Tag Archives: chemical warfare


B LOG 315 August 15, 2016

This past week the world discovered that the Assad regime used chlorine gas in the battle for Aleppo. Since World War II and before, the entire world has recognized that the use of chemical warfare is a war crime. The Syrian government has done this a number of times and once again has struck babies, women, and children as well attacking the military. They are guilty of a criminal offense against humanity.

And who will bring them to justice?

As readers of Wise On The Middle East know, this blog attempts to avoid political partisanship and reports an objective understanding of every situation occurring across the region. My goal is an unbiased reading of events. Of course, no one can claim absolute neutrality, but at the least, that’s the objective. The following is such an attempt.

On April 26, 2013, President Barrack Obama declared that if Syrian used chemical weapons in their civil war, they would be crossing a red line, a line drawn in the sand. They did. He did nothing.

As a result, Putin invaded Crimea and then the Ukraine. Current reports indicate the Russians are increasing their troops in the Ukraine. In response, the USA gave a slap on the wrist to key Russia oligarchical leaders. But did nothing about chemical warfare in Syria.

The top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Bob Corker said Syria used chemical weapons to slaughter 1,200 people and predicated Putin will escalate military aggression in the Ukraine if the U.S. does not nothing.

So far, nothing has followed.

Previously promised arms from America, Syrian rebels are now complaining that they are running out of weaponry and none is on the way. Apparently, the Obama administration is pursuing a diplomatic rather than military approach to the problem. Secretary of State John Kerry said 54% of the chemical weapons had been removed.

Fifty-four percent? After all these years and months? Really? That only leaves 46% of one of the world’s largest stockpiles of chemical weapons. How many more citizens can the Assad regime kill with their mountain of chemicals? Probably the rest of the country.

One of the worst legacies that Obama will leave behind is the deteriorating status of the United States in the Middle East. Israel doesn’t trust the US. Egypt doesn’t trust America. And Russia apparently no longer fears us.

Are we weak? Incapable? No, just frighteningly indecisive and uncertain. For the good of the world and the goals of democracy, the next American president must reverse the lack of trust that now exists.

In the mean time, who will stop Syria from gassing babies, women, children, as well as soldiers? Doesn’t appear that America’s ready.

This is a decisive moment for action. President Obama could reverse the situation at the snap of his fingers by reacting decisively against Syria for crossing the line that he has drawn in the sand. Will he?

That’s the question.

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Filed under America, middle east, Russia, Syria


            Syria continues to be off the measuring scale for centers of treachery. Everywhere one looks it is a downhill slide. And there’s no end in sight.

            The Assad regime has made it clear that there is no end to how far they will go to stay in power. Far from having won the war, the entry of Hezbollah has tipped the balance of power in their direction today. However, the use of chemical weapons still expresses desperation on the part of the government.

By the way, the chemical attack was not part of a new rationale for Assad.  The Syrian government is not recovering vast swathes of rebel held territory. Assad’s forces particularly had trouble in recovering the eastern Ghouta territory that is part of the suburbs of Damascus city. Both the rebels and Assad’s force refer to the Jobar area as the key to Damascus. Jobar is where the last chemical attack occurred.

If Assad could drive the rebels out of Jobar and eastern Ghouta, it would offer the government renewed control in this section of Damascus. The chemical attack on Jobar was the first step in an offensive to recover this area. This is not the first time Assad has tried chemical attacks in this area. While President Obama has been reluctant to admit it, Assad has used chemicals for tactical reasons during the past year. Britain drew this conclusion much earlier. Their government’s Defense Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down confirmed Syria’s use of sarin month’s back.

Apparently, the latest attack that finally got Washington’s ire up was a miscalculation that killed more civilians than was intended. A slight miscalculation that added over a thousand women and children to the death toll of more than 100,000 casualties.

