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Belmont Club

No Absolution

December 4th, 2012 - 7:56 am

“Misery,” someone told me once, “is poor health and a good memory.” That means there’s plenty of misery in the Middle East, a place where nothing is learned yet nothing is forgotten. The New York Times explains why Assad may in the end use chemical weapons. He knows that he will never be forgiven by his own people, the Allawites if he gives up because if he lives, they die. That is unless they can all come with him to Paris or he can convince Obama to give all of them Green Cards. Hence the only way out for Assad and the Allwites to keep their mortal coils is to get everyone else to shuffle off theirs. Here’s the NYT’s argument:

A Russian political analyst with contacts at the Foreign Ministry said that “people sent by the Russian leadership” who had contact with Mr. Assad two weeks ago described a man who has lost all hope of victory or escape.

“His mood is that he will be killed anyway,” Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of a Russian foreign affairs journal and the head of an influential policy group, said in an interview in Moscow, adding that only an “extremely bold” diplomatic proposal could possibly convince Mr. Assad that he could leave power and survive.

“If he will try to go, to leave, to exit, he will be killed by his own people,” Mr. Lukyanov said, speculating that security forces dominated by Mr. Assad’s minority Alawite sect would not let him depart and leave them to face revenge. “If he stays, he will be killed by his opponents. He is in a trap. It is not about Russia or anybody else. It is about his physical survival.”

If he stays he’ll be killed by his enemies. If he leaves he’ll be killed by his friends.

The Daily Telegraph, which is an ocean away from the NYT in both outlook and physical location has come to the similarly depressing conclusion. David Blair, its chief foreign correspondent writes that “Assad faces an impossible dilemma. From his point of view, the only rationale for using these weapons would be if his downfall would otherwise be absolutely inevitable. On the other hand, if he did choose to gas his enemies, that would be certain to trigger a US-led intervention that would seal his fate anyway. So rationality dictates that he should not use these weapons under any circumstances.”

Perhaps Blair has forgotten the Gotterdammerung. Downfall, remember, Downfall. You can take them with you. Or try at least, if Steiner fails to show up.

Or maybe Assad has passed on the hot potato. Michael Ledeen quotes an Italian newspaper which reports that Hezbollah has gotten the chemical weapons. Not to worry since they have promised to use them only against the Jews.  For a while there diplomats might have been worried that the Syrian rebels had gotten their hooks on it.  Back in July the Daily Telegraph reported the FSA had formed a unit tasked specially with seizing the arsenal led by a man who used to be responsible for protecting it.

“We have a group just to deal with chemical weapons. They are already trained to secure sites,” said Gen Adnan Silou, the most senior ranking member of Bashar al-Assad’s regime to defect and join the FSA.

Until 2008 Gen Silou was charged with the task of drafting emergency response plans should any of Syria’s terrifying array of weapons fall out of the government’s control.

Let’s hope the Syrians have changed the locks on the doors. Or would that be a good thing? One the things that nobody has explained in this mess is who the chemical weapons should be controlled by. Obama doesn’t want Assad’s finger on the trigger. The White House seems doubtful that the Free Syrian Army should have it. Maybe that leaves Hezbollah as the best custodian of the arsenal seeing as how they will only use it to cancel all settlements in East Jerusalem, a subject with which every major Western government with the notable exception of Canada is seriously concerned.

Cause I’m the gasman, oh yeah, the gasman.

Here’s a thought. Maybe we should ship the chemical weapons to Iraq where they have a tendency to magically disappear or put them under the guard of UN Peacekeepers. You know, the ones who are keenly watching Hezbollah in Lebanon. That would secure them forever. At least that would get Assad off the hook and shift the problem to Nasrallah. But then again the Free Syrian Army has already vowed to follow the Hezbollah right into Beirut if they continued to support Assad. “We [vow] to take the battle in Syria to the heart of the [Beirut] southern suburbs if [Hezbollah] does not stop supporting the killer-Syrian regime,” Free Syrian Army spokesman Fahd al-Masri told media outlets Tuesday.

Seems everywhere one turns is yet another dead end, pardon the pun.

The Ophthalmologist of Damascus is in a bind. Assad can’t surrender because his own relatives would kill him if he does, and he can’t hold out because he’s losing to a ‘rebel’ alliance that the International Community is supporting without really wanting it to win. Who knows what happens next? But here’s my fearless forecast. Whichever side loses in Syria will spend the next 1,753 years brooding over this particular incident. This is a region where bad feelings die hard.

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