Syrian war could go chemical - The Behrend Beacon

Syrian war could go chemical

Posted on Monday, December 10, 2012 at 10:55 PM

Author: Alec Italiano (managing editor)

Syria’s civil war is peaking and it seems Bashar al-Assad’s forces are becoming weaker. Attacks have shifted from ground assaults to aerial, and now chemical warfare is imminent.  This recent development, which NBC has even gone as far to say that chemical weapons have been armed and ready for use, is forcing President Obama and the United States to make a decision.

“A red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around being utilized,” Obama said during a news conference in August, according to the New York Times.  “That would change my calculus.  We cannot have a situation where chemical or biological weapons are falling into the hands of the wrong people.”

The Syrian government has stated before that they would never use chemical weapons on its own people, but world leaders are concerned that desperate times will call for desperate measures – leading to long-term tragic effects to the already worn-torn country.

According to CNN analysts, the Syrian government has stockpiled sarin, mustard and VX gases.  Sarin is an odorless gas that can cause convulsions, paralysis and respiratory failure while VX gas is another nerve agent that can be dispensed as a liquid and cause similar effects as sarin gas after just a few drops on exposed skin.  Mustard gas can be fatal; it mainly leaves chemical burns on the skin and eyes and the lungs when inhaled (used mostly in World War I).

Sarin gas was used during Saddam Hussein’s era, most notably against the Kurdish town of Halabja in 1988 that left thousands dead.  Terrorists used the chemical agent during an attack to the Tokyo subway system that left 13 people dead in 1995.

These allegations have also troubled neighboring states (such as Turkey, where many Syrian refugees have fled to) and draw further red lines for their militaries.  In July, the foreign ministry spokesman for Syria, Jihad Makdissi, said that these weapons are being guarded by the Syrian army and that “these weapons are meant to be used only and strictly in the event of external aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic.”

These weapons will most likely be deployed by bombs being dropped by aircraft, making for a very large targeted area.  Sarin gas and VX gas can stay on a person’s clothing for up to an hour, so the effects can easily spread to more than one person even if only one person has come in contact with the gases.  It can also contaminate food as VX gas evaporates at about the same rate as motor oil.

Bombing these gas storage sites are not an option either, as this could create the exact situation that allied and opposition forces are trying to prevent.  Intelligent reports show that many of these storage sites are close to the Jordanian border (an American ally) and that the risks for spillover effects are high according to American officials. 

Damascus, which is Syria’s capitol and one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities, is very close to succumbing to the violence surrounding itself in the suburbs. One taxi driver, desperate for money, agreed to take someone to the airport and witnessed something he will never forget.  According to the New York Times, the road that led to the airport was littered with dead rebels and soldiers and even described the site of a dog eating the corpse of a soldier.  The taxi driver called it “the road of the dead.” With the use of chemical weapons, however, Syria could become a country of the dead.