By Elizabeth Palmer, CBS News, July 23, 2012
(CBS News) LEBANON - The Syrian dictator threatened Monday to use chemical weapons and biological weapons against any aggression from foreign powers. It's the first time Syria admitted it has weapons of mass destruction.
A Syrian government spokesman drew a line, though, saying the dictatorship would not use those weapons against Syrian civilians.
President Obama had a warning for Assad on Monday: "Given the regime's stockpiles of chemical weapons, we will continue to make it clear to Assad and those around him that the world is watching and that they will be held accountable by the international community and the United States should they make the tragic mistake of using those weapons."
First, in Syria, how would anyone really know which people represented which group...the Free Syrian Army, the undocumented rebels, outside agitators and Syrians fighting for the regime of Assad?
This statement is nothing more than a public declaration of an intent to throw all the legitimate conventions of war to the winds, along with the kind of biological and chemical weapons that would accompany such a declaration. And it will be those biological and chemical clouds that will result in many more casualties, and the U.S. cannot and must not act alone in any kind of reprisal against such a move.
The escalation of this civil war, also known as a proxy war, with major powers having already taken sides, has already resulted in more than 17,000 deaths in the past seventeen months, with July being the most horrific in terms of numbers of casualties. This new "threat" can neither be taken lightly, nor ignored. And everyone around the world has to see clearly that it is a threat too far.
Using biological and chemical weapons on anyone, including so-called foreign interlopers, would constitute a most dangerous escalation, "up with which the world community cannot put" to paraphrase Churchill.
There is already a red line in front of the Iranian nuclear development program, banning the production of nuclear weapons, and now another red line has to be drawn in front of Iran's ally, Syria, in the event that Assad makes good on his cold-blooded threat.
The real question for diplomats is, "Can either or both of these red lines be sustained?"
"Will there by enough resolve among the powers against whose wishes both of these actions are likely to be carried out?" Is there a world leader who can and will tolerate the use of these weapons, chemical, biological in the case of Syria, and nuclear, in the case of Iran?
Is this obviously calculated and co-ordinated campaign by both Iran and Syria conspiratorially, a campaign to unseat President Obama, in the event that military action is no longer avoidable on either one or both fronts?
How does the world community face such a threat(s) without formally engaging in military action that would clearly damage both sides, while murdering hundreds if not thousands?
There is a kind of chilling reaction in the body, for anyone who actually listens to the news that CBC reported tonight, that, taken along with all of the other unsettling stories, adds more fuel to the already warm embers of international conflicts, and heightens the anxiety of people living everywhere.
Will somebody, or a group of leaders somewhere, please take decisive steps to turn the heat down on the thermometer of international tensions, and soon?