The United Nations has tentatively concluded that the massive chemical weapons attack in Syria last month, according to an exclusive report from Foreign Policy. According to the UN's findings, the attack was launched by the Syrian government — not, as Vladimir Putin claimed yesterday, by the opposition.
On Monday, the UN inspection team will present its findings to Secretary Ban Ki-Moon, and while the report won’t directly accuse Bashar al-Assad’s government of launching the August 21st attack, it will apparently present a “strong circumstantial” case, based on an extensive forensic analyses of the scene, that Assad’s government was responsible.
While America’s decision to withhold a military strike on the country no doubt disappointed rebel fighters eager for Western assistance, the forthcoming UN report will be the second consolation prize, if you want to call it that, for the opposition in as many weeks.
It was reported today that the U.S. plan to arm members of the opposition — which was announced months ago but then stonewalled in Congress — finally came to fruition, with American weapons arriving in the arms of rebel fighters over the last two weeks.
The UN report will be another boon to the opposition, as it theoretically eliminates one major concern on the part of those who oppose a strike; namely, that it’s unclear whether or not the Assad government is responsible for the strike.
While the U.S. and Russia have tentatively agreed on a plan to dismantle Syria’s chemical weapons supply and place it under international control, the two sides have disagreed over details of what that plan will entail. In negotiations with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that he wanted the agreement to include “consequences” for the Syrian regime if it doesn’t comply — a provision Russia opposes.
Meanwhile, Assad reportedly demanded that the U.S. withdraw its threat of military strikes before negotiations begin, and also requested 30 days to list his chemical weapons arsenal. The White House responded that “Conditions and demands by someone who a few weeks ago used chemical weapons on children so we could all watch them die in videos are a little hard to take.”