Following the confirmation of reports that Assad’s regime has chemical weapon stockpiles, there are now fears that they will be used in the Syrian civil war.
“General Adnan Silou, a high-ranking defector who reportedly oversaw the 2008 creation of emergency plans to help ensure that dangerous weapons remain under government control, confirmed earlier this month that the rebel forces were forming a special unit to secure chemical weapon sites. Silou stated that there are two principal chemical weapon stockpiles: warehouse 417 in eastern Damascus and warehouse 419 in the Homs area,” says John Hart of the Swedish International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
Reportedly, Assad’s regime is in possession of mustard gas, a blistering agent, and several types of nerve gas. Syria is one of few countries that has not signed the Chemical Weapons Convention that outlaws the stockpiling, production and use of chemical weapons under International Law.
“Chemical weapons can be highly lethal and can also have a powerful psychological effect. However, using them effectively is a specialized skill and the effects can be reduced by factors that the attacker cannot easily control,” continues Hart.
So far, the Syrian government has been using the implied threat of chemical weapons act as a deterrent, but that has not stopped the rebel forces. Israel and other neighbors are frightened of the prospect of this type of weapons being used, but Syrian government representatives have made it clear that they will not use the weapons on their own people regardless the circumstances. Iraq was invaded partly because Saddam Hussein was thought to possess weapons of this sort.
Critics have warned, however, that Assad is a cornered wolf, and that there is no telling what might happen, especially since “there were indications that respirators (gas masks) have been distributed to some government forces,” according to SIPRI.