Syria's public position is that it won't use its chemical weapons unless some outside state attacks it, but a Reuters report by Samia Nakhoul on Tuesday included some scary news that Bashar al-Assad's regime was close to using them on rebels two weeks ago, but Russia stopped it. The story largely focuses on the cooperation between the United States, Israel, and Russia to stop Syria from using its chemical weapons, and includes some terrifying comments from a diplomat who makes Syria sound a lot like a regime that came to the brink of chemical warfare once already in this conflict. Per Nakhoul:
One Western diplomat in the region said: "There was talk of them using it two weeks ago, but the Russians intervened quickly to stop him.
"If you think how desperate these people are and what they have done in the past, you have to assume they would be prepared to use it. All of us think he (Assad) is capable of using it and will do it if he was pushed to the wall," the diplomat said, referring to credible reports that Assad was preparing to use Sarin gas against Syrian rebels.
But "the Russians got hold of him and told him ‘don't even think about it'".
Since it issued an ominous-sounding warning that its store of chemical weapons would "not be used unless Syria is subjected to external aggression," the Assad regime has tried to distance itself from the notion that it even confirmed having them, with Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi calling the statement "misconstrued," and saying: "When the foreign ministry spokesman says that Syria will not use chemical weapons against its people, then this doesn't mean that Syria has such weapons in the first place." But Russia, the United States, and others still think it does. And even though Syria is not a signatory to the 1992 Chemical Weapons Convention, Russia pointed out on Monday that in 1968 Syria had signed onto a 1925 protocol banning their use. But 87-year-old agreements probably don't hold as much sway as stern warnings from a historic diplomatic friend, so let's hope Russia keeps that pressure up until this whole conflict gets resolved.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.