It’s an old story, but all hell is breaking loose in the Middle East. Nowhere is that more so than in Syria, where U.S. intelligence suggests that an increasingly desperate Bashal al-Assad is preparing to turn chemical weapons on his own people, whom he’s already butchered by the tens of thousands in an ongoing civil war invited by his repressive government’s own brutality.
Specifically the Syrian military is said to be mixing the components necessary for sarin, a deadly nerve gas. The terrorist group Hezbollah, financed largely by Iran and allied with the Syrian government, is said to have set up training camps near chemical weapons depots. There have been reports of the Syrian military firing on civilians fleeing to Jordan. That is apparently in response to rebel progress on the Syrian capital of Damascus, where they’re trying to take the airport.
As a result American leaders are speaking aloud about more overt intervention in Syria, with President Barack Obama saying the threat of chemical warfare might compel him to “change my calculus” toward the conflict, with some members of Congress also beginning to suggest the U.S. rattle some cages there and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton noting that the “future ... cannot possibly include Assad.” The European Union already has formally backed the rebel effort. Even Russia, whose willful look the other way at the war crimes occurring there have arguably enabled them, is starting to change its tune toward Assad.
Reportedly several nations have offered Assad asylum. If he’s not utterly mad, he should take them up on it, while he still can. This is not going to end well for him.
The Obama White House sometimes gets grief for leading on these matters from behind, at least publicly, but Americans arguably should be more alarmed by an administration eager to commit more U.S. troops to a faraway conflict after more than a decade of war. The Pentagon has informed the president that it could take upwards of 75,000 soldiers to seize Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile. Beyond that, a big part of the risk is not exactly knowing whom we may be crawling into bed with by supporting these rebels. See Libya. See Egypt.
Indeed, Egyptians and many in the U.S. government were not sorry to see Hosni Mubarak go, but look at who’s replaced him. Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi is reportedly preparing to inflict martial law on his nation of 82 million people.
Meanwhile, Khaled Meshal, Hamas’ leader in Gaza, used the 25th anniversary of his organization’s founding on Saturday to say Palestinians should not rest until Israel no longer exists, “no compromise on any inch of land.” And Iran continues to pursue nuclear weapons, which if successful will almost certainly spark an arms race in the Middle East, with no shortage of tyrants intent on exporting those to terrorists.
These are turbulent times, and these are not easy calls.