the proposed resolution, which blames an Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack near Damascus on the regime and requests the matter be taken to an international court, Associated Press reports.
“[Russian Foreign Minister Sergei] Lavrov noted that France’s proposal to accept a Security Council resolution… blaming the Syrian authorities for the possible use of chemical weapons is inadmissible,” the foreign ministry said in a statement, according to Russian news outlet RIA Novosti.
Russia and the US are at odds over who was behind the attack outside Damascus that allegedly killed more than 1,000 people. Neither side has made its full array of intelligence public, instead expecting the public to trust that they are working off of reliable evidence.
This difference of opinion is evident in each country's media. While much US coverage has been based around the assumption that the Syrian regime was behind the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack, the Russian government's news station RT urges viewers to consider that the rebels could have carried it out and cast doubt on the reliability of US intelligence.
The US Administration has blamed the Syrian government for the alleged chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs on August 21. Washington has maintained it has the intelligence to prove it, but has so far refused to make public a single piece of concrete evidence that would link the Assad regime to the deadly incident.
On Sunday, the Senate Select Intelligence Committee released a series of 13 videos showing what is purported to be proof of chemical weapons use in Syria. The disturbing images of the victims of the alleged attack were earlier shown during a closed-door briefing to a group of senators, as Obama is trying to get authorization from Congress for the military strike on Syria. The administration told senators that the authenticity of the videos was verified by the intelligence community, reported CNN, which first aired the graphic material.
The videos depict scenes of convulsing children, men vomiting and struggling to breathe, and also what appeared to be dozens of dead bodies wrapped up in white sheets, lying side by side. But the footage still does not provide an answer to the question of who was behind the attack. The Syrian government and the opposition forces point the finger of blame at each other.
And in an interview with former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, RT casts doubt on the veracity of the intelligence being cited by US officials.
Quoting Mr. McGovern, the outlet reports that "the intelligence gathered against Syria’s Assad was manufactured by elements within the spy community in order to mislead the US President to take punitive action" and that "CIA Director John Brennan is perpetrating a pre-Iraq-War-type fraud on members of Congress, the media, [and] the public.”
In its live updates on Syria, RT reports that today Russia presented to the UN Security Council its evidence that both the Syrian government and the rebels have chemical weapons. Meanwhile, Russian outlet Pravda reports that Duma deputy Alexei Pushkov, chairman of the international affairs committee, said that both sides have chemical weapons and cites a July 2013 McClatchy story about a 100-page Russian report provided to the UN that "contained evidence of the use of chemical weapons in Aleppo in March 2013."