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memri
September 30, 2013 No.
5462

Editorials In Gulf Press Criticize American-Russian Deal, U.N. Resolution On Syria's Chemical Weapons: A Defeat For U.S.; Assad Can Continue Slaughtering Syrians Using Conventional Weapons

The agreement signed September 14, 2013 in Geneva by the U.S. and Russia on Syria's chemical weapons, which calls for these weapons to be removed from Syria or destroyed under international oversight, was received with harsh criticism in the Gulf, especially in Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Editorials and articles in the Saudi, Qatari and UAE press interpreted the agreement as an American defeat, and stated that, by focusing on the chemical weapons alone, it deflected the world's attention away from the suffering of the Syrian people and their struggle against tyranny, and effectively allowed Assad to avoid punishment and continue massacring his people with conventional weapons.

Similar criticism was voiced in the Gulf press after, on September 27, 2013, the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) adopted Resolution 2118 calling for dismantling Syria's chemical arsenal. This resolution, too, was condemned for focusing on the chemical issue and thus permitting the massacre to continue by other means. The articles also criticized the U.S. for accepting the Russian demand that any sanctions imposed on Syria under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter for violating the September 14 Geneva agreement would require the approval of the Security Council.

It should be mentioned that the Saudi daily Al-Madina voiced a different opinion from the other Gulf papers, taking a positive view of the U.S.-Russia agreement and of Resolution 2118. It saw these measures as a sign that the international community is serious in its handling of the Syrian crisis and that the Assad regime is on its way out.

The following are excerpts from editorials published in the Gulf press in response to the September 14 Geneva agreement and UNSC Resolution 2118:

Qatari 'Al-Raya' Daily: The Agreement Allows Syrian Regime To Evade Punishment

The Qatari daily Al-Raya complained that the agreement contained no clause compelling the Syrian regime to stop fighting the Syrian people, which has been struggling to liberate itself from this regime for two years: "…Despite the importance of the agreement reached to disarm the Syrian regime of chemical weapons, [this agreement] does not contain a single clause stipulating that the [Syrian] regime must be compelled to stop [its] violence and butchery against the Syrian people. This matter was left for future discussions and efforts prior to the convening of the Geneva 2 Conference, which has been postponed more than once.

"Both sides, the Russian and the American, stressed in the agreement that chemical weapons have [indeed] been used in Syria – a fact that the international supervisors' report, to be published in the next few days, will confirm – [and this] demonstrates that a war crime and a crime against humanity has been committed [in Syria]. But the agreement unfortunately allows the criminal, i.e. the Syrian regime, which has admitted its possession of chemical weapons, to evade punishment...

"The battle that the Syrian people is waging for its liberty and dignity will not end, because this Russian-American agreement prevents the military attack that was expected to alter the balance of power and weaken the [Syrian] regime, which is killing and exterminating the Syrian people with the political backing of its allies. This regime, which has handed over 'its strategic weapons,' will henceforth become more confrontational and blood[-thirsty] in its efforts to put an end to the Syrian revolution. Therefore it is likely that the massacres committed against the Syrian people will [only] intensify and become more severe..."[1]

Qatari 'Al-Sharq' Daily: The Agreement Is A Crime Committed By The Impotent International Community

An editorial in the Qatari daily Al-Sharq stated that the agreement came to salvage the pride of the American president but ignored the Syrian people and the international community's responsibility towards it: "The Russian-American agreement on dismantling Assad's chemical arsenal, which was announced yesterday, is another episode [in the saga of] feebleness and failure that still plague the international community when it comes to fulfill its responsibility towards the Syrian people... The superpowers have taken another step in their retreat by approving [this] agreement that preserves the dignity of American President Barack Obama but gives nothing to the Syrian people, which evidently has no place in the considerations of the two parties, the Americans and Russians. This sorry agreement is just another achievement for those who commit war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria.

