Beyond the Cusp

January 18, 2013

United States Abdicates Responsibility to Act on Syrian Chemical Weapons

Despite the intense coverage given to United States President Barack Obama making a speech where he insisted that the United States considered Syrian President Bashir Assad’s military stores of chemical weapons to be a serious threat and was being treated as a paramount subject being taken seriously by the United States, follow up after the speech has left doubts. The President stressed that the United States military was monitoring the Syrian WMDs and would act should Bashir Assad use these illegal weapons in his desperation in the Syrian civil war and that such use would be crossing a red line which President Obama stated its crossing would force a strong response from the United States. The President’s comments were made subsequent to and in addition to United States Defense Secretary Leon Panetta who was quoted responding to the eventuality of Assad’s government being toppled leaving the chemical weapons stores unsecured, “I think the greater concern right now is what steps does the international community take to make sure that when Assad comes down, that there is a process and procedure to make sure we get our hands on securing those sites. That, I think, is the greater challenge right now.” When pressed to clarify if Secretary Panetta responded, “We’re not talking about ground troops. You always have to keep the possibility that, if there is a peaceful transition and international organizations get involved, that they might ask for assistance in that situation. But in a hostile situation, we’re not planning for that.” Panetta insistence that any future U.S. military role in Syria would only come about if a new government asked for assistance hinted at the disconnect between the stated stress over the serious threat posed by the existing chemical weapons and the lack of commitment by the President Obama and his Administration to taking any responsibility for securing these dangerous WMDs except by voluntary invitation, a highly unlikely scenario.

Further comments from President Obama and Secretary Panetta have noted the extreme difficulty in being able to detect whether chemical weapons have been employed and that in order to assure such use would require intense monitoring which is beyond the level that the President is comfortable with allocating. The main concept coming from President Obama appears to be more aligned with finding reasons why the United States cannot be found culpable in any failure to prevent Syrian Dictator Assad from using his stores of chemical weapons. In a further step in that direction, the United States has quietly behind the scenes tasked Turkey and Jordan with the responsibility of determining whether or not Bashir Assad uses his chemical weapons and should the need arise tasking them with stepping in to take responsibility for securing the chemical weapons. Considering that the Syrian arsenal of chemical weapons stores is estimated to be between three-hundred and four-hundred metric tons, it would take more resources than Turkey and Jordan have readily available even if combined. Only the United States, Russia, China, and possibly a few more States would easily be able to assemble the necessary equipment, troops, trained personnel in ABC weapons handling, transport assets, secure storage and the other miscellaneous abilities necessitated to secure and relocate the Syrian stores for subsequent disposal. It is simply irresponsible for the United States to sidestep any responsibility for the securing of these extremely dangerous weapons which if mishandled could cause massive casualties and untold misery destroying all life over a wide area should an accident occur. This is the critical point where President Obama’s position of leading from behind and refusing to ever be up front taking responsibility for any situation no matter how serious the potential for disaster which the United States taking the lead could avoid. This is the result of a world that apparently will be without any assist or influence from the United States going forward. This will show us exactly what a world would be if run by the United Nations.

The initial sign that Bashir Assad may have begun to utilize some of his lesser level chemical weapons has already been detected. The initial theory is that the chemical weapon utilized by President Assad loyalists was a chemical weapon called Agent 15, known also by its NATO code BZ. From what research we have been able to determine that Agent 15 is at the lesser end of the chemical weapons capabilities with the capabilities slightly stronger than CX, a strong form of tear gas. When questions were asked as to the potency of Agent 15, doctors who had treated the affected people attributed five deaths to the use of Agent 15 which makes it far more lethal than tear gas which is a nonfatal class of chemical dispersant utilized for crowd control. Still, despite the reported deaths, the United States has made no comment and despite a leaked communique from the United States Consul General in Istanbul, Scott Frederic Kilner, to State Department in Washington which outlined the results of the consulate investigation into reports from inside Syria indicating chemical weapons had been used in Homs on Dec. 23, 2012. After such a refusal to act or even demand Assad cease use of chemical weapons will be seen by Assad and his military commanders as tacit approval to go forward and use even stronger chemical weapons escalating until he gets a reaction. Should this trend be tested and continue with United States President Obama’s tendency to vacillate and equivocate taking painfully long to reach even the most obvious of decisions, the world had best take the lead and not depend on the United States to act or expect Assad to fully implement the use of his chemical weapons stores as soon as he feels that it is use them or lose everything. The results from Assad taking such desperate measures will rest on all who could have acted without facing impossible retributions and have prevented the thousands of deaths which will result. The worst case scenario would be if the sole country which chose to act to prevent Assad from committing a near genocide against the Syrian people was Israel as should it fall to Israel to stop Assad would very probably initiate an immeasurable conflagration as numerous Arab and Muslim countries would react with the intent of punishing Israel for her aggression against another Arab Muslim ruler. Does anyone think it would be otherwise?

