Syrian Rebels, Not Government, Used Chemical Weapons Says UN
The infamous “red line” may not have been crossed after all. At least not by the Assad regime.
The Hill (“UN: Rebels, not Assad, appear to have used chemical weapons“):
United Nations human rights investigators said Sunday they have gathered testimony from outside Syria suggesting rebels, not Bashar Assad’s regime, may have used chemical weapons.
“Our investigators have been in neighboring countries interviewing victims, doctors and field hospitals and, according to their report of last week which I have seen, there are strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof of the use of sarin gas, from the way the victims were treated,” Carla Del Ponte, a member of the independent commission of inquiry on Syria, told Swiss-Italian television. “This was use on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities.”
Reuters (“U.N. has testimony that Syrian rebels used sarin gas: investigator“):
U.N. human rights investigators have gathered testimony from casualties of Syria’s civil war and medical staff indicating that rebel forces have used the nerve agent sarin, one of the lead investigators said on Sunday.
The United Nations independent commission of inquiry on Syria has not yet seen evidence of government forces having used chemical weapons, which are banned under international law, said commission member Carla Del Ponte.
“Our investigators have been in neighboring countries interviewing victims, doctors and field hospitals and, according to their report of last week which I have seen, there are strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof of the use of sarin gas, from the way the victims were treated,” Del Ponte said in an interview with Swiss-Italian television.
“This was use on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities,” she added, speaking in Italian.
Del Ponte, a former Swiss attorney-general who also served as prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, gave no details as to when or where sarin may have been used.
The Geneva-based inquiry into war crimes and other human rights violations is separate from an investigation of the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria instigated by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, which has since stalled.
This is, of course, just one inspector and one investigation. The intelligence agencies of the United States and several of its allies have reached a different conclusion. But they’ve been wrong and the UN right on at least one previous occasion that comes to mind.
Regardless of which side, if any used chemical weapons, it shouldn’t in and of itself lead the United States to intervene in another Middle Eastern civil war. Not even though it undermines American credibility to have its president issue amateur “red line” ultimata and then not follow through. Either it’s in US national security interests to oust the Assad regime or it is not. Either we have a handle on who would replace Assad or we do not. Either there are viable plans for doing so or it is not. And my strong sense on all counts is that the nots have it.
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