Syria and chemical weapons: What can the US do now?

Reuters

A Free Syrian Army fighter takes position in Aleppo's al-Amereya district December 11, 2012.

Article Highlights

  • As control of Syria’s terrain slips from Assad’s grasp, there are indications that Assad has moved weapons stock piles.

    Tweet This

  • Why would Assad use chemical weapons at this late date given threats from Washington and Europe of intervention?

    Tweet This

  • .@DPletka: Are there prospects for a diplomatic solution to the fighting in Syria? In short, no.

    Tweet This

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in The Washington Post's "Open for Discussion" in response to the question: In the face of potential chemical weapons being released on its own population, what can or should the US do about Syria at this stage of the game?

Earlier this year, Barack Obama announced that a red line for the United States would be Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s movement, transfer or use of Syria’s ample chemical weapons stockpile. At the time, it appeared the president was looking for an opportunity to sound tough in response to a conflict that he had heretofore chosen to observe from afar. Any prospect for the actual use of those weapons by Assad seemed farfetched. 

But as the control of Syria’s terrain has slipped from Assad’s grasp, there are reportedly indications that not only has Assad moved weapons stockpiles, he has ordered precursors for Sarin nerve gas mixed in preparation for their use. As a result, the tough talk Obama embraced earlier has disappeared, as the leader of the free world and his staff contort themselves to explain that when the president earlier warned of “moving” chemical weapons as a “red line,” what he really meant was “proliferate”, not physically move. Ah.

Why would Assad use chemical weapons at this late date given threats from Washington and Europe of intervention? Perhaps he is convinced it is the last step that could decisively win him back Syria and end the civil war that has risked the Assad family’s decades-long hold on power. No matter what, the introduction of the WMD card into the Syrian equation, and Obama’s flip-flopping on what would constitute a casus belli for the United States mean that there are few serious new options to end the fighting that has claimed more than 40,000 Syrians. Rather, it seems likely that the U.S. will continue following the French and British lead, possibly recognizing a government in exile but doing little more to assist in delivering the death blow to Assad. 

Are there prospects for a diplomatic solution to the fighting in Syria?  In short, no.  Either Assad goes to one of the South American proto-dictators that seems ready to welcome him, or he dies. Either way, he’s finished. The real questions that remain in Syria are the aftermath and how much more blood it will take to get there.     

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author

 

Danielle
Pletka

  • As a long-time Senate Committee on Foreign Relation senior professional staff member for the Near East and South Asia, Danielle Pletka was the point person on Middle East, Pakistan, India and Afghanistan issues. As the vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at AEI, Pletka writes on national security matters with a focus on Iran and weapons proliferation, the Middle East, Syria, Israel and the Arab Spring. She also studies and writes about South Asia: Pakistan, India and Afghanistan.


    Pletka is the co-editor of “Dissent and Reform in the Arab World: Empowering Democrats” (AEI Press, 2008) and the co-author of “Containing and Deterring a Nuclear Iran” (AEI Press, 2011) and “Iranian influence in the Levant, Egypt, Iraq, and Afghanistan” (AEI Press, 2012). Her most recent study, “America vs. Iran: The competition for the future of the Middle East,” was published in January 2014.


     


    Follow Danielle Pletka on Twitter.


  • Phone: 202-862-5943
    Email: dpletka@aei.org
  • Assistant Info

    Name: Alexandra Della Rocchetta
    Phone: 202-862-7152
    Email: alex.dellarocchetta@aei.org

What's new on AEI

image Getting it right: US national security policy and al Qaeda since 2011
image Net neutrality rundown: What the NPRM means for you
image The Schuette decision
image Snatching failure from victory in Afghanistan
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 21
    MON
  • 22
    TUE
  • 23
    WED
  • 24
    THU
  • 25
    FRI
Wednesday, April 23, 2014 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Graduation day: How dads’ involvement impacts higher education success

Join a diverse group of panelists — including sociologists, education experts, and students — for a discussion of how public policy and culture can help families lay a firmer foundation for their children’s educational success, and of how the effects of paternal involvement vary by socioeconomic background.

Thursday, April 24, 2014 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Getting it right: A better strategy to defeat al Qaeda

This event will coincide with the release of a new report by AEI’s Mary Habeck, which analyzes why current national security policy is failing to stop the advancement of al Qaeda and its affiliates and what the US can do to develop a successful strategy to defeat this enemy.

Event Registration is Closed
Friday, April 25, 2014 | 9:15 a.m. – 1:15 p.m.
Obamacare’s rocky start and uncertain future

During this event, experts with many different views on the ACA will offer their predictions for the future.   

No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.