25 April 2018 – The continued existence of Syria’s chemical weapons program contributes to more than a tragic humanitarian situation; its uninhibited use and maintenance has strategic implications for the West and Israel. • Messaging—current civil war, and beyond: There is more to Syria’s continued use of chemical weapons than its tactical battlefield gains. It messages the brutality the regime is willing to direct at Syria’s Sunni majority, which makes up the bulk of rebel forces and holdout enclaves. It also spotlights Assad’s ability to act with impunity without the threat of the Western coalition crippling his war machine, which dissuades future rebellion.
- Proliferation: Faced with limited military action seeking to degrade Syria’s stockpiles and logistical facilities, Assad has shown his intent to continue developing, storing and using these capabilities. Should Syria – backed by Iran and Russia – continue to harbor chemical weapons, it could become the staging ground for the proliferation of such weapons to Hezbollah and other militant groups in the future.
- Deterrence: Syria and Iran have worked together on their chemical weapons programs to strengthen their position against Israel. While this move could be defensive in nature, it could include setting up the potential for a first-use chemical strike to neutralize Israeli military targets such as airbases and command and control centers prior to seizing the Golan Heights before Israeli forces could mobilize its reserves.
Read today’s brief, with expert commentary by: – David Shedd, former acting director, DIA / – James Jeffrey, former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq and Turkey / Doug Wise, former deputy director, DIA / Tony Badran, Research Fellow, Foundation for Defense of Democracies Read full text