In what is a sure sign that the Middle-East is a smouldering powder keg, it has been reported that the beleaguered Assad regime in Syria has started moving, consolidating and positioning chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction across Syria.
General Mustafa Sheikh, a senior Syrian military defector, has claimed, “The regime has started moving its chemical stockpile and redistributing it to prepare for its use,” citing recent rebel intelligence. “They are moving it from warehouses to new locations. They want to burn the country. The regime cannot fall without perpetrating a sea of blood.”
More dangerously, Syria is reported to have threatened to use its chemical and biological weapons in the event of a foreign attack, this being the country’s first acknowledgment of owning these weapons. Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Jihad Makdissi, is reported to have clarified, “No chemical or biological weapons will ever be used, and I repeat, will never be used, during the crisis in Syria no matter what the developments inside Syria. All of these types of weapons are in storage and under security and the direct supervision of the Syrian armed forces and will never be used unless Syria is exposed to external aggression.”
Assad’s intentions can be gauged from his remarks to Malcolm Homeline, an influential Jewish political leader, when they met in early 2011. According to Homeline, Assad said he intended to fight to the death, knowing full well that the Sunni response to 40 years of persecution would be extremely vengeful. Given these desperate intentions it is not beyond the realms of possibility that when push comes to shove, Assad would not hesitate to plunge the region into a biological or chemical tragedy by using weapons of mass destruction.
Subsequent events are shaping up to a likely similar outcome. The recent bombing that took out four members of Assad’s narrow circle of kin and lieutenants, including his powerful brother-in-law, defence minister and intelligence chief, has upped the ante one all-important level: the stakes are much higher now for both the rebels and the regime.
Aside the bombing, Assad is also assailed by many other problems. Rebels have scored significant victories within the capital and outside, including border crossings. The perceived ultimate rebel victory has prompted defection of almost 100,000 soldiers from the Syrian military of 320,000.
These factors point to a rapid escalation, a snowball to a violent climax. Assad has already ignored calls from the Arab League to step down, and even been offered “safe exit.” Given this, Assad is looking increasingly alone and desperate. Once he falls, there could be a massacre of the minority but ruling elite of Alawities, and unless Assad does not utilize all the weapons in one blazing desperate finale, these weapons could fall into the wrong hands in a country full of turmoil. This could be huge risk to the region, if not to the world, and ignite a third world war.