Despite a wealth of evidence from independent arms experts, the United Nations, and Western governments, Russia continues to deny that the Syrian military used chemical weapons last month — a position that has Sen. Lindsey Graham reaching for his pen.
In a letter sent to Vladimir Putin and obtained by The Cable, Graham tells the Russian president to either back up his government’s assertions that rebels carried out last month’s sarin gas attack in the suburbs of Damascus — or stop trotting those claims out in public.
"If you continue to stand by your earlier statements please share the evidence you or your government has collected prompting your declaration that the Syrian opposition is responsible for the chemical weapons attack," wrote Graham.
Last week, Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov agreed to a framework for shutting down Syria’s chemical weapons program. It calls for the elimination of all chemical weapons by the middle of 2014.
"I find it difficult to see how the Russian government can be an honest broker in implementing any plan to eliminate chemical weapons in Syria if you cannot even acknowledge the Assad government was behind the attacks," Graham added.
Russia has been put into a difficult situation following this week’s United Nations report, which provided details about the type of rockets used in the attack and their trajectory — all details that independent analysts say point to the Syrian government.
Following the report’s release, Russia urged western nations "not to jump to any conclusions," but now is openly attacking the report itself as uncredible. "We are disappointed, to put it mildly, about the approach taken by the UN secretariat and the UN inspectors, who prepared the report selectively and incompletely," said Sergei Ryabkov, Lavrov’s deputy.
Interestingly, it does sound like Graham may get what he wants from the Russian side. Earlier today, Russian officials said they received evidence from the Syrian government showing that the rebels carried out the attack. Lavrov did not describe the evidence, but said he would provide it to the U.N. "We will discuss all this in the Security Council, together with the report which was submitted by UN experts and which confirms that chemical weapons were used. We will have to find out who did it," he said.
Penning missives to Russia has become all the rage in Congress following Putin’s op-ed in the New York Times. Graham joins a list of officials, including Rep. Buck McKeon and Rep. Steve Israel. Sen. John McCain has promised to pen an op-ed in the Russian news site Pravda this week. You can read Graham’s entire letter below:
Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at email@example.com.
Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.
A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.
Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C.| The Cable |
Does Israel have chemical weapons, too? McCain, Graham: not trusting; Is Idris being shunned from DC?; POGO: security shortfalls at Kabul embassy; and a bit more [presented today by Lockheed Martin]Gordon Lubold
Gordon Lubold is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy. He is also the author of FP's Situation Report, an e-mailed newsletter that is blasted out to more than 70,000 national security and foreign affairs subscribers each morning that includes the top nat-sec news, breaking news, tidbits, nuggets and what he likes to call "candy." Before arriving at FP, he was a senior advisor at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, where he wrote on national security and foreign policy. Prior to his arrival at USIP, he was a defense reporter for Politico, where he launched the popular Morning Defense early morning blog and tip-sheet. Prior to that, he was the Pentagon and national security correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, and before that he was the Pentagon correspondent for the Army Times chain of newspapers. He has covered conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries in South Asia, and has reported on military matters in sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia and Latin America as well as at American military bases across the country. He has spoken frequently on the sometimes-contentious relationship between the military and the media as a guest on numerous panels. He also appears on radio and television, including on CNN, public radio's Diane Rehm and To the Point, and C-SPAN's Washington Journal. He lives in Alexandria with his wife and two children.| Situation Report |