Quick Thoughts on Syria and Chemical Weapons Use

A quick and dirty analysis of the Syrian situation – perhaps more accurately termed, my opinion on the Syrian situation! Some of this has been mentioned in my posts so forgive me for repeating myself but I fancied bringing it all together.

As previously mentioned, there are two very distinct and very particular issues here and people and the media are conflating the two and coming to completely the wrong conclusions in my opinion.

Issue Number One is the “Civil War” in Syria. As has been evidenced by two years of doing almost nothing of any great consequence, the West is not interested in getting involved in it full stop. This is not least because both sides are abhorrent to the liberal west. The rebels are closely intermeshed with Al Qaeda elements (whatever they are these days) whilst Assad has shown no moral scruples and is backed by Iran and Hezbollah. However, at the very least Assad represents a known entity, and some degree of stability were he to regain control and contain the rebels.

A rebel victory meanwhile would arguably tear open the region, cause massive instability in Turkey and who knows what form of Government might come out of it, if any – all in a country that as we know. possesses chemical weapons and a pretty modern armed forces. Either way, an Assad victory or a rebel victory, neither is the perfect outcome for the liberal west.

And so we’ve sat on our hands.

Chemical weapons, or Weapons of Mass Destruction are Issue Number Two.

The term WMD has not been bandied about for the obvious reason that it has mildly negative connotations for that part of the world. But that is what chemical weapons are. They represent the ability to cause massive disruption, degradation and plain old death relatively simply, and very efficiently. Against military units a strong chemical warfare (CW) capability is degrading enough, meaning as it does, having to fight in respirators, spend time decontaminating people and kit and also to conduct CBRN reconnaissance’s and avoiding areas contaminated with persistent agent. Against a rebel force with next to no defences against CWs they are a game changer. They are also indiscriminate and illegal to use.

The fact that CWs are an illegitimate and hence illegal weapon of war has been a central tenet of western liberal thought and policy since the Great War. WMDs arguably again landed square centre in the policy sights of the western world after 9/11 when what can be described as 5x rounds of ammunition caused 3,000 deaths.

That WMD use is not to be tolerated has been a completely fundamental pillar of western defence and foreign policies since 2001. That is worth saying again, that chemical weapons are not a legitimate weapon of war has been completely fundamental to western policies and has underpinned a decade of diplomacy and foreign interventions. We invaded Afghanistan because it contained and was harbouring a group who had used WMDs; we invaded Iraq because we thought they were there; we torment and prod Iran so they don’t develop them and before now we’ve warned Syria about their use.

And it is this issue, Issue Number Two, the Chemical weapons issue that is inviting the use of force.

The evidence is clear – when they were used in a more limited fashion by Assad we sought to increase the military effectiveness of the rebels and now they have been used in a more sophisticated and concentrated attack there has been a very sharp change in the rhetoric and actions of the west.

Even Germany, yes Germany, is calling for action to be taken.

If no action is taken a decade of foreign policy will be totally undermined in an instant – failure to act de facto legitimises WMD use (not possession, but use) and this sends a very loud and clear message to Iran and other groups: if you make it hard going for us we won’t respond to WMD use. Chemical weapons thus become a legitimate weapon of war again. At best the can is kicked down the road and we have to deal with this later in the future: at worst our reluctance to act this time means CW release occurs again and again by regimes wanting that bang for their buck and we do nothing until trouble knocks on our door again since CW use will have become normalised.

That chemical weapons were used is beyond all doubt. Nobody, even the Syrians, are denying chemical weapons were employed. The fact that the west WILL respond is also now not in doubt – to not act on the matter would be as I have argued, a serious and fundamental mistake and an instant reversal of policy that saw us invade two countries and constantly threaten another. The rhetoric coming from Washington, Paris, Berlin and London is strident and is setting the scene for some sort of retaliation even in the face of difficulties with the UN.

The question now is, would action be legitimate? I believe it would since international law is very clear on chemical weapons use. The fly in the ointment is who released the weapons? Should we be pointing fingers at the rebels and not Assad? I don’t have any of the evidence but I am fairly confident that intelligence is pointing very firmly at the Syrians having used them – deliberately or by accident. The rhetoric is again clear – the missiles are being pointed very firmly at Assad, who is also the person we’d rather see win this Civil War. We are finding ourselves in the position now of having to retaliate against a murderous despot who we actually wish to see prevail since he represents at the very least, the possibility of some stability in a dangerously unstable region. We wouldn’t be doing that if we didn’t have the evidence.

So what military action may be taken?

The fundamental limitation is that we do not want to get involved in the Civil War.

We therefore do not want to influence it – that means arming the rebels is out of the question and boots on the ground are beyond being out of the question at the moment even if anyone had them to put down. This also means directly supporting the rebels using air power is not something we really want to do at this stage as we’d literally be supporting our enemies – Al Qaeda & Co have killed far more Americans than Assad.

So this leaves the front-line ground forces out of the equation I argue. Furthermore, because this is likely to happen without a UN resolution the target list is going to have to reflect the narrow scope of the illegal action being punished so it is likely to be aimed at the ability to launch further CW strikes which will include C3 nodes and artillery units. This is because it will probably prove easier to justify the strike under the international laws that forbid CW use when we don’t have a UN resolution.

So we have a strike that is becoming far more limited in scope already just because of the legal implications and the fact we don’t want Assad to fail – we simply want to deter him. So the strike will not be against Assad or any regime targets unless there is a direct implication that someone from the regime ordered their use and we can target them – a remote possibility indeed. In any case it won’t be Assad targeted as I have said because we want him to win and furthermore, killing him is also likely to bring the whole house down and invite the chaos we wish to avoid.

It also won’t be a manned strike. Syria has an intimidating IAD system – this is not Libya or Afghanistan. Any manned penetration is going to mean having to take down the Syrian IAD system and that represents a massive escalation into an endeavour akin to that of Desert Storm. There has been no indication whatsoever that there is any appetite for this level of action which would further undermine Assad and invite the chaos we fear whilst seeing heavy coalition casualties.

So the strike is likely to be (a) punitive and targeted firmly against the tools and mechanisms of chemical delivery, (b) be limited to missile strikes and (c) seek to show that CW use is illegitimate and nothing more since we do not want to get involved in the Civil War. So everything is pointing at a very limited action with token French and British involvement I imagine if Parliament allows it with a constrained target set.

So in conclusion, we have beef in these events.

