Note From Hamish de Bretton-Gordon: I was on the Syrian Border last week analysing samples from recent chlorine attacks in Syria and this evidence was presented by Ambassador Powell to the UNSC last week, along with a video and testimony from the doctor who treated the casualties.
On March 16,2015 a family of six sheltered in their cellar in a town called Sarmin in Syria from aerial bombardment, just as those soldiers did in 1915 at Ypres during the first chlorine attack 100 years ago. The heavier-than-air gas found and killed them in their trenches and their cellar. The major chemical attack in the Syrian civil war occurred at Ghouta in Damascus on August 21, 2013, when the Assad Regime dropped up to 1000KGs of nerve agent Sarin, killing up to 1500 people–mainly women and children. The Rebels were pushing Assad very hard in Ghouta and many believe he was on the point of defeat after fighting them [rebels] for 18 months, and he [Assad] used chemical weapons as a last ditch effort to stave off defeat. It worked–spectacularly. The UK Government voted not to take military action after Ghouta and elected not to support President Obama’s plan for strategic strikes to take down Assad’s command and control and destroy key sites and chemical weapons facilities. The British vote unfortunately made Obama recalibrate. I for one, believe it is the greatest strategic military mistake this century, which kept Assad in power, another thousands more dead and injured, and fueled the rise of Islamic State. Had the attacks gone ahead as the US wanted, the ensuing situation would certainly not be worse than it is today, and at the other end of the scale the Assad Regime could have fallen and ISIS could have been stopped in its tracks.
In my opinion, the only hope of stopping the chemical attacks in Syria is some sort of No Fly Zone. But it has to be limited. A complete NFZ would be difficult for the Coalition to police and bring them [Coalition] into conflict with Syria and Iran who are also fighting ISIS with jets. However, a limited NFZ should be achievable and is the only realistic demonstrative action the UN could take in response to these continuing chemical attacks. In the last four months 90% plus of the chlorine attacks have been in Idlib Province and even as Ambassador Powell and others briefed the UNSC last Thursday on the March 16 atrocities in Sarmin, chlorine barrel bombs were allegedly being dropped on Idlib City. Hence a limited NFZ over Idlib Province, for just helicopters, which is how the barrel bombs come, should be militarily and politically achievable. There is no ISIS activity in this area, so the Regime could not claim it would affect its battle against them [ISIS]. This could possibly appease the Russians to abstain rather than veto this proposal. And in military terms with the Coalition command and control structure in place over Syria and Iraq to prosecute the air campaign against ISIS, this limited NFZ should be achievable in policing and prosecution terms.