- Special Pages
Khalid Al Sayed
The latest developments in Syria signal that the end of Bashar Al Assad regime is near. The killing of Assad’s top security officials, including his brother-in-law and Deputy Defence Minister Gen Assef Shawkat and Defence Minister Gen Daoud Rajiha, as well as the constant bombardment of Damascus and Aleppo show that the regime’s hold on power is weakening. If Aleppo falls, and there are strong signs it will, it will become the first major city to come under opposition forces.
In addition, Syria has acknowledged for the first time that the country possessed chemical weapons.
It has threatened to use it in case of attack by foreign forces. This seals the regime’s fate as it has given evidence against itself.
The subsequent amendment of the statement by adding the words “if any”, is an attempt to return to its previous stance of neither denying nor confirming the presence of weapons of mass destructions, shows the desperate situation of the regime which is losing control.
It is also worth noting that Foreign Minister Walid Al Muallem has not been seen in public and was not the one who made the statement about chemical weapons.
Syria has long been suspected of developing chemical and biological weapons. In 2003, the country denied US allegations that it was developing chemical weapons and even said the charges were designed to serve Israeli interests, considering that it happened during the second Iraq war.
The subject of chemical weapons was also raised in 2007 after Israel bombed a suspected nuclear reactor under construction in Syria.
The media, especially in the West, has pounced on Syria’s acknowledgement of its chemical weapons stockpile. Previously, reports in the West expressed concern over Syria securing chemical and biological weapons because they could fall into the hands of Al Qaeda elements in the country. However, with the recent acknowledgement, the media narrative has shifted to the possibility that Assad might use them on other countries in the region.
Obama has already warned Damascus it will be held accountable if it makes the ‘tragic mistake’ of using its chemical weapons. Russia, despite being a staunch supporter of Assad, has chided Syria over the threat of using its chemical weapons, reminding them never to use them.
Syria has said that although it possesses these weapons, it doesn’t mean they will use them. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in an interview with Fox News, also expressed concern about the possibility of Hezbollah acquiring these weapons after the fall of Assad.
Call by world leaders
These statements by world leaders show that the drive against Assad to step down has intensified considering the dangers these chemical weapons pose not only to neighbouring countries but to the global community.
With the chemical weapons now becoming a serious issue, there is no doubt that Assad’s regime will fall. The most important question is what happens post-Assad.
Two possible actions can be considered to ensure the stability of the country as well as the security of these chemical weapons, which might fall into wrong hands. One is the suggestion by the Emir H H Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani to send troops backed by the Arab League, similar to the Arab Deterrent Force sent to Lebanon during the 1976 Civil War. These security forces can be sent either after the fall of Assad’s regime or when large swathes of territories have been secured by opposition groups.
The second option is to send peacekeeping troops from the United Nations who will secure these weapons and prevent misuse that could threaten the security of the region.
Let us hope the situation in Syria will not be similar to Iraq, where the main reason for the US invasion was the alleged presence of weapons of mass destruction.
The US invasion of Iraq led to a civil war and the subsequent destruction and instability of the country. With the Syrian government confirming the presence of chemical weapons, we don’t want the country to be dragged into a long and destructive civil war, which can destabilise not only Syria, but even neighbouring countries.
Al Assad should step down immediately to avoid further bloodshed and instability in the region. The Peninsula