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Use of Chemical Weapons By Syrian Forces

Updated on September 26, 2017

Western Interest in Syrian Conflict

Currently the world is seeing an escalating up-surge in two years old struggle between moderate activist, Islamic extremist and al-Assad's regime for power and American Policy seems to be at the crossroad of deciding either for unilateral military action by US led forces or political resolution through Security Council of UN, giving some time to Syria for depletion of all WMD including chemical war heads.

Most of the people who follow political activities around the world, pertaining to religious, economical or territorial disputes and conflicts, are fully aware of the civil unrest in Syria due to chemical weapons recently used either by Assad's regime or the rebels that probably has killed 1429 people on Aug. 21, 2013, although rebels groups united to oust al-Assad and Ba'ath party for their 50 years of dictatorial governance in Syria; could also have used chemical weapon to blame al-Assad's regime; I would like to shed some light on this matter giving a brief accounts of possible reasons behind the crisis and the people behind it.

Syrian Post- Independence Era

Syria is an ancient country in Western Asia surrounded by Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and Israel with very diverse religious and ethnic background. It has a long and rich history of existence that goes back to early Islamic era. when Muslims, Greek Orthodox, Armenian, Jewish and people of other ethnic & religious decent used to live there in peace and harmony. Its capital Damascus, once used to be the seat of Umayyad Caliphate and provincial capital of Mumluk Sultanate of Egypt. When Ottoman Empire (Turks) conquered Syria in 1516 from Mumluk Sultanate, it made Damascus a major entry port to allow Muslims pilgrims to pass through Damascus on way to Mecca for hajj.

Syria went through many political upheavals and various group had ruled the country. During First World War, two allied diplomats agreed to divide Ottoman Empire into two zones, separated by line running straight from Jordan to Iran but the treaty was renegotiation after the discovery of oil in Mosul and French allowed to cede the area as "Zone B", under British influence and the artificial boundary was recognized & Syria become a French Mandate in 1920 but it short-lived. Kingdom of Syria was established under Faisal 1 of Hashemite family. In 1925 sultan al-Atrash led a revolt and won several battle against French. In 1940 Syria came under French state but faced opposition from Syrian nationalists and British and eventually French decided to evacuate the area and Syria got independence in 1946.The post independence was full of political upheavals and military coups from 1949 to 1970 that shook the country.

The Alawite government came in power when Bashar Al-Assad's father Hafez al-Assad seized power in a coup in 1970 after two decades of political instability. He ruled from 1970 to 2000 through a repressive dictatorship and gave Alawites special privileges that is not liked by Sunni Muslims and other groups . After the death of Hafez al-Assad, on June 10, 2000, his son Bashar al-Assad became president in 2000 in an election which he ran unopposed.

Uprising in Syria

Syrian population of 22 millions is composed of ethnic Arab and followers of Sunni Muslims (65%), Christians (~ 10% ), Alawites (a sub sect of Shia ~ 12%) and other minorities. Although Alawites are only 12 % of population, the country has been ruled by Alawites for the last 43 years under emergency laws from 1963 to 2011

Initially the Syrian conflict started around 2011, in wake of uprising against Assad & Ba'athist government, inspired by the Arab Spring Revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, against dictatorship. It began as a chain of peaceful protests by activist who joined hands to have justice and regime change over to establish democracy in Syria and it was followed by crackdown by the Syrian Army. Activists got united and started fighting back and this trend escalated to civil war. Both army and rebel groups continued shelling and bombing various parts of the country trying to terrorized people for submission. Volunteers from other countries joined the rebels either to liberate Syria from secular dictatorship and establish democracy or for their vested interests.

Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad thought that eventually he will have to step down and transfer power to the democratic move started by rebel groups of various ethnicity and religious background. He tried to follow the foot step of his father Hafez al-Assad who in 1982 responded to an uprising led by Muslim Brotherhood, killing thousands to silence the opposition.

Assad and Alawites feared that if they lose power they would be slaughtered by the rebels. To control this situation Assad's forces put resistance by kidnapping and killing opponents activists to defuse the uprising move but it back fired on him as rebels also got united and put stiff resistance. Consequently Syria has become a battle ground representing brutality of the two side. People are fleeing to neighbouring countries and living in refugee camps in miserable conditions.

The bloody war is still going on with no resolution. Innocent peoples are being killed and law and order collapsed to non existence. The united rebel group seems to have fractured due to the up-surge of Muslim extremist & Jihadi group Al-Nusra in Saraqib area . They have taken control of the area and are trying to establish a true Islamic state following literal interpretation of Quran and Sharia laws. al-Assad had also predicted this previously that western intervention will support extremist groups who would like to make Syria an Islamic state and for that purpose foreign extremists are being brought to Syria.

Current crisis (Crises)

Prolong dictatorial control of Syria by al-Assad family and failure of its governance to deliver genuine demands of Syrian people prompted civilian unrest that led to the current crisis and sectarian tensions.