Chemical attacks aren’t the only slippery slope inside Syria. One of the reasons the rebels have not made more process has come from the growing number of jihadis entering the country. These Muslim forces related to Al-Qaeda have a similar fascination with death and are increasingly killing other more moderate rebels. One of the reasons the United States has been reluctant to supply arms to the rebellion is the existence of this element. These radical groups have been some of the most effective forces on the battlefield. Nevertheless, turf wars and retaliatory killings have evolved into ferocious battles that are increasingly becoming a war within a war. Of course, the winner in these rebel battles with themselves is Assad. The big losers are the moderates as territory slips away into the hands of the Islamists and jihadist fighters.

The reluctance of America to make any sort of decisive stand has allowed Russia to conceal much of this action or offer lame excuses for what has occurred. Time is on no one’s side in this mayhem –except death’s.

Remember that old folk song from America’s anti-war movement days? “Where Have All The Flower’s Gone.” The last stanza was “gone to graveyards every one.” That’s where the slippery slope ends in Syria.

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Filed under America, Civil War, middle east, Syria


            Analysts for the Middle East have previously argued that U.S. intervention in Syria would be shortsighted and further destabilize the region. They pointed out that the Obama administration lacked a grand strategy that left them victims of rhetorical entrapment which is precisely what happened when Obama drew his red line on the use of chemicals. However, the ayalysis did not envision the chemical attack Assad unleashed on his people. Now the conflict is seen in a different light.

            The FBI is currently increasing its surveillance of Syrians living inside the U.S.A. because of a concern that an attack on the Assad regime could result in terrorists attacks in America.  The government has also warned federal agencies and private companies that cyber-attacks could also be possible. The FBI is and will be interviewing hundreds of Syrians  to uncover any intelligence operations that could develop attacks in America. With September 11 such an obvious inviting target, the Syrian community remains under heightened surveillance.

One of the questions now receiving careful attention is how the Syrian regime amassed such a large quantity of nerve gas. The September 8, 2013 edition of The New York Times presented  a headline grabbing story of how this frightening situation occurred. Their conclusion was that a combination of Western laxity, aid from the Soviet Union and Iran, as well as Syrian deceptive maneuvering  around the world allowed the Assad family to stockpile its mass of chemical weapons.

Anyone watching the Monday, September 9, interview of  President Assad with Charlie Rose could see the ease with which Assad lied about their chemical strike against their own people. It was this exact duplicity that the Syrian goverment used to obtain the chemicals that they assembled to make sulfur mustard, VX, and sarin gas. A Russian general helped the Syrian government establish its chemical weapons program. The Syrian modus operandi was to hide procurement under the guise of legitimate pharmaceutical transactions. Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Center has been identified as a principal government location for the development of chemical weapons.  In January, Israel hit a convoy loading up just outside of the Research Center. Once known as Maine Biological Laboratories, the company was convicted of shipping biological agents to Syria in 2001. Such activities across the world allowed both the Assad father and son to develop the current stockpile.

But hold the phone! Is it possible that international inspection could dismantle this stockpile and make an American missile strike unnecessary? Currently, the international uproar is a hope that Syria would allow this stockpile to be hauled off and America attacks would be adverted. Such an action would end decades of Syrian secret conniving to build up the stockpile —A welcome relief for everyone.

Can Syrian be trusted to do so? No more than they could be trusted when they began building up the arsenal. Critical and persistent investigation would be necessary to make sure the Assad regime is not once again lying. Can the world rely on that posibility?

We shall see.

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Filed under middle east, Muslims, Syria


The United States is now struggling with a pronouncement made by President Barack Obama concerning the use of chemicals in warfare by the Syrian government. Drawing a red line in the sand, Obama stated the employment of such weaponry would be a game changer and “there will be consequences” if it happens.

It happened. Syrian President Assad thumbed his nose. We did nothing. Now, we have a real problem.

Apparently, Washington assumed the Assad regime would get the message and retreat from such terrible weapons. When they did not, it made Washington’s tough talk sound cheap and at this point has damaged the credibility of the current government. The worst possibility is that both North Korea and Iran will make the same judgment and this sets the stage for a far more serious show down.

In a recent blog, I suggested that Israel is coming to the end of trusting in the Obama administration’s will to act. They will probably go it alone in striking Iran’s nuclear capabilities. The current problem with Syria’s use of chemicals further enflames this dangerous situation. If America doesn’t follow up on its statements about Syria, Israel certainly cannot depend on USA military force to stop Iran.

