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A Syrian soldier films the damage to the Syrian Scientific Research Center in Barzeh, near Damascus, Syria, on April 14, 2018. The site was attacked by U.S., British and French military strikes to punish President Bashar al-Assad for suspected chemical attacks against civilians. (Hassan Ammar/AP)

A chemical weapons confrontation is escalating in Syria, after an international watchdog agency concluded this month that Damascus used chemical weapons, lied to investigators and violated its commitment to dismantle its chemical weapons arsenal. Syria has 90 days to respond — or face a referral to the U.N. Security Council for possible punishment.

Since 2013, the independent Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), often in coordination with experts from the United Nations, has led efforts to collect evidence on the use of toxic gas on civilian targets in Syria. Most recently, the OPCW’s Investigation and Identification Team concluded that the Syrian government was responsible for the use of chemical weapons in March 2017, and thus lied about dismantling its entire stockpile.…  Seguir leyendo »

Smoke rises after the Assad regime carried out an airstrike at Douma town of Eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria, on 7 April 2018. Anadolu Agency/Mouneb Tai

What do we know about the 7 April chemical weapons attack?

On the evening of 7 April 2018, the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Douma was subjected to an apparent chemical weapons attack. According to local first responders, the attack killed more than 42 residents sheltering in their homes and affected more than 500. The attack came as Syrian government forces subjected the city to a surge in conventional bombing after negotiations stalled over the city’s surrender.

So far, no international party has said definitively or presented conclusive evidence that the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the chemical weapons use.…  Seguir leyendo »

Civil defence members remove the remnants of a rocket on the outskirts of Douma in February. Photo: Getty Images

Only days after a supposed ceasefire was declared in eastern Ghouta, at least 100 people were reportedly killed, and many more injured, by what appears to be a chemical attack in Douma city.

Local medical sources reported more than 500 cases with symptoms indicative of poisoning by a chemical agent. The symptoms are consistent with an organophosphorous compound, which is the basis of sarin and other nerve agents. Some reports also suggest that the weapon may have contained chlorine.

The already shattered health system in Douma city struggled to manage this mass causality incident: it was difficult to identify the exact chemical used and the sparse medical supplies there were insufficient to treat injuries and reverse neurological symptoms.…  Seguir leyendo »

La tragédie syrienne sera-t-elle le tombeau des Nations unies ? Après la tragédie d’Alep, celle de la Ghouta orientale pose la même question assortie de deux nouvelles interrogations : la première sur la capacité du Conseil à faire respecter ses propres résolutions ; la seconde, brûlante, sur le contrôle des armes chimiques.

Face à la Ghouta orientale, le Conseil a montré qu’il n’est désormais plus bloqué en raison du droit de veto de l’un au moins de ses cinq membres permanents, comme cela avait été le cas à Alep. Mais il est désormais impotent, et le spectre de la faillite de la Société des nations rôde plus que jamais.…  Seguir leyendo »

La última palabra en relación con el ataque con armas químicas en Khan Sheikhoun (provincia de Idlib, Siria) del 4 de abril, que dejó 85 muertos y una cifra estimada de 555 heridos, todavía no está dicha. Pero tres puntos, sobre la responsabilidad por el ataque, la respuesta militar de Estados Unidos y el efecto del episodio sobre el curso de la guerra civil en Siria, deben quedar claros.

En primer lugar, todos los gobiernos mienten, no por naturaleza, sino cuando les conviene y piensan que pueden hacerlo impunemente. Todo intento de establecer la verdad de lo sucedido debe basarse en esta premisa.…  Seguir leyendo »

Leer un buen periódico

"Leer un buen periódico”, dice un verso de Vallejo, y yo creo que se podría añadir “es la mejor manera de comenzar el día”. Recuerdo que lo hacía cuando andaba todavía de pantalón corto, a mis 12 o 13 años, comprando La Crónica para leer los deportes mientras esperaba el ómnibus que me llevaba al colegio de La Salle a las siete y media de la mañana. Nunca he podido desprenderme de esa costumbre y, luego de la ducha matutina, sigo leyendo dos o tres diarios antes de encerrarme en el escritorio a trabajar. Y, desde luego, los leo de tinta y de papel, porque las versiones digitales me parecen todavía más incompletas y artificiales, menos creíbles, que las otras.…  Seguir leyendo »

L’horreur et la mort, tel est le sort des enfants syriens sous le régime d’Assad. Le 4 avril, deux avions ont décollé de Chaïrat, base aérienne du régime soutenue par la Russie. Il est hautement probable qu’ils ont bombardé des civils à Khan Cheikhoun au moyen de gaz mortels. Ce qui a suivi est trop affreux à décrire : une agonie longue et douloureuse pour des bébés, des femmes et des personnes âgées, sans distinction. Des morts par dizaines, des centaines de blessés qui porteront à jamais les séquelles de cette attaque. C’est une honte pour le régime syrien et ses alliés, une honte pour le monde.…  Seguir leyendo »

7 April: The USS Porter fires a missile at a Syrian military airfield in retaliation for a chemical attack. Photo: US Navy via Getty Images.

