Although major world powers have been unable to resolve the civil war in Syria, the news of Assad’s regime preparing to use chemical weapons has triggered unprecedented international coöperation to contain the threat.
Since November, Israel's military intelligence has been warning that Syrian troops are apparently mixing chemicals at two storage sites; what appeared to be deadly nerve gas Sarin, and filling dozens of 500-pounds bombs that could be loaded on airplanes.
According to a report in the New York Times, in early November, concerted diplomatic pressure from the US, Russia, China and a strong message from Iraq, Turkey and United States to Bashar al-Assad’s regime prevented the war in Syria turning into a chemical warfare.
However, with the Syrian rebels closing in on Damascus and the war reaching an increasingly devastating stage, there is an apprehension that Assad may resort to use of chemical weapons to prolong his hold over Syria.
Apparently, Syria’s chemical weapons are under the command of the Assad’s most loyal officers. And with the war closing in on Damascus, there are indications that Assad’s troops have relocated some of the chemical stockpiles to safer locations.
With the war tilting in favor of the Syrian coalition, world leaders are troubled on the possibility that Assad might think of using Sarin to gas his enemies in an act of desperation.
According to a report, Syrian regime has chemical weapons that could be used within two hours. The bombs loaded with chemical weapons could be airborne within two hours with a green signal from Assad. However, world leaders could think on the possibility of helping the Syrian rebels destroy the Syrian air force, without which Assad cannot carry out the chemical warfare.
Apart from the presence of chemical stockpile in Assad’s hands, there is an additional concern regarding the possibility of Syrian extremist acquiring the chemical weapons. If the Hezbollah manages to get a hand on the weapons, there would be renewed fear that the stockpile would be used against Israel.
With all these concerns, it is still unclear how the United States, Israel, and the Arab states would respond to this crisis if the Assad’s regime happens to lose control of its chemical weapons. Also, there are no indications of the presence of a contingency plan to intervene in Syria if the need arises to neutralize the chemical weapons.
Earlier in November, the world leaders through Russia’s intervention managed to convince Assad’s regime not to use the chemical stockpile. The solution was obviously a diplomatic one. But, with the continuing war indicating a military solution, there is no surety that Assad won’t lose his rationality and order his generals to press the chemical button. In summation, the worst fears are not yet over for the world.
In such a scenario, the world needs to act in unison to deal with the crisis The threat of chemical warfare in Syria remains the most contentious issue in the Syrian civil war.
The situation demands a coordinated groundwork by the United States, Europe and the Arab nations to deter the use of deadly chemical weapons. There is an urgent need to monitor where and how the weapons are being stored and the readiness to secure the weapons once Assad’s regime falls.
The New York Times