The beef is the possibility of chemical weapons use (WMD use) becoming normalised and legitimised. This has enormous implications for the future international order and threatens to undermine decades and decades of policy. Therefore action is necessary, but limited action, with the limited aim of sending the message that chemical weapons use is not acceptable. It is absolutely not about getting involved in this Civil War nor is it about destabilising Assad on any fundamental level at the moment and choosing sides. Our objective must be to punish and deter further CW use – to make their use more risky and thus less useful.

The strike is going to look like a wet fart when it happens I wager – a massive anti-climax, but the damage is not anywhere near as important as the message. The message is: stop using chemical weapons. We will not accept their use.

The elephant in the room is where do we go if he gives all this reasoning the big middle finger and uses them again in complete defiance relying on our not wanting to overthrow him and on top-cover from Moscow?

My honest opinion is that the obvious will happen – escalation.

The question is, on a fundamental level, is it better to legitimise WMD use and all the global implications this has and all the security and defence issues it raises, or is it better that a limited patch of territory called Syria falls to the chaos and our rebel enemies?

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Think Defence
Admin
August 28, 2013 12:36 pm
Reply to  Phil

I elevated you and some of the others to author status which gives you the ability to publish without review, just tweaked it a bit (featured image, tags and categories)

a
a
August 28, 2013 12:46 pm

“If no action is taken a decade of foreign policy will be totally undermined in an instant – failure to act de facto legitimises WMD use (not possession, but use) and this sends a very loud and clear message to Iran and other groups: if you make it hard going for us we won’t respond to WMD use. ”

That ship has sailed. Nasser used chemical weapons in the sixties in Yemen and we didn’t respond. Iraq used them in the eighties against the Kurds and we didn’t respond. Why is it so important that we respond now when we never have before?

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
August 28, 2013 1:02 pm

Previous uses of Chemical Weapons aside and I do not agree with them either but Phil has a point.

We have laid down some pretty clear lines and this regardless of previous rumours etc in Syria is the first time that we will have examined an actual incident and come to a conclusion as to who was responsible.
So if the evidence leads us to the conclusion that it was Assad who deliberately used nerve gas on civilians we either take some form of action or we try and win some contracts in the Iranian Nuclear program.
The whole situation is a massive cluster and Western policy of watch and just hope it ends before something like this happens has been a failure.

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom
August 28, 2013 1:32 pm

Whether Assad bypasses his MOD is something that needs to be investigated before conclusions are drawn as I read earlier that the US has a copy of a phone call where the head of the MOD is trying to determine what happened. This leads me to conclude that either they are under direct control of Assad or it was a rogue/independent action (whether that is counted as a regime action or not is another matter).

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
August 28, 2013 2:02 pm

Syria are neither signatories to the Chemical Weapons Convention or protocol’s II and III of the Geneva convention, and I’m pretty sure the opposition are not either.

I don’t believe Syria have technically committed a crime by using the chemical weapons.

Iraq were signatories to the CWC and therefore were breaking international law by not letting the inspectors in to confirm destruction of their CW’s. They had also used them on a neigbour and had a history of outside aggression to their neighbours.

Iran are signatories to the Nuclear Non Proliferation treaty and therefore it is illegal to produce weaponised fissile material.

Afghanistan were a direct threat due to them allowing the planning of terrorist acts from their country and the refusal to hand over Bin Laden.

Western policy changed on 9/11 to preemptive action if they felt threatened. Syria knows that any deliberate attack on a neighbour or any other state would find themselves at the end of a nuclear strike, Russia and China both know this and would do nothing to stop it.

Brian Black
Brian Black
August 28, 2013 2:06 pm

” the West is not interested in getting involved in it [the civil war] full stop.”

That’s not true. We’ve been poking our noses right in there. What we’ve been trying to do is to make Assad’s regime fall without blatantly giving him a shove. Just as with Libya, we’ve reached a point where there’s a flimsy pretext for regime change.

” Why is it so important that we respond now when we never have before?

Because we have spent 12 years and two wars fighting for that policy.”

Really? Where?
If you mean Iraq, incase you missed it, WMD were the flimsy pretext for regime change. WMD was fed to the public as a simple argument for war, the politicians never believed the crap they served up about the threat to us.
If you mean Afghanistan, we stayed there because the West wanted a nice diversion from the mess in Iraq, and then because we got insurgent tunnel vision instead of getting out, all after kicking out a non-compliant regime.

Observer
Observer
August 28, 2013 2:10 pm

David, Syria did sign the Geneva Protocol in ’69, which I think was also the same year that the UN declared the protocol binding for all members. Got to go check up the resolution number.

Got it, it’s resolution 2162B.

Got a point in the rebels not signing it though, but it’ll still be a diplomatic black eye for them in the eyes of their backers.

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom
August 28, 2013 2:11 pm

Syria are signed up to the: Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare(1925), usually called the Geneva Protocol. This prohibts the use of chemical weapons rather than the production and storage of them.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
August 28, 2013 2:20 pm

I bow to the better knowledge of others on the site

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
August 28, 2013 2:34 pm

I just took another cursory read and Protocol II (1977) are the rules for internal conflict, Syria have not signed.

The Geneva convention was designed for state on state warfare and hence the need for supplemental protocols such as II.

You also do not have to abide by the Geneva convention if the opposition are not signatories hence the need for Iraq to publicly announce that they would during the first Gulf war.

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom
August 28, 2013 2:42 pm

@DN

There is a issue with the Geneva Protocol (easy to confuse with the protocols in the Geneva Convention but different) that no one quite knows how it relates to a civil war use of CW, The majority of countries are covered by later treaties, but with Syria we have to fall back to 90 year old laws.

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom
August 28, 2013 2:45 pm

oh and there is a second geneva protocol from 1924 just to confuse matters.

Observer
Observer
August 28, 2013 2:51 pm

David, Geneva Protocol, not Geneva Convention. Related, but different.

Well, the protocols banned the use of chemical weapons, but never said internal or external foes, so I think a case can be made that it was intended to be a blanket ban.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
August 28, 2013 3:08 pm

Observer,
Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts (Protocol II), 8 June 1977

The only provision applicable to non-international armed conflicts before the adoption of the present Protocol was Article 3 common to all four Geneva Conventions of 1949. This Article proved to be inadequate in view of the fact that about 80% of the victims of armed conflicts since 1945 have been victims of non-international conflicts and that non-international conflicts are often fought with more cruelty than international conflicts. The aim of the present Protocol is to extend the essential rules of the law of armed conflicts to internal wars.

You could also argue that it was intended for state on state only.

