Syria's Chemical Weapons
Who Ends Up with Them?
If the U.S. will not send ground troops into Syria to destroy the chemical weapons there, any of Syria's neighbors, threatened by unconventional weapons, could choose to send in ground troops. Not intervening is not an option: the implications of such weapons in the hands of al Qaeda or Hezbollah speak for themselves.
In recent days, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta ended speculation over whether thousands of American troops might be sent to Syria to prevent deadly chemical weapons from falling into the wrong hands, and he publicly rejected contingency plans drawn up by the Pentagon for a ground operation involving up to 75,000 troops.
Panetta's statement has major implications for the immediate post-Assad future, and for how the international community will respond after the Assad regime loses control of its chemical weapons sites -- a development that could occur at any time.
With at least 60,000 dead, and Syria hemorrhaging hundreds of thousands of refugees to its neighbors Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon, the Syrian civil war is drawing in the world's most dangerous elements to a land that hosts the world's largest stockpile of VX nerve agents, Sarin, and mustard gas.
In Assad's corner are Hezbollah and Iran's Revolutionary Guards, who are keeping the regime alive in its fight against the rebels, and who may well decide that the chemical weapons should be given to Hezbollah.
In the rebels' corner are growing numbers of global jihadi elements, such as the Al Nusra Front, a sister organization of al Qaeda in Iraq. The implications of chemical weapons in the hands of al Qaeda speak for themselves.
As any one of these dangerous entities could try to take control of Syria's chemical weapons, the failure of the international community to try to neutralize this threat should not even be an option. The question is not if, but how.
There are dozens of chemical weapons storage and production sites spread out across Syria, as well as several hundred tons of chemical agents. Hence, any operation would require extensive planning, intelligence, and resources.
Having taken ground troops out of the responses being considered, Panetta is signaling that air-power and precision missile strikes will form the crux of the response. There is no guarantee, of course, that air power alone can fully eliminate the chemical sites.
If the US will not send ground troops, it becomes more likely that any one of Syria's neighbors threatened by the unconventional weapons will choose to do so instead, to avoid the risk of weapons of mass destruction being used in or near their territory.
As President Barack Obama has stated, the US is working closely with Turkey, Jordan, and Israel to formulate responses to the developing threat.
In Israel, less than half of the population is equipped with gas masks to protect against chemical attacks. Although Israel has advanced missile defenses, there is no telling how a chemical payload might be delivered. One possibility is mortar shells.
Hence, Israel will not rely on defensive techniques when it comes to dealing with the threat, and is prepared to take action should it identify an attempt by a hostile entity to seize chemical weapons.
Against this background, the Israel Defense Force's Home Front Command has spent recent years preparing all of Israel's 27 hospitals for the threat of chemical attacks.
Although the drills are not directly related to recent developments in Syria, and were planned three years ago, they enable hospitals to prepare a tangible response for such incidents.
As one senior Home Front Command official said earlier this month, "We train a lot for chemical weapons. This is our business. There is no room for error."
All of the hospitals have faced unannounced exercises, in which mock patients are wheeled in from a chemical incident.
The IDF has been impressed with the hospitals' responses, describing them as highly satisfactory.
Some major hospitals in Tel Aviv and Haifa have also created underground back-up intensive care and pregnancy wards, to allow these critical wards to function even under heavy missile attack.
In comparison, Turkey and Jordan have no known defenses in place against chemical weapons, with the exception of NATO Patriot missiles installed on Turkey's border with Syria, and which could shoot down incoming Syrian missiles carrying unconventional warheads.
In light of what is at stake, all of the countries in Syria's vicinity will be hoping that the US's elimination of ground troops will at least be replaced with an air campaign that is decisive.
Reader comments on this item
|No Good Guys. [78 words]||Ethan P.||Jan 15, 2013 08:51|
Comment on this item
by Khaled Abu Toameh
To understand what drives a young Palestinian to carry out such a deadly attack, one needs to look at the statements of Palestinian Authority leaders during the past few weeks.
The anti-Israel campaign of incitement reached its peak with Abbas's speech at the UN a few weeks ago, when he accused Israel of waging a "war of genocide" in the Gaza Strip. Abbas made no reference to Hamas's crimes against both Israelis and Palestinians.
Whatever his motives, it is clear that the man who carried out the most recent attack, was influenced by the messages that Abbas and the Palestinian Authority leadership have been sending their people.
by Richard Kemp
Would General Allen -- or any other general today -- recommend contracting out his country's defenses if it were his country at stake? Of course not.
The Iranian regime remains dedicated to undermining and ultimately destroying the State of Israel. The Islamic State also has Israel in its sights and would certainly use the West Bank as a point from which to attack, if it were open to them.
There can be no two-state solution and no sovereign Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan, however desirable those things might be. The stark military reality is that Israel cannot withdraw its forces from the West Bank.
Fatah leaders ally themselves with the terrorists of Hamas, and, like Hamas, they continue to reject the every existence of the State of Israel.
If Western leaders actually want to help, they should use all diplomatic and economic means to make it clear to the Palestinians that they will never achieve an independent and sovereign state while they remain set on the destruction of the State of Israel.
by Louis René Beres
The Palestine Liberation Organization [PLO], forerunner of today's Palestinian Authority, was founded in 1964, three years before Israel came into the unintended control of the West Bank and Gaza. What therefore was the PLO planning to "liberate"?
Why does no one expect the Palestinians to cease all deliberate and random violence against Israeli civilians before being considered for admission to statehood?
On June 30, 1922, a joint resolution of both Houses of Congress of the United States endorsed a "Mandate for Palestine," confirming the right of Jews to settle anywhere they chose between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. This is the core American legacy of support for a Jewish State that President Obama now somehow fails to recall.
A sovereign state of Palestine, as identified by the Arabs -- a Muslim land occupied by "Palestinian" Arabs -- has never existed; not before 1948, and not before 1967. From the start, it was, and continues to be, the Arab states -- not Israel -- that became the core impediment to Palestinian sovereignty.
by Timon Dias
It looks as if this new law is meant to serve as a severe roadblock to parties that would like to dismantle the EU in a democratic and peaceful way from within.
A rather dull semantic trick pro-EU figures usually apply, is calling their opponents "anti-Europe."
by Alan M. Dershowitz