Use of Chemical Weapons Signals the End for Assad

6 Dec

News is coming out of Syria tonight that the Syrian military is preparing to use its chemical weapons against domestic targets.  Though previous articles have highlighted the difficulty of deploying chemical weapons, NBC’s article tonight makes it sound as if the initial hurdles have been overcome.  While the weapons could inflict high casualty rates, it also demonstrates that Assad is running out of options.  Assad is betting that his domestic military gains will outweigh the total deterioration of international opinion toward Syria, which is a very risky bet indeed.

Various US and UK government officials have repeatedly stated that the use of chemical weapons would cause them to ‘revisit their approach‘ to the conflict.  While it’s unclear what the international reaction would be, there does seem to be a credible threat of military intervention, and at this point, it would certainly spell the end for Assad.  The use of chemical weapons would also make continuing support for him basically impossible.  While Iran may be able to hold on, Russia would surely have to abandon Assad’s sinking ship.  If videos of the carnage find their way out of the country, then the negative publicity would be too great for even Russia to sustain.  Assad will have shifted the discourse surrounding intervention from the imperialism vs. humanitarian intervention paradigm to one that focuses on international security.  This narrative is much more powerful than humanitarian intervention, and unified action, especially on the UNSC, will be much more likely.

Assad’s back is clearly right up against the wall.   Using chemical weapons is strategically a very poor choice, and even announcing possession was not well thought out.  However, if Assad is actually willing to use his chemical weapons supply, then he has accepted the fact that he can no longer win.  Assad will fall, and now, unfortunately, it’s just a question of how many civilians he’ll kill along the way.

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One Response to “Use of Chemical Weapons Signals the End for Assad”

  1. dhirsch1 December 6, 2012 at 5:27 am #

    My haste in getting this post together led me to overlook an important aspect of this development. Assad is surely still done, but perhaps this is more than simply a last gasp attempt to kill as many civilians as possible. Numerous Arab countries have been reported as informally offering Assad asylum, so the threat of chemical weapons deployment may simply be a way to achieve a better negotiated solution or received asylum.

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