Dealing with warfare in the modern age is one of the most difficult parts of international affairs, and presents a variety of unique problems to diplomats and ambassadors all over the world.
Countries have every right to defend their personal interests and their sovereignty, as well as engage in internal conflicts that do not infringe upon the rights of other nations as needed to exercise their own sovereignty.
However, the UN Security Council is one of a variety of organizations that is responsible for upholding the international rules of warfare and ensuring that excessively cruel and destructive weapons are limited and those that wield them punished.
It is in the spirit of this that the UN Security Council adopted a unanimous resolution this last Friday that seeks to identify whoever was responsible for using chlorine, sarin gas, and other chemical weapons in Syria.
In 2013, after a devastating chemical weapon attack in a Sunni neighborhood of Damascus led to the deaths of more than 1,400 civilians, the Security Council and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) sought to remove chemical weapons from the Syrian conflict and to identify who was using them.
At the time, Russia only supported part of the resolution, claiming that identifying the weapon’s source would unfairly infringe upon the Syrian government. Russia and Iran were both primary supporters of Assad and his regime at the time. Sanctions were still placed on Assad and he was forced to dismantle infrastructure that could have led to the development of chemical weapons. However, the Security Council acquiesced to Russia and did not seek to identify the source of the weapons.
However, chemical weapons have continued to see use in the Syrian conflict. As a result, Russia, in response both to the horrific aftermath the weapons left in their wake and to waning support for the Assad regime, joined the rest of the Security Council in demanding weapons users be identified.
Regardless of all party’s intentions, the resolution will hopefully prevent the use of chemical weapons in the region and prevent any further catastrophe.