The Ball Is In Assad’s Court

The best piece I’ve read today on the chemical weapons attacks in Syria, by Fawaz Gerges. He makes the solid point that the allegations of chemical weapons attacks are fairly easy to disprove. That means it is very much in Assad’s interests to allow inspections. Lots of other good points. Go read the whole thing.

Although we do not have independent information as to whether Bashar al-Assad’s regime fired chemical weapons on the eastern suburbs of Damascus and killed hundreds of civilians, as the opposition claims, the burden of proof, morally and legally, lies squarely on the shoulders of the Syrian president. If the regime’s counter-claims of denial are to be believed, Assad must convince the Syrian people and the world.

He can do this by allowing the United Nations inspectors access to the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Ghouta, where this apparent massacre occurred. A 20-strong UN team is already in Damascus, investigating three other incidents of alleged chemical weapons attacks said to have taken place six months ago.

The UN, together with scores of nations, has called on Assad to grant permission to its inspectors and allow them to conduct a “thorough, impartial and prompt investigation”. Assad’s prompt agreement would not only show his sincerity about addressing the serious and urgent concerns of the international community, but could also forestall western military strikes. His refusal could prompt such a strike.

Meanwhile, Doctors Without Borders — one of the organisations I trust the most in any theatre of war — are saying it was definitely nerve gas (almost certainly sarin, then) and that more than 350 people died and 3.500 were injured.

Dr Bart Janssens, director of operations at the charity, said: “Medical staff working in these facilities provided detailed information to MSF doctors regarding large numbers of patients arriving with symptoms including convulsions, excess saliva, pinpoint pupils, blurred vision and respiratory distress.”

Also, I wrote a longer thing yesterday on the gas attacks here.

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