Chemical weapon “red-line” bluff called by Assad

800px-Chemical-warfare-demonstration-RG-208-AA-158-L-025By Kerry Patton
Clash Daily Guest Contributor

Remember all the hoopla about chemical weapons in Syria? Remember the Obama administration claiming if Assad were to use those weapons he would be crossing a “red-line.” Remember how our fearless leader claimed the US would retaliate if such weapons were actually used?

Bashir Assad recently used chemical weapons against his people in Homs and America did absolutely nothing. There was no retaliation at all. American leadership waives a big stick but fails to slap Bashir Assad.

Major General Abulaziz al-Shalal, the head of the Syrian Military Police, announced his defection from the regime to join the rebels. In his announcement, he confirmed the utilization of chemical weapons by the Assad regime.

A world leader should always put their money where their mouth is. Whether anyone agrees with the words said or actions taken, it shows leadership. This one time, we should be grateful President Obama failed to retaliate against Bashir Assad with any military force.

The United States cannot afford to implement any decent sized military action in Syria. Our troops are thin, morale isn’t all that high, and an additional military confrontation wouldn’t be economically feasible. And in all fairness, the recent use of chemical weapons in Homs was merely a trap.

Virtually every nation worth a lick has use of force doctrines comprising of a force continuum. That force continuum and their variants outline use of force escalation and de-escalation.  Not long ago, due to the atrocities Saddam Hussein placed on his people, the West was under the assumption most Middle Eastern states would never comprehend a force continuum doctrine.

Bashir Assad was believed to be one of those dictators who would simply just annihilate his own people should they revolt. As Syria’s revolution ignited, the west grew rapidly concerned over Assad’s chemical weapon stockpile. “How quick would he use these weapons on his own people,” we asked ourselves.

It turns out that Bashir Assad is a pretty good student. Russia has been mentoring the Assad regime for a very long time. One thing Russia understands is a force continuum — especially one dealing with chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. Bashir Assad learn that doctrine from the Russians.

Chemical weapons come in multiple forms. Some are incredibly lethal while other variants are non-lethal. A good chemical weapon force continuum would have the non-lethal variants utilized long before the lethal.

Those who incorporate these weapons pray the non-lethal components get the job done — you know, get the bad guys out of the area where they are not wanted. If they don’t work, move up the ladder and use the next level of lethality.

The recent chemical weapons used in Homs were non-lethal agents. They were similar agents western police forces utilize in crowd control operations. It is likely these chemical weapons comprised of an irritant variation of synthetic capsicum — pepper spray. Very few people have adverse effects to capsicum which causes them to die — meaning, death is extremely rare.

There have been no deaths reported out of Syria caused by the chemical attack in Homs. Reports do exist proving some type of mild chemical weapon was utilized considering multiple Syrians claimed exposure to breathing issues and skin irritation.

This is the only confirmed chemical attack by a former pro-Assad military leader — Major General Abulaziz al-Shalal. Others have reported that chemical weapons have been utilized in the cities of Damascus, Idlib, and Hama. Syrians have stated they know of at least 18 chemical weapon attacks which caused death to civilians. Again, other than the word of those on the ground, nothing has been “confirmed.”

Does anyone else see a problem here? Locals on the ground in Syria have confirmed chemical weapons have been used yet the US government will not acknowledge such. 

Don’t take the word of those on the ground. Take the word of the doctors in the hospitals that have treated these victims. Better yet, let’s take the word of Russian chemical weapon doctrine.

Remember that use of force continuum? It just so happens to be that Syria is following Russia’s chemical warfare strategy — conduct some small scale non-lethal chemical attacks and pray more players come to the rescue. When they come, ambush them with large scale lethal chemical warfare.

President Obama authorized the deployment of approximately 400 US troops to Turkey on December 14th. They are intended to serve as a deterrence force in an attempt to persuade Bashir Assad from cross border violence and the use of chemical weapons.

That small contingency will do little good and surely will not deter Assad from incorporating chemical warfare — chemical warfare he has already used against his people.

Magically, chemical weapons work best through what is known as a plume. Plumes are clouds of chemical components trapped in winds which carry them far and wide allowing the most effect over a greater area. Sending 400 troops on Turkey’s border does nothing but expose US forces to the dangers of Syria’s chemical weapons.

Sending conventional forces into Syria would be catastrophic. Sending US forces into Turkey will be worthless. President Obama does however need to respond to these incidents whether we like it or not. He has fueled the fire of our enemies too many times by emboldening them through empty words.

The best thing President Obama could do is allocate a relatively small amount of funding to unique entities that will support the seculars fighting against the Assad regime. These unspoken entities should assist in medical training, internet connectivity, intelligence, planning, and organizational structuring.

Through these measures, President Obama would be executing a known US covert activity (non-clandestine) showing the world he understands proxy warfare and how to fight against rogue regimes. It will relieve US military forces and allow an opportunity to show true allegiance to our allies who are already engaged in such activities — France, the UK, and several Middle Eastern nations such as Qatar.

Bashir Assad called the West’s bluff when it comes to crossing any “red-line.” A window of opportunity exists for Barrack Obama to show he wasn’t bluffing. Will he capitalize on that open window remains a question needing an answer. Seculars fighting against Syria’s dictator are keeping their fingers crossed.

Kerry Patton, a combat disabled veteran, is the author of Contracted: America’s Secret Warriors (Quiet Owl Books). You can follow him on Facebook or at

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