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

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

This morning’s key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com:

  • 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 Syrianpresident Bashar al-Assad was positioning chemical weapons for use inthe near future, but some experts are suggesting that the weapons aretoo old to be used effectively. Syria is thought to have hundreds oftons of chemical weapons material, including not only sarin andmustard gas but possibly also the nerve agent VX, which, like sarin,kills by attacking the central nervous system. However, these weaponsdate back almost 40 years when Assad’s father, President Hafez Assad,began accumulating them. Iraq’s Saddam Hussein used sarin and mustardgas on Kurds in northern Iraq in 1987-88, killing thousands of people,and some experts believe that Saddam transferred his remainingchemical weapons to al-Assad in 2002, just prior to the Americanground invasion of Iraq. The use of such old technology weapons couldbackfire, and could end up killing al-Assad’s troops as well as theopposition troops, and some analysts suggest that al-Assad wouldrefrain 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 achance of toppling president Bashar al-Assad, the United Statesadministration will be unable to influence events because they’ve avoidedgetting too deeply involved. Though the administration has provideddiplomatic pressure, humanitarian relief and nonlethal aid, it hasbeen unwilling to supply arms or to use U.S. military force to set upa no-fly zone, as it did in the Libyan civil war last year.Some analysts are concerned that lack of American involvement iscausing some Syrian rebels to link up with terrorist militias. 

On the military side, the U.S. seems to preparing to get involved. Aswe’ve reported, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carriertransited the Suez Canal on Saturday, and is now stationed off Syria’sshores. Debka, which sometimes gets things wrong, is quoting itsmilitary intelligence sources as saying that Nato-Arab militaryintervention in Syria is imminent, with participation of the U.S.,France, Britain, Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Qatar. theFrench aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle carrying a complement ofmarines is deployed in the Mediterranean, having joined the USSEisenhower Carrier Strike Group and at least five British warshipswhich 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 Fridaymidday prayers. Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians took to thestreets on Friday in Cairo and cities around Egypt to protest thepolicies of president Mohamed Morsi. The demonstrations were mostlypeaceful, with only a few injuries. Morsi’s cabinet sent out signalsthat several concessions were being considered to end the turmoil.These included amending several of the more controversial articles ofthe draft constitution, and postponing the referendum on ratifying theconstitution. However, there will only be a postponement “if theopposition accepts dialogue without preconditions. … The politicalforces who demand the delay of the referendum must provide guaranteesthat there will not be appeals [against the delay] in courts.”Al-Ahram (Cairo)

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