Sunday, April 28, 2013

Syria and the use of chemical weapons

The White House’s April 25th letter to congressional leaders states: “Our intelligence community does assess with varying degrees of confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically the chemical agent sarin.”

The U.S. Government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states: “Sarin is a human-made chemical warfare agent classified as a nerve agent. Nerve agents are the most toxic and rapidly acting of the known chemical warfare agents. They are similar to certain kinds of pesticides which is how many nations disguise the manufacture of chemical agents.

Chemical weapons were the weapon of choice for Saddam Hussein during the Iran/Iraq war.  Sarin was the weapon of choice of the Tokyo subway attackers Aum Shinrikyo in 1995.  It is also the chemical weapon possessed in abundance by Hezbollah.

Despite this history, President Obama has reversed his warnings on Aug 2012 and Mar 2013, "We will not tolerate the use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people, or the transfer of those weapons to terrorists."

Apparently the US does tolerate the use of chemical weapons.  The question is why?

Attacking the Syrian military risks inflicting civilian casualties.  Civilian deaths caused by forces (led most likely by the US and France) would further destabilize Syria and potential spill into other countries.  Another problem is Iran which may choose to overtly (and certainly covertly) support the Assad government.  A protracted conflict in the region means fewer forces available to deal with North Korea.

Another problem for President Obama is the unanswered questions about the Boston Marathon bombers.  The brothers are from Chechnya which has for some time been at war with Moscow.  Putin has support both Bush and Obama with their war on terror, however he has not support Obama on Syria.  This could partly be why Obama has been forced into inaction for now (he certainly has not had problems before in sending SEAL Team Six or Predators in to take our terrorists).

The conspiracy sites are abuzz with speculation that the Boston Marathon may have been the first of other attacks slated for May.  Their conclusions are based oncounter-terrorism drills planned for Denver, Washington DC and Portsmouth, NH.  A good conspiracy is based on fact and if the facts are correct, one can conclude that President Obama is worried more attacks are likely.  Striking Syria may trigger more attacks in the United States.

There is another problem, what if Syria doesn't want Assad out?  Reports have thus far only identified the Muslim Brotherhood and various "rebels" fighting Assad.  In an article by Dr. Boris Dolgov – senior research fellow of the Centre for Arabic Studies of the Russian Institute of Oriental Studies - he states, "Since the beginning of the crisis in Syria I have made two trips to that country as a member of international delegations in August 2011 and in January 2012. If we watch the dynamics of situation’s development over that period on the one hand we can state intensification of terrorist groups in Syria and on the other hand we see a broader people’s support of President Bashar Assad and a clear demarcation of political forces’ positions...But everyday life has not drastically changed. There are no servicemen, armed vehicles or document checks in the city. Damascus is still a busy city, with no vacant seats in internet cafes and on weekends streets are crowded with family couples and young people."Syrian Scenario

Perhaps the Obama Administration is concerned US or coalition led forces would not only encounter the Syrian military but civilians as well.  The gamesmanship of the President's earlier warnings may prove that he is more of a paper-tiger than he wants North Korean and Iran to realize.

In the meantime, we need to worry about this maniac article.  Ricin laced letters help remind the rest of the wannabes out there that chemical weapons are relatively easy to make and even deliver.  It should spur the Obama Administration to take action in Syria but for the reasons I'v already outlined, we may be facing more chemical weapon threats/attacks for the foreseeable future.

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