So a dictatorial government with proven links to terrorists has admitted to having weapons of mass destruction. The Financial Times has a useful roundup of the latest developments in Syria:
While fierce fighting continued on Tuesday in Damascus and Aleppo, a foreign ministry representative told a press conference that “any chemical or bacterial weapon will never be used – and I repeat will never be used – during the crisis in Syria regardless of the developments.”
Such weapons are “stored and secured by Syrian military forces”, Jihad Makdissi said. But in what was seen as a thinly veiled threat, he added that they would only be used in the event of “external aggression”.
Mr Makdissi speculated that “terrorists” might deploy chemical weapons in Syria and try to pin the blame on regime forces.
Keeping an eye on those weapons and preventing their transfer—to Hezbollah or to terrorists on the other side linked to Al Qaeda or to the Sunni bombers in Iraq—must now be a core objective of U.S. policy. The U.S. is in no position to install a democratic government in Syria or to police the country indefinitely to prevent a civil war. But we need to keep ourselves focused on our vital interests, one of which is keeping chemical and biological weapons out of the hands of terrorists.
This is not going to be easy to accomplish. As the Washington Post reports today, we have very few intelligence assets on the ground in Syria, and we’re still largely dependent on the intelligence services of Jordan and Turkey to get a sense of what’s really going on. Nevertheless, we have to get this right. Most of Syria’s neighbors share our interest in preventing WMD from leaking out to terror groups. And as the Jerusalem Post reported, military and intelligence cooperation between Israel and the U.S. is at an all-time high due to the Syrian crisis.
This tragic mess could end up being a defining foreign policy test of the Obama administration.