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.
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|No Good Guys. [78 words]||Ethan P.||Jan 15, 2013 08:51|
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by Salim Mansur
What we are witnessing is Israel engaged in a struggle against Hamas, against Palestinians, against Arabs, against Muslims, and against an expanding body of opinion in the West that is less and less inhibited from displaying the rancid anti-Semitism behind its support for those who openly call for another Holocaust for the Jews.
Gaza was returned to the Palestinians in 2005 as a test for building trust.
This verse [31:27 ] means that no one Muslim should claim that he has a monopoly over the reading of the Quran, for that would amount to reducing the majesty of God to the smallness of man.
The sound of battle is louder than the call to prayer.
by Khaled Abu Toameh
Evidently Abbas has reached the conclusion that unless he hurries up and declares his support for the Palestinian "resistance" in the Gaza Strip, his people will march on his office and force him to quit. Abbas's fear of a revolt has driven him into the open arms of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Another reason for the unexpected change in Abbas's policy might be the promise of financial aid he received from Qatar -- an enemy of Egypt's al-Sisi, but the largest funder of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.
Abbas know that if he wants to survive, he will have to be on the side of the radicals.
by Alan M. Dershowitz
by Lawrence A. Franklin
There is no change in U.S policy toward Israel that will win any true allies in the Middle East, despite what Arab leaders claim. They often assert that if only we would solve the Palestinian-Israeli problem first, relations would improve. This is a tactic. These leaders employ it simply to divert Western officials from making demands on them, instead of on Israel. The reality is that most Arabs view the U.S., its European allies and Israel with ineradicable contempt.
by Alan M. Dershowitz