Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Case of Syria: Need Proof? Support the Creation of An International Intelligence Agency

Reports have it that on August 21st,  chemical weapons were used in an the Ghouta suburb of Damascus, Syria in contravention of international law and accepted international norms.  One would have thought that in the 21st century the international community would have reached a stage of maturity in which it would be able to react with appropriate outrage to such an incident while also having the necessary tools at its disposal to speedily punish the perpetrators, thereby deterring them and others from ever again using such outlawed and heinous weapons of mass destruction.

Alas, this is not the case.  A critical prerequisite for punitive action by the international community is solid proof establishing that such weapons have indeed been used and equally importantly, identifying those who ordered such use -- in this case the government and its agents or the rebels?  Although United Nations inspectors were eventually allowed access into the area -- albeit after a five-day delay during the course of which evidence might well have been destroyed --  their mandate was restricted to determining whether chemical weapons had been used at all, leaving open the crucial question of who had ordered their use.  

As various nations have debated whether or not they or anyone else should take action against the government of Syria, they have referred to and relied upon their own intelligence reports to convince their own people one way or the other:  David Cameron tried and failed to convince the British Parliament to vote in favor of Britain participating in punitive strikes against Syria.  The British legislators were apparently unconvinced that the chemical weapons attack had been perpetrated by Mr. Assad's forces.  Francois Hollande referred to the "a body of evidence" that pointed to Syria's culpability on the basis of which he was willing to commit himself and France to the use of force against Syria,. Turkey's foreign minister said Turkey had "healthy evidence" to implicate the Assad regime.  President Obama is in the process of presenting intelligence reports to various Congressional committees and members of Congress as he seeks Congressional authorization to use force against Syria.  Russia, on the other hand, says that she is not been shown proof that the Assad regime was behind the use of chemical weapons and that she doesn't believe that Syria has used them.

In an age in which we have access to such sophisticated technologies, it can't be that hard to determine the facts and to answer the simple questions:  Were chemical weapons used and if so, who is responsible for any such use?  Is it not time for us to start behaving responsibly and collaborate on establishing an international intelligence agency which would be structured so as to represent all nations and peoples of the world, and to act in their collective interest?  Such an agency should be granted the authority to send its inspectors into any area of the world where it is suspected that weapons of mass destruction are being used, without advance notice, in order to investigate.  The agency would thus be able to produce timely and speedy information that would be equally available to all nations, thereby providing the transparency and a shared basis upon which they can make decisions about how to respond.   Such an approach would serve many purposes:  it would eliminate suspicion and resulting accusations that any one nation was trying to doctor evidence in order to justify an attack that would serve some other nefarious agenda and would provide common information and evidence which could form the basis for meaningful consultation and decision-making as to whether such evidence warranted punitive action by the international community.  

In the event that the evidence did point to a serious breach of international law such as the use of outlawed chemical weapons, the international community would then need to take swift action to punish the country in question.  For this to happen, we also need to ensure that the international community has at its disposal a standing force made up of of troops from all nations of the world -- a truly collective force that is representative of the nations of the world and that acts in the collective interest of them all in accordance with pre-determined and agreed-upon rules of international law.