Thursday, August 29, 2013

Attack on Syria?

The question is, why did Pres. Assad of Syria allow his army to use chemical weapons on a large scale in the suburbs of Damascus? The answer is two-fold, first his forces were losing ground a few months ago, and then they started a country-wide campaign to regain ground lost to the insurrection. Second, last March when they used chemical weapons, Pres. Obama issued his statement about a red-line being crossed, but did nothing. Seeing this lack of response Assad and his military no doubt did not expect a serious reaction from the White House.

Chemical weapons are useful if your aim is to clear an area of people, mainly Sunnis who support the opposition. In areas controlled by the Free Syrian Army the civilians help, feed and support the rebels. Chemical weapons can effectively clear an area of civilians and fighters. In this case they killed ca. 1,300. However, their use is banned under international law, and specifically their use is a war crime. The international community cannot stand by and allow any regime to use such weapons against civilians, their use must be curtailed and stopped.

Some in Britain and the US are comparing the decision to use military force against Syria to that against Iraq. Remember the fruitless search for WMD at the beginning of the Iraq War. But, whereas most people believed that Iraq had WMD, in the case of Syria we know that they have WMD in the form of chemical weapons, and not only that they have used them numerous times. It is simply not credible that the resistance has enough chemical weapons to carry out such attacks as the Syrian Government and the Russians argue.

So the current situation is that the West is girding up for an attack against the Syrian regime. This includes the US, Britain, France, NATO and Australia. They don't want to overthrow Assad, but they want to punish his regime as a message to stop the use of chemical weapons. To do this they will probably target regime sites that deal a blow to the infrastructure and control of the regime, particularly using targeted cruise missiles. In all of this Russia and China are playing the role of spoilers, giving Assad diplomatic support and opposing any Western intervention. However, it is not thought likely that they would respond militarily in support of Syria, rather they will resupply Syria for any equipment lost to show their displeasure.

What is more worrying is that if Assad feels that his back is against the wall and he wants to punish the West in return, he will carry out a military attack against Israel. He could even try to use chemical weapons against Israel, why not, he used them against his own civilians? PM Netanyahu has issued a stern warning that this time Israel will respond massively to any such attack. Remember, that during the Gulf War when Saddam Hussein showered Israel with missiles in response to the US attack, Israel was asked by the US to do nothing and indeed restrained itself. That will not be the case this time. However, it is unlikely that Assad will want to invite an even greater attack on his diminishing forces. So we now wait to see what the West will do after issuing dire threats, and we Israelis must wait and see if there will be a counter-attack against us. We have our gas masks at the ready.


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