US President Barack Obama chaired an emergency meeting with his security officials to discuss the development in the Syrian crisis after hundreds of innocent civilians were killed in a chemical attack in Ghouta, Damascus. The Syrian regime is accused of using chemical weapons, without an independent investigation, writes Arab journalist Abdelbari Atwan.
The emergency meeting coincides with another between US, French, British, Saudi Arabian and Qatari military officials in Amman on Monday to discuss the Syrian crisis. The Sunday Times newspaper said that Obama had discussed Syrian targets which could be attacked by the US from the warships stationed off the Syrian coast, and currently inside Syria, during a conversation with British PM David Cameron.
The Syrian opposition says it has evidence and proof of the use of chemical weapons, challenging the regime to allow UN officials to inspect the attacked areas. The regime denies these accusations, and claims to have counter evidence against the opposition. The Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said on Sunday that the Syrian regime was willing to cooperate with the UN inspectors and allow them to visit the attacked areas.
The reaction from foreign officials has been swift. British Foreign Minister, William Hague, backed the opposition and called for a foreign intervention. On the other hand, Sergey Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister said he stood by the regime’s version of events, adding that his country has documented evidence against the opposition; with China and Iran adopting similar positions.
Crucial 48 hours
The next 48 hours are likely to be critical in the Syrian crisis. If President Obama decides that the Syrian regime has crossed the red line, and used chemical weapons, this could turn into a green light to start bombing Syrian military airports and bases, which could trigger a third world war, because Russia, China and Iran, Damascus’s allies will not stand and watch.
If the Syrian regime is confirmed as the guilty party, it would not hesitate to use these weapons on a larger scale, both against the opposition and likely Israel, to mix the cards; Assad has often threatened that he will not fall alone, and will take others with him.
Jihad Maqdisi, former spokesman of the Syrian Foreign Ministry, surprised the whole world a year ago when he said in a press conference that the regime has chemical and biological weapons but that they would only be used in the case of any foreign aggression against Syria, and never against the Syrian people.
The regime’s enemies are known, and those from outside who are interfering in the situation are also known – Israel and US, according to the regime.
Intervention may be imminent, judging by the movement of US warships into the Mediterranean off the Syrian coast. The regime may not use these weapons against the Syrian people, but they may be used against Syrian opposition groups who the state sees as extremists associated with the West.
We are facing a new and dangerous development in the Middle East. Everyone is currently on the edge, holding their breath, in fear and panic, waiting for the first shot, or the first missile, which will open hell’s doors in the region and the whole world.
Either the chemical weapons crisis will lead to a Third World War, or to convince all parties, particularly the Russian and US, of the need to return to the Second Geneva Conference seeking a peaceful solution, to close this file as soon as possible.
The Syrian regime must know that this war will never be settled in its favour, regardless of advances made on the ground in some areas and despite . the weakness of the armed opposition and the divisions between its groups.
Some Gulf states, led by Saudi Arabia, which supports the Syrian opposition with money and weapons, are using financial muscle to put pressure on the US to intervene militarily. These countries must realise that they made a huge mistake when they thought that the Syrian regime would fall within a few months, like the Gaddafi regime or the Ali Abdullah Saleh regime in Yemen. They should correct this mistake by supporting the political solution, rather than supporting US military intervention.
We need to be wise and foresee the dangers ahead. If both sides persist in dealing with the Syrian file with sectarian zeal and thirsty for revenge, what happened in Lebanon with the bombing of Sunni mosques in Tripoli in response to the car bombs of the southern Shiite suburbs in Beirut, as well as the sectarian war in Iraq, is what we will see in Syria.
We cannot ignore the Iraqi scenario, or forget that the country was destroyed under the pretext of a lie about weapons of mass destruction; the former regime has been replaced by chaos and fragmentation as a result of the US occupation. Some opposition figures provided irrefutable evidence about president Saddam Hussein’s possession of these weapons, and the rest, as they say, is history.
The question that cannot be avoided is: What happens if after a US military intervention in Syria, we realise that the regime actually did not use chemical weapons in Damascus, and that the opposition used them to justify US intervention? The world must be sure.
I know very well that my point of view will fall on deaf ears, or perhaps even cynicism under the current media disinformation campaigns that we are currently witnessing via satellite, but I have to put it out there regardless.