19 May 2014, 20:03

Lavrov, Kerry Agree On Syria Chemical Arsenal Removal

A group of U.N. chemical weapons experts leaving Syria after concluding their investigation into the use of sarin in the Khan Al Asal neighbourhood of Damascus.

A group of U.N. chemical weapons experts leaving Syria after concluding their investigation into the use of sarin in the Khan Al Asal neighbourhood of Damascus.

A group of U.N. chemical weapons experts leaving Syria after concluding their investigation into the use of sarin in the Khan Al Asal neighbourhood of Damascus.

By Crystal Park

WASHINGTON (VR) – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russia's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov spoke Saturday about the importance of removing Syria’s entire chemical weapons stockpile soon. There is still eight percent of the chemical weapons in Syria. Kerry conveyed the urgency of the removal to Lavrov.

Syria has removed almost 1,300 tons of chemical weapons from its country since a deal was reached last year; the international community demanded action after evidence of chemical weapons used on the Syrian people.

Syria has missed several deadlines for removal, but has, for the most part, kept in with the timeline.

Musa al Gharbi, a research fellow with the Southwest Initiative for the Study of Middle East Conflicts at the University of Arizona, says the West is still skeptical Assad is holding onto the last bit of chemical weapons as leverage. Leverage for what, no one knows, al Gharbi says.

Syria is preparing for a presidential election next month, and embattled president Assad looks poised to win. After 3 years of civil war and the West calling for Assad's ouster, al Gharbi says the international community is what has prolonged the bloodshed. "This winding down that's happening now could've happened a long time ago. The main obstacle has been certain factions of the international community who have been committed to perpetuating the conflict." All of the money and support given by the U.S. has done little, and in fact hurt progress in Syria, says al Gharbi.

The U.S. has also unnecessarily bickered with Russia over what to do in Syria. Al Gharbi says the former United Nations and Arab League Special Envoy to Syria "[Lakhdar] Brahimi said what happened unfortunately was that the U.S. and its allies, rather than recognizing this as a good analysis of capturing the realities of the situation in Syria, were interpreting Russia's remarks as policy positions or political posturing when they were trying to convey the reality of the situation."

The reason the opposition was unsuccessful, al Gharbi says, is because Syria itself did not back the revolution. "The sorts of people who took up arms against the government were a much smaller and more homogenous group than people who were initially protesting. The indigenous elements of the fighters are from very particular areas of the country. They're mostly rural librarians who were disenfranchised by Bashar al-Assad's economic liberalization scheme, which also happened to occur at the same time as a massive drought in Syria, which put a lot of these agrarians in a really tough spot. So those are the socio-economic drivers of the conflict. That's what animated a lot of the indigenous elements of the population, but they were clearly not representative of the broader Syrian people."

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