It has been nearly two years since protesters took to the streets demanding the resignation of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The brutal tactics used by the regime to suppress the dissent have sparked a full-blown civil war that has claimed thousands of lives and threatens to completely dismantle the entire Syrian national infrastructure. As the fighting intensifies, there has been no indication that Assad will step down.
In fact, Assad has made it clear that he has no intentions of relinquishing control of the government voluntarily. This has only served to increase anger among a people who are fed up with Assad and his heavy-handed treatment. Meanwhile, as rebels and loyalists continue to shed each others blood in the streets, Assad may be preparing to make a final stand should the rebels appear close to victory.
Obviously Assad knows what will happen if he surrenders. He will most likely have to face charges for the atrocities he is accused of committing against his people. He will then probably be found guilty and ultimately have to face death by the executioner's hand. The question remains however, as to what Assad will do if he faces certain deposition? Will he opt to fight to the bitter end and then take his own life? Or, will he choose to unleash to the nation's chemical weapons against the rebels in a last-ditch effort to destroy his enemies?
These questions are more important that ever right now. The White House said that intelligence has observed activity at Syrian chemical weapons depots that have officials very concerned. Officials believe that this may be a sign that the regime is preparing to use its weapons. The Obama administration warned Assad that if he uses chemical weapons, the US will respond accordingly.
Despite these warnings, it appears that this could be exactly what Syrian forces are preparing to do. On Monday, Secretary of Statesaid that the US is prepared to deal with Syria if it uses its chemicals.
“This is a red line for the United States,” said Clinton who was in Prague on Monday. “I am not going to telegraph in any specifics what we would do in the event of credible evidence that the Assad regime has resorted to using chemical weapons against their own people. But suffice it to say we are certainly planning to take action if that eventuality were to occur.”
Later that day, President Obama made statements concerning the situation in a speech at the National Defense University in Washington.
“Today I want to make it absolutely clear to Assad and those under his command: The world is watching... The use of chemical weapons is and would be totally unacceptable. If you make the tragic mistake of using these weapons, there will be consequences and you will be held accountable,” warned Obama.
The US already has contingency plans in place in the event of the deployment of chemical weapons. These include dispatching troops to secure the weapons if deemed necessary.
Western intelligence sources say that Syria has several hundred tons of mustard gas. It is also believed it has a significant stockpile of the deadly nerve agents VX, Sarin and Tabun.
Once again, the line has been drawn. Will Assad do the unthinkable? Will he use these horrible and deadly weapons on his own people? If so, what will be the response from the US? Will it launch some manner of direct attack on Syria or will it use other means to retaliate?
How will Syria's allies react in the event of US involvement in the conflict? Could such a development ultimately lead us to World War III?
Echoing the words of President Obama; the world is watching.