Beyond the Cusp

December 12, 2012

Syria Reaching Another Crucial Point

Syria has lurched forward with most of the currents favoring the Rebel forces in their efforts to dethrone dictator President Bashir Assad. The struggle has been harshest on the Syrian people with tens of thousands killed, hundreds of thousands injured to various degrees and countless more fleeing into exile in neighboring countries. The latest crisis has been the increased suspicions that the Syrian forces still loyal to Assad are preparing the precursors for combination into Sarin Gas and other nerve agents known to be part of the Syrian arsenal. This has made some, myself included, even more nervous and suspecting that Assad will order a last ditch attempt to end the revolution against his rule with one coordinated and extensive lethal use of his chemical weapons. Statements from Assad spokespeople accusing the rebels of preparing to use chemical weapons due to their capture of a chemical plant outside Aleppo which held stores of Chlorine gas were made as a diversion and possible smoke screen to place blame elsewhere when Assad launches his chemical weapons. These spokespeople have also accused the United States and their allies of fomenting lies in order to construct a case allowing their intervention to assist in a rebel victory. Meanwhile, there has been a slow and steady parade of high Syrian officials who have deserted Assad, each bringing with them information and accusations of atrocities committed by the Assad forces.

The question which should be asked now and continue to be asked into the foreseeable future is who will be the benefactor and take control in Syria should Assad be brought down. Once the answer to this question has been narrowed to a short list of the likely successors, the Western powers should decide which they favor and work to weaken the others more so than they should visibly assist the preferred choice. The reason is because it is far more likely that actions taken to weaken some of the forces who will be vying for power can be done more covertly and anonymously than actions taken in support of one preferred entity. Recent revelation show a divided set of rebel forces with diverse leadership. Some of these forces are led by suspected and known terror groups while the main faction preferred by the Western allies has a divided leadership which has already fractured and had to be reassembled. The strongest forces in Syria opposing Assad remain the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaeda aligned groups. There is little to no possibility that the fall of Assad will produce anything resembling a liberal democracy even as much as the current leadership in Tunisia. Even Egypt will prove to have come closer to a functioning democracy that will the new Syria which is saying something since Egypt is more likely to become a theocracy led by whomever the Muslim Brotherhood prefers lead in their name than an honest democratic country with real choices to lead and elections whose results are known months before they are held. Tunisia at least has yet to fall completely under the control of Islamic euphemists though there have been many signs that these forces have sufficient numbers to begin to slowly build and bring about the eventual imposition of Sharia. Egypt, meanwhile, has raced so quickly towards the implementation of Sharia that should the new Egyptian Constitution be vote upon and ratified on December 15, 2012, then they will have taken steps that would actually place them ahead of Turkey where Prime Minister Erdogan has been working diligently and with great care over going on a decade to install an Islamist governance based on, if not actually under, Sharia.

Just a quick note about upcoming challenges and changes which will be spawned as the Arab Winter continues to spread its cold fingers over more of the Arab and Muslim worlds. The slow building pressures in Jordan are still gaining strength but are facing a relatively popular ruler in King Abdullah II. Eventually the King’s popularity will wane and the Palestinians, which make up 80% of the Jordanian population, will have been coopted by the same Palestinian terror groups that today menace Israel. Yemen is still in a state of siege between the forces in the south who are part of al-Qaeda and separatists in the north. Kuwait has also been experiencing distress and conflicts between the Sunni rulers and the Shiite majority population. A similar situation still exists in Bahrain despite the efforts by Saudi Arabia which put down the initial revolt almost two years ago in March 2011. All of the turmoil in the Arabian Peninsula has one main objective, the eventual gem and the really big prize, Saudi Arabia. As well as the oil fields, Saudi Arabia also possesses the grandest prize of all, Mecca and Medina, the two actual holy cities of Islam. The question mark is whether Lebanon will remain under Hezballah, and thus Iranian, control or will it fall to the Muslim Brotherhood should they prove victorious in the post-Assad scrum once Assad falls.

Beyond the Cusp

July 14, 2012

What is New in Syria and Related News

Some of the news out of and concerning Syria is nothing new. President Bashir Assad is still slaughtering his country’s citizens, both those enlisted to arms in an attempt to dethrone Assad and those innocents, including women and children, not only caught in the crossfire and all too often the result of directed bombardments using tanks, helicopter gunships and various other heavy weapons. Demonstrators, resistance fighters and citizens continue to disappear during so-called security sweeps where often entire families are taken to undisclosed locations where it is rumored torture and summary executions are common. And lastly, on the brighter side, the slow drip of members of President Assad’s loyalists have continued to defect with the pace now approaching a steady stream which has included some general rank officers along with other high ranking military commanders often with their units joining the revolt and even Syrian Ambassador to Iraq Nawaf Fares. Former Ambassador Fares was also quoted as claiming that President Assad can only be removed through force of arms and that sanctions and other political measures will have minimal if any results. The United Nations and many Western nations continue to seek passive, non-interventional actions to end the violence and forming some new governance in Syria while Assad continues to denounce every attempt even before they have been crafted. The fighting continues throughout Syria with some of the conflict reaching all the way into the streets of outer Damascus. One can only hope that the end is near and whatever replaces Assad will be kinder and more peaceable governance.

