People are talking about the Assad regime’s current use of chemical weapons, meaning chemical attacks that have happened since the regime agreed to divest itself of all of its chemical weapons. There are certainly going to be differing stories regarding how many times the regime used a chemical weapon in the past two months and what type of chemical(s) were used. Most of all there will be disagreements about what the regime has been doing and if it counts as chemical weapons. But, as several investigators are saying, any reasonable person will say it definitely appears certain that the regime did do it.
People who have chlorine and ammonia for use in their homes, use them as cleaning agents. Farmers use ammonia as fertilizer. Neither intentionally use these chemicals to harm or kill people. They do not enclose them in barrel bombs and drop them from helicopters onto populated civilian areas.
Syria signed the Geneva Protocol in 1968, and joined the Chemical Weapons Convention in 2013, therefore is legally bound by both. If converted into lethal gas and used to kill people, chlorine and ammonia would fall within this broad definition. However, Assad does not think in broad definitions for anything. His sociopsychosomatic egocentric personality requires options to be black and white. When evaluating how he operates as a dictator, Assad has definitely gravitated to “black” solutions … destruction, devastation, and death.
Does Assad Believe He Has Found A Loophole In Chemical Weapons Extermination?
The Assad regime will state they have not violated their chemical weapons agreement. Their argument will be that all allegations related to chlorine and ammonia are not illegal, as these chemicals are also used as household cleaners in Syria and everywhere else in the world for that matter.
Could this be their loophole?
Syrians have been feeling the impact of Assad’s barrel bombs being dropped from helicopters for months. These “monster manufactured bombs” emit nails, other destructive, and often deadly items. According to Time Magazine, “First deployed against the opposition-dominated city of Homs in August 2012, barrel bombs didn’t really gain prominence until December of last year, when scores of the improvised devices were dropped on the city of Aleppo, killing more than 500.”
Recently the barrel bombs have also contained chlorine or ammonia gas which has increased the barrel bombs’ terror effect; or TNT, which has increased the barrels’ lethal effect. This is not to say that the chlorine or ammonia has not caused deaths, as it certainly has asphyxiated some victims primarily children.
On April 11th, 2014 the regime began a campaign of chlorine gas attacks by dropping barrel bombs in Kafer Zeta – Hama Province. Three barrel bombs were dropped at 6 pm and two more at 11 pm. Activist reported, “The three bombs at 6 pm contained a yellowish gas that smelled of chlorine.” Citizens were treated for varying levels of injuries from mild to severe, primarily related to airway and breathing issues of which 95% cleared fairly quickly. Two people died of head injuries. The physician reported that their conditions were exacerbated by the chlorine gas and lead to their death.
According to Middle East Monitor, more than 15 areas in Syria were attacked by chemical attacks in the last two months. One of those attacks rained down on Idlib during April. On April 21st more than 200 citizens in Telminnes, between Ma’arat al Mu’man and Jarjanaz, suffered side effects from the inhalation of chlorine gas causing burns to respiratory passages, burning eyes and breathing difficulties. Three victims were killed, including two children. Livestock died due to asphyxiation.
Since this first Ma’arat attack on April 21st, “terror of the wait for these citizens heightened as citizens feared more barrel bombs would be dropped. Citizens began an around the clock vigil. One activist told me some evacuated to protect the children at night and came home to sleep during the day. Others went without sleep, standing watch, waiting for further attacks that might happen in the middle of the night when people were sleeping. According to The Telegraph (April 29, 2014), in the last two weeks alone there have been eight separate chemical attacks on towns and villages in Idlib province.
Speigle reported that Al-Tamana in Idlib Province what attacked with chlorine gas on August 12th and 18th with over 100 victims needing treatment at the hospital after each attack. They were able to interview victims and doctors who all described the same symptoms as Telminnes. Five people died in those attacks.
It is interesting that the Syrian Interim Government’s Minister of Defense Assad Mustapha recently told Reuters, “before the April wave of attacks began he had received confirmed information about the regime’s intention to use chemical weapons prior to the attacks.” He said, “We have been warning of this.”
“On April 8, regime forces shelled Jobar neighbourhood with poisonous gases leaving 10 dead and 40 wounded. Then in Kafer Zeta in the area surrounding Hama they left 82 dead and dozens injured and then they continued in several areas in Damascus, Aleppo and Altmanah and Telminne in Idlib countryside.”
In the first independent testing of its kind, conducted exclusively for The Telegraph, the UK News Journal has taken an exclusive approach to their story on the chemical weapon issue. They had trained individuals collect soil samples from three attack sites tested by an independent lab and chemical warfare expert. The result was absolutely conclusive – results showed “sizeable and unambiguous traces of chlorine and ammonia present at the site of all three attacks.” The findings also showed that some attacks used canisters marked with their chemical contents and were conducted by helicopter. The only actor in the Syrian war that has the capability to take to the air to deliver a bomb by helicopter or jet is the Assad Regime.
