This item popped up in the Morning Jolt yesterday but I didn’t get around to looking at it until this morning. Bad news out of Syria is not only nothing new… at this point it’s almost a comma in the daily news feed. But when our own intelligence officials are expressing concern that Bashar al-Assad, like a rat trapped in a corner, may be getting ready to unleash larger and more lethal chemical weapons on both his own people and sea of fighters surrounding Damascus, you have to sit up and take notice. Syria may be a failed state at this point in all but name, but if this is the short term future they have in store the place is preparing to turn into a real world version of hell on Earth. (Wall Street Journal – subscription required.)
U.S. intelligence agencies believe there is a strong possibility the Assad regime will use chemical weapons on a large scale as part of a last-ditch effort to protect key Syrian government strongholds if Islamist fighters and other rebels try to overrun them, U.S. officials said.
Analysts and policy makers have been poring over all available intelligence hoping to determine what types of chemical weapons the regime might be able to deploy and what event or events might trigger their use, according to officials briefed on the matter.
Last year, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad let international inspectors oversee the removal of what President Barack Obama called the regime’s most deadly chemical weapons. The deal averted U.S. air strikes that would have come in retaliation for an Aug. 21, 2013, sarin-gas attack that killed more than 1,400 people.
There doesn’t seem to be any way to stop Assad from doing this short of a direct and overwhelming military strike which essentially destroys what’s left of Syria’s central government and that’s not going to happen. And what would it really accomplish anyway? You’d remove one player from the field, destroy the last remaining bastions of security (such as they are) and essentially open up the field for the vultures to begin feasting. But still… those chemical weapons.
Wait a minute! Didn’t the President just tell us something about those nasty weapons only last month?
“Assad gave up his chemical weapons. And that’s not speculation on our part. That, in fact, has been confirmed by the organization internationally that is charged with eliminating chemical weapons.”
Is the President even talking to his own intelligence staff? How did we go from no chemical weapons to chemical weapons on a large scale in that short of a period of time? We might get a bit more perspective on what’s really going on there if we ask somebody in the immediate neighborhood. Some folks in Israel have apparently already reached the conclusion that Assad is now in charge of a “rump state” (whatever that means) and that if Syria isn’t already dead, the funeral is coming in the near future. Amos Gilad, strategic adviser to Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, shares his thoughts.
Syria is gone. Syria is dying. The funeral will be declared in due time. This Bashar Assad, he will be remembered in history textbooks as the one who lost Syria,” Gilad told an intelligence conference organized by the Israel Defense journal on Monday.
“Until now he has lost 75 percent of Syria … He is, practically, governor of 20 percent of Syria. And his future, if I may predict it, is shrinking all of the time. And maybe we will have him as the president of ‘Alawistan’,” Gilad added.
We might want to listen a bit more closely to Israel in terms of hard realities and where we go next, since they really have the most on the line. Syria has been an awful neighbor for Israel to be sure, and the two are nothing short of enemies. Their history together includes far more conflict -either direct or covert – than any sort of harmony. But if there was anything positive to be said about Assad, as long as he was the titular head of his nation and kept control of most of the forces there, then he still had a personal stake in the game. There was some incentive to keep him from going too far off the beam and, for example, launching another all out invasion of his neighbor. In short, he kept Syria behaving like a country, albeit a terrible one. But with no central government left the Israelis will be stuck with nothing more than a toxic hornet’s nest plopped in their neighborhood and an open conduit for weapons, supplies, troops and other terrorist support heading for their border.
Yes, the situation there was already bad for Israel and had been for a long time. Sadly, I think it still has the potential to get a lot worse and we’re about to find out what that looks like. But at least Syria doesn’t have any chemical weapons to deploy around the region, right Mr. President?