American double standards on Syrian and Iraqi chemical weapons

February 16, 2018

By Jawad Akram

It was the month of March in 2003, when United States (U.S.) launched offensive against Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq accusing him of possessing a large stockpile of Chemical Weapons. It was a fact that Iraq had already used chemical gas in Iran-Iraq war and also in its restive Kurdish region, long ago. But during American invasion and occupation of Iraq, no chemical weapon was observed being launched. And even after war, no chemical arsenal was found, apparently vindicating that Saddam Hussein had already destroyed those before war under escalating international pressure.

That was one story about chemical weapons. Now, there was another deadly wave of chemical assaults going on in Syria under shaky regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Assad claimed that all blames of chemical attacks were fabricated but a large number of agencies working in Syria, including United Nations; confirmed that Assad’s army was repeatedly using chemical weapons to kill opponents and civilians mercilessly. Children were also among victims of this ruthless killing by chemical weaponry.

Syrian war erupted in March 2011 and now after nearly seven years, it still drags on with no end in sight. Syrian Army started resorting to Chemical weapons since 2013 and up till now scores of chemical attacks have been confirmed in different areas of Syria. People who saw others, especially children, suffocating, blistering and choking to death could never forget the horrors of these Chemical Attacks.

Now, the questions arise, with Syria flexing its chemical muscles, why American response is totally different from that in Iraq? Which factor has put a restraint on U.S. to react significantly? A single word answer to this dilemma is “Russia”. Yes, Russia – the only difference is of years! In 2003, at the time of American invasion of Iraq, Albeit Russia opposed the American offensive but it was not much strong militarily and economically to challenge U.S.. But in 2015, when Russia jumped into Syrian Civil War, it had become a resurgent super power. Russia emerged as staunch backer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime even when he was outraged globally because of these Chemical attacks.

Kremlin is openly siding with Assad’s regime and on grounds, it has sent its active duty personnel of Armed Forces in large numbers. Russian mercenaries are also fighting for Assad’s army. Many Russians have lost their lives also in this battle. Some predict that Russia has paid human cost in hundreds at least.

Along with Russia, Iran and Hezbollah of Lebanon are also fighting this war to secure Assad’s regime. Tehran has also been sending vigilantes to fight for Assad. Tehran and Hezbollah are bolstering Assad’s regime but restraint on US moves is only because of Russia.

In fact, involvement and presence of a lot of countries, militarily, have made Syria’s War, the most complicated battlefield of this era. Involvements of Russia, United States, Iran, Hezbollah (Lebanon) and Turkey are enough to signal the complexity of this bloody conflict. Previously there were involvements of Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates also. Along with these countries Syrian Kurdish Forces, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Free Syrian Army and many other groups have twisted the war scenario severely. And quite recently, Israel has also launched airstrikes in Syria. In these days, downing of war birds of Russia, Turkey, Syria and Israel also clarifies that how proxy forces of these countries are fighting against each other. The main battle is between former cold war adversaries, i.e., United States and Russia (former Soviet Union), and in fact these are counterweighing each other at the heavy and deadly price of Syrian people.

Wonks at International Think Tanks are contemplating that Syria’s War is far from over. Despite repeated usage of Chlorine gas and other chemical weapons by Assad’s forces, U.S. would refrain from taking massive actions against his army because on the other side there is strong presence of Russia also.

Jawad Akram is an International Affairs Analyst. He has done Masters in International Relations. He can be reached at jawad5677@gmail.com and tweets @jawad5677