The Syrian Dictatorship Prepares for Chemical Warfare
by RYAN MAURO
February 10, 2012
The civil war in Syria escalates almost every week as rebel forces grow stronger and Bashar Assad and his Iranian-backed thugs grow in ruthlessness. And now, chemical weapons have been reportedly delivered near the rebel stronghold of Homs and the regime’s forces in the area are putting on gas masks.
The Assad regime is not deterred by international condemnation resulting from the bloody images out of Syria, where over 7,000 citizens have been murdered. This is a regime that deliberately targets children, systematically tortures prisoners in ways fit for a horror movie and returns the battered corpses of 13-year old boys with missing fingernails and genitals.
It is worth remembering that Bashar Assad’s father, Hafez, put down an uprising in Hama in 1982 by destroying the city and much of its population. It will never be known how many were massacred, but the number ranges between 10 and 40,000. There are unconfirmed but credible reports that cyanide gas, a chemical weapon, was used. The Assad regime is not one that has any moral qualms about the use of weapons of mass destruction and undertaking wholesale slaughter.
Yesterday, the opposition learned that chemical weapons and their delivery systems have arrived at a school in the province. Soldiers manning checkpoints have been given gas masks. This comes as the regime appears to be winding up for a knock-out punch. Over 130 people were killed in Homs alone yesterday, adding to a death toll of over 600 for the past six days. An armored brigade is headed towards the rebel-held city of Zabadani right now and rebel-friendly areas like Homs, Idlib and Daraa are being bombed more than ever.
I warned back on January 23 that the regime could use its chemical and biological weapons against its opposition. Earlier in the month, Turkey intercepted four Iranian trucks on their way to Syria. One had components for ballistic missiles. The other three had a total of 66 tons of sodium sulfate, an ingredient used to make chemical weapons.
In September, the regime used a small plane to spray pesticides in the northwestern cities of Rastan and Talbiseh when its forces battled local residents and army defectors there. At least 15 people were seen with yellow eyes and blood coming from their mouths and noses.
There are four possible explanations for what the regime is doing. The first is that the regime is simply trying to scare its enemies into giving up.
The second is that it is actually preparing to use its WMD and say it was the work of “armed gangs” and “terrorists” afterward. The fighting is getting worse, with the Free Syria Army briefly taking over suburbs of Damascus and protests now spreading to the critical city of Aleppo. The regime may have decided that it is best to use the most extreme measures to squash this revolution right now.
The third is that the regime is preparing to use chemical weapons if foreign forces intervene, a prospect increasingly talked about over the past week. In mid-November, Assad met with his commanders to discuss this scenario. The regime is said to have deployed 21 missile launchers near the border with Turkey and armed 600 one-ton chemical warheads onto missiles after that meeting. The Russians supposedly agreed to send an emergency shipment of 3 million gas masks that, according to the plan, would be distributed by the end of 2011. It is possible that the distribution near Homs is a fulfillment of this plan and not a reflection of a decision to use chemical weapons right now.
The fourth possible explanation is that the regime is preparing its forces in case its chemical weapons fall into the hands of rebel forces or Islamic terrorists. The country never signed the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention. Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile is huge, with some assessing it to be the world’s largest, consisting of sarin, mustard, tabun, VX and whatever supplies have come in from Iran and possibly, from Saddam Hussein's regime ahead of the 2003 invasion.
The regime has multiple WMD facilities in restive areas that the rebels could potentially seize. A disloyal soldier or scientist could sell off these weapons or bring them along with him as he defects. WMD facilities are located in or near Aleppo, Homs, Hama, Latakia and Damascus—all places where the regime is fighting to hold onto power.
There’s no way to know for sure what the regime is thinking now or will think tomorrow, but the U.S. should not be naïve enough to believe that Bashar Assad isn’t evil enough to use WMD. The U.S. and its allies must react immediately to this report. Assad must be warned that that outside military intervention has not been decided upon yet but if he uses WMD, he will have made that decision for us.
Ryan Mauro is Family Security Matters' national security analyst. He is a fellow with RadicalIslam.org, the founder of WorldThreats.com and a frequent national security analyst for Fox News Channel. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.