by: Mike Evans
This past weekend I was in New York City for a briefing with a number of high-ranking Israeli officials. I sat between the Israeli Ambassador and the former head of Mossad (Israeli intelligence). There were many topics discussed, but few were of as immediate concern as the situation in Syria.
Syria has the fourth largest stock of chemical weapons in the world, and by far the largest in the Middle East. Though these weapons have been outlawed for decades, they have been used repeatedly in the past, most famously by Saddam Hussein who gassed some 200,000 of his own people to retain his power prior to the American invasion in 2003. Now reports have surfaced that President Bashar al-Assad of Syria has used chemical weapons against rebel forces. The United States government, which had previously declared that this would be a “red line” which would move them intervene is seeking further confirmation of these reports.
But there is little doubt in Israel or elsewhere in the Middle East exactly what is taking place. For some four decades, first with the help of Russia and later with the aid of Iran and North Korea, the Syrian government has been developing and weaponizing chemical agents. Included are sarin (which is what has already been used in the civil war) and the even more deadly VX nerve gas. These deadly weapons can be delivered by either the hundreds of missiles or thousands of artillery shells in the hands of the regime.
Israeli intelligence is concerned not just with the whereabouts of these weapons (Assad is reported to be moving them around in the shrinking part of the country he still controls) but with the fate of the production facilities. One of the main groups within the rebel forces is the al-Nusra Brigade, a radical terrorist group with a great deal of experience in fighting in Iraq. The al-Nusra Brigade is openly aligned with al-Qaeda.
Recently fighting between government and rebel forces moved to within a mile of the little town of al-Safira—home of one of Syria’s main chemical weapons plants. Assad’s troops were able to drive back the rebels…this time. But what happens if the tide of battle turns again? What will al-Qaeda terrorists do if they gain control of weaponized nerve gas? Will a single canister of sarin or VX be unleashed on Tel Aviv, London or New York? Thousands could die in a single attack.
Few people in the United States are paying attention to what is happening in Syria—but we should be. It is not just Israel in the crosshairs of chemical weapons attacks. It could very well strike anywhere in the Western world.