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom
August 28, 2013 3:11 pm

@ ND

That could be read as just relating to the exsisting provisions of the Geneva Convention, rather than all international treaties/laws. But yes this is a major issue figuring out the actual legal standing of any action.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
August 28, 2013 3:18 pm

@ET

Agreed, I was just trying to point out that Syria’s use of CW is not as cut and dry as some suggest, they are after all are not a signatory to that additional protocol of the convention.

Observer
Observer
August 28, 2013 3:39 pm

…..David. I repeat. Geneva Protocol, not Geneva Convention.

This one.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geneva_Protocol

Syria 17 December 1968

Frenchie
Frenchie
August 28, 2013 3:44 pm

I agree with Phil, we must react against Assad for the use of chemical weapons, but we must not have the objective to kill Assad, or destroy his army, he must remain the president of his country, or ideally should leave power to someone else. He is a bloodthirsty man, but he is a layman, I don’t want to see an Islamist government lead this country, the Islamists are our enemies, they are the ones who kill the British, American and french, the Western people in general and also Muslim people.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
August 28, 2013 3:45 pm

Observer, Yes I know

Eric Croddy, assessing the Protocol in 2005, took the view that the historic record showed it had been largely ineffectual. Specifically it did not prohibit:[6]

use against not-ratifying parties
retalliation using such weapons, so effectively making it a no-first-use agreement
use within a state’s own borders in a civil conflict !!

This is from your link

Observer
Observer
August 28, 2013 3:57 pm

That is partially true David. When the Protocols were first formulated, think they were looking at a complete ban, but unfortunately people kept looking for the smallest loopholes like “they didn’t say we can’t use it internally”. Look at it this other way, the Protocol did not state you can’t use it externally too. :)

Intent was for a general ban. Humans, being the wesselly lawyers we are, loopholed the hell out of the law.

So Syria was a signatory for a CW usage ban, though not with the Geneva Convention as in your original contention. And internal use is a rather grey area, though by practice, not by design.

a
a
August 28, 2013 4:27 pm

“Why is it so important that we respond now when we never have before?
Because we have spent 12 years and two wars fighting for that policy.”

Which two wars would that be?

Not Afghanistan. No one used chemical weapons in Afghan.
Not Iraq. The stated justification for the invasion was _not_ to punish Saddam for using chemical weapons, but to disarm him after the UN had failed to do so.
Not Libya.

Any others? Come on Phil, you’re asserting that we’ve fought two wars in the last twelve years to support our policy that the use of chemical weapons must be punished. Name those wars!

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
August 28, 2013 4:40 pm

Observer,

Your right I jumped straight to the additional protocols of the Geneva Convention rather than first stating the flaw in the Geneva protocol, but if it’s any consolation I knew where I was going with it even if I failed to mention it to anyone else : )

a
a
August 28, 2013 4:50 pm

“No I said WMDs mate.”

Phil, sonny, Iraq was about illicit possession, not use.
And airliners as WMD is true only in the weirder bits of US criminal law, which also classes pressure-cooker bombs as WMD. You’re stretching a bit, pal.

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom
August 28, 2013 4:52 pm

WMD = weapon used against USA or weapon that could be used against USA if it exsisted

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom
August 28, 2013 5:03 pm

Ed Miliband @Ed_Miliband
Labour will table our own amendment on Syria in the Commons tomorrow.
4:19 p.m. Wed, Aug 28

How can you know what amendment to make if the motion hasn’t been tabled yet.

Observer
Observer
August 28, 2013 5:13 pm

I recall reading about the pressure cooker WMDs, think there was a justification for classing it that way, but not through normal usage, can’t quite remember what it was, but it was logical.

Damn memory, first thing to go.

Maybe it was something about being a specialist usage term being misunderstood as a common usage term? Or something like that. I did remember thinking “So that was why they called it that.”

HurstLlama
HurstLlama
August 28, 2013 5:21 pm

Well, Phil, how far do we go if they flip us the finger? Kind of important to know how you are going to finish a war before you start it, don’t you think? Hoping your enemy just bends over is not an acceptable substitute for thought.

Escalate you say. How far say I?

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom
August 28, 2013 5:22 pm

http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/50/2902

The US definition is:

The terms “weapons of mass destruction” and “WMD” mean chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, and chemical, biological, and nuclear materials used in the manufacture of such weapons.

Except in a criminal cas when it is:

Any explosive, incendiary, or poison gas—
(i) bomb,
(ii) grenade,
(iii) rocket having a propellant charge of more than four ounces,
(iv) missile having an explosive or incendiary charge of more than one-quarter ounce,
(v) mine

In the UK:

In 2004, the United Kingdom’s Butler Review recognized the “considerable and long-standing academic debate about the proper interpretation of the phrase ‘weapons of mass destruction’”. The committee set out to avoid the general term but when using it, employed the definition of United Nations Security Council Resolution 687, which defined the systems which Iraq was required to abandon:
“Nuclear weapons or nuclear-weapons-usable material or any sub-systems or components or any research, development, support or manufacturing facilities relating to [nuclear weapons].
Chemical and biological weapons and all stocks of agents and all related subsystems and components and all research,development,support and manufacturing facilities.
Ballistic missiles with a range greater than 150 kilometres and related major parts, and repair and production facilities.”

Brian Black
Brian Black
August 28, 2013 5:24 pm

” Iraq was about illicit possession, not use”

Iraq was nothing to do with WMD. WMD provided the soundbites to justify the war. And it was assumed that we’d find them, and so have a physical object to point to and say “there you go, told you so” once we’d won (which is why we made up all the crap about them).

Observer
Observer
August 28, 2013 5:38 pm

Your “Risk” might end up a “Monopoly” where you go round in circles to get nowhere and pay through the nose at every corner.

Now ask me about Cluedo. :P

Limited TLAM strikes are what I see as likely to happen. With the UK making media noise. All the benefits of action, none of the fallout as the US gets the ire of the Jihadists. Hey, it works. Escalation is higher risk of terrorist attacks, which can be handled by increased home security readiness. Might be best this way.

HurstLlama
HurstLlama
August 28, 2013 5:54 pm

Nothing wrong with taking a risk, just when it comes to going to war it would be good to know that those advocating it had actually thought the whole thing through and had a plan to deal with situation if their gamble fails.

So you seem in favour of war withSyria and you mentioned the “elephant in room”, so I wonder how far you would be prepared to escalate if Assad flips us the finger or CW are used again but blame is uncertain. Just asking.