Obama’s bind is that a dictator who has killed at least 80,000 of his own people must go. American moral convictions stand behind such an action. Such logic was part of attacking Hussein in Iraq. On the other hand, the large majority of the citizenry are strongly opposed to another war and the economy cannot take another drain at this time. Consequently, Obama is in a “damned if you do; damned if you don’t” posture. For this exact reason, his drawing a red line now appears misguided.

One possibility is for America to act without getting soldiers in the war.  The Pentagon has cyberattack capabilities that could blind Syrian air defenses. Such an attack would be from a significant distance with minimum involvement. In 2007, Israel attacked a suspected Syrian nuclear power plant. With a cyberattack  system used to disable Syrians air defenses.  The problem is that once the radar and computer systems strike, the Syrians can then develop malware to prevent another such assault. After such usage, the USA would have to redevelop its system. Is this an approach America wants to use at this time? Maybe not.

Of course, another problem with red lines is that they can be crossed in unanticipated ways that do appear to violate the warning. For example, with Hezbollah reigning supreme in Lebanon, chemical weapons could be passed on to them. While this has not happened yet, it suggests another highly dangerous possibility.

In my opinion, the Obama administration should have had an attack plan in place and ready to be used before making red line statements. They needed to have already determined how they would strike. Unless, they take some action quickly, Obama has been discredited in this situation. At this point, delay only serves to further the chaos and that means more people getting killed.

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Filed under middle east, Syria, War


The media has been alive with stories about the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime. No good news there. But attempting to peel back the curtain and getting a closer look at what is going on might just be worthwhile.

The story began to roll during the third week in April when a senior Israeli military intelligence office reported that Syria had been using chemical weapons. Brig. General Itai Brun (head of Israel’s research and intelligence analysis)  reported to a security conference that they had evidence that Assad had popped the cork on lethal weapons. General Brun reported Assad had used chemical weapons on a number of occasions. His report stated that the lethal nerve agent serin appeared to be the probably cause. Brun worried that a lack of action from the West could suggest that these agents are now going to be considered legitimate.

In response, two Syrian officials denied these  accusations (of course they did), contending that any usage came from the rebels. Such a response has been the government’s consistent position as well as neither confirming or denying they have such weapons.

As we come down to the end of April, what can we make of this situation? We are probably observing a fishing expedition run by Assad. Syria is trolling to see what degree of response they will receive from the West while claiming their innocents. If Washington does not make any critical moves, then they can get away with the use of more chemicals. Probably, they would assume this posture regardless of any harsh Western response if they were about to topple over the edge. Some voices believe they already have their heels on the edge of the cliff anyway. The Syrian government made a harsh response by claiming America is in the same situation as it was with the invasion of Iraq. They claimed theses reports are “similar  to what happened in Iraq when Colin Powell lied in the Security Council.” We could call this charge politics as usual.

Avoiding the “George-Bush-Rush-to-War” policy, the current administration has wisely refused to be pushed into action. First of all, the president knows the American people are sick of war. As difficult as it is to believe many of the politicians, it is clear that we have far from paid for the last couple of conflict. In addition, the United States now recognizes that it has severe limitations in reading the tea leaves  about what is actually going on in Syria. A far more reasoned approach has already proven to be a much more sane road through the quagmire.

However, another element comes into play with the Syrian situation. The U.S. government is faced with a serious dilemma in dealing with the rebel forces. The most successful unit in their military force is the Al Nusra Front which is aligned with Al-Qaeda. Scholar studying these groups report that there are virtually no secular groups among the rebels. Their fundamental aim is to create an Islamic state run by Shariah law.  Consequently, the West and pre-dominantly America are currently in a losing situation no matter what they do. Syrian rebels are angry that we hadn’t helped them earlier. If we do, they may be aiming our own guns at us.

With this situation clearly in mind, Assad must might go tip-toeing on to the battlefield again to see how much he can truly get away with. Not good.

Stay tuned. More to come.

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Filed under Civil War, middle east, Syria