As much of a threat to life, limb, property and any semblance of normalcy posed by the ongoing civil war in Syria, it has taken a second seat in the last few days to some new threats which extend beyond the Syrian border. The numbers of excursions of Syrian troops still loyal to Bashir Assad across Syrian borders have become both more frequent and increasingly violent. There have been a number of shooting incidents within Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan causing each of the threatened countries to increase their military presence along their borders with Syria. Turkey has announced that they will consider taking interventional actions should such transgression continue. The Turkish government has also stationed heavy armor, fighter aircraft, and helicopter gunships near the border as a precaution. Both Lebanon and Jordan have seriously stepped up their military presence on their borders with Syria and issued stern warnings against further incursions threatening dire and violent reaction to any provocation. All three neighbors have taken steps to facilitate their current numbers of refugees and have announced they intend to continue to allow additional refugees escaping the violence in Syria to cross their borders. For the first time Syrian troops crossed the armistice line into the demilitarized zone established by a truce with Israel. Israel has filed a complaint with the United Nations and had already reinforced their troops in the Golan Heights as a precaution long ago. Israel has said they are willing to accept Syrian refugees on an individual basis with those requiring medical assistance getting more favorable treatment. But these excursions are the least of the new threats coming out of Syria.
There has been a growing concern relating to the chemical weapons stored in undisclosed caches on military bases. Some have expressed serious concerns about the likelihood of proper precautions being in place to prevent these weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of terror groups. Depending on the country where these concerns originate, these concerns stress the expected terror groups with the United States and Europe expressing the highest concern about al-Qaeda, while Israel was primarily concerned about Hezballah, as Hezballah is presently aiding the Assad extra-military forces along with the IRGC al-Quds forces as well as the Shabiba paramilitary mercenaries, and had secondary concerns which include Hamas, Fatah, and the other Palestinian terror forces. Syria announced in the past few days statements meant to calm the world’s concerns over these dangerous chemical weapons claiming they have taken steps to assure they are secure and not able to be taken by the rebels of terrorist groups, which Assad has claimed are one and the same. Assad spokespersons have also made assurances that they have no plan to use their supplies of chemical weapons in the ongoing fighting against internal Syrian forces but threatened their use against any external forces which might be sent to interfere or support the rebels against the Assad government. Some experts interpreted this as a threat against Israel while others saw it as a more universal threat also aimed at the Europeans, the United States, or multi-governmental organizations such as the European Union, NATO or the United Nations. Where this threat is an obvious cry of a regime in its later stages of collapse and defeat, this threat should be taken deadly seriously and viewed as an opening salvo of possibly more desperate measures which may be considered more palatable as the situation grows more dire.
It should not be taken that the Assad guarantees that chemical weapons will not be used against the rebel forces as the final word on the subject. One must remember that Bashir Assad has regularly referred to the rebel forces as being aided by terrorists, consisting completely of terrorists, and as being forces sent by alien countries and does not consist of many actual Syrians. Should Assad, as things grow dim and his rule faces being extinguished, become truly desperate and believe that only the use of chemical weapons can assure his continuing to rule in Syria or even to keep him from a fate similar to that of Gadhafi, his promise may not be worth anything and his desire to continue his rule and preserve his life take precedence pushing him to utilize such weapons. It is in such a situation where Assad is quite likely to reiterate his claim that the forces against him are foreign terrorists and thus may be engaged with the use of chemical weapons as he has already said would be used on foreign forces. This possibility is the one option which may be the end result of the Assad regime’s statements concerning their chemical weapons caches. The best current hope for the Syrian people and Syria’s neighbors would be Bashir Assad availing himself of the offer proffered by a ministerial committee of the Arab League who called on Assad to “renounce power,” promising that he and his family would be offered “a safe exit.” Unfortunately, I fear that Assad will act similarly to virtually every other megalomaniacal dictator and will only leave feet first and all boxed up for delivery to the next world.
Beyond the Cusp