President Donald Trump’s authorisation of missile strikes on the Shayrat airbase in Syria last week has divided opinion. For some, the action was a proportionate response to the alleged use of chemical weapons by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. For others, it is a strategically meaningless move that may serve to escalate the Syrian conflict rather than bring it closer to a resolution. How one assesses the effectiveness of the strikes is largely dependent on the context in which they are being judged.

Viewed in strict terms of chemical weapons deterrence, the missile strikes represent a minor success and allowed the Trump administration to show that, unlike the Obama administration, it was willing to act.…  Seguir leyendo »

Last week’s sarin attacks by the Syrian government against civilian targets in Khan Sheikhoun, and the subsequent U.S. retaliatory missile strikes against a Syrian air base, raise many new questions about Syria’s six-year civil war.

Much of this coverage has focused on implications for the future of U.S. policy. But there’s another big question: Why would Syrian President Bashar al-Assad use chemical weapons — and risk international condemnation and retaliation?

Assad has been the dominant force in the Syrian civil war, which has cost more than 400,000 Syrian lives. The opposition is increasingly fragmented and the Syrian government has for the most part held tightly to the reins of power using conventional weapons.…  Seguir leyendo »

Guided-missile destroyer USS Porter firing a Tomahawk missile at Syria, April 7, 2017. Ford Williams/US Navy via Getty Images

For an American president, bombing is easier than thinking. For an American lawmaker or opinion-maker, it costs nothing to celebrate the resolve of a president who bombs. On the evening of April 6, Donald Trump reversed his apparent policy of declining to attack the Assad regime and fired fifty-nine Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian government airfield. The cause was a report that the Syrian air force had dropped a chemical bomb that killed at least seventy-two civilians. John McCain and Lindsey Graham—who have been among Trump’s most strident critics in the Republican Party, and who have long been calling for the overthrow of Bashar al-Assad—immediately applauded the action.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Syrian victim receives treatment on April 4 at a field hospital in Saraqib, Syria. (European Pressphoto Agency)

President Trump launched a cruise missile strike Thursday to punish the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad for the alleged use of chemical weapons. Assad’s apparent sarin attack represented yet another blow to the global norm prohibiting the use of chemical weapons. But the significant violation of the taboo in Syria is not likely to lead to the routine use of chemical weapons in future conflicts.

Syria represents the only open challenge to the norm against chemical weapons in more than 25 years. In the spring of 2013, the United States and France publicly alleged that sarin gas has been used in Syria.…  Seguir leyendo »

The bodies of people who Syrian rebels said were killed in a chemical weapons attack by government forces on Aug. 21, 2013. Credit Bassam Khabieh/Reuters

On Aug. 21, 2013, I woke up in the dark around 4:45 a.m., struggling to breathe. My eyes were burning, my head was throbbing, and my throat was blocked. I was suffocating.

I tried to inhale but all I heard was a horrible rasping sound as my throat closed up. An unbearable pain drummed in my head. The world began to blur. I pounded my chest but couldn’t breathe. My heart seemed about to explode.

Suddenly, my windpipe opened. A gust of air pierced my lungs. Needles seemed to stab my eyes. A searing pain clawed at my stomach. I doubled over and shouted to my roommates: “Wake up!…  Seguir leyendo »

On March 25, an orthopedic surgeon named Ali Darwish was operating on a patient in a suburb of Hama, Syria, when two barrel bombs were dropped at the entrance of the underground hospital where he was working. Soon, a strong smell of chlorine spread throughout the hospital. The underground rooms, built to protect patients and medical personnel from aerial attacks, became de facto gas chambers.

As patients and staff workers fled, Dr. Darwish refused to leave his patient on the operating table. Without even minimal protective equipment, Dr. Darwish collapsed. By the time he was taken out of the hospital it was too late.…  Seguir leyendo »

El fracaso de la comunidad internacional para poner fin a la guerra civil siria es una tragedia, especialmente para los habitantes de ese país, que sufren desde hace tanto tiempo. En cierto sentido, la acción multilateral ha logrado un impacto claramente positivo: la eliminación del programa de armas químicas del gobierno sirio. Sin embargo, persisten los informes que indican que el uso de armas químicas —incluida la mostaza sulfurada (habitualmente conocida como gas mostaza) y las bombas de gas de cloro— continúa contra civiles en Siria.

