Discouraging the Use of Chemical Weapons Should Be an End in Itself

Since regular munitions can kill just as effectively as chemical weapons, it is unlikely that deterring Bashar al-Assad from deploying the latter—as the airstrikes last month and the previous year were intended to do—will save many lives. For precisely this reason, argues Max Singer, preventing their use is a worthy and achievable goal:

It is possible to get the world to enforce moral values when it can do so without incurring large costs. In places like Syria, the world cannot stop the killing without a military force stronger than the local forces, and no country is willing to sacrifice its soldiers [to do so]. But the world can [enforce] the ban on chemical weapons by using only missile attacks from a distance.

There is no way the recent U.S.-British-French attack on Assad’s chemical-weapons facilities could have a major influence on the struggle for control of Syria or stop the killing of civilians. The purpose of the attack was . . . to make sure Assad and his successors understand that he loses more from his use of chemical weapons than he gains—which is certainly true.

The dictators of the world don’t use chemical weapons because they are cruel; they use them because they are a slightly easier and cheaper way to kill and frighten their enemies. But they have other ways of killing and frightening people. So if the example of what happened to Assad convinces them that they would lose more from international retaliation for using chemical weapons than they might gain from their use, they will not use them. Others might decide it is a mistake to build or buy such weapons in the first place. . . .

A world in which chemical weapons are not used is better than a world in which they are—even if there is only a small reduction in the number of people killed. Perhaps a world in which international agreements achieve some moral goals, even modest ones, is better than a world in which nations cannot succeed in enforcing any moral values at all.

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Read more at BESA Center

More about: Chemical weapons, International Law, Laws of war, Politics & Current Affairs, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy

 

How European Fecklessness Encourages the Islamic Republic’s Assassination Campaign

In September, Cypriot police narrowly foiled a plot by an Iranian agent to murder five Jewish businessman. This was but one of roughly a dozen similar operations that Tehran has conducted in Europe since 2015—on both Israeli or Jewish and American targets—which have left three dead. Matthew Karnitschnig traces the use of assassination as a strategic tool to the very beginning of the Islamic Republic, and explains its appeal:

In the West, assassination remains a last resort (think Osama bin Laden); in authoritarian states, it’s the first (who can forget the 2017 assassination by nerve agent of Kim Jong-nam, the playboy half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, upon his arrival in Kuala Lumpur?). For rogue states, even if the murder plots are thwarted, the regimes still win by instilling fear in their enemies’ hearts and minds. That helps explain the recent frequency. Over the course of a few months last year, Iran undertook a flurry of attacks from Latin America to Africa.

Whether such operations succeed or not, the countries behind them can be sure of one thing: they won’t be made to pay for trying. Over the years, the Russian and Iranian regimes have eliminated countless dissidents, traitors, and assorted other enemies (real and perceived) on the streets of Paris, Berlin, and even Washington, often in broad daylight. Others have been quietly abducted and sent home, where they faced sham trials and were then hanged for treason.

While there’s no shortage of criticism in the West in the wake of these crimes, there are rarely real consequences. That’s especially true in Europe, where leaders have looked the other way in the face of a variety of abuses in the hopes of reviving a deal to rein in Tehran’s nuclear-weapons program and renewing business ties.

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Read more at Politico

More about: Europe, Iran, Israeli Security, Terrorism