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Syria in the ‘Unknown’

Commentary on the Chemical Weapons question in Syria

By Dana Al-Jawamis 

DAMASCUS – Following the bombing of the National Security Building in Damascus on Wednesday, the regime continues its attack on cities and villages of Syria. The Syrian opposition promised strategic operation, known as Operation Syrian Volcano, targeted the Security building resulting in the death of four officials of Bashar Al-Assad’s inner circle: The minister of defense, chief of military intelligence, minister of internal affairs, and his brother in-law and head of his crisis team. While the Arab Spring is a movement of self-determination where Arab nations witnessed the fall of several leaders in the past two years including Libya’s Qaddafi and Egypt’s Mubarak. However, Syria’s president does not seem to fear the same fate. In the case of Syria, what constitutes as the international community’s responsibility in a movement of self-determination?

Currently, the United Nations Security Council was unable to pass a resolution to take action in Syria. Russia and China by vetoing the resolution left the United States and its allies to explore other ways of intervention. Syria is a nation that possesses one of the largest Chemical Weapons arsenals in the world, and this fact alone puts the Chemical Weapons arsenal question as the number one concern for nations of the international community; especially for the West. For that reason, Washington quickly started conducting meetings to explore contingency plans should Kofi Annan’s, UN and Arab League envoy to Syria, peace plan does not succeed. These meetings focus on how to successfully warn both parties from continuing violence and stop the regime from the use of chemical weapons against opposition or for the weapons to land in the hands of terrorist groups such as the Lebanese Islamist group Hezbollah.  However, how likely is it that the regime is going to use its Chemical Weapons arsenal in this conflict? Could it be that the Chemical Weapons arsenal is a bargaining chip for the Syrian regime to both silence the rebel fighters, and force preventative action by the western allies and partners in order to evade attention from the regime and its activities and divert Syrian’s attention to an “evil western intervention”? Does the Syrian regime have calculated steps in the conflict or are they reaching out to every possible venue and handles of power?

Will the regime use its weapons? There are reports that the war management administration of the Syrian regime has been providing the military’s fourth division (division of Bashar’s brother Maher Al-Assad) protective masks and medicine that would help protect soldiers from a Chemical Weapons attack. It is also reported that the regime is distributing leaflets through commonly used social networks that it will cleanse every inch in Syria from its opposition, and that they have two options: eventual death or surrender from fighting. At this point in time, the use of the word ‘cleansing’ is alarming to those of us observing the Syrian conflict.

On the other hand, other possible questions present themselves,  are the Chemical Weapons a bargaining chip or better put, what strategic purpose does “moving” the chemical weapons from its storage facilities serve? Did Assad move the arsenal to basically secure it from falling in the hands of the rebel fighter or terrorists.

Recently, the United States has been in constant contact with its Israeli ally and discussing ways in which Israel can intervene in Syria and destruct the chemical weapons facilities. However, few days earlier president Obama thought that this move might give Assad an excuse to evade the problem and divert attention on an Israeli intervention.

Many speculations fall under the Chemical Weapons agenda in Syria, especially that Syria never signed the Chemical Weapons Convention agreement in 1992 and has been a closed nation and a close ally to Russia and Iran. However, how long will this Syrian revolution and conflict need for it to achieve its goals, and amidst uncertainty what can the international community do rather than stand paralyzed? The answer is, we don’t really know.

Note: Aaccording to the Local Coordination Committees, the total death toll is at 19000 martyrs and the total registered refugees is at 112000 refugees in Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon, the UN refugee agency reports.

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