Military option in Syria: Between crime and blunder at the expense of a peaceful solution?

Ambassador's view
Dr Alexander Yakovenko, Russian Ambassador to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Deputy foreign minister (2005-2011). Follow him on Twitter @Amb_Yakovenko
Military option in Syria: Between crime and blunder at the expense of a peaceful solution?
Those who call for military action in Syria now are setting the world on a perilous path only to repeat the Iraqi and Libyan experience.

Washington, London and Paris are saying they have incontrovertible evidence the Syrian government was behind the chemical attack near Damascus, and that the "red line" has been crossed. Now we are hearing calls for a military option. All too reminiscent of the reckless action that was taken by the US and its allies ten years ago, bypassing the UN Security Council. Disastrous consequences of military involvement in Syria will follow in more blood spilt and bring closer the prospect of regional conflagration. What if "designer strikes" in Syria increase the probability of chemical weapons falling into the wrong hands? Or create poisonous fallout all over the region? Undoubtedly, these actions will further escalate the already explosive situation.

No reliable, clear or convincing evidence has been produced to confirm even what chemical weapons were used, let alone who did it. Neither have we seen even a remotest legal grounds for military action. If 100% proof or legitimacy are deemed impossible, then what percentage of both the international community and public opinion have to put up with?

So far the alleged use of WMD looks much like a provocation with those behind turning it into a casus belli without any proof presented to the public. Besides, one has a lot to question about the opposition's version of events in Ghouta. There is information that videos of atrocities were posted on the internet hours before the purported attack. We have other doubts as well. One has to ask: cui bono? We see no rationale in government forces using chemical weapons just at the very moment when the UN fact-finding mission arrived in Syria. International experts quoted by British media have pointed at inconsistencies in victims' symptoms and at the fact that medical staff were treating those affected without any individual chemical protection.

A image grab taken from a video distributed by Arbeen Unified Press office on August 28, 2013 shows United Nations (UN) arms experts arriving to inspect the site where rockets had fallen in Damascus' eastern Ghouta suburb as they investigate an alleged chemical weapons strike near the capital. (AFP)

At the same time, it is clear that those involved in the incident wanted to sabotage the Geneva peace talks. One cannot but recall that the government has long ago declared its readiness to negotiate, while the opposition hasn't followed suit. Today, some external players cannot help being seen deliberately undermining the very prospect of peaceful political process.

Instead of taking ill-considered military action, piling up more deaths and destruction, we propose a substantial and thorough exchange of available data on any cases of alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria via UN expert channels. It is necessary to fully support the work of the UN fact-finding mission in Syria, the modalities of which have been agreed upon by the UN and the Government of Syria. Such support would fully correspond with the agreements reached by G8 leaders at Lough Erne. At this critical point all parties concerned including external players, have to act with maximum responsibility so as not to repeat the mistakes of the past. Otherwise we find ourselves in the Carroll/Orwellian world of head off/sentence first with due process to follow.

Energy spent to organize a military strike should rather be used to push the parties to the negotiating table.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.