Horrific indifference to Syria’s chemical weapons

Last summer, U.S. President Barack Obama warned that if it turns out that Syria is transferring or using chemical weapons, he would change his decision regarding military intervention in Syria.

A few months later, the U.S. secretary of state announced that the Syrian regime did in fact transfer chemical weapons for militarily use. However, White House experts interpreted that the chemical weapons were transported to Hezbollah. And so they didn’t do anything.

For about a year now, there have been leaked reports that confirm Assad’s use of chemical weapons. It was first leaked that he used chlorine gas. So they said, it’s just chlorine, which is a gas that has been present since World War I and which only causes asphyxiation. Nerve agents, however, are a completely different thing. Later it turned out that he used the fatal Sulfur Mustard gas. Despite this, no one did anything.

Why is there this horrific indifference? Is it because Syria is a petroleum country? Or because Assad is fighting al-Qaeda?

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

During this month’s conference of security research institutes, an Israeli official announced that the Syrian regime used Sarin, a nerve agent. Neither an American warplane nor any other headed to Syria.

This is what an Israeli commentator at the Haaretz daily summarized. He warned that Gulf countries are observing how the international community is dealing with Assad, and that it is clear that the Syrian president was just testing how far he could push the envelope; and in the process he has realized that no one wants to end the slaughter. Thus we’re confronting a situation similar to having a factory where experiments are carried out. Not experiments of weapons of mass-destruction, but experiments on the international community’s reaction. And the result is, everyone knows what Assad is doing and no one intends to do anything.

At the beginning, Assad realized that no one in the world is concerned about his suffocation of civilians with the primitive chlorine gas. So he moved to using Sulfur Mustard. After realizing that no one was concerned about that either, he used Sarin. And we remind you that a one milligram drop of Sarin kills a person and that one fourth is enough to kill a child and that Assad possesses tons of Sarin!

Horrific indifference

Why is there this horrific indifference? Is it because Syria is a petroleum country? Or because Assad is fighting al-Qaeda?

How can the world be told that fighting terrorism and criminal regimes is an international duty? How can the U.S. Department of State justify its statements condemning violations of human rights in the region whilst being silent over the suffocation of thousands of innocent people using the prohibited Sarin gas? The question that everyone must think of tomorrow is how can the appetite of the region’s government to buy and store chemical weapons, the cheapest and most effective instruments of violence, be curbed?

When Saddam was expelled from Kuwait upon collective international military efforts, it was said that this was a message to everyone and not only to Saddam. The message was that thuggery and threatening other countries comes at a very high price.

When Afghanistan was shelled and Bin Laden and his ally, the Taliban, fled, it was said that this was a message to terrorist actors across the world that terrorists will be pursued no matter where they seek refuge.

We must admit that everyone learnt the lesson. No country invaded another. Most terrorist groups went into hiding and no government dared deal with these groups publicly.

Assad and his regime have committed horrific massacres against the Syrian people for two years using weapons that no one thought could be used to target civilians. Warplanes, tanks, missiles and chemical weapons were used. This gives a powerful message to many. Store all types of weapons you need and you can actually use them!

It is for this reason that we will not be surprised if Assad wants to save time and end the uprising by deciding tomorrow to suffocate one hundred thousand people using his chemical weapons. Assad now knows that not a single warplane will head to Syria to deter him.



Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.

Last Update: Wednesday, 01 May 2013 KSA 10:44 - GMT 07:44
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