The Syrian helicopter flight over Turkey fabricated first Assad obstacle to chemical weapons handover
Syrian Prime Minister Waal al-Khalqi knew what he was talking about when he said Monday, Sept. 16 that the Assad regime had plenty more assets up its sleeve for harming Israel and achieving strategic balance – even after surrendering its chemical weapons to international control. The Russian ships already on their way to Syria loaded with munitions for Bashar Assad’s army demonstrate the justice of his words.
Indeed the Syrian ruler would not have agreed to let go of his chemical arsenal without being certain of two major hindrances and two big rewards:
1. Syria’s chemical arsenal cannot be destroyed in its entirety – only a very small part thereof. Like most of the rhetoric surrounding the issue, the pledge the OPCW chairman Ahmet Uzumcu of Turkey gave the UN Secretary – that “the organization will move swiftly to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapon stockpile” – is more hot air than substance.
The Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons – OPCW – is a small outfit which lacks the manpower and funds for this Herculean task; America alone is competent to perform it. It goes without saying that the Obama administration is not in the business of deploying thousands of US military personnel on the ground – even if Moscow and Damascus were amenable.
Washington might conceivably agree to train international personnel in the dismantling of chemical weapons. But that too would take a year or more. Special Syrian rebel units under US-Jordanian command have been taught how to handle chemical weapons in Jordan, but Assad is hardly likely to let them set foot in the country.
2. The second obstacle was concocted by the Assad regime Monday, by sending an M-17 transport helicopter usable as a gunship against ground targets into Turkish air space. The Turkish Air Force downed the intruder over the southern Malatya region after it failed to heed several warnings, although the helicopter could have been forced to land in Turkey or chased back across the border.
The Turks therefore fell into the trap laid at their feet by Assad. The incident sent border tensions into a violent tailspin, and provided Damascus and Moscow with the pretext for backing out of the chemical weapons deal under the oversight of an international organization, so long as OPCW was headed by a Turkish official, who is moreover, a close friend of Turkey's anti-Assad Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
2. Before consenting to dismantling his poison gas arsenal, Assad obtained Moscow’s promise in advance, according to debkafile’s intelligence sources, to send his army without delay large consignments of advanced weapons systems.
Those shipments are presented as compensating the Syrian government for the loss of its chemical option against the Syrian rebels. In fact, Assad comes out of the US-Russian deal not only fortified militarily, but holding a long-life guarantee. Part of his chemical stockpile will remain available to his armed forces and at the same time, they hit the jackpot for top-line items in the Russian armory.
3. This long-life guarantee was also cemented by the accord US Secretary of State John Kerry signed with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva Saturday, Sept. 14. The monitoring and destruction of his chemical stockpiles will certainly be protracted. As long as the process drags on, Assad is assured of staying in power, as the only party capable of bringing it to fruition, however slim that prospect is. Without him, the US-Russian accord is dead and buried.
The report published by the UN chemical experts Monday offered nothing new that was not unknown about his regime’s culpability of the Aug. 21, attack. It did not bother Assad one whit.
It is therefore hard to see the point of Israel Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon’s remarks that the US-Russian deal for Syria “proved that a credible threat of force could bring about diplomatic solutions for disarming dangerous rogue regimes of weapons of mass destruction.”
The Geneva accord merely laid the ground for a Western PR campaign under the tutelage of John Kerry to demonstrate a false breakthrough for ending the barbaric Syrian war. However, on the ground, nothing has changed; the war continues with unparalleled savagery and the threats to its neighbors from Syria and the Lebanese Hizballah are still in force.