This meeting [between Kerry and Lavrov, where the agreement was signed] was of no help to the Syrian people, save for the decision to divest Assad, his regime and his allies of one single tool out of the profusion of tools [they have been using] in their crimes for over two years. At the same time, the meeting allowed the criminals to evade punishment; in fact, it provided them with further opportunities to commit crimes against the people using ballistic weapons and warplanes that sow death and destruction everywhere.

After it failed for two years to provide protection to [the Syrian] civilians, the international community committed an even graver crime against them by plotting with the war criminals, and restoring the legitimacy that they lost two years ago by making them a party to the disarmament talks and the Geneva [2] negotiations… Moreover, [the international community] has given them the backing to shed more of the [Syrian] people's blood, as long as they don't use chemical weapons that have caused no more than a few thousand fatalities, whereas more than 100,000 Syrians have been killed using every [other] type of weapon in the past two years.

This tragedy to which the Syrian people are subjected, which exceeds all imagination, mandates a re-examination of the mechanisms of the impotent international community, which bears prime responsibility for this tragedy that has become an incomparable mark of shame on humanity's forehead…"[2]


Uncle Sam seizes Syria's chemical weapons while Assad walks away with a Scud missile (Al-Watan, Saudi Arabia, September 16, 2013)

Saudi Daily 'Al-Yawm': U.S. Has Fallen Into Russian Trap

An editorial in the Saudi daily Al-Yawm stated, in a similar vein, that the agreement is intended to provide Assad and Iran with more time to continue the massacres in Syria, and that the U.S. is continuing its tradition of temporizing while the mass-extermination of Syrians continues to take place: "Syrians and Arabs feared that Russia, under Iranian pressure, would successfully and skillfully lead a new game of deception for the benefit of the Assad regime and the militias of its patrons, while tempting Washington to [join an initiative] that would distract the international community from the fundamental issue, i.e. the extermination campaign that the Syrian people are facing. Most unfortunately, this is precisely what happened, [for] the Russian-American Geneva agreement realized these fears. Not only does the agreement fail to benefit the Syrian people, it was deliberately crafted so as to give Assad and Tehran's militias more time to shed Syrian [blood], and [more] opportunities to deceive [the world]...

"Considering the clauses of the agreement, the Syrians must prepare for a new round of massacres in the Syrian cities, because the agreement virtually encourages Assad and the Tehran militias to renew their routine criminal activity with vigor and confidence. The international community must also prepare for a new round of plots and deceptions by Assad, and for the obstacles that he will strew every day before the international investigators and chemical weapons experts [who will arrive in Syria]. [These obstacles] include intimidating the supervisors and preventing them from doing their work with the excuse that there is a war going on and by inventing fictitious attacks on the investigators...

"It is clear that the Russians have managed to lure the Americans into a trap and into a lengthy tunnel of negotiations, talks and recriminations – and it appears that the Americans want [to fall into] Moscow's traps. Their agreement at Geneva is no exception to Washington's tradition of temporizing and abstaining from serious and forceful positions [when it comes to] forestalling the plan of mass-extermination in Syria and rescuing the Syrian people from the daily meals of death." [3]


The world sits on a thick folder on Syria's "daily massacres", but focuses only on some pages about "the chemical issue" (Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, London, September 18, 2013)

Saudi 'Al-Watan' Daily: To Reach Political Solution In Syria, Russia Must Drop Assad And His Regime

An editorial in the Saudi daily Al-Watan argued that it is difficult to believe Russia's claim that it wants a peaceful political solution to the Syrian crisis, since it is Russia that has repeatedly scuttled such solutions. The crisis, the paper said, will not be solved as long as Russia continues its support for Assad: "When Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov spoke yesterday about 'a consensus among Russia, the United States and the United Nations that a political solution is the most appropriate way to halt the violence in Syria', he ignored the fact that it was Russia that repeatedly sabotaged initiatives for a political solution [in Syria] until matters almost reached a dead end. Perhaps the most important of these [initiatives] was the Arab League initiative of early 2012. After the Syrian regime rejected it, the Arab League took it to the Security Council in February 2012, where Russia and China vetoed it…