Motive, Method, But What About Means?
Assad had motive and method of delivery, but where did he get the chemicals? Activists describe finding canisters inside or within the vicinity of the mangled barrels that have been dropped. They are industrial cylinders with the engraved initials “CL2” (symbol for chlorine gas). According to Con Coughlin, who is the Telegraph’s Defence Editor and a world-renowned expert on global security and terrorism issues, Iran is known to have recently purchased 10,000 cylinders of chlorine gas from China.
Iran has been making routine flights between Mehrabad International Airport in Tehran and Damascus using a Syrian military cargo aircraft which can carry a payload of up to 40 tons at least once weekly, but sometimes more often. Many of these flights have taken place when Iranian negotiators were trying to persuade Western officials in Geneva that they were serious about reaching a deal on Tehran’s controversial nuclear programme. This has been validated by Israeli defense, but should also should be easily validated by US satellite coverage of the area.
Did Iran Provide Chinese Chlorine For Use In Syria?
Is it just a coincidence that Iran recently made a very large purchase of chlorine gas from China just when their close partner Syria begins using the very same Chemical Weapon? Not likely! Iran has been on a very clear mission in the Syrian War and their mission is to win at all cost. If it can be proved that the unexploded cylinders in Syria are from the lot of chlorine gas sold to Iran by the Chinese, then Iran will be in violation of the nuclear weapons agreement that they recently agreed to.
In order to validate Iran’s role, China would need to be willing to validate the “serial numbers” on the cylinders that Iran purchased from them. While that seems unlikely, the newly forged friendship between China and Saudi Arabia initiated by Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud could help. People might even call him a genius for reaching out to China as he did.
However, it might not have to get quite that detailed. Con Couglin states that Iran was passing weapons to Assad all through the “Peace Talks with Iran. He went on to say, “If this is true, instead of promoting a peaceful agenda, [Iran] has instead been providing the Assad regime with a new type of chemical weapon, then it should face the same censure and punishment as Damascus.” Assad will have become the first leader ever to break both the Geneva Protocol and the Chemical Weapons Convention.
Iran is not a new supporter of Syria’s Chemical Weapons program. As far back as 2006, The Washington Post reported that a US Diplomat wrote a cable stating, “Iran would provide the construction design and equipment to annually produce tens to hundreds of tons of precursors for VX, sarin, and mustard [gas]. Engineers from Iran’s DIO [Defense Industries Organization] were to visit Syria and survey locations for the plants, and construction was scheduled from the end of 2005-2006.”
For Some, Syria Has Become A Prize Not A Homeland
Assad believes Syria belongs to him and he is the rightful ruler. He also sees Syria as a prized possession, something you own. The only people Assad may care for are his close circle of co-conspirators, and his wife and children. The rest of the people of Syria (Sunni, Druze, Kurds, Alawites, or Christians) are either pawns or expendable. When someone’s usefulness as a pawn wears out, he doesn’t elevate the person to his circle of close and trusted fiends … he puts them in his expendable queue.
Assad has demonstrated this thought process throughout the war. He is a sociosychopathic egocentric killer who is not going to allow anyone to take his property [Syria] away from him. Assad believes he is backed by Iran. However, all they want is Syria’s real estate which gives them a direct line to their terror partner Hezbollah, closer to Hamas, next door to their arch rival Israel, and other Middle East countries they would love to torment.
Is Policy Recovery Possible?
US Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Powers spoke out last week saying, “In preventing mass atrocities, we must redouble our emphasis on early engagement … The sooner we act, the more options we will have. That requires developing solutions to potential atrocities before they become actual ones. And to those who would argue that a Head of State or government has to choose only between doing nothing and sending in the military – I maintain that is a constructed and false choice, an accompaniment only to disengagement and passivity.”
There were so many warnings in 2012 that the Syrian Crisis was going to spiral out of control and Bashar al-Assad was on a mission of destruction. Syrians began their cry for help. Father Paolo, a Jesuit priest who spent 30 years building interfaith communication in Syria, made a resounding plea during a US visit to “Take care of Syria. There weren’t huge extremist problems in Syria at the time, and the death toll was just 40,000. It was hard to get world attention on the “problems” in Syria. Now just two years later the death toll is 150,000.
The entire sane world admits Bashar al-Assad is “unfit to rule.” However, the same people who were pondering what to do at 40,000 dead, still stand by with “eyes wide shut” pondering what to do. With both Russia and Iran arming Assad’s forces with no limits, the US is beginning to push some advanced weapons to the “moderate” Free Syrian Army through a proxy as a pilot. It is easy to ask, “What has taken so long?” Instead, ask the question “Is now the time when you will even the playing field, and save what is left of Syria”