Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Syria: the chemical weapons factor

How will the Syrian fighting end?

At the time of writing, the Kofi Annan UN plan seems to have been accepted by Bashar al Assad and two powerful sympathising nations – China and Russia.

The disparate forces trying to depose him are so disorganised that despite UN support and universal horror at the bluntly applied brutality shown by Assad’s forces there seems little chance of the plan coming to fruition, except possibly on a long term basis.

Only recently I became aware of his chemical weapons stockpile and this could be a large factor if he decides either to go down fighting or to negotiate a safe passage and immunity. Even if he does not use them they could fall into the hands of jihad groups hostile not only to the western world but to each other and to Coptic Christians who, prior to the uprising, had been protected by Assad’s security forces. Given the relative technological illiteracy of many of the fighting groups involved the death and injury from chemcal weapons are more likely be the result of tragic accidents than targeted mayhem.

Image from Amazon site
However there may be a very significant factor which I had almost forgotten about.

 Not long after Saddam Hussein’s defeat a senior defector who was the no.2 official in Sadam’s air force, General Georges Sada, wrote a book (c.2005) about his time in Saddam’s high command. In this book Saddam’s Secrets  it was claimed that shortly before (6 weeks or so) the ill-considered 2002 invasion of Iraq Saddam had dispatched all his weapons of mass destruction (WMD) to a secret location in Syria. A senior Israeli figure confirmed the report but the media did not pick up on this at the time so I mentally put it to one side.

 Recently more stories about this hitherto largely ignored divulgence have begun to appear on the Internet and there seems to be increasing acceptance that Syria does have a large stockpile of chemical weapons, although it is still an open question whether this includes Saddam’s former arsenal. Here is a fairly random selection of recent links:


If Assad has been storing Sadam’s WMDs it might be used by him as a bargaining point in negotiations. Although Democrats and Republicans have obvious party political motives in accepting or rejecting the rumours it would probably be better for the USA as a nation to have its invasion of Iraq at least partially vindicated. Whatever truth emerges concerning the presence or otherwise of WMDs in Syria, there can be no justification for the political leaders of the time riding rough-shod over the US military commanders as they questioned the wisdom of trying to occupy a country with such a small army and without intensive planning.

This blog is about peace and unfortunately, human nature being what it is, one has to recognise that until we get the kind of world portrayed in 2077 AD it may sometimes be necessary to fight towards it. All we can do is fight in as humane a way as possible and try to hasten the day when it is not necessary.