The war in Syria isn’t getting any better despite reports of the government’s cooperation with chemical weapons inspectors with OPCW. The war in Syria has only escalated, even after the international chemical weapons watchdog group The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said Friday that they can verify that all of Syria’s unfilled munitions arsenal have been destroyed. The bitter sweet news is only made the more bitter after reports of a spike in the recruitment of soldiers from European countries to join Al-Qaeda linked forces in the Syrian civil war.
Observers were alarmed when they discovered that as many as 1,500-2,000 new recruits have traveled to Syria to fight alongside Al-Qaeda linked militants in the past few months alone. This figure is almost double of what was reported by U.S. intelligence officials last month.
All of this follows an alleged chemical weapons attack in the town of Nabek against Syrian rebels. Opposition activists claim that the shells used in the bombing produced a “white, yellowish smoke and a strange odor.” While other reports say victims were foaming from the mouth, a symptom associated with chemical weapon attacks. The Syrian Revolution Coodinator’s Union on their Facebook page said they had documented “nine casualties” from Thursday’s gas attack. Still no evidence has been released to verify the incident.
Syria’s government quickly denied the reports, saying that the reports are a smear campaign, a way to “vindicate the losses of terrorists.”
Despite claims from activists of the Syrian government’s continued use of chemical weapons, the OPCW claims that the Syrian government has been more than cooperative in their efforts to dismantle and dispose of Syria’s chemical arsenal.
The OPCW said they are continuing to destroy buildings used for producing chemical weapons with Syrian approval.
While the OPCW is working with Syria to clean up their biological weaponry, E.U. officials are meeting to try to stem the flow of fighters traveling to Syria to fight under the banner of Islamic extremism.
E.U. interior ministers joined together in Brussels Thursday to address the issue.
In their findings, E.U. officials concluded that Syria has become a “gathering point” for extremist Islamist fighters around the world. Officials maintain that the political vacuum and instability has allowed for a brief cover of fog, allowing fighters and leaders to meet and plot new attacks on both the Syrian government and western targets abroad.
E.U. officials have suggested collecting and analyzing more airline passenger information to uncover extremist cells traveling from European countries to Syria.
The trend in recruiting western fighters is something Al-Qaeda and other extremist groups have gone to great lengths to accomplish. Al-Qaeda’s “Inspire” magazine is printed in English in hopes of reaching out to disillusioned westerners to join the fight against “western imperialism.”
U.S. officials have battled back, setting up their own anti-terrorism recruitment program online, distributing online images and their own set of propaganda to fight back against extremist indoctrination. One such image shows a man mourning over a coffin with the caption reading, “How can slaughtering the innocent be the right path?”
In spite of Syria’s seemingly innocuous cooperation with international inspectors, the government continues to bombard cities and towns, massacring hundreds everyday. And, while E.U. and U.S. officials try to stem the flow of recruitment in the latest battle over Islamic extremism, the war for control of Syria rages on with little sign of abating.
By John Amaruso