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom
August 28, 2013 6:07 pm

Russia’s Interfax news agency is reporting that Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, has told William Hague that the UN Security Council should not consider a Syria resolution before inspectors report on allegations of chemical weapons.

A sensible point of view, but only if they will report anytime soon we can’t wait 6 months to make a move if we are going to.

TrT
TrT
August 28, 2013 6:16 pm

“Because we have spent 12 years and two wars fighting for that policy. ”
So, 12 years of stupidity is not a strong arguement for a 13th
Our policy for nearly 100 years has been “use WMD on us and we will **** you up”
Far more sensible.

Even if we ignore that.
Your arguement is we present Assad with two choices.
Be eaten (literally) by the cannibalistic rebels
Be spanked by NATO

I dont understand the logic that says he will choose to be disemboweled and whilst still alive watch the rebels eat his liver, rather than face a few mild bomb strikes, or even a vast campaign.

You arent scary, stop trying to be

Lindermyer
Lindermyer
August 28, 2013 6:37 pm

Despite considering Syria to be an internal matter and none of our business, I am in agreement with you in that the use of chemical weapons (particularly against civilians) cannot be even seen to be acceptable and as such some short of action is required. However that action must be applied to which ever party uses Chemical weapons.

At this point how sure are we that it wasn’t either a) the rebels or B) an accident*, because given our current standing in the world after the dodgy dossier, the evidence has to be irrefutable.

*accident being defined as careless destruction of chemical weapons, or even the destruction of a chemical factory , I recall several incident where DuPont (or similar) caused scares in the UK after a fire releases chlorine etc. Admittedly this is looking increasingly unlikely.

Regards

TrT
TrT
August 28, 2013 7:14 pm

“I’m just sick and tired of people not having the morale courage to stand up to something ”
So you’ll be booking a flight to Syria and joining the FSA then?

Think Defence
Admin
August 28, 2013 7:21 pm
Reply to  TrT

TrT, that’s a crass and bone headed thing to say

Ask Phil to show you his Herrick medal

I know this is one of those fairly heated debates (like aircraft carriers) but lets try and keep things in a good spirit

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom
August 28, 2013 7:26 pm

@ TrT and TD

I daresay he would be questioned as a terror suspect if he did, yes the UK government supports the rebels doesn’t mean they don’t recognise them as a threat as well.

Lindermyer
Lindermyer
August 28, 2013 7:29 pm

I cant help but think its Better the devil you know, and given some of the more unpleasant allies in the rebel camp its perhaps best all round if the rebels don’t win.

PeterW
PeterW
August 28, 2013 7:37 pm

Still no evidence that Syria used Chemical weapons as opposed to al-Queda using captured weapons to get backing from the US.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
August 28, 2013 7:41 pm

Glad to see that any decision on military action is going to wait until after the UN report. if we do have to take military action then it is important that we are seen to have jumped through all the hoops.

John Hartley
John Hartley
August 28, 2013 7:46 pm

Look, if there were good guys & bad guys in Syria, I could see the point in intervention, but in a conflict that just has bad guys, how the hell will we get a good result? If a US/UK Tomahawk hits a military target that turns out to be a chemical bunker & those chemicals leak out to poison the local civilians, how is that making a stand against WMD? Syria is a mess & the West getting involved could only make it worse.
Just wish we had a covert method of quick intelligence gathering at chemical/nuclear suspect use sites. That’s why I rambled on about a stealthy UAV (Taranis?) with a sniffer pod.

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom
August 28, 2013 7:48 pm

UN has said a report or at least a statement will be out by Sunday, I say definitly wait and see what it says now we know it will be a short wait.

Mark
Mark
August 28, 2013 8:19 pm

IMO if we let the use of large scale chemical attacks go unpunished then we live in a country who word not longer counts for anything on the international stage and would be better of if we revert to ixions long held view of future uk defence policy. It also renders useless the many thousands of men and women who since the world wars have fought to ensure freedom and security was brought to the world.

The shadow of Iraq and Blair casts a very long shadow and certain views on the news seems like settling old scores not the current issues at hand, it was said then that one day in the future when a very real threat existed that intelligence showed was real and action required it may not be trusted because of the lies Blair told. We have reached that point. Chemical weapons must be removed from this conflict.

x
x
August 28, 2013 9:06 pm

1000 times more are killed each year with SALW; nearly a billion go hungry.

As for freedoms well our politicians have been giving those up for years and so I am not sure how sending our young to die to settle a quarrel in a faraway country between people of whom we know nothing has to do with our freedom.

If this situation warrants military action then we should nuke Iran now……..

CBRNGuru
CBRNGuru
August 28, 2013 9:31 pm

@ David Niven
I don’t believe Syria have technically committed a crime by using the chemical weapons.

That in my opinion is a fair point. People keep on saying chemical agents and WMD. Having asked around the scientific fraternity, who I know, then as I have already suggested this is not the use of sarin or maybe indeed any form of phosgene. I could post a mass of evidence to support the opinion but that would be boring!!It’s more likely to be a straight or mixed Chemical Industrial Material. So does that fall within a loop hole of the CWC or not is an interesting question.

John Hartley
John Hartley
August 28, 2013 9:51 pm

Over on defensenews, they are saying the Republicans are split on whether to back Obama on striking Syria. They also have an item saying the Pentagon has estimated the price of the strikes at $608 million. This at a time of defense cuts.

Brian Black
Brian Black
August 28, 2013 10:06 pm

“At this point how sure are we that it wasn’t either a) the rebels or B) an accident*,
*accident being defined as careless destruction of chemical weapons, or even the destruction of a chemical factory”

Ghouta is an agricultural area; many common pesticides are organophosphate nerve agents.

A rotten egg smell was reported; a nerve agent would more likely have a sweeter smell or be odourless.

Nicotine sulfate is another pesticide which would have an eggy farty sulfurous smell. Highly toxic, requires ‘DANGER’ labelling in the US, has much the same poisoning symptoms as organophosphates.
Easily produced from tobacco using sulfuric acid; Syria is the largest tobacco producer in the middle east.

There certainly are possibilities that this poisoning could have been an accident, particularly if you’re not bothered about waiting for UN inspectors to issue a report.

Lindermyer
Lindermyer
August 29, 2013 5:36 am

That was sort of my line of thinking burning of Pesticides or industrial chemicals.
However im sure somewhere I read that signals intel implied deliberate action, which is why I said it was looking less likely.

Am I alone in finding Labours “reluctance” to commit to action unless the evidence is irrefutable etc a tad Hypocritical and nothing more than petty politicking.

