Syria Boxed into a Use-'Em-or-Lose-'Em WMD Dilemma Holding a Deadman Trigger
Last edited Mon Dec 3, 2012, 06:17 PM - Edit history (1)
In the last few days weve started to see hints that Syrian End-Game is expected to involve a launch of some of Syrias giant, and very real, stockpile of chemical and biological weapons (CBW). The strategy of regime change in Damascus pursued by the US and its regional allies may assure that outcome.
As the prospect of annihilation nears, the Generals in Damascus -- almost all of whom are of the ruling Alawite religious minority -- may see little chance to preserve themselves from the Sunni onslaught other than to threaten exercise of their last-ditch option of launching a missile CBW attack on surrounding countries that have been running the armed opposition.
Yesterday, the NYT reported that the United States has detected what is described as movement of some of Syrias CBW stocks, and has warned that attempted use would cross a red line triggering direct US military intervention. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/03/world/middleeast/syria-moves-its-chemical-weapons-and-gets-another-warning.html?hp&_r=0 It is not yet clear whether this movement is merely precautionary measures by the Syrian armed forces to avoid these weapons falling into the hands of opposition forces.
Meanwhile, Israel has indicated to Jordan that it may carry out a preemptive attack on Syrias missile launchers and CBW stockpiles in the event it determines that Syria is readying a launch. http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/12/israel-asked-jordan-for-approval-to-bomb-syrian-wmd-sites/265818/
Two weeks ago, Turkey formally requested NATO Patriot anti-missile batteries on the border with Syria. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-20427985
All this indicates that the regime change operations in Syria have reached an incredibly dangerous stage, and Pentagon, CIA and State Dept. officials never adequately planned for the worst-case violent end-phase in Syria, always reassuring the policymakers that they could pull off a nice, easy coup d'grace, a la Libya.
The CIA SAD and JSOC, along with the Israelis, are now publicly preparing a preemptive strike including special forces on the ground to take the launchers. For a close-up, on-the-ground view of the aftermath of a special forces attack on a Scud launcher in Libya last year that left the missiles and trucks largely intact, but nothing left of the crew other than neatly-lined up piles of entrails, see
Such preemptive air or ground attacks, however, would set off scenario, 1) and then 2):
1) The Syrian leadership finds itself boxed into a Use-'Em-or-Lose-'Em Dilemma with regards to its missile forces and CBW stockpiles, and,
2) As Israel, the US and possibly other countries begin decapitating air strikes and commando attacks on mobile missile transporters, the regime initiates a Deadman Trigger Scenario, that assures launch of at least some of its surviving warheads.
What makes the above scenarios frighteningly plausible is as follows.
The core problem with Syrian regime change is that even if Assad is removed, the rest of the Damascus government and high command are almost all members of the same Alawite sect and Ba'ath Party members, and the Sunni militias we and the Gulf Arabs back are hell-bent on killing them. So, even with Assad gone, his successors would also have no option other than to fight to the last or be exterminated, along with their families, by the Syrian Sunnis and foreign al-Qaeda fighters. Whoever planned and oversaw this operation -- Petraeus is one, there are many notable others -- ignored Kissingers prime directive of strategic engagement: always leave your opponent a mutually acceptable way out.
The fact that we have entered this stage in the game shows that initial expectations for the regime change program in Syria were incredibly unrealistic. For those who have approved this policy, Syria is fast becoming an epoch, historical disaster.
They are gone, and gone hard. There could be a stupider course of action open to them,perhaps, but it would take some time to puzzle out what it might be.
That's the problem. We've left them nothing but bad choices. That's what makes regime change in Syria a stupid strategy.
It would likely be counter-productive there, too, of course. There are inherent problems with basing rule on a diminutive minority of a country's population....
BTW: there are@ 3 million Alawite in Syria. It's a minority, but not tiny in a country of @ 20 million. They will hold out for quite a while just using conventional weapons. But, not forever.
I fail to see any reason for your belief that use of these items against domestic enemies is 'neither plausible nor necessary'.
Attacks on foreign powers seem to me far less 'plausible or necessary' to the Assad regime. They would multiply the forces against them, and close off any possibility of escape.
Last edited Mon Dec 3, 2012, 02:26 PM - Edit history (1)
It not just about numbers, it's about weapons. WMD provides effective force multiplication, particularly if the regime believes they (and their families and neighbors and kinsmen) are doomed anyway.
I would expect, if such weapons are used domestically by Assad's people, they will be used for mass terror, and aimed at areas considered to be rebel strongholds, without much fuss over those who might not actually be active opponents. This is in line with the character of the regime's responses thus far. My guess would be that doing this would, however, unify just about everyone not directly related to the regime against it, and produce a spirit of exterminationist massacre that could not be contained.
