(part of The Darkness Visible series)
(Syrian Baby Killed In Syrian Air Strikes)
Today Assad made it clear to the UN and US that his military had "chemical weapons that could be used within two hours". Bashar al-Assad said in no uncertain terms that his air force had "dozens of 500lb bombs" ready to be deployed at a moments notice. Expanding on the subject Assad assured the West that these bombs were already or were currently being armed with sarin nerve gas. Assad stated that air bases across the country were already armed with these chemical weapons and the planes simply had to be sent up to start spreading his toxic payloads.
This message out of Syria's regime appears to be a delayed response to President Barack Obama's warning that the use of chemical weapons would have "consequences". In many ways this response can also be looked at as Assad's way of thumbing his nose at the West. After all, much like Saddam Hussein, Assad views this war as a war of annihilation and that if he survives it he will have won. And after nearly two years of a war his regime launched it is obvious that Assad still controls Syria. After all, he controls the military, the sky, and the flow of food and fuel.
(Man Holds His Wounded Son)
Before this war began the Syrian people had been led to believe that the war planes Assad had purchased by the dozen were meant to defend against Israeli aggression. Assad had made it appear as though he was planning to either stand up to Israel or even go on the offense. Yet the military build up continued as Assad's stance with Israel remained stagnant. Nobody would have guessed that these planes were meant to put down the threat Assad saw within Syria itself.
Before this war began the Syrian people had little interest in the difference between the majority Sunni Muslims and the ruling minority Alawi Shia Muslims. Yet it appears now that this split between the two groups was always on the mind of Assad. His father had risen out of the Syrian version of an air force. He had taken control by appearing as a military hero. Assad on the other hand didn't have this image to hide behind. He appears to have known all along that the religious differences would eventually trump the old image his father had created.
Now it is painfully obvious that the Alawi and their handful of loyalist are fighting a war of religious greed. This is a war the ruling class must win. It is a struggle to maintain the dominance of the version of Islam that Assad holds dear.
We know from the history of war in the region that once religion mixes with political power the use of unconventional warfare suddenly becomes acceptable. When Saddam needed to subjugate the Kurdish peoples of northern Iraq the use of chemical weapons was justified by drawing upon the Koran. When the Iraq-Iran war became a stalemate the Iranians decided it would be acceptable to force men onto the front lines or face death... and the deaths of their families.
Assad is no different from those who came before him. The tide of war has turned against Assad in recent months. Rebels are finding ways to turn the big guns back on Damascus. No matter how many of his own citizens he kills, Assad can't seem to turn back his foes. Where ever Assad goes the rebels rise up to meet him. In this aspect Assad is fighting a guerrilla war in his own homeland.
(Lucky Syrian Baby Brought to Field Hospital)
So how long do we have before Assad decides to launch his final push back against the Free Syrian Army?
Nobody can say for sure when the attack will come. Assad has already used organized and systematical torture, starvation and deprivation, shutting off the grid, cluster bombs, fire bombs, indiscriminate artillery shelling, blitz attacks followed by Shabiha mobs, aerial bombardment, summary executions, attacking refugee camps, and the butchering of children. So chemical weapons are just the next step in a failed attempt on Assad's part to keep control of Syria's government.
More importantly, and the more direct question here, is how many more need to die before the West decides to intervene?
Obama's White House offered a seemingly endless flow of humanitarian aid to the Syrian people trapped by this war. Today the news has finally admitted that their "bighearted" President's gesture was just that. Over a million Syrians have no access to this food and water. Instead the humanitarian aid goes to waste as the Syrian people remains hungry and homeless.
If we add those million lives to the already 60 to 100 thousand civilian casualties in Syria will the West finally consider the "red line" to have been crossed?
Children who come out looking for food and fuel for their families are often kidnapped by Syrian military and killed or used as slaves and gang rapes. Those who are returned are often dead or close to it. But after the Houla massacre it is obvious that this is not the "red line" that Obama was talking about.
Will we really have to wait till the chemicals are falling from the sky before we decide to act? It is time to wake up America. It is time to wake up Europe. This is a deliberate act of genocide being conducted by a failing tyrant. His regime is not afraid to take Syria to the very edge of the abyss. So why are we fooling ourselves in imagining that not even Assad would plummet all of Syria into the pits of hell?