The chemical weapons mystery | Comment

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Countries obviously do not have feelings. They operate with absolute cynicism, in accordance with their capabilities, interests and the global balance of power and, ostensibly, according to the principles governing their political system. One could also say that they usually act on the basis of a certain rationale, in the practical rather than moral sense, aiming to serve their goals.

This is clear from history, certainly during the Cold War period up until the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Communist bloc. But it is not at all clear that the same applies in the current circumstances. On the contrary, many constants have disappeared.

Democracy is being put to the test in several countries, while there has also been a proliferation of unpredictable leaders. New players have emerged on the scene, international relations have become more complex and the huge mistakes of major powers in the relatively recent past have returned to haunt us – notably in the Middle East.

Generally, we are in a period defined by instability. It is all but impossible to interpret the turmoil that is threatening to take over Syria. However, we can point to certain coincidences, chiefly the fact that chemical weapons are once again the pretext for the USA’s threat to intervene in the region, along with a sharp degeneration in its relations (and generally those of the West) with Russia.

The US invaded Iraq under George W Bush on the pretext that Saddam Hussein had chemical weapons – non-existent, as it transpired. Now, President Donald Trump –  who a few days ago made jaws drop worldwide by saying he would withdraw US forces from Syria – is threatening to “punish” Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for using chemical weapons. Moreover, the attempted murder of former spy Sergei Skripal in Britain, for which Russia is being blamed by the entire western world, was also carried out using a nerve agent.

These coincidences, which are threatening to destabilize the entire world, raise questions that must be answered.

Why is Assad using chemicals when he has already destroyed his enemies and why now? And is Trump, under pressure at home over Russia’s alleged interference in the last elections, grabbing an opportunity to rebuff the charges and rally Americans around him, or is he being forced by other powers to stay in Syria? And what reason did Moscow have to get rid of an old British spy now when it could have done that when he was arrested years ago? Unless it decided to rally the West around London, which was up until recently isolated due to Brexit.

After all, who can fathom the intentions of states – and the mysteries of chemical weapons?

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