In Tony Blair’s essay on the Middle East last weekend, the former British Prime Minister has two assertions about WMD; firstly that the invasion of Iraq in 2003, to which he committed British troops, prevented Saddam Hussein using WMD again, which he [Saddam] had used to kill hundreds of thousands of Kurds and Iranians, and secondly that the International Community (IC) did not know Assad had WMD until he used sarin to kill hundreds at Ghouta, Saraqeb and Aleppo. In the first instance I think he is correct, despite the efforts of the UN and OPCW, Saddam still had the technical expertise and factories around 2003 to manufacture more chemical and biological weapons, and based on past performance I’m sure he would have–as Commander of British CBRN Forces in Iraq 2004-7 I oversaw destruction of some chemical weapons, hence supporting Blair’s assertions. It is also, however, very likely that some of Saddam’s WMD stockpile was moved into Syria 2002-3 and into the hands of the Syrian regime. On the second issue there is no doubt that the IC knew Assad had WMD even prior to the Syrian civil war. In my opinion the IC and perhaps Blair didn’t believe Assad would use his WMD against his own people. (Saddam didn’t, as he certainly didn’t view the Kurds as his ‘own’ people.) I believe the main reason Assad used WMD against his own people, the Opposition, is he didn’t think the IC would react even if he did. Assad knew there was no appetite in the IC for a repeat of the Iraq 2003 invasion and when he did some trial runs with the nerve agent sarin in Aleppo (March 2013) and Saraqeb (May 2013) the IC collectively sat on its hands; in his eyes, presumably, giving him the green light.
Yet again Tuesday (Jun 17, 2014), we have confirmation by the OPCW that the Syrian regime is using chemical weapons, in this case chlorine against its people–50 days after I revealed this in the Telegraph and in this column for 2paragraphs–and the IC continues to sit on its hands. Would a Blair type intervention in March 2013 or US air strikes against WMD targets in October 2013 have made any difference? I don’t think it would have made it any worse than it is at the moment–and we would possibly not have the spectre of ISIS marching on Baghdad; ironically, possibly with some of Saddam’s WMD. However, if there is the slightest sign that ISIS might use WMD or even chlorine the IC must act and hit them [ISIS] very hard. Otherwise this terror will most likely be exported to the IC.