Perfidious Albion I

Boris Johnson, UK’s Foreign Secretary had a mission at the recent G7 Foreign Ministers Summit at Lucca, Italy (10-11 April 2017). He was hell bound to bring home another raft of sanctions against Russia in the aftermath of the gas attack in Syria. Turning a deaf ear to Moscow’s call for an internationally sanctioned investigation on the Syrian gas incident Boris Johnson sought, once more, to trample down on the principles of consultation, engagement and multilateralism which need to imbue international conduct, if we are ever to achieve lasting peace and prosperity on earth. The British Foreign Secretary – ironically partly of Russian descent as his first name denotes – sought to inflict another unfair blow on Russia exploiting Moscow’s absence from the G7 forum.

In Germany, Die Zeit rated Johnson’s move as a sheer miscalculation. The German newspaper commented that: “When UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson proposed to impose new sanctions on Russia amid the situation in Syria, he hoped to receive an ovation from other EU countries or at least their approval. However, his calculation proved wrong.”

Does Boris Johnson and the policy makers in London have such a short memory with regard to Syria? It is rather unlikely. After all, it was them: the Brits (with the French) as the world’s then powerful colonial powers which carved out the borders of today Syria hundred years ago or so. The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office has a strong hand in Middle East affairs. It cannot be operating on short institutional memory. It is out of the question. Thus it is much more likely that the political head of the FCO acts on a selective memory basis designed to serve his purpose of keeping Russia out of the international loop whenever and wherever this proves possible. Alas, Boris unholy mission proved impossible for yet another time as both the host Italy and Germany refused to become his tail end and blocked London’s maneuvers aimed at isolating Russia. Rome and Berlin seem to have chosen the road of common sense, prudence, engagement and respect of the other as opposed to the unethical attitude of unilateralism, confrontation and bellicosity preached by perfidious Boris.

For the sake of our readers let us recount the events of 2013 that led to the decommissioning of the Syrian chemical weapons stockpile. The destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons began in September 2013 on the basis of several international agreements with Damascus. Those agreements stipulated an initial destruction deadline of 30 June 2014.

The UN Security Council Resolution 2118 (27 September 2013) required Syria to assume responsibility for and follow a timeline for the destruction of its chemical weapons and its chemical weapon production facilities. The resolution bound Syria to the implementation plan presented in a decision of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). Accordingly, the OPCW declared Chemical Weapons (CW) were shipped out of Syria for destruction (23 June 2014). The destruction of the most dangerous CWs was performed at sea aboard the Cape Ray, a vessel of the US Maritime Administration‘s Ready Reserve Force, crewed with U.S. civilian merchant mariners. The actual destruction operations, performed by a team of U.S. Army civilians and contractors, destroyed 600 metric tons of chemical agents in forty-two days.

It should be noted that the CW agreements emerged when the US and France headed a coalition of countries on the verge of carrying out air strikes on Syria in response to the 21 August 2013 Ghouta CW attacks. To avoid a military intervention, the US, Russia and Syria agreed to the Framework for Elimination of Syrian Chemical Weapons (14 September 2013). The Framework called for the elimination of Syria‘s CW stockpiles by mid-2014. Syria agreed to accede to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and to the destruction of its chemical weapons stockpiles.

Hence London’s claim that Bashar Al Assad carried out the attack seems hollow: Assad disposed of his chemical weapons arsenal in 2013 under the afore-mentioned international agreements. To be sure which forces carried out the latest CW attack the internationally community ought to investigate also the ISIS and other terrorist organizations operating on Syrian soil!