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article imageOp-Ed: Assad regime unleashes chemical weapons

By Eliot Elwar     Aug 24, 2013 in World
The Assad regime unleashes chemical weapons against Syrian rebel forces. US officials believe Syria used chemical weapons on civilians because of Western intelligence assessments. Chemical weapons experts believe symptoms prove sarin gas was used.
While there is still no conclusive evidence, senior U.S. officials believe the Syrian military did attack civilians with chemical weapons recently, triggering the Obama administration to consider when and how the U.S. military will respond to these chemical attacks, according to NBC news.
The U.S. and allied intelligence agencies have made a preliminary assessment that chemical weapons were used by Syrian forces in an attack near Damascus recently, likely with high-level approval from the government of President Bashar al-Assad, according to Reuters.
Experts believe a chemical weapon was employed against the civilian population, according to the symptoms people were displaying. Chemical weapons experts believe that the nerve agent used during the attack was sarin gas, which causes severe respiratory distress, limpness and death. Sarin gas victims show no visible wounds. The experts base their assessments on the symptoms they observed along with the fact that the Assad regime is known to have large chemical stockpiles, according to the Globe and Mail reports.
Chemical agents are highly lethal. Nerve agents such as sarin, tabun, soman, and VX can kill very quickly; a few droplets absorbed through the skin can paralyze and cause death in minutes. Chemical agents also have varied levels of persistency. Some evaporate in minutes or hours and lose their effect rapidly. For example, sarin is a lethal but non-persistent nerve agent. By contrast, VX can persist for days or weeks in lethal form. A military force may use persistent chemical weapons, such as VX or mustard gas, to neutralize an air base, seaport, or key staging area for an extended period in order to deny its use to the adversary. On the other hand, non-persistent chemical weapons, such as sarin, more likely would be employed where only a temporary effect was sought, according to Britannica.
Since the early 1980s, Syria has made efforts to acquire and maintain a chemical weapons arsenal. Regional security concerns, and Syria's adversarial relationship with Israel, represent Bashar al-Assad’s likely present-day motivation behind his chemical weapons program. Disastrous military defeats against Israel in 1967, 1973, and 1982, followed by Arab unity weakening against Israel following the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty and Israel's nuclear weapons acquisition, provided impetus for Syria to pursue a strategic deterrent against the conventional and nuclear Israeli threats. Syria has neither signed nor acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention, and it has officially stated that while it supports a region-wide ban on WMDs, it cannot unilaterally renounce chemical weapons for as long as Israel continues to pose a threat to its security, according to the Nuclear Threat Initiative. Analysts believe the Assad regime will employ chemical and biological weapons against any Western power that intervenes militarily in the Syrian civil war.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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