Bashar El-Assad Has Done It. What Is Obama Going To Do?
30 August 2013
By Khalid Amayreh
The latest reports from Damascus speak of a horrific
genocidal massacre of civilians on the outskirts of
the Syrian capital, reportedly resulting from the use
of deadly chemical gases, including the lethal nerve
Sarin agent, by the regime forces.
Amateur videos appearing on al-Jazeera Arabic
Wednesday showed numerous children and young men
sprawled out on hospital beds and tile floors, many of
them not moving while others were being treated with
In the meanwhile, Muhammed el-Said, a Syrian
opposition official, was quoted as saying that at
least 1200 men, women and children died when Assad
forces fired missiles contained chemical agents from
the Qassion hilltop on several villages in the
Capital's countryside. Other sources said the death
toll may reach or exceed the thousand figure. As many
as 5000 were reported injured in the massacre.
Haitham el-Maleh, a prominent political opponent of
the Assad regime, who was interviewed by al-Jazeera
Arabic, said most of the victims died while sleeping,
apparently after inhaling the deadly gases.
If ascertained, the attack would be the deadliest
chemical atrocity ever since the outbreak of the
Syrian revolution against the Assad regime in 2011.
It is widely believed that more than 120,000 Syrians
have died so far in the confrontations between the
mostly-Sunni rebels and government forces, controlled
to a large extent by the Alawite minority from which
Assad hails. The Alawhites, who constitute some 9-12%
of Syria's population, are an off-shoot of Shiite
Islam. Iran, Hizbullah and Iraqi volunteers are
fighting in large numbers alongside the Assad regime.
The Syrian authorities have denied any connection to
the latest massacre, which occurred as a UN team
investigating the use of chemical weapons in Syria was
to begin working in Syria.
However, the Syrian government's denials seem to carry
little credibility, given the regime's notorious
record of mendacity.
It is uncertain what prompted the Assad regime to
embark on the latest game-changing atrocity.
Some observers would think that Assad might have been
emboldened by the feckless and indecisive western
stand toward the Egyptian crisis, especially the death
in recent days and weeks of more than a thousand
Islamists at the hands of the Egyptian police and
"Assad doesn't take the American and western threats
seriously. He might have reasoned that the Obama
administration, which has stood passive and idle
watching the regime murder 100,000 Syrian citizens,
wouldn't mind seeing the regime murder a few more
thousands, even through the use of chemical weapons,"
said Muhammed Elqique, a Palestinian journalist and
Elqique added that Assad might has got a certain
feeling that the West is giving him a sort of carte
blanch to exterminate Syrians in the thousands but not
in the hundreds of thousands.
"As long as he makes sure that the killing is not on a
genocidal scale and doesn't assume a systematic
nature, he (Assad) thinks that things would remain
within the manageable sphere even if chemical weapons
were used on a moderate scale."
Last year, President Obama said that the use of
chemical weapons by the Syrian regime would be a
game-changer and an inviolable redline.
However, it remains to be seen if Obama will be
willing to act on his warnings, especