Will he truly use chemical weapons?
Of course it was not maintenance or a technical malfunction when internet and telephone networks were disrupted, airport traffic was halted, and roads were closed. This is all part of the war in Damascus. We have now entered very difficult and dangerous days in the war to overthrow Bashar al-Assad. Yesterday an awareness campaign, directed at the Syrian people, was launched to provide information about what to do in the event of al-Assad’s forces resorting to lethal chemical and biological weapons. Here we are talking about the prospect of terrible massacres as the rebels reach advanced stages in their assault on the capital, as they are now knocking on the doors of Damascus. This is not psychological warfare or scaremongering; we know that this regime is stupid as well as criminal, but we hope it won’t commit its greatest mistake in the end.
Lethal weapons are signs of the regime’s dilapidated forces and its imminent collapse. It is the last resort for a regime that wants revenge and to inflict the greatest possible harm on its opponents. Perhaps, al-Assad thinks this tactic might stop the rebel assault, force the world to intervene and ensure a political deal to rescue him. In this endeavour he will tell the same lies about the massacres his forces have committed over the past months, and hold the opposition responsible.
In the 1980s Saddam Hussein killed thousands of civilians in Halabja, Iraqi-Kurdistan. We saw the gruesome images of the dead… parents with their children lying on the doorsteps of their homes and on the streets, as they tried to flee in panic. We remember the horrific moments when Saddam’s forces, protected with masks, sprayed innocent families with chemicals and killed them like flies.
In Syria, for a year and a half, the regime has not denied that it possesses a huge stockpile of chemical and biological weapons; indeed it admitted as much when threatened with certain international intervention if al-Assad attempted to use them or deliver them to other parties, such as Hezbollah. The Syrian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs subsequently announced that his government pledges not to use chemical and biological weapons, or to transfer them to other parties. This declaration was followed by monitoring convoys, the distribution of masks in a number of Syrian troop centres, and reports of small-scale gas operations.
Because we understand the danger of a horrific chemical and biological massacre that threatens thousands of innocent people, we must urge the international community to intervene rapidly and establish a deterrence system before al-Assad does anything. Otherwise the issue will be just another case of a UN investigation and another ugly chapter of history.
This is an international responsibility that cannot be evaded, especially after the killing and suffering the Syrian people have been exposed to at the hands of their regime, whilst not receiving the minimum degree of attention from the UN. Al-Assad depends on Russian and Chinese protection as well as Arab and Western cowardice.