We are beginning to doubt whether Bashar Assad is a genuine reformer. Our latest clue comes from NBC News, which reported yesterday that “the Syrian military is prepared to use chemical weapons against its own people and is awaiting final orders from [dictator] Assad.”
As of yesterday, “the nerve agents were locked and loaded inside the bombs,” which “could be dropped onto the Syrian people from dozens of fighter-bombers,” according to the NBC report. “U.S. officials stressed that as of now, the sarin bombs hadn’t been loaded onto planes and that Assad hadn’t issued a final order to use them.” Well, that’s a relief. Or not: “If he does [give the order], one of the officials said, ‘there’s little the outside world can do to stop it.’ ”
The international community is responding. “U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has written to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad urging him not to use chemical weapons,” Reuters reports. Ban told the head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons that “any use of such weapons would be an outrageous crime with dire consequences.” Who knows, Moon may get angry enough to write a second letter.
This seems as good a time as any to mention the Walter Duranty Awards, a brand-new journalism prize for whose inaugural dinner in October this columnist served as master of ceremonies. Winning first prize, edging out CBS’s Bob Simon and What’s Left of Newsweek’s Andrew Sullivan, were Anna Wintour of Vogue and writer Joan Buck, for a March 2011 cover story titled “Asma al-Assad: A Rose in the Desert.”
More at the Taranto link. And more here.