Russian backing for President Bashir Assad has waned to the point where the Syrian National Council has petitioned Russia to assist them in the removal of Bashir Assad. Meanwhile, Russian warships have been monitored heading for the eastern Mediterranean near their installation on the Syrian coast. When questioned Russian officials responded that the movement was part of training maneuvers which have been planned for quite some time. The numbers and types of Russian ships moving towards Syria belie such an excuse as the majority of the ships are personnel carriers replete with amphibious landers and escort ships coming from the Black Sea along with three landing craft that have left their home port of Severomorsk in the Arctic Circle. This flotilla has a large capacity which could be utilized to evacuate the tens of thousands of Russians currently stationed within Syria when Assad is finally ousted. Russia has also refuted suspicions that they would offer refuge for Bashir Assad should he desire to abdicate his position and seek asylum.

Then there is the potential coming to fruition of the greatest fear of Israelis and others as rumors have begun to circulate that the Syrian chemical weapons stock has begun to be moved. Some reports suspect these weapons of mass destruction are being moved to Syrian borders with Turkey or Israel. Turkey already has activated numerous units including ground troops and both fighter jet and helicopter units along the Syria border in order to address any additional thrusts by Assad loyalist troops into Turkey. Some reports claim that Israel has readied troops to respond to any threatening moves made that utilize these chemical weapons. The claims are that Assad has set in place initiatives for arming Syrian ballistic missiles with chemical warheads or movement of chemical or biological weapons in a direction which would indicate their being turned over to Hezballah in Lebanon or along the Lebanon-Syrian border. According to the Wall Street Journal, “The American and Jordanian militaries are jointly developing plans to secure what is believed to be Syria’s vast stockpile of chemical and biological weapons, said U.S. and Arab officials briefed on the discussions.” Thankfully, numerous countries’ satellites are being aimed to monitor the storage area for any suspicious activity constantly. This might be the one action which would force an intervention by numerous countries as the extensive Syrian chemical weapons falling into the hands of al-Qaeda, Hezballah, Hamas, or any other terrorist organization would change the entire threat of world terrorism to a level higher than any precedent. It is hoped that this is one subject where the major powers and concerned nations of the Middle East and Eastern Europe, including Russia, will have spoken and made arrangements for working together to prevent the use or transfer of these weapons  and immediately intervene as soon as it is suspected they are about to be moved. No amount of precaution would be unwise in this instance.

Even once President Bashir Assad has been toppled, there comes the next challenge which will likely be ignored by most of the world despite the potential for the establishment of a new government for Syria is likely to turn out just as poorly as things have in Egypt. What makes the likelihood that the next Syrian government will be composed mostly by Islamists and terrorists is the fact that unlike Egypt, there will be no remaining military force to take control or monitor the formation of the new government. Despite the attempt of many to disbelieve that al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood make up the majority of the Syrian rebels, ignoring such realities will not mean these influences will not rise to power after Assad falls. We have already witnessed strong showings by Islamists, Muslim Brotherhood, Salafists, and other extremists in the other nations who are changing government due to the results of their Arab Winter. Egypt will elect the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists to be the majority in their Parliament no matter how many times the military and the courts dissolve that body and hold new elections. Libya will eventually fall to the Islamists and Muslim Sharia influences as there will be continuations of violence until such governance has been established. Tunisia has even elected a very strong Islamist influence in their elections after many Middle East experts had predicted they would be the definitive place where democracy would produce a secular government. As the Syrian revolutionists are a majority Sunni, they will establish a Muslim Brotherhood controlled government almost guaranteed. Such is the next step in the slowly evolving Muslim world moving steadily, even if slowly, towards some form of liberal governance which will recognize the freedoms and liberties which have come to the fore in much of the West and is making inroads in the rest of the world. Of the entire Muslim world, it will likely be Iran who will be the first among those countries to establish a modern democratic government which will support human rights, freedom of thought, and individual liberties. Turkey had established the closest governance that included such rights but has steadily slid towards Islamist Sharia under the leadership of Prime Minister Erdogan and his Islamic based AKP Party. We can only hope that such political evolution will occur sooner rather than later and with minimal death and destruction upon them and the rest of the world in the interim struggles.

Beyond the Cusp

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