WASHINGTON – The “red-line” warning from President Obama and other Western leaders to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against the use of chemical weapons on the Syrian opposition may imply the use of military action if Assad fails to meet demands, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.
At the same time, sources say, it also may telegraph that the Western countries will tolerate levels of violence by the Syrian regime as long as it doesn’t include the use of chemical weapons.
Informed sources say that reported mixing of chemicals for use in missiles or artillery shells could be a means to pressure the West to lessen its support for the Syrian opposition and also negotiate an amnesty for Assad and top officials in his government.
With Russian backing, Assad also may be seeking to maintain Shiite Alawite control over the Syrian government, if he departs, which also would ensure Iran’s continued influence in the country.
Assad has said he won’t use chemical weapons against Syrian opponents. However, his government claims that the opposition is comprised mostly of foreigners, making them fair game for the use of the chemical weapons if he believes his regime is in jeopardy.
Informed sources agree that even if he were to use chemical weapons against the rebels, there would be a number of practical obstacles, including the fact that the Syrian command and control capability is so fractured and the means to launch such weapons are dispersed throughout the country.
Sources also point to environmental considerations that would limit effectiveness of the weapons in highly built-up urban areas. While there inevitably would be casualties if chemical weapons were used, sources say they the psychological impact would be greater than the casualties.
Casualties would be minimal because buildings are air-conditioned, which would prevent harmful agents from seeping in. Also, air intakes in such buildings tend to be at the upper floors and the gases emitted from the use of sarin, VX, tabun and mustard gas, which Syria is assessed to have, are heavier than air and would tend to stay low to the ground.
At the same time, Assad has been fully aware of the West’s concerns about his potential use of chemical weapons and also knows that his support from Russia and China quickly would wane if he did use them. In that case, the U.S. and other members of the United Nations Security Council could pass a resolution that would allow some military involvement by the West in the Syrian conflict, although up until now it has avoided such involvement.
Short of that, however, Assad knows that the West cannot get a resolution in the Security Council passed without Russian and Chinese backing.
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