From Bruce Riedel, BBC: Syria’s embattled President Bashar al-Assad is sitting on a powder keg of angry citizens who want his brutal regime to end.
He also sits on the Arab world’s most lethal arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, hundreds of chemical warheads and dozens of Scud missiles which can deliver them anywhere in the Levant. Now there are reports that the regime is moving these weapons out of their usual storage facilities for reasons unknown.
Would Bashar use chemical weapons against a Nato military operation like the one that assisted the Libyan opposition? Almost certainly he would. He clearly has few scruples about mass murder and foreign air bases would be a logical target for Scuds. He might also be tempted to use them against Israel.
Would he use them against his own people? This is harder to know. Using them on Syria’s Sunni Muslim majority would antagonise the entire world and set Bashar and his cronies up for war crimes trials. It would mean terrible reprisals by Sunnis sooner or later.
The fact of Syria’s chemical and missile arsenal is well known to Nato governments. There is no reason it should discourage support for ending the Assad dictatorship. It does argue for caution in how to do so. Any military operation to end the Syrian civil war needs to be prepared to fight in a chemical environment.
Bruce Riedel, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and former White House adviser. (photo: videosonar)