Regards

PeterW
PeterW
August 29, 2013 5:44 am

“I am in agreement with you in that the use of chemical weapons (particularly against civilians) cannot be even seen to be acceptable and as such some short of action is required”

Funny how everyone has forgotten about Falluja. Hundreds of babies were born with birth defects after that, as well as unknown numbers of civilians killed by ‘Shake and Bake’.

Lindermyer
Lindermyer
August 29, 2013 6:13 am

1) Nobody has forgotten Fallujah but many doubt the veracity of the claims made particularly those regarding DU rounds which allegedly weren’t used.

(2) Chemical weapons were not used against civilians, to compare the deliberate use of chemical weapons with alleged and unconfirmed reports of Toxic side effects of conventional weapons is disingenuous at best

A high number of birth defects could be related to anything (River Pollution, malnutrition, or even lead poisoning), however in the absence of a credible investigation or evidence, certain groups with an Agenda decided it must be Americas fault.

regards

John Hartley
John Hartley
August 29, 2013 8:06 am

By all means get on your moral high horse, about how something must be done about taboo chemical weapons, but please have a coherent plan that will make the situation better rather than worse.

Observer
Observer
August 29, 2013 8:52 am

As someone in the medical line, most of the DU claims are overblown to the point of lies. Depleted uranium is not highly radioactive, most of the propaganda just reads “uranium” and thinks glowing green rods. It is not mutagenic, in fact, most Western armoured vehicles incorporate a measure of DU in their hulls or armour plates. This is why any talk of mutated babies by DU radiation is nonsensical. What is more likely, and is my suspicion on the cause of “Gulf War Syndrome” is heavy metal toxicity/accumulation, where vapourised heavy metal is inhaled and goes through the classic symptoms. Just compare the list of “Gulf War Syndrome” symptoms vs heavy metal toxicity.

Lindermyer, the sigint from what others have said, was Assad’s MoD running around asking “What the hell is going on there??!!”, so it is still possible that Assad was clueless on this. We’ll just have to wait for the UN report.

Lindermyer
Lindermyer
August 29, 2013 9:09 am

@ Observer

I agree re DU and hype.
At Fallujah the US denies using it and Science teams found no evidence of DU in the ground.
What they did find allegedly was evidence of enriched uranium. I don’t know the PPM (or however it works in soil) count etc or if its significant.
However with impeccable logic the conclusion has been reached that if the US didn’t use DU they must have a secret enriched uranium weapon.

Re Assad I don’t believe we should target him personally, but CW facilities, command and control nodes etc yes. Assuming it was government troops (I agree with Phil here he’s in charge he carries the can). If it was Rebel troops well then they get a thick ear.

Regards

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom
August 29, 2013 9:12 am

@ Observer

I agree we need to look at this phone call from the head of the MOD asking what was happening, and personally I think it could easily be one of three options;

Rebels:
If it was the rebels they could be making sure it definatly wasn’t them.

Rogue unit:
This is the hard one as yes the phone call is saying who’s done this etc, but we have to decide if a rogue unit is Assad’s fault which is a different question.

Assad:
The MOD not knowing what is going on doesn’t indicate that it isn’t Assad, he could well be bypassing the MOD, I’m pretty sure the US president can launch a nuke without talking to the defence secertary.

Alex
Alex
August 29, 2013 9:39 am

Regarding the airlines as WMD thing, the kinetic energy released by the collapsing buildings was about 0.5Kt: http://www.uwgb.edu/dutchs/PSEUDOSC/911NutPhysics1.HTM

Observer
Observer
August 29, 2013 9:43 am

Just went for a quick bite and took a while to think. What about historic proportionality? When indications came out that Saddam was gassing Kurds, a “No Fly Zone” was enforced (can’t say imposed because the zone was there due to GW1 mainly). So, would tossing up a “No Fly Zone” around Syria be a fair compromise? Assad gets smacked on the hand as he can’t use his helos to pound the rebels any more, he gets a warning that it can get worse, and the world sees that he is being punished with a significant penalty, and it fits historical punishments for CW usage.

The fly boys will be put at risk on this one though, the AD network around Syria is still a question mark and some SEAD might be required first.

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom
August 29, 2013 9:49 am

@ Alex

It isn’t a WMD though as the plane isnt a weapon till it is used that way, whereas a proper chemical weapon is only a weapon.

I believe it was Ban Ki Moon who said the greatest WMD is the gun. To me this is the same as the US calling a plane a WMD, both are based off the generally accepted notion that a WMD is a horrific weapon. Personally to me a WMD is a NBC weapon with thermobaric weapons just to the outside of the scope of WMD.

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom
August 29, 2013 9:52 am

@ Observer

From what I have heard a No Fly Zone is thought of as a bigger punishment than a limited airstrike on key positions, but below a campaign of airstrikes, that is if you rank them all.

Chris
Chris
August 29, 2013 9:59 am

Phil – all quite right. Unless the released agents were nothing to do with Assad’s stock, and those releasing them were not on his side. (Can’t say ‘not his own forces’ because of the non-Syrian factions fighting against his opposition). Even more confusing if (hypothesis just for example) Hezbollah brought their own stockpile to the fight that Assad knew nothing of. I am still positive until the ‘who’ is established and evidenced, we in the west should be cautious in our response.

a
a
August 29, 2013 10:50 am

“What about historic proportionality? When indications came out that Saddam was gassing Kurds, a “No Fly Zone” was enforced (can’t say imposed because the zone was there due to GW1 mainly). So, would tossing up a “No Fly Zone” around Syria be a fair compromise?”

Not quite what happened. The Kurds were gassed in 1988 and our response was zero. (The US had already been giving him targeting information so he could gas the Iranians more effectively.) The NFZ was imposed in 1991 in order to protect the Kurds (and the marsh Arabs) from conventional air attack, not from gassing.

KRT
KRT
August 29, 2013 11:04 am

Your statement about Germany is not correct.

The German government is for concerted action with their allies and the UN. They have yet avoided any claim to be willing to wage a war, but outlined all options of sanctions to force the Syrian government out of chemical weapons use.

Brian Black
Brian Black
August 29, 2013 11:32 am

” So, would tossing up a “No Fly Zone” around Syria be a fair compromise?”

Hi, Observer. Quickly run through what you think the likely responses of the Russians and Iranians would be when you shoot down their aircraft in Syria’s airspace. And how we might subsequently respond to their response to the shooting down of their aircraft.

