The Israelis, for good reason, fear that in the chaos of the dictatorship's collapse, Syrian WMDs could "disappear" into the arms dumps of terror groups like Lebanon's Hezbollah. Hezbollah possesses rockets that can carry chemical warheads. So when reports appeared in early July that Syria was consolidating its WMD stockpiles, Israel indicated that if the Assad regime collapses, it may seize those stockpiles in order to protect them from Hezbollah.
Meanwhile, on the Turkey-Syria border: Since the downing of a Turkish Air Force jet last month, Turkey has beefed up its military forces. Turkey has even implied that Syrian security forces approaching Turkey may risk attack by Turkish forces.
Turkey claims that it has not provided military aid to Syrian rebels. Military aid, possibly provided by Gulf Arab states, is reaching the rebel Free Syrian Army. It may arrive via Iraq or Lebanon, but Syria insists the bulk comes through Turkey.
Though he did not explicitly articulate the threat, Makdissi's WMD statement reminded the Israeli and Turkish governments that Syrian missiles with chemical warheads could kill thousands of Israeli and Turk civilians. They have an implied choice: Turkey and Israel must refrain from any military action and stop supporting Syrian rebels, or they risk a regional chemical war.
The WMD statement also sends another dreadful message, one directed toward the entire planet, including Syrian rebels: "If we die, you may die, as well." If the regime falls, then the evil genie of mass death may escape to haunt the Middle East and potentially the world. To avoid this horror, follow Russia's and China's lead, and support Assad's tyranny. In this context, the WMDs serve as an insurance policy, wrapped within a suicide pact.
This is "apres nous, le Deluge" brinksmanship, a tin-pot 21st century version of mutual assured destruction (MAD) thermonuclear brinksmanship, but then the Assad regime is on the brink. North Korea's Kim regime already plays this game. Iran's ayatollah tyranny may one day, as well.
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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