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Syria Admits to Having Chemical Weapons

So a dictatorial government with proven links to terrorists has admitted to having weapons of mass destruction. The Financial Times has a useful roundup of the latest developments in Syria:

While fierce fighting continued on Tuesday in Damascus and Aleppo, a foreign ministry representative told a press conference that “any chemical or bacterial weapon will never be used – and I repeat will never be used – during the crisis in Syria regardless of the developments.”

Such weapons are “stored and secured by Syrian military forces”, Jihad Makdissi said. But in what was seen as a thinly veiled threat, he added that they would only be used in the event of “external aggression”.

Mr Makdissi speculated that “terrorists” might deploy chemical weapons in Syria and try to pin the blame on regime forces.

Keeping an eye on those weapons and preventing their transfer—to Hezbollah or to terrorists on the other side linked to Al Qaeda or to the Sunni bombers in Iraq—must now be a core objective of U.S. policy. The U.S. is in no position to install a democratic government in Syria or to police the country indefinitely to prevent a civil war. But we need to keep ourselves focused on our vital interests, one of which is keeping chemical and biological weapons out of the hands of terrorists.

This is not going to be easy to accomplish. As the Washington Post reports today, we have very few intelligence assets on the ground in Syria, and we’re still largely dependent on the intelligence services of Jordan and Turkey to get a sense of what’s really going on. Nevertheless, we have to get this right. Most of Syria’s neighbors share our interest in preventing WMD from leaking out to terror groups. And as the Jerusalem Post reported, military and intelligence cooperation between Israel and the U.S. is at an all-time high due to the Syrian crisis.

This tragic mess could end up being a defining foreign policy test of the Obama administration.

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  • thibaud

    While we’re on the subject of mass destruction, interesting that VM continues its silence on the Aurora shootings.

    When it was a case of multiple public shootings recently in “nasty” Norway and “viciously anti-semitic” France, this blog was flooded with commentary. Curiouser and curiouser.

  • Kevin

    Thibaud – I assume the silence here on Colorado but not Norway or France is due to two factors:
    1. CO has been well covered in the US press while the others were not so heavily covered
    2. Perhaps more importantly there seems to be little political motivation behind or foreign policy implications concerning the CO shootings, while France and Norway seemed to grow out of immigration and the reaction to it in Europe and what it meant for the future of politics in these nations. Focusing on explicating France and Norway to a largely American audience plays to WRM’s comparative advantage as a blogger in a way that discussing CO would not – or at least that’s how I see it.

    (Though I don’t remember a lot of the Norway posts here, I’ll take your word that they were plentiful.)

    Back to Syria – I wonder if our push to overthrow Qaddafi after he came clean on nukes has made the US (or Obama) a less credible negotiator on WMD issues moving forward. As much as I loathed Qadaffi I think it would be much better for the US in the longer run if we were seen as a more trustworthy keeper of our pledges and deals. If we want to use diplomacy (rather than just a resort to force) in an incremental manner to reduce threats (like WMD proliferation), then being seen as a nation which sticks to deals even with loathsome regimes might be in our interest. That sort of trust might be very helpful now in trying to see what sort of arrangement we could reach in Syria – but if Assad fundamentally does not trust any deal he may reach with us it leaves him no choice but to go down fighting perhaps unleashing WMDs to try and save his skin.

  • thibaud

    “plays to WRM’s comparative advantage as a blogger”

    Interesting use of a term from competitive market economics. “Comparative advantage” in order to achieve – what market metric, exactly?

    You mean, to gin up traffic from people who share a very narrow ideological view?

    Or is it to increase the author’s Klout score?

    If the goal is to whip up a hardcore of partisans seeking reassurance and confirmation of their biases, that would seem like an odd goal for a supposedly highbrow site.

    I mean, slanting stories and suppressing inconvenient facts and news is fair game for, say, the late Andrew Breitbart or Matt Drudge.

    (Though Drudge, true to his calling as “the world’s greatest copy editor,” has not shied away in the slightest from the Aurora shooting story, which is a good contender for the biggest news story of the year).

    But it seems especially odd that a nonprofit, nonpartisan website that rather grandly calls itself “The American Interest,” one that is used as a platform for exploring grand themes and deep historical currents, would see fit to ignore this huge story and tendentiously play up the same type of event when it happens – not once but TWICE, in the past few months – in other western countries.

    Especially given the multiple posts and many tens of thousands of words the author has devoted to the deeper meaning of mass shootings on other occasions.

    Perhaps the author will clear up the mystery for us.

  • Walter Sobchak

    thibaud. Go get your own blog.

  • Kris

    Should Israel expect a thank-you note?

    “the Aurora shooting story, which is a good contender for the biggest news story of the year”

    Alongside the Tom Cruise / Katie Holmes divorce.

    (I sympathize with the Aurora victims, but John Donne notwithstanding, this is an unimportant story. I’m relieved that this is an Aurora-free blog.)

  • dearieme

    Wouldn’t you want to own some WMDs if your neighbour Sadam Hussein owned some? Just as the US had stocks of mustard gas during WWII.

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