Z
Z
August 29, 2013 12:24 pm

I agree with the argument Phil is making for not allowing Syria’s regime to get away with using WMD . There was & is no case for us intervening in the civil war in Syria but there is now the need to act given the apparent use of WMD.

I am not convinced that a punitive strike (the rationale for which needs to be clearly made) will de-facto make us participants in the Syrian conflict that then also leads to ever increasing entanglement. Israel intervenes militarily in Syria on a regular basis, eg > http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-22409380

However, I’m in favour of the evidence gathered by the UN inspectors being analysed to “independently” confirm that the weapons used was more than likely from the Syrian regime’s chemical weapon arsenal & not some sort of “home made” Sarin or the like. That said I am surprised and alarmed by some of the arguments currently being made that seem to demand irrefutable proof of guilt or that every possible permutation for every eventuality is debated & considered. That is just sophistry to justify inaction. Military conflict nearly always entails some unexpected developments but good military leadership will always ensure that contingencies have been planned for & successful commanders are generally those who adapt best to changing situations.

Syria has in recent years made a large investment in the development of chemical weapons that may only have been surpassed by North Korea http://www.nti.org/country-profiles/syria/ The Chemical Weapons Convention has been a little publicised success that needs to be taken seriously in our defence policy > http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chemical_Weapons_Convention To my mind the fact that Syria is one of the few countries not to have ratified the convention no longer matters given the overwhelming number of the world’s nations that have. The world has effectively decided by an overwhelming number that use of chemical weapons is beyond the pale, regardless of what a couple or so regimes think. Doing nothing now could undermine the recent progress made on banning chemical weapons or lead to dangerous misjudgements in future, perhaps with some who are currently signatories, but more pertinently in the Korean peninsula.

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom
August 29, 2013 12:34 pm

Just being cynical here I have doubts that the UN report will actually blame anyone, I think it will say they were used and what was used, but saying who used it or who could of used it is another story, also any hint of doubt Russia will use in the UNSC to make the report seem to say that it was the rebels, also who influnences the report ie is it seen by the UNSC members before publication, so they can ask for different wording.

Think Defence
Admin
August 29, 2013 12:47 pm
Reply to  Engineer Tom

As I understand the terms of reference for the inspection team is simply to determine whether a chemical weapon attack took place, not who was responsible

Observer
Observer
August 29, 2013 1:07 pm

On the bright side, even type of agent released would be a big help in identification of the culprit or determining if it was an accident or deliberate.

BB, Iranian and Russian warplanes have no right to be in the sovereign airspace of another country without permission, which despite the close relationship, has not happened yet. Unless Assad invites Russian and Iranian fighters into Syria, which then begs the question of what they are supposed to be doing there, they will have to stay outside the border. And even if Assad invited them in, what benefit is there to them other than the risk of losing their own planes? Despite all talks on solidarity, truth is, all countries look out for number 1. Themselves.

Now passenger/cargo planes, THAT is a bigger problem. Can’t lock down civilian flights and unlike warbirds, they have a legitimate reason to be there, and shooting down one of THOSE is a big no-no, especially since they are unarmed and non-combatant. Don’t need another USS Vincennes. Sigh… SOP is going to have to be visual confirmation, which puts Allied pilots even more at risk. Still think it’s possible to NFZ the area, but as Phil said, it has potential to be costly. And God knows, even the rebels will love to take potshots at NATO planes if they could.

Enigma
Enigma
August 29, 2013 1:21 pm

@TD
An inherent part of any UN Inspectors investigation would be to determine the origin of the chemical weapons used, type, method of delivery and the nature of dispersal, scale of impact and residual effect. It would be relatively easy for specific members of the UN security council to determine the originator from these elements, though I agree it is not in their mandate to specifically point the finger.

@Observer
I would be concerned about how Russian military aircraft would access Syrian airspace given transit routes are limited…with some very hostile neighbours. I also think US military assets in the med would be ramping up CAP and this presents the risk of some heightened confrontations at a time when military commanders on all sides will want to lower temperatures.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
August 29, 2013 1:32 pm

Is there room for some back channel diplomacy here.

Direct contact to Assad saying look we have stayed out of this up until now but the use of chemical weapons forces our hand. So here is what is going to happen. At x time we are going to destroy these targets, you are going to do nothing. You are then going to ensure no further use of chemical weapons and in return we will not intervene as we really don’t want the rebels in charge of the country.
However if you use chemical weapons again we will destroy your military.
Also makes us look effective.

Observer
Observer
August 29, 2013 1:38 pm

That would work APATs. Unfortunately, how often has the world been so accommodating. :) Still would be worth a shot. Unfortunately, it’s not up to us now, it’s up to the guy named Obama.

a
a
August 29, 2013 1:50 pm

I am surprised and alarmed by some of the arguments currently being made that seem to demand irrefutable proof of guilt

I don’t know, I think that “beyond reasonable doubt” is probably a pretty good standard for something as critical as a decision to declare war.

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom
August 29, 2013 2:06 pm

Labour is setting it up for, unless the UN says he is to blame we will vote down everything.

Monty
August 29, 2013 2:47 pm

This is a slippery slope.

Once you bomb Syria, it is likely that there will be retaliatory action that will require a further response. Even without it, we will have nailed our colours to the mast and we will need to help institute regime change. Why? Because if we contribute to Assad being ousted, we have to make sure that whomever replaces him can assume effective control, restore law and prevent Assad’s arsenal from falling into the wrong hands. If we simply bomb the hell out of Assad’s forces and do nothing else, we may create a political vacuum that allows undesirables to gain power, creating further strife, violence and instability. The last thing we need is Jihadists setting off bombs laced with Sarin in London.

So, if we allow ourselves to get involved, it is highly likely that we will need forces on the ground. And for how long? I would hazard a guess that even a 6 month commitment is going to cost £1-2 billion. A year or more seems much more likely, and could see us spend £3-£4 billion, especially if the insurgents decide that we have become the enemy. Should we really be spending another £2 -£4 billion at a time when we’re still trying to cut the budget? At a time when we’ve just cut the Armed Forces budget? I don’t think so.

Finally, we need to stop acting independently but within a UN construct that conforms to International Law.

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom
August 29, 2013 2:55 pm

That is a good point of view if things are constantly vetoed in the UNSC.

If the UNSC votes against action or accusing Assad, then yes we can’t take action. But if they vote for and then Russia veto’s we should be able to take action if we deem we want, just without a UNSC resolution.

Think Defence
Admin
August 29, 2013 6:02 pm
Reply to  Engineer Tom

Am cross posting this on all the Syria threads.