Therefore, by what logic does Russia intend to persuade the world that it wants a peaceful solution to the crisis, when all signs indicate that it wants a solution that leaves Bashar Al-Assad in power despite everything he has done to his people?… The Syrian crisis will continue as long as Russia remains a major player in it, and a political solution will not materialize unless Russia forgoes its support for Bashar Al-Assad and the defense of his regime. Then the Geneva 2 conference will be able to bear fruit and the Syrians can embark on the post-Assad stage."[4]


Obama to Assad: "Give us your chemical weapons and all will be forgiven" (Akhbar Al-Khalij, Bahrain, September 15, 2013)

UAE Daily 'Al-Khaleej': U.S. Has Failed To Impose A World Order Under Its Leadership

An editorial in the UAE daily Al-Khaleej stated that the international struggle over Syria is a part of the struggle by Russia, China and several other powers to break the unipolar American hegemony in the world, which the U.S. has been trying to consolidate since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and to establish a new, multipolar order.

"The international and regional struggle that we are witnessing in the Syrian arena, manifested by various forms of armed struggle and confrontational diplomacy, is [just] another reflection of the new world order, in which large powers – Russia, China and the [other] BRICS countries [i.e., India, Brazil and South Africa] – are attempting to break the unipolar hegemony [of the U.S.] and to establish a multi-polar world order in which they [too] are partners, [a world order] in which no single country can impose its position or try to take over the world's resources.

"After the Soviet Union collapsed and the socialist bloc disintegrated, along with the Warsaw Pact, the U.S. regarded itself as triumphant, and [felt that] the capitalist system had achieved a resounding victory and that the war of ideologies had been decided in its favor. Many American writers and research institutes expressed this in different ways, and believed that the world was entering an era of unipolar U.S. leadership. [Former] U.S. president George Bush Sr. decided this issue [once and for all] when he declared the existence of a new order throughout the world. However, since then, much has happened [in the realm of] international relations and crises, and the U.S., despite joining wars (in Afghanistan and Iraq) in order to consolidate its leadership, did not manage to impose a world order under its leadership and according to its will...

"In the early 1990s, the U.S. tried to upset the international equilibrium, but [several factors] – the return of the Russian Union [State], [which] stepped back into the role of the Soviet Union, as well as China's rise as a global, economic and military power and the emergence of other countries (India, Brazil and South Africa) that take part in managing the global economy and policy – renewed the struggle between the U.S. and the other rising powers, and this struggle is reflected in the Syrian arena and in the corridors of the U.N.

"It is a struggle to prevent a unipolar world order and to establish a multi-polar order that consolidates international inclusiveness. Perhaps we now see signs heralding its emergence.[5]


"The Russian-American agreement on Syria": Putin has replaced Obama in the Oval Office (Al-Watan, Saudi Arabia, September 17, 2013).

'Al-Quds Al-Arabi': Resolution 2118 Legitimizes Assad's Remaining In Power

The London daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, which was purchased by Qatar several months ago, likewise attacked the American-Russian understandings on Syria and blamed the U.S. for the deteriorating situation in this country. The daily's September 27 editorial, published on the day of the vote on UNSC Resolution 2118, attacked this American- and Russian-drafted resolution for not including a demand to punish the perpetrators of the chemical massacre: "Unfortunately, [the UNSC resolution] does not include [any demand] to punish those responsible for perpetrating the chemical massacre of August 21, 2013, in which over 1,000 people were killed. The meaning of this resolution is allowing the [current] Syrian regime to remain in place, at least for the next nine months, during which the chemical weapons are to be dismantled. The massacres perpetrated by the Syrian regime, in which over 100,000 civilians were killed and which caused millions to leave their homes, should [also] receive some attention, especially from the Security Council, whose resolution should include some clauses defending the Syrian people...

