World View: Assad's Chemical Weapons Too Old for Use?

This morning's key headlines from
  • Is Syria's Assad likely to use his aging chemical weapons arsenal?
  • Syria's opposition increasingly frustrated by lack of American support
  • Egypt's president Morsi considers making concessions to opposition

Is Syria's Assad likely to use his aging chemical weapons arsenal?

There have been growing fears in the last week that a desperate Syrian president Bashar al-Assad was positioning chemical weapons for use in the near future, but some experts are suggesting that the weapons are too old to be used effectively. Syria is thought to have hundreds of tons of chemical weapons material, including not only sarin and mustard gas but possibly also the nerve agent VX, which, like sarin, kills by attacking the central nervous system. However, these weapons date back almost 40 years when Assad’s father, President Hafez Assad, began accumulating them. Iraq's Saddam Hussein used sarin and mustard gas on Kurds in northern Iraq in 1987-88, killing thousands of people, and some experts believe that Saddam transferred his remaining chemical weapons to al-Assad in 2002, just prior to the American ground invasion of Iraq. The use of such old technology weapons could backfire, and could end up killing al-Assad's troops as well as the opposition troops, and some analysts suggest that al-Assad would refrain from using them for that reason. AP

Syria's opposition increasingly frustrated by lack of American support

At a moment when Syria's rebels are closing in on Damascus and have a chance of toppling president Bashar al-Assad, the United States administration will be unable to influence events because they've avoided getting too deeply involved. Though the administration has provided diplomatic pressure, humanitarian relief and nonlethal aid, it has been unwilling to supply arms or to use U.S. military force to set up a no-fly zone, as it did in the Libyan civil war last year. Some analysts are concerned that lack of American involvement is causing some Syrian rebels to link up with terrorist militias. 

On the military side, the U.S. seems to preparing to get involved. As we've reported, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier transited the Suez Canal on Saturday, and is now stationed off Syria's shores. Debka, which sometimes gets things wrong, is quoting its military intelligence sources as saying that Nato-Arab military intervention in Syria is imminent, with participation of the U.S., France, Britain, Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Qatar. the French aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle carrying a complement of marines is deployed in the Mediterranean, having joined the USS Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group and at least five British warships which are also carrying a large marine force. LA Times and Debka

Egypt's president Morsi considers making concessions to opposition

Friday is usually the biggest day for protests in the Arab world, because people pour out of mosques onto the streets after Friday midday prayers. Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians took to the streets on Friday in Cairo and cities around Egypt to protest the policies of president Mohamed Morsi. The demonstrations were mostly peaceful, with only a few injuries. Morsi's cabinet sent out signals that several concessions were being considered to end the turmoil. These included amending several of the more controversial articles of the draft constitution, and postponing the referendum on ratifying the constitution. However, there will only be a postponement "if the opposition accepts dialogue without preconditions. ... The political forces who demand the delay of the referendum must provide guarantees that there will not be appeals [against the delay] in courts." Al-Ahram (Cairo)

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