Tensions rise against Eastern countries over possible military strikes without UN mandate after latest attack on UN convoy
The US, UK, France, Germany and Turkey have all called for military intervention in Syria in the wake of the latest atrocities.
The United Nations (UN) revealed that on Monday a UN convoy made up of 20 chemical warfare investigators was attacked by snipers on its way to an area suspected of being subjected to chemical attacks.
The convoy was forced to turn back as one car in particular took the brunt of the assault, getting hit by gunfire "multiple times by unidentified snipers" stated the UN. "The team returned safely back to the government checkpoint” they added.
The experts resumed their investigation the same day however, as they managed to arrive at the Muadhamiya district and spend three hours at two different hospitals interviewing doctors, survivors and other witnesses of the gruesome attack, as well as collecting blood, urine and soil samples for laboratory analysis.
The twenty UN experts have been stationed in Syria since 18 August where they were commissioned to look into previously suspected accounts of chemical warfare. They have made no official accusations with regards to who is responsible for the assault.
However Farhan Haq, spokesman for UN Secretary General, did tell the BBC that the team were “deliberately targeted.”
Action : Reaction
Last Wednesday was the most blatant act of chemical warfare yet in Syria as hundreds of innocent men, women and children died in rebel occupied zones. The medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres revealed that last Wednesday, in the three hospitals that it supports, they tended to around 3,600 people with neurotoxic symptoms and that 355 of them had died.
President Assad has denied all accusations made against him and his regime with regards to the attacks, dismissing them as an “assault to common sense” as he warned the US against coming in with the full force of the military. “"If someone is dreaming of making Syria a puppet of the West, then this will not happen," he stated to Izvestiya, a Russian Newspaper.
According to Syrian state TV the fault was with the “terrorist” rebel groups, although this allegation was not verified in any way.
West for military action
Despite Assad’s denials of attacks and warnings against foreign intervention, the US and UK are particularly keen to make a move into Syria and this is a stance now echoed by France, Germany and Turkey.
US Secretary of State John Kerry stated Monday night:
“What we saw in Syria last week should shock the conscience of the world. It defies any code of morality.
“The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons is a moral obscenity. By any standard it is inexcusable and despite the excuses and equivocations that some have manufactured, it is undeniable.
“Our sense of basic humanity is offended not only by this cowardly crime, but also by the cynical attempt to cover it up. At every turn the Syrian regime has failed to cooperate with the UN investigation, using it only to stall and to stymie the important effort to bring to light what happened to Damascus in the dead of night.
"Make no mistake” warned Kerry, “President Obama believes there must be accountability for those who would use the world's most heinous weapon against the world's most vulnerable people. Nothing today is more serious, and nothing is receiving more serious scrutiny."
Western leaders are poised for intervention in Syria, as military leaders from both the UK and US along with their allies meet in Jordan and the US increases its naval presence along the eastern Mediterranean Sea.
Some leading politicians have even intimated desires to go over UN heads in order to put into effect much needed military strikes in Syria.
UK Foreign Secretary WIlliam Hague mentioned that if there was a “great humanitarian need” then they could intervene without approval from the UN. French Foreign Secretary Laurent Fabius echoed Hague’s point of view, asserting that the UN Security Council could be sidestepped "in certain circumstances".
However the situation is tragically complex and precarious as Eastern countries such as Russia, China and Iran remain resolutely against any military intervention on the part of US and its allies.
Wang Yi, the Chinese Foreign Minister, stated on Monday evening that Western leaders should approach the chemical warfare matter with great caution.
Russia too have remained staunchly on the side of Assad, asserting that any military move on Syria without the appropriate UN mandate would entail a "grave violation of international law."
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated from Moscow that the West had absolutely no proof that chemical weapons had been deployed in Syria, yet they claim “that the red line has been crossed and there can be no delay".
A further wedge of tension has been struck between the US and Russia as the White House cancels a meeting with Moscow diplomats due to the “ongoing consultations” of the Syrian chemical attacks.
Russian Deputy foreign minister, Gennady Gatilov, asserted that this decision by the US was “regrettable”. However Kerry explained that Obama was discussing how they should respond to the chemical attacks with other world leaders, in particular, with Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd.
Australia is set to take the chair at the UN security council this coming Sunday.
Rudd made the following statement today: "I do not believe the world can simply turn a blind eye to the use of chemical weapons against a civilian population resulting in nearly 300 deaths, or more, and some 3,600 people hospitalised."
A dangerous ally
Iran, Syria’s closest ally has also condemned any interference from the US and allies. They have accused the West of manipulating the conflict together with Israel and Sunni militant rebels, in order to take control of the region.
Iranian foreign minister Abbas Araqchi has avidly reaffirmed Iran’s allegiance to President Assad and his brutal regime.
"We want to strongly warn against any military attack in Syria. There will definitely be perilous consequences for the region," Araqchi remarked. "These complications and consequences will not be restricted to Syria. It will engulf the whole region."
UK prime minister David Cameron has said today that the time has come for the world to take action on Syria, as he cuts short his holiday to discuss with world leaders how to respond. "Any decision taken" affirmed his spokesman, "will be taken under a strict international framework. Any use of chemical weapons is completely and utterly abhorrent and unacceptable … and the international community needs to respond to that."
Meanwhile Western military are set to go for the strike. "We are ready to go, like that" says US defence secreatary Chuck Hagel.