"The American-Russian agreement on the UNSC resolution, [a resolution] which the U.S. State Department has described as 'historical' and 'unprecedented,' gives Assad more time to regain control of the parts of Syria that have been liberated [by the opposition]... The international community's powerlessness to hold Assad to account and to support the [Syrian] people and opposition has contributed to the spread of the jihadists throughout Syria and has weakened the [National] Coalition [for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces]... This was evident in the speech of U.S. State Secretary John Kerry, [in which he warned] that Syria would collapse before either side could claim a military victory. What Kerry failed to mention was that his own country was partly responsible for bringing about this situation by withholding support and assistance from the opposition..."[6]

Saudi Daily 'Al-Madina': Resolution 2118 – An Important U.N. Achievement Indicating The Seriousness Of The International Community

In contrast to the numerous editorials and articles in the Gulf press that condemned the understandings between the U.S. and Russia on the Syrian issue, two editorials in the Saudi daily Al-Madina welcomed these understandings. The first editorial, from September 17, 2013, claimed that the Kerry-Lavrov agreement of September 14 had been the first step on the way to eliminating the Assad regime. The second, published on September 29, after the passing of Resolution 2118, described this resolution as important because it was the first legally binding decision to be adopted by the Security Council on Syria, and also because similar steps could be taken vis-à-vis nuclear weapons.

The September 17 editorial stated: "It can be said that the Geneva Agreement, which the American and Russian foreign ministers managed to reach last Saturday on disarming the Syrian regime of its chemical arsenal, has placed this crisis on the correct path towards a fitting and rapid solution, and that this agreement is the first step of many that will ultimately – within a definite timeframe limited to months, not years – put an end to this crisis, which has become very prolonged.

"One of the most important milestones on the course of this agreement, before it loses it way, was the talks held two days ago between the U.S., Britain and France in Paris, and the determination [of these countries] to reach a firm resolution in the Security Council that would impose harsh sanctions [on Syria] should the agreement not be implemented. It is also likely that the political and military assistance to the National Coalition will increase, causing the leader of the tyrannical Syrian regime to understand that there is no room for him in the interim stage, and that the Geneva Agreement is [the beginning of] the countdown to his ouster and to the end of his crimes and massacres against the Syrian people..."[7]

The September 29 editorial stated: "The Security Council's unanimous adoption of Resolution [2118] – obligating Syria to give up its chemical arsenal and to let an international team of supervisors enter Syria without limitations – was an important achievement for the U.N. in the 68th session [of its General Assembly], because it confirms that 'peaceful diplomacy can defuse the weapons of war.' Another implication is that a similar mechanism can also be applied to [the issue of] nuclear weapons. Yet another important aspect of this resolution was that Russia and China did not exercise their veto power, as they did in the case of three previous resolutions calling to condemn the Assad regime. This resolution, then, is the first legally binding decision to be taken by the U.N. on the Syrian issue since the beginning of the crisis more than 30 months ago. It might be hoped that this resolution will resolve this crisis that has heretofore cost the lives of over 120,000 people and caused millions of Syrians to become displaced inside Syria and outside it.

"The timing of this resolution, just as the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons [OPCW] approved a plan to eliminate Syria's chemical arsenal by mid-2014, indicates that the international community is serious in its determination to firmly confront the danger of allowing the Syrian murderers to hold on to these weapons and continue using them."[8]

Endnotes:

[1] Al-Raya (Qatar), September 15, 2013.

[2] Al-Sharq (Qatar), September 15, 2013.

[3] Al-Yawm (Saudi Arabia) September 15, 2013.

[4] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia) September 15, 2013.

[5] Al-Khaleej (UAE), September 16, 2013.

[6] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), September 27, 2013.

[7] Al-Madina (Saudi Arabia), September 17, 2013.

[8] Al-Madina (Saudi Arabia), September 29, 2013.