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Syria today. What to do?

September 9, 2013

by Ernesto Kahan

Catherine Thomasson, MD, the Executive Director of Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) of the USA, in a letter dated September 5, 2013 wrote “The use of chemical weapons, like any weapon of mass destruction, needs a strong response. However, the use of military force in Syria is not the answer” and added that “International action against a war criminal should be united and targeted; and justice for President Assad and his military should be delivered in the International Criminal Court.” This policy was based on the paper OP-ED: Defining Appropriate Action in Syria.

The Syrian present civil war is terrible, producing until now at least more than 110,000 killed, two million refugees, and seven millions of people in need of urgent humanitarian help. The use of chemical weapons that are forbidden genocidal weaponry, killing more than a thousand civilians, among them hundreds of innocent children, has provoked the reaction of everybody who cannot see such a crime without protesting. Even more, the existence of these arsenals is an evident threat to many countries in the Middle East that are in conflict with the actual Syrian regime or with terrorist groups that can access to these weapons. Thus, it is obvious that actions must be taken in order to stop the killing, remove the chemical weapons, and to put the criminals under trial.

These three issues cannot wait for a large trial at the International Criminal Court. On the other side, a military intervention with the use of force will also be a bloody involvement that will produce more suffering and killing of innocent people and can help militias formed by fundamentalist terrorist groups.

For me, it is clear that an urgent, political, non violent agreement should be the most accepted solution.  The problem is, which are the parties that are for such an agreement? Since the last experiences, the UN is in a paralytic impasse, I suggest calling for an urgent meeting of the so-called quartet (UN, USA, Russia and the EU). The first issue will be the complete removal and elimination of chemical weapons.

I do not support unilateral military actions.
Ernesto Kahan, MD, is Professor Emeritus, Tel Aviv University, Israel; a former regional vice president of IPPNW; and the current president of IPPNW-Israel. He is a poet and cultural ambassador with many global affiliations. The above article is his personal opinion.

One Comment
  1. Xanthe Hall permalink
    September 10, 2013 8:23 am

    Ernesto, thank you for this. It is so good to hear a rational voice from the Middle East calling for non-violent agreement. Although we now have a plausible proposal on the table that is supported by the UN, Russia and Iran for Syria to hand over its chemical weapons for destruction, and Syria has agreed, it may not be the end of the threat of military action. Susan Rice said yesterday that the message the US sends to Syria is also directed at Iran. So there is more than one agenda playing out here. And one after the other, countries supporting military action are making more and more conditions that Syria has to comply with, or else…
    I believe, and so do others more expert than I, that Assad lost control of the regime some time back, possibly as the first shots were fired at demonstrators. Ever since he has been trying to get all of his security services back under control. So the worry for me is – can he get the chemical weapons under international control without the backing of the military? Let’s hope he can, otherwise we will back at square one and it will be even harder to prevent a major escalation of what is already a horrific civil war.
    Best wishes, Xanthe

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