No podría haber más en juego. Los causantes de esos ataques deben ser identificados y juzgados.…  Seguir leyendo »

Con el plan de Rusia y Estados Unidos para la destrucción de las armas químicas sirias (encarnado ahora en la Resolución 2118 del Consejo de Seguridad de las Naciones Unidas), puede ser que la búsqueda de un final a la guerra civil tome un rumbo más constructivo, ya que el Consejo de Seguridad también demanda que se celebre cuanto antes la largamente planeada segunda conferencia de Ginebra sobre Siria. Y con razón: la eliminación de los arsenales químicos de Siria debe ir de la mano de un proceso político que ponga fin a la guerra.

En primer lugar, por razones prácticas: ningún intento de verificar, asegurar y, finalmente, destruir el enorme arsenal de armas químicas con que cuenta Siria será viable si no se logra, por lo menos, un alto el fuego duradero.…  Seguir leyendo »

El pasado 27 de septiembre la ONU logró ponerse de acuerdo: la resolución 2118 anuncia la destrucción del arsenal químico de Bashar el Asad. Si no respeta sus compromisos, habrá sanciones. Pero siempre que Moscú no se oponga. En pocas palabras, los 110.000 muertos, los dos millones de refugiados y los cinco millones de desplazados no cuentan para nada. Bashar el Asad se presenta al mundo con las manos limpias, la conciencia tranquila y la victoria asegurada. Incluso se permite cerrar la puerta a los europeos en la futura conferencia llamada Ginebra-2 que tendrá lugar a mediados de noviembre. Es un hombre satisfecho.…  Seguir leyendo »

Le secrétaire d'Etat américain John Kerry a rendu le débat houleux sur l'intervention en Syrie caduque avec sa gaffe apparente lors d'une conférence de presse à Londres. Afin d'éviter une attaque sur la Syrie, le président syrien Bachar Al-Assad doit simplement remettre ses armes chimiques au plus vite. La Russie, la Syrie et les Nations unies ont tous sauté sur l'aubaine diplomatique quand ils ont vu un moyen facile de sortir de la crise, alors que M. Kerry considère qu'Al-Assad "n'est pas sur le point de le faire et ceci ne peut être fait".

De vastes questions pratiques concernant le déclassement de la plus grande réserve d'armes chimiques au Moyen-Orient se posent, y compris les difficultés d'accès aux sites dans une zone de guerre , le fait que l'Organisation pour l'interdiction des armes chimiques (OIAC) n'a ni le personnel ni les moyens de procéder à une telle opération, et les énormes doutes quant à savoir si Assad serait honnête pour donner l'intégralité de son arsenal chimique.…  Seguir leyendo »

Podemos discutir tanto los motivos para justificar la intervención militar en Siria como la identidad de los participantes o sus objetivos.

El uso de armas químicas en Damasco parece ya confirmado; no está tan claro de quién es la responsabilidad. Los Gobiernos occidentales habían anunciado que esa era la línea roja que les empujaría, de manera automática, a una intervención militar.Una condición como esa no tiene más remedio que suscitar manipulaciones y provocaciones, y la historia de las guerras está llena de episodios de este tipo: acusar de actos así a uno de los beligerantes permite convertirle en objeto de oprobio y, como consecuencia, deshacerse de él.…  Seguir leyendo »

La diplomatie russe vient peut-être de bouleverser l'agenda du dossier chimique syrien. Elle s'est engouffrée, lundi 9 septembre, dans ce que certains qualifient déjà, à Paris et à Washington, de "bourde" de John Kerry, le secrétaire d'Etat américain, qui, répondant à la question d'un journaliste britannique, a affirmé que la Syrie pourrait éviter des frappes en plaçant son arsenal chimique sous contrôle international.

La proposition russe d'engager le désarmement, aussitôt favorablement accueillie par Damas qui, il y a quelques jours encore, ne reconnaissait officiellement pas la possession d'un programme chimique militaire, est particulièrement habile dans la mesure où elle revêt en apparence, mais en apparence seulement, les oripeaux du bon sens et de la raison.…  Seguir leyendo »

In dealing with the Syrian crisis, many people and countries in the world are split into one of two camps: those who believe Bashar al-Asaad used chemical weapons and therefore should be attacked, and those who deny Asaad culpability and believe the deaths were caused by rebels to embarrass Asaad while U.N. investigators were in Damascus. There is a growing third group, one that believes, although the use of chemical weapons on Aug. 21 came on orders of a commander loyal to Asaad, a U.S.-led attack is not the accepted response for this atrocity.

The Baathist Syrian regime of Hafez and son Bashar al-Asaad is not new to brutality towards their political enemies.…  Seguir leyendo »