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Chemical Weapons, Syria, the UN - and the Real Story

By Michael Collins - Posted on 16 September 2013

When diplomacy failsThe real story concerns the risks of calamitous military conflict erupting in the Middle East through accident or miscalculation.  More on that shortly but first, here is a quick summary of the credibility of the UN.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon leaks results of report on September 13

Actually, Ki-moon couldn't leak the results of the report at a widely reported private speech on September 13 because, as he said at the time, he hadn't seen it.    But the message was clear.  Syria was the culprit. 

Within the space of two minutes, Ki-moon said that the Syrian regime had committed "many crimes against humanity," that there would ben an accounting "when everything was over," and the inspector's document would be "an overwhelming report."  USA Today and the Washington Post took the words to mean that the UN Secretary General had signaled a negative finding against Syria. (See video of Ki-moon 34:00-37:00)

The original intent of the UN investigation was to determine the nature of the attack, not to assign blame.   Just few days before the report was to be delivered, the highest UN official strongly implied the results of this unissued report (Inner City Press, September 13).  He was either fabricating the conclusion or, if he'd actually reviewed the report, violating procedures allowing a fair and accurate assessment of the results by selective leaking prior to a full presentation.


The report will say that a chemical weapons attack took place.  It may say that sarin gas was used and it may comment on shells used and where they came from.  But, even if the report lays blame on the Syrian government, it will have no effect because a deal has been done to move beyond a U.S. strike.

UN credibility in shreds after Harvard JFK School report on lies leading up to Libya

A report from the Belfer Center of the JFK School of Government at Harvard University corrected the record on the Libyan intervention.  Report author Alan Kuperman noted:  the Libyan uprising was violent from the start; Gadaffi did not indiscriminate force against civilians; and, the conflict would have ended in six weeks with less than 1000 dead were it not for UN intervention.

UN action authorizing Western intervention in Libya was based on one half day's private debate without investigation of any type and a voice vote by the Human Rights Council.  In less than eight hours, the basis was laid for UN Security Council action that resulted in a devastating military conflict.

Libya is a disaster (The Independent, September 3).   The country no longer produces oil.  It is a lawless where armed gangs prevail.  The economy is in a shambles. That is what the UN delivered in Libya.

We may not know with certainty the source of the chemical weapons attack on civilians near Damascus on August 21.  However, we do know that a leak-happy Secretary General and the shocking expose of abject failures in Libya compromise UN credibility.

The real story about Syria - military posturing threatens global catastrophe

Dr. Strangelove cruising near Syria

Israel conducted a test of a missile defense system on September 3.  For days prior to that, President Obama had been threatening to fire missiles from U.S. Naval vessels in the Mediterranean Sea.

The Defense Ministry held a successful missile drill on Tuesday morning in the Mediterranean Sea and in a testing area at an Israel Air Force base in the central region.  … The test was conducted with the assistance of representatives from the US Missile Defense Agency and the Pentagon.  Jerusalem Post, September 3

Have the Netanyahu and Obama administrations lost their minds?

What if the offensive missile fired by the Israelis, a Sparrow, or the defensive missile that shot down the Sparrow were taken as the beginning of an attack on Syria?

One of the ten Russian naval vessels in the Mediterranean might have reacted with a demonstration of force against U.S. vessels.

The Russians detected the missile.  Shortly after that, Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov demanded the presence of Israeli and U.S. military attaches for a strong reprimand.  Haaretz reported that Antonov pointed out the missiles were headed in the direction of Russia and that Russia had not been notified of the test.   A miscalculation would threaten global security, he said.

Why didn't the U.S. military alert the Russians about the test?

This is obviously some gamesmanship but at what risk?

Continued threats and military presence

President Barack Obama continues to threaten Syria with a military attack after agreeing on a deal to disarm Syria of chemical weapons.

Obama's  Secretary of State, John Kerry, continues to make similar threats.

The president continues the presence of the concentrated Naval force in the Mediterranean despite the potential disaster that might have resulted from the September 2 missile test.

The chorus of military threats and actual military posturing in the Middle East will ratchet up after the UN inspectors report, no doubt.

Given the high stakes, it's worth asking, what is the administrations point?

Surely the president knows that a military strike is a guaranteed ticket to impeachment in the U.S. House of Representatives.  The House was ready to vote down the presidents attack authorization by a huge majority.

Is Obama so deluded that he thinks he can take military action against Syria and survive politically?  Or, is he posturing in an utterly vain attempt to salve his ego and repair his reputation after becoming the first president in modern history that was stopped from a military action before it commenced?

The risks are too great and the rewards non-existent.

It is time to call it a day and make peace


See Inner City Press for ongoing UN coverage on this issue.

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