The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Syria Tested Chemical Weapons Last Month

In Syria this week, witnesses reported that the Syrian army tested chemical weapons as recently as last month. Der Spiegel has the details:

The tests took place near a chemical weapons research center at Safira east of Aleppo, witnesses told SPIEGEL. A total of five or six empty shells devised for delivering chemical agents were fired by tanks and aircraft, at a site called Diraiham in the desert near the village of Khanasir. . . .

Scientists from Iran and North Korea are said to work in the expansive, fenced-off complex. According to Western intelligence agencies, they produce chemical agents such as sarin, tabun and mustard gas and test them on animals.

The weapons center has recently been reinforced in anticipation of rebel attack, though the rebels, for their part, claim that they have no intention of breaching the facility.

President Obama has warned that the United States would intervene if the Syrian army was clearly preparing to use chemical weapons on its own people. But this was before an amateurish movie sparked a wave of anti-American riots across the Middle East, and before Iran pledged that it would back Assad in case of attack. America’s position in the region is now much more complicated than it was two weeks ago.

As the Middle East becomes becomes messier and more complicated, President Obama will find it increasingly difficult to turn talk into action.

Published on September 19, 2012 7:00 pm