The White House is deliberating on supplying military weapons to the Syrian rebels in an attempt to hasten a political transition. President Obama said they should gather more evidence as his administration struggles to build pressure on Bashar Assad and its Russian and Iranian allies. Nevertheless, it is clear, Assad faces U.S. weapons aid to rebels following proof he used nerve gas during conflict.
The U.S. decision to supply weapons would mark its reversal to deepen its involvement in Syria’s two-year conflict that killed more than 70 thousand civilians. This contradictory signal reflected the growing dilemma for President Obama administration that seeks to avoid getting into another war in the Muslim world.
The chemical weapon’s discussion was put back on the table after the Khan al-Assal residents attack in North Syria and nerve gas attack video of victims in the Sheikh Massoud has turned up online. The footage showing the victims twitching and frothing from the mouth are key signs of sarin nerve gas exposure.
Sarin is tasteless, odorless, and colorless properties. It is impossible to detect and 20 times as deadly as cyanide. Sarin attacks the nervous system causing respiratory failure and death within minutes of exposure. Mustard gas, on the other hand, is not as lethal as sarin but there is no treatment or antidote. If inhaled, it is a blistering agent that burns the skin, eyes, lungs, and throat.
Obama has dispatched Secretary of State John F. Kerry to Moscow in an effort to convince the Kremlin to end its support to the Assad regime.
Syria’s chemical weapons
Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile of approximately 1,000 tons has been the subject of speculation for many years. However, there is no reliable information on how it obtained and developed its arsenal. It has never declared its stock because the country has not signed the Chemical Weapons Convention nor have they ratified the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention.
While officials admitted to chemical weapons stockpiling, they alleged about not using it against their own people. However, U.S. intelligence agencies suspect that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government has used small amounts of these chemicals against the rebels who are fighting to overthrow his government.
Capability of Syria’s chemical warfare
Syria is conceived to own large quantities of highly dangerous sarin nerve agent and mustard gas, and they are attempting to develop an even more toxic VX gas.
The capability of Syria’s chemical warfare is a greater threat than any nuclear capability. They can be delivered by rockets, aircraft, and ballistic missiles, artillery shells, and aerial bombs. Syria is believed to have acquired mustard gas prior to the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. By the 1980s, Syria was producing the agent in bulk.
US officials have claimed that Syria has started converting pesticide plants to the production of sarin in 1988. In 1993, rocket artillery round with mustard-gas was produced, which was presumed to be the first weaponisation of its kind.
How sure are they?
The letter addressed to the members of Congress on Thursday said that the Syrian regime had indeed used chemical weapons on a small scale based in part on “physiological samples.” However, Israel’s assessment was entirely based on the victim’s report of having constricted pupils and foaming at the mouth. Britain and France have, in fact, included witness testimony and soil samples.
U.S. officials believe that Assad’s government has control over the chemical agents’ sites. However, they are worried that these dangerous materials could fall into the hands of looters, defectors, or rival militant groups, including the Al Qaeda in Syrian and Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Written By: Janet Grace Ortigas