Use of such weapons against foreign powers would simply bring invasion, and close out any possibility of a negotiated asylum for the regime's leading elements.
I do agree that a pre-emptive attempt on these weapons would be a bad idea. It's hard to think of an outcome from that, even if it works, that is appetizing in the least. The situation now has all the features of persistent long-term ugliness, one thinks of the Balkans in the 90s. Even if you succeed beyond all expectations, take everything out without any WMD being used, you will precipitate a bloodbath, which will precipitate ourside intervention on all sides, which will precipitate a proxy war of indeterminate dimension, if not a larger regional or world war. And if you fail, some WMD get used, same outcome, but right away. Whereas if you wait, there is still the possibility of a negotiated resolution, no proxy war, orderly disposal of the WMD, etc. etc.
The opposing argument is "what if the crazies get them?" Which assumes future doom to justify current thoughtless reaction.
So yeah, I would argue for watchful waiting rather than a pre-emptive attempt to remove the threat.
war, AND Israel is now all riled up. Overlaid on to that you have an educated, westernized population that leans toward secularity and isn't allied with ANY of the groups.
IF there were any truth that this was a "grass roots" Arab Spring type of revolution that began this conflict (and I stress IF), that was quickly subsumed by other foreign special interests (and by quickly, I mean within days of the first protests imho). Syria's always been one of, if not THE fulcrum of this vast disparate area. As the other regions were becoming engulfed in protest, too many outside players must have been planning for Syria's imminent "revolutionaries" to take to the streets in (righteous) protest of Assad so they could ramp up the seriousness of the situation for their own gains.
Assad being backed into a corner means he and the other Syrian/Alawite leaders have no incentive to "go out nicely". I'm guessing they are madder than a hornet's nest that's been kicked.
However, a lot of the "rebels" are outside forces.
Seems like another wordplay issue much like the US does with drones.
For months now the media has been saying the rebels are Al Qaida, outside nationals, etc.
But if he uses them, that will be that, he will have foreign troops up his ass so fast it will make your head spin, perhaps several different kinds, and not all in agreement with each other.
Air sorties at the most but troops on the ground would only escalate things more and would justify his using them again.
Don't want them going "astray". And don't expect Assad's friends to stay out of it either, Russia, China, Iran, Iraq, they won't let the Alawites be massacred without comment.
At 00:47-00:49 there are several stencils on the missile body which read (from top to bottom):
O [0?] FILLING DRAIN
Those markings are repeated further up the missile at 01:06-01:09
Again, on the launcher at 01:42
BOX NO22 and
PASKING LIST NO12 There are several more of these "BOX" and "PASKING LIST" markings, with different numbers.
At 02:00, a plate which reads CONTROL CONSOLE [N?]
Not exactly a strictly nomenclature plate, but something like a nomenclature plate at 2:28-2:30 (attached to the launcher) which says:
ONLY ONE PERSON be?
ALLOWED ON LADDER
At 02:39, a fitting with a stencil:
[illegible] VENT and one further up [1"?] VENT
On the warhead itself the script switches to standard Cyrillic;at 03:43 several numbers, and the Cyrillic symbol for "F" which looks something like a reversed "P" back-to-back with an English alphabet "P."
At 06:04, a plate which reads CONNECTING DIAGRAM OF BATTERIES
Reminds me of any number of markings on military equipment, such as the "NO STEP" stencils on aircraft wings. And the Cyrillic lettering I understand, especially if this particular missile was a Russian or former Eastern Bloc production (I know some are produced by Syria, Iran, N. Korea, etc.).
Just wonder why so much is in English.
And yes, I have way too much time on my hands at the moment.
that spray painted on the body of the missile above the "sheep" entrails. Calling card, perhaps?
English remains the dominant language of international business and global communication through the influence of global media and the former British Empire that had established the use of English in regions around the world such as North America, India, Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
At the peak of its power it was often said that "the sun never sets on the British Empire" because its span across the globe ensured that the sun was always shining on at least one of its numerous territories.
Handling chemical or biological weapons would certainly be designated to those who were the most capable I presume (ASSume? ) whatever.
If I were a calculating person, I'm thinking I'd make sure the ignorant populace couldn't read the directions on shit like this. So printing the instructions in English on bio or chemical weapons would forestall their use (mis-use?) by some of the marginal crazies operating on the fringes of Syrian revolutionary fever.
Or we can go with Occam's razor and presume they were provided by the west like we did with our old buddy Saddam Hussein....