Chemical weapons of mass confusion

The unstable situation in Syria makes these weapons of mass destruction a potential hazard to Syrians, but also to the surrounding nations.

A defected Syrian soldier holds a rifle and flag 390 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah )
A defected Syrian soldier holds a rifle and flag 390 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah )
Why is it that we are so obsessed with the slight possibility of an indefinite movement in some obscure Syrian weapons storage facilities, but could not care less about the 300 Syrians that were killed today, or about how this is firmly connected to the pan-Islamic war afoot in the Middle East?
Over the course of the past few days two articles were published about Syrian chemical weapons, in The New York Times and in The Atlantic. On the basis of intelligence information, these articles indicated that some movement was detected recently in Syrian chemical weapons facilities, and that Israel asked twice for Jordanian consent to attack these facilities over the past month.
It has been mentioned in the past by specialists that in order for chemical weapons to be used, there are several steps that need to be taken first, such as transferring the different chemical agents, which are never stored together, and mounting them on a weaponized carrier. The same experts stressed that Syria’s chemical weapons could not be deployed instantly, and that such movement as has apparently been detected would serve as an early warning sign.
The unstable situation in Syria makes these weapons of mass destruction a potential hazard to Syrians, but also to the surrounding nations.
While the global community fears Assad’s loyalists would use them against the Syrian people as means of last resort, there are also other concerns in the region. Turkey suspects that Assad would bomb areas close to its border, allowing for collateral damage to spill over and leaving Turkey to deal with the catastrophe.
Israel fears that these weapons might be passed on by Assad to his allies, Hezbollah, equipping this extremist Shi’ite organization on its border with a game-changing weapon.
Further concern can be attributed to the fact that global jihadists, of the al- Qaida variety, are part of the opposition fighting Assad’s troops. These kind of weapons falling into those kind of hands could find their way to being used in a variety of scenarios such as in Iraq against the Shi’ite population, in Egypt against the Morsi administration, in Saudi Arabia against American targets, or against any of the numerous enemies the Salafi-oriented jihadist groups have vowed to destroy.
To corroborate these suspicions, one has merely to examine the aftermath of the Libyan “Arab Spring,” and follow the trail of the missiles, anti-aircraft/marine vessel guided weapons, and other munitions that left storage rooms in Libya and surfaced in Sinai desert, on trucks in Sudan, and in other parts of the Middle East.
Such weapons were used against Morsi’s army by jihadist groups in the latest round a couple of months ago. These are the same type of weapons that were used against the IDF by jihadists crossing over from Sinai into Israel. These are the same Salafi-oriented groups that were responsible for the death of the American ambassador to Benghazi, and the al- Qaida cells responsible for the incredible death toll in Iraq that reached 365 last September as a result of the attacks on Shia civilian targets.
On the macro scale, the chemical weapons situation marks concerns about post- Assad Syria. It is obvious to the actors in the region that Assad’s days as the ruler of Syria are numbered, but it is still very unclear what Syria’s future will look like. Currently, the struggle of the last relic of the Ba’ath socialist regime in the Middle East for the most part has turned into a pan-Islamic war between Sunnis and Alawiterepresented- Shi’ites.
In the minds of the ayatollah regime in Iran, this is a battle for the geographical integrity of what the King of Jordan, King Abdullah, referred to as “The Shi’ite Crescent,” the connection between the various Shi’ite communities in the the Middle East. This battle is already underway in Iraq, and does not seem to be coming to its final resolution in the near future.
Concerned parties are wondering whether driving Assad out will actually bring a halt to aggression, or whether it will in fact turn Syria into an extension of the battle waging next door in Iraq. It is yet uncertain whether the Shi’ite hegemony of the region, Iran, will give up its ally along with a convenient land bridge to its proxy army, Hezbollah in Lebanon, or whether it will continue to send in the Revolutionary Guards in order to maintain some sort of a supply route across Syria.
On the other hand, there are also concerns that the strife will continue to spill over to the other Shia-Sunni mixed countries in the region, as it has in Lebanon and Bahrain over the past few months. It seems that not only the Syrian people are fighting for their future, but also the Islamic jihadists and the Shi’ite Crescent.
The writer, founder of the Middle East Learning Academy, delivers seminars on a variety of Middle East-related topics in Israel and in the United States.He received his master’s degree from the Department of Contemporary Middle East of Tel Aviv University, focusing on Syrian and Lebanese politics.