I tend to have a very light touch when it comes to moderating comments but I am responsible for everything that is published and that includes your comments. I am also very aware that Think Defence continues to grow and the reputation we have all built for lively but good natured and informed discussion is something worth the effort to maintain.

Am leaving the comments as is for now but going forward this childishness has to stop, if yo can’t be calm and construct a comment without insulting others, whatever their opinions or level of knowledge, then you are not welcome.

So, once more with feeling

FINAL FUCKING WARNING

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
August 29, 2013 6:22 pm

@TD

Well said. I thinned out this afternoon as some posts were becoming quite personal. None aimed at me but as you highlighted this is generally a well informed articulate site where we manage to have blazing rows in a very civilized manner ;)

WiseApe
August 29, 2013 7:00 pm

Ed Miliband: “Evidence should precede decision, not decision precede evidence” – That doesn’t sound very moronic to me.

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom
August 29, 2013 7:19 pm

The fact that all those opposed to action are cheering Miliband for stopping Cameron dragging us to war is a bit of a stretch, he changed his mind, after initially backing action, because his own mp’s told him not to, I also have a feeling it is the Tory backbenches who changed the motion today rather than Miliband. Also they are still saying approving the motion today is implying we approve action.

Observer
Observer
August 29, 2013 7:21 pm

So what happens if it is found that the rebels were the ones who did it?

It would be rather sad if the decision was made to militarily suppress the culprits responsible, with the unspoken assumption that Assad was responsible, only to have it require us to take action against the rebels. And the worst problem with that is that the rebels don’t have obvious things like airfields, power plants, factories and bases to Tomahawk, shell or bomb, so what might be reasonable punishment against Assad turns out to be rather unworkable against the rebels.

They need a 2 drawer plan, one against Assad and one against the rebels, just in case.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
August 29, 2013 7:32 pm

@Observer

i am pretty confident that they have far more than 2 plans but let us await the evidence. Rebels seem to lack the capability and the US are pretty confident.

Mark
Mark
August 29, 2013 7:37 pm

All today shows to me is why the prime minister must be allowed to commit uk forces to action without recourse to parliament as it appears party politics are alive and well even in international crisis. It also shows how much damage Blair has done to the office of the prime minister.

Dictators of the world have heard loud and clear anything goes and you can tie the western democracies up in knots even when the obvious is staring them in the face. This has made us look very weak indeed and could have profound diplomatic implications going forward.

Observer
Observer
August 29, 2013 8:01 pm

Mark, I thought everyone knew that you can always tie democracies in knots? :)

Remember the US tax and budget debates? In the end, no one could agree on anything, hence the “fiscal cliff”.

In this light, it’s hardly any change from business as usual, is it not?

Phil, would they? Especially with Mali still on their plate? And what is the elephant in the room, aka the US, going to be doing? Lots of things hinge on the US response. Hell, they have the power to do all the bum smacking by themselves.

Mark
Mark
August 29, 2013 8:08 pm

I agree phil but we elect someone to the role of prime minister and the cabinet to take decisions on national security based on evidence from all sources some that neither the public or the vast majority of parliament can ever see. We hope that we have elected someone to the highest office in the land who can see all the pitfalls and make the best call not just the popular one.

Parliament can question him to ensure all avenues have been covered and after the event one way or the other he/she is held to account for mistakes in parliament and eventually the people at an election.

When we have a crisis like this in order to provide reassurance and have maximum diplomatic effect we speak with one voice that voice is the cabinet and the leader of the opposition has to accept that. In my mind today we have failed that simple task.

x
x
August 29, 2013 8:12 pm

@ Mark

At times like these I think a written constitution would be a good idea.

Separation of powers and all that.

We don’t. Therefore the supremacy of Parliament comes first. Remember none of us vote for a PM; we supposedly vote for the best candidate to represent our constituency who happens to belong to a particular party. Of course we all know this isn’t true. Putting the executive before the legislature narrows legitimacy even further.

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom
August 29, 2013 8:19 pm

@ x

Actually the PM can take us too war without parliament’s backing as he draws his powers from the Queen.

Mark
Mark
August 29, 2013 8:20 pm

x

True but he has royal perogative he doesn’t need the concent of parliament this is new thing parliament being consulted prior to military action the queen is the head of the armed forces and the country.

Blair has caused one holy mess.

John Hartley
John Hartley
August 29, 2013 8:21 pm

Mark, if the situation in Syria was clear cut, then I would agree, but neither Assad or the jihadists are good guys. If we take out Assad, the jihadists take control & probably wipe out the Christians & the Kurds. Would we want that? What would a cruise missile strike achieve? In a country with artillery dropping all the time, will anyone notice the handful of UK Tomahawk? What if our missiles cause a bunker to leak chemicals on civilians? One quick strike will not turn Syria into happy la la land. We just add to its misery. As for Cameron, he is a deluded, out of touch, PR spin posh boy. I would not put him in charge of a newspaper stall.

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom
August 29, 2013 8:23 pm

@ JH

Would you put Miliband in power, he would just get pushed around by others.

John Hartley
John Hartley
August 29, 2013 8:28 pm

E Tom. Labour, the Liberals & even the Conservatives have proud histories & some fine leaders over the last century+. How all 3 parties have picked idiots as leaders all at the same time, is quite frightening. They manage to make Farage look good by comparison, though I still have doubts about some UKIP backers.

Mark
Mark
August 29, 2013 8:31 pm

John

It doesn’t matter if we think its clear cut or not. He has more facts at his disposal than we do we ask him to make these decisions on our behave for that reason. Its why we should all vote and vote for the candidates we think best represent our views.

Personally for me I do not care who it was who used them chemical weapons. They have been used we have seen that and a signal must be sent loud and clear any further use will not be tolerated and must be stopped now. What has happened today has weaken our diplomatic stance IMO in this crisis and those that are to come.

x
x
August 29, 2013 8:34 pm

@ Mark

I know.

Consider this though. If it were a matter of national survival there would be a consensus no? That this matter is mired by political infighting points to the underlying truth that this for the UK is a non-issue. It is no international crisis. It is no Cuban Missile Crisis. It is no Munich Crisis.

@ Engineer Tom

Good for him. How that is a counter argument to my assertion that executive acting without a mandate from Parliament is a narrowing of legitimacy I don’t know. Just because the PM can do something doesn’t make it right.

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom
August 29, 2013 8:36 pm

@ JH

I agree there is no great party leader at the moment but of the three I prefer DC by far. It would have been a lot closer, I might even have preferred him, if it had been the other Miliband.

