Conflict & Justice

Syria: Obama warns Assad against use of chemical weapons


A Syrian man carries a wounded girl next to Red Crescent ambulances following an explosion that targeted a military bus near Qudssaya, a neighborhood of the Syrian capital, on June 8, 2012. At least seven people were killed in blasts near Damascus and in Idlib city in Syria's restive northwest, among them four security forces members, a watchdog said.



Syria officially confirmed it owns stockpiles of chemical weapons, the BBC reported on Monday. 

The acknowledgment is not surprising when one considers Syria is a stalwart non-signatory of the Chemical Weapons Convention, which outlaws the development and use of chemical weapons.

The announcement comes after tense speculation over the security of the country’s arsenal. What happens if the Free Syria Army gains control of mustard gas? Would President Bashar al-Assad use chemical agents as a last resort?

Today, Jihad Makdissi, Syria’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, answered the latter.

Makdissi announced at a news conference on Syrian state TV that "No chemical or biological weapons will ever be used, and I repeat, will never be used, during the crisis in Syria no matter what the developments inside Syria," according to the BBC.

But there was a caveat:

"All of these types of weapons are in storage and under security and the direct supervision of the Syrian armed forces and will never be used unless Syria is exposed to external aggression," Makdissi added, according to The Australian.

“Exterior aggression” signals to the international community in unequivocal terms that direct foreign intervention in the state's civil war meets President Assad’s conditions for exploding weapons of mass destruction over Syrian land.

The Guardian reported Syria is suspected of possessing nerve agents and mustard gas, and has the technology and hardware needed to deliver these deadly chemicals. 

Britain’s Foreign Secretary, William Hague, condemned the Assad regime for considering the use of chemical weapons under any circumstances.

"This is typical of the complete illusion of this regime, that they are the victims of external aggression," the Telegraph reported Hague saying. 

Assad has repeatedly alleged the Syrian rebellion is a group of terrorists funded by foreign extremists.

US President Barack Obama also weighed in on the situation on Monday, warning Assad not to make the "tragic mistake" of using chemical weapons, according to Agence France Presse.

Speaking to an audience of US veterans in Nevada, Obama said, "Given the regime's stockpile of chemical weapons, we will continue to make it clear to Assad and those around him that the world is watching."

"They will be held accountable by the international community and the United States should they make the tragic mistake of using those weapons," he said, according to AFP.