Syrian President Bashar Hafez al-Assad is being pushed on all sides at the moment and has all but lost Idlib province to the rebels who now seem intent on taking his homeland as they advance on Latakia. Rebels are also pushing in the south and ISIS dominate the East. Assad appears surrounded and trapped. Reports by Reuters on May 8, 2015 suggest that the Regime still possess stocks of the nerve agent Sarin and the much more deadly VX. Assad is limited to barrel bombing civilians with high explosive and chlorine as his current means of defense, but is still killing thousands per week. I have previously in this column called for a No Fly Zone in NW Syria to save these people and I continue to support the Syrian National Council, many NGOs and Ambassador Powell’s efforts in this area at the UN Security Council.
The last time Assad was this hard pressed by the Opposition was August 2013 in Damascus. He had fought the Rebels for 18 months conventionally, and appeared to be on the point of falling, as now. In response Assad unleashed 1000KGs of deadly Sarin gas which killed up to 1500 people, mainly women and children in a couple of hours on 21 August 13. This stopped the Rebels in their tracks and created paralysis among the International Community — paralysis which has pretty much lasted to today. Now that Assad appears to have the very much more deadly VX in his arsenal, there is little doubt in my mind that he will use this horrendous weapon as he looks defeat in the eyes. The casualty toll could be 10x that of Ghouta if VX is the weapon. A No Fly Zone would certainly make this chemical strike more difficult, and hopefully the full intelligence resources of the US and Coalition are focused on any movement which might suggest a chemical attack and prepared to prevent it with airpower. The International Community ‘sat on its collective hands’ after the Halabja Genocide of 21 March 1988 and did the same after Ghouta in 2013. It is surely incomprehensible that we will allow a third chemical genocide in a generation.