Damascus, Syria (9:10 P.M.) For decades, the Syrian government has adopted a zero-tolerance policy when dealing with groups which pose a direct threat to a stable and secular Syrian state. Their security forces have adopted tactics and measures which many deem excessive, or overly robust.
However, looking back at key events in Syria, it is abundantly clear that using Syria’s arsenal of chemical weapons on domestic targets has been a redline for President Bashar Al-Assad, and his late father, Hafez Al-Assad. Such weapons were synthesized and stockpiled as a deterrent to Israel’s nuclear weapons program.
Although Syria only began building and developing its own chemical weapons program in the 1980s, with technical assistance and precursor from the Soviet Union and Egypt, analysts believe that the Syrian government had chemical weapons at its disposable prior to the 1973 Yom Kippur War. According to a report published by the Congressional Research Service in 2013, Egypt provided Syria with these chemical weapons.
Islamist terrorists have proven to be the main adversary of the Syrian state. In 1979, the Muslim Brotherhood targeted young cadets in Aleppo, killing 32, while injuring another 54.
In early 1982, as part of the Muslim Brotherhood’s wider campaign to destabilize Syria, the city of Hama was attacked by Islamist militants. The militants killed dozens of members of the ruling Baathist party, while also attacking police stations and military outposts.
Much of Hama’s population subsequently fled the city, and pro-government forces, led by the Defense Companies, retook Hama within a one-month period. According to estimates, approximately 1,000 soldiers from the Syrian Army were killed during the battle, with estimates of the total number of casualties ranging from around 2,000, up to 40,000 (by opposition sources, who have historically been unreliable.)
Bashar Al-Assad’s father, Hafez Al-Assad, was Syria’s President at the time. He is considered to have been much more “heavy-handed” and robust than his son.
Using chemical weapons, such as Sarin nerve gas, to regain control of Hama would have guaranteed a quick, decisive victory for the Syrian government, while minimizing casualties sustained by the Syrian Army. Despite this, no such weapons were used, as the primary purpose of Syria’s chemical weapons program was to deter Israel WMD attacks on Syrian soil.
In contrast to Hama, the alleged chemical attacks in Ghouta, 2013, and more recently, in Idlib, provided the Syrian government with no clear strategic benefit. Some have argued that Assad was “testing the limit”, but this is a weak, and baseless argument.
The use of chemical weapons by pro-government forces only serves the opposition’s interest, as they are looking to discredit the Syrian government, and trigger external military intervention, which they desperately need. This suggests that the incident may have been a “false-flag attack.”
At Trump’s orders, the US military attacked an airbase located in the Homs Governorate with around 50 tomahawk cruise missiles earlier today. Many opposition supporters, including the supporters of hard-line Islamist groups, were celebrating the attack on the airbase in Homs by the USA. ISIS also launched an attack in the area shortly after the cruise missiles struck.
As proposed by Russia, the accidental targeting of chemical labs in Idlib by the Syrian Arab Air Force (SYAAF) is also a plausible explanation for the recent incident in the north of the country.
Based on the available evidence, it is likely the pro-government forces have used chlorine as weapon throughout the conflict. Despite this, the use of chemical weapons domestically is still a redline, drawn by President Assad and his government.
Weaponizing chlorine requires limited technical expertise, so certain units of the Syrian Army or air force may have been able to do so without authorization or assistance from senior members of the government, or the security apparatus.
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