WiseApe
August 29, 2013 8:37 pm

Cameron or Miliband. Or one of the above – and Clegg. Fuck me (pardon the French) but that’s depressing.

“So what happens if it is found that the rebels were the ones who did it?” – “Ay there’s the rub.”

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
August 29, 2013 8:43 pm

X,

No that this is mired in Political infighting is down to the fact that Labour took us into Iraq and Afghanistan. it cost them members and votes, not to mention annihilation in the 2011 Holyrood elections.
They can read an opinion poll as well as anybody else and realise that opposing this is a vote winner.
As long as the public view every international crisis through an Iraq coloured prism and Politicians put self interest at heart then we will never be able to take decisions based on facts.

John Hartley
John Hartley
August 29, 2013 8:49 pm

Mark, how is a strike by US/UK going to make things better in Syria? All we will do is add to the misery. Look I am usually accused of being some gung ho Dr Strangelove, but I do not believe in launching expensive ordnance, if I cannot see how it could possibly improve the situation.

Mark
Mark
August 29, 2013 8:57 pm

x

So we only act in matters of national survival? There wasn’t even unanimous support in parliament for the Falklands conflict. It is very much an international crisis with profound implications for this country. If we do nothing we will have defacto legitimised the use of chemical biological and nuclear weapons. What next a chemical attack near a disputed border area perhaps. Sorry guv me brother round the corner stole a few shells was having a bad day got cranky and the wind changed that’s why it floated over your border sorry about that.

WiseApe sorry but we don’t get to make those calls we can debate and ask the question but when we get an answer as we have we have to accept it true as that’s why these people are in these position

Unfortunatly Blair and his lies have seriously undermined that.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
August 29, 2013 8:57 pm

@JH

You prove to Assad that we have the ability to make him lose but choose not exercise it at the moment. Any further chemical usage and we make sure he is negotiating for his life with the rebel leaders.

x
x
August 29, 2013 9:01 pm

@ APATS

No. As I said if this was an issue of national security, or should that be national interest, then there would be a consensus. That this issue is being used to turn cheap political tricks points to party before country because there is no risk to the former if there was the electorate would care and they don’t. I spent all today sitting in an office staffed with chaps who would in your line of work be about CPO WOx level. Not once did anybody mention Syria. Not even in passing. That odd form of football with the funny shaped ball and only 11 bods per side got discussed a lot. As did food and holidays. Syria nada. It isn’t a voter issue. Nobody cares. They will care as soon as the first Union flag draped coffin gets carried off the C17 from Akrotiri.

Anyway as serving sailor you have to be apolitical………… ;)

Observer
Observer
August 29, 2013 9:12 pm

Think it may be a bit of a stretch to say that just because someone managed a high profile use of chemical weapons once, everyone will be jumping on board that particular bandwagon. Most countries have already been conditioned psychologically out of the usage of gas, so even if Assad by some miracle got a free pass, I don’t see countries like Italy or Germany suddenly having an urge to build up their chemical weapons stockpiles and use them. More likely than not, the countries that are inclined to use them have already been stockpiling the stuff for years. Most often in the Middle Eastern areas and Russia. China, I really don’t know, they seem to prefer throwing bodies at problems rather than gas, and they have no reported stockpile, but with their area, manpower and factories, I’m sure they can cook up the stuff anytime they wanted to. It just depends on their mindset.

Not to say that those who used it this time shouldn’t get punished, just pointing out that the fallout if there is a failure in policy may not be as bad as depicted in the scenario of sudden widespread chemical weapons usage. Most countries already have it ingrained in mind that CW=WMD=bad.

x
x
August 29, 2013 9:19 pm

@ Mark

Oh do get a grip Margery. 500 million per year are killed with SALW. A billion are going hungary. The country we are hoping to take a lead on this is the only country to use nuclear weapons. Chemical weapons seem like a good idea, but they aren’t nuclear devices on the cheap. They are hard to deploy unless you have a few dozen batteries of artillery, the right wind and weather conditions, and enough shells. They are dangerous to handle. It is very hard to replicate a Bhopal. Would you be happy if there had used HE instead? It would have probably been more effective. Is really one method of killing better than another?

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
August 29, 2013 9:19 pm

@X

I thought I was critical of all Politicians equally? Damm those Tories too :)

Ok now?

Lindermyer
Lindermyer
August 29, 2013 9:20 pm

The Trouble is the people who have them these days are by and large the people who would use them.
whilst I don’t believe doing nothing will cause immediate widespread usage, it may well prove to be the start of a slippery slope whereby it becomes more acceptable,
Limited strikes to punish any and all users of chemical weapons in Syria to send a clear message, is something I can get behind
Regards

Mark
Mark
August 29, 2013 9:23 pm

Observer

Its not Italy Germany ect were this leads to problems. I don’t think you need to be Nostradamus to see the next one coming round the corner will be Iran and a nuclear weapons issues. I’m quite sure intelligence views will be playing a big part there, as there much better at divide and rule than assid is they need to know we mean what we say but if we cant trust those people in charge to make these calls then were in for one hell of a mess.

John Hartley
John Hartley
August 29, 2013 9:25 pm

Just watching the news. Labour lost its UN vote. Also a former US General saying that a limited missile strike will not bring a regime change, or wipe out all the chemical weapons, or bring peace. Some limited Western intervention, might make Assad think “might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb” & unleash more hell. Saudis might think the West backs the rebels & gives them more heavy weapons/crazed jihadists. Russia & China, might give Assad more high tech heavy weapons.
Look if a quick missile strike would solve the problems in Syria, I would back it, but I can only see quicksand dragging us in, to a mess we are not equipped for & cannot afford. If you want to attack a dictator, there are more British interests to be helped by attacking Mugabe.

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom
August 29, 2013 9:28 pm

Current nations with known CW:

Non-usable/abandoned – Iraq & Japan

Being destroyed – Russia, USA & Libya

Usable – Syria & North Korea

Mark
Mark
August 29, 2013 9:33 pm

x

Yes I would have preferred he used he. In fact the difference is clear you yourself have argued the point in you trident ramblings.

I did read a piece in the guardian (i think) last week by a former head of the uk CBRN unit in which he’s said it looked like a textbook pre planned operation. First you shell the place smash all the windows and doors off building then fire the gas shells as the windows and doors are broke the gas spreads easier then shell the place again destroys the evidence and inflicts more casualties as people are running from the gas. Was most enlightening and sickening at the same time.

John Hartley