When civilian up-rise started in 2011, various sets of rebel groups were united for a common cause of eradicating dictatorial government of al-Assad and monopoly of Alawite in Syria but with the passage of time the united front of rebel got sub-divided in sectarian groups to advocate and fight for their vested interests. Killing continues from both sides and no one seems to be interested in sighing peace treaty and there is no foreseeable victory for either side while Syrians are fleeing as refugees in neighbouring countries causing instability and humanitarian crisis as conditions in the camps worsening on daily bases.

US and its allies are watching Syrian conditions with interest to see what is in their best interest. Apparently it seems to be a fool's errand to believe that the West cares for Syrian people as US and its allies are advocating. It is generally believed by many that US & its Allies only care for their geo-political interest in that region & trying to find a probable reason to justify a pre-emptive strike on Syria.

Alleged use of chemical weapons by Assad's regime is being propagated out of proportion without providing concrete evidence that only Assad regime had used chemical weapons killing 1429 innocent people although rebels could also have done the same to defame Syrian regime as both sides may have chemical weapons and are capable of using chemical weapons against Geneva Convention that prohibits its use categorically.

US Interest in Syria

Question regarding US interest in dislodging a minority ruler of Alawite decent may relate to the followings.

1. US & Western desire to control Syria through regime change, defuse influence of Hamas, cut supply line to Hamas, reduce on going threat to Israel and then challenge Iran and Pakistan for their nuclear instillations.

2. Close link between Syria and Iran as both being followers of Shias sect of Islam, could possibly support each other in case of any attack on either side, especially on Iran.

3. Iranian Nuclear ambitions is of concern to US and Israel, although, Iran has denied it; US and the West would like to strike Iran and destroy Iranian instillation to reduce threat to Israel and for this purpose it would be in their interest to break the supportive links between Iran and Syria to avoid brotherly support for each other during war.

  • 4. Regime change in Syria would certainly please its most trusted ally in the region, Saudi Arabia where most of the Muslims are of Wahabi sect who do not like shias and there had always been rivalry between the two sects. Though 65% of Syrians are also Sunni but not Wahabi and Syria shares its northern boundary with Turkey, If Assad falls both Saudi Arabia and Turkey could strive for superiority in the post-Alawite Syria.
  • 5. Syria has good brotherly relations with Iran and anti-Israel Hezbollah, both being Shias. Hezbollah in Lebanon is a militant & political organization that is being considered a threat to Israel. Fall of Syrian government will benefit Israel, US and Saudi Arabia.
  • 6. Regime change in Syria will cut supply line to Hezbollah in Lebanon, weakening Hezbollah that means less security threat to Israel.
  • 7. If al-Assad falls, Iran would lose its strategic ally that will weaken Iran's position and influence in the region.
  • 8. American economy relies on war related services and weapon supply. Its current and future economical outlook is not rosy and there is a dire need to boost the economy by opening a new front or indulging in war some where around the world to increase the demand for war related supplies to support ailing economy and opponents pressure on Obama regime.
  • 9. Installing a puppet government in Syria in order to control natural resources & foreign policy of Syria as US and the West did in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya will create a mess that eventually support their falling military based economy.

Russian Stance

Having said above, I would also like to mention that Russia and China are supportive of Assad's stance on use of chemical weapons during the current crisis. Russia support corrective measure through Security council opposing unilateral military intervention by US or its allies. Both Russia and China will block UN Security Council from passing anything that might hurt the Assad regime.

Russian support to Assad is also liked with Russian interest in Syria. It has a naval military base in Syria as a result of military alliance with Syria that is strategically of importance to Russia. Syria buy lot of Russian military export and Russia needs export to support its economy.

Iranian Position

Iran had been facing continuous threats from the West due to its Uranium enrichment plant which American and Israel think will be used to make nuclear arsenels. For Iran, Israel and US are threat and Iran consider Syria as a supportive friend. It uses Syria for shipping arm to Lebanon based militant group Hezbollah and Gaza-based Hamas to keep Israel under pressure. Any change in Syrian governance will cut off supply to Hezbollah and Hamas making Iran very vulnerable.


Under current extenuating circumstances, it is likely that US and the West may launch some limited strikes against Syria but it will not resolve the problem. Killing and atrocities from both side will continue making Syria a battle ground representing brutality of Assad's regime, rebel activists and some extremist group affilated to al-Qaeda, trying to establish an Islamic state and Sharia laws. The union between united rebel for regime change will disintegrate and Islamic Extremist will take over major part of Syria in pursuit of their ambitions to turn Syria a true Islamic state. During last 2 years of fighting Assad regime has lost control of large part of Syria and Muslim extremist have taken over control of some area and trying to establish sharia laws under the influence of jihadi group Al-Nusra.

Russia and China will continue to block American move against Syria either in the form of unilateral military strikes to oust Assad or through UN guide lines. Contrary to that US will continue to put pressure for a regime change in Syria to facilitate Israel's desire to destroy Iranian Nuclear Program and make way to control Pakistan's nuclear arsenels.

Mohammad Ashraf

Winnipeg. Canada


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