As Rebels close in on Damascus, Obama warns he’ll Intervene if Chemicals are Used

President Obama warned Syria on Tuesday not to deploy its stockpile of chemical weapons against the rebels. What are apparently Israeli intelligence sources are said to have told the US and Europe that there was an indication that the regime might be preparing to deploy its stock of chemical weapons, as the revolutionaries begin an assault on the capital, Damascus.

I take these reports with a large grain of salt. Chemical weapons are battlefield weapons. Mustard gas was used on troop formations in WW I. Chemicals would be difficult to deploy against a guerrilla movement of the sort the Baathist government of dictator Bashar al-Assad is facing. Guerrillas just fade away when confronted. Moreover, Syria’s mixed population makes it difficult to use chemical weapons on rebels without killing Alawi Shiites and other groups that so far have largely been an underpinning for the regime. I don’t say it is impossible for the regime to use poison gas against the revolutionaries. At the moment, I wouldn’t give it a high likelihood of success.

The rebels have strengthened their position in the north and the east of the country, and have brought the fight to the capital. Although there are still government-controlled towns in the north such as Hasaka (has a lot of Kurds) and Salamiya (near Homs; has a big Ismaili Shiite community), more and more of that area is controlled by the revolutionaries.

The revolutionaries have taken 7 or 8 bases in the past week and a half, and have gotten heavy weapons from the stockpiles. They are pursuing a strategy of taking and holding bases. Likewise, they are now trying to block Damascus airport, because they are convinced that it is one route for Iraq and Iran to send in weapons to support al-Assad.

Aljazeera English has a video report:

11 Responses

  1. What he could do would be to take after his father and use the chemicals on civilians. His dad may have your cyanide or lewsite when he was attacking the city of Hama.

    • A massacre by any means, however to make a statement of the use of (hydrogen) cyanide is not substantiated. Could you provide any legitimate source? Perhaps these are the granades transported out of Saddam’s Iraq by the Russians!? Saddam’s use of chemical warfare in Halabja can still be proven by measurements today and the witness accounts.

    • The killings at Hama were an outright massacre of thousands irrespective of whether or not chemical agents were deployed.

      More died at Hama at the hands of the Syrian armed forces than perished in New York during 9/11 but received little outside publicity in the media outside the Middle East.

      No one was held accountable – certainly not Hafez Assad.

  2. Question for those with a deep understanding of the nature of the regime – do they believe that their fate after a rebel victory is likely to be that of Qaddafi in Libya? If so, granting that chemical weapons are unlikely to be an effective military weapon, how likely would they be to use them if they believe their position is hopeless with no other objective than to take as many of their compatriots “with them” as possible?

  3. Time will tell the regimes intent, whether to use as blackmail against population centers, to move to a more secure location safe from rebels or just for the hell of it.

  4. Hmm. Interesting that the Kurdish towns remain loyal. I might have thought they would see this as an opportunity for secession and joining Iraqi Kurdistan. Obviously, that’s been one of Turkey’s worries, and doesn’t make Iran feel any better about the whole situation. If Syria breaks up, that could happen, no?

  5. If I were the USA I’d be more worried about chemical weapons falling into the hands of extreme Islamist elements like the Nusra Front. Given that the rebels have already liberated items like surface-to-air missiles from military stores, the chances of them getting their hands on chemical weapons would appear fairly good.

  6. Chemical weapons in modern warfare are terror weapons. They “worked” in that regard when Saddam Hussein was using them. They are less designed to kill combatants but civilians that are believed to be associated with them i.e. Sunnis in this case.

    Truly horrific to what lows Assad is willing to go, especially contemplating that he once practiced medicine.

  7. If I were the USA I’d be more worried about chemical weapons falling into the hands of extreme Islamist elements like the Nusra Front.

    Unfortunately the USA does not think rationally when it comes to the middle east. It is not enough that US went into one disastrous war based on “intelligence”, that they are being willingly hoodwinked into another one. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.

    • I appreciate the desire to equate everything with the Iraq War, but that comparison is really bogus. Are we supposed to imagine that there is some secret plan to invade Syria, comparable to the WMD story in Iraq?

      The uprising against Assad is almost two years old. If the U.S. was looking to get into a war there, don’t you think we would have done so by now? Look at Libya – there were bombing runs being flown within a month of the beginning of the uprising.

      Why is the United States always presumed to be driving events, instead of reacting to them? This administration has very plainly been scrambling and improvising its policy since the beginning of Arab Spring.

  8. So, is Prez Obama repudiating all use of chem weapons against civilians ?
    If so, the Pentagon is going to have to totally rewrite major portions of most of their war plans.

    Or is this another instance of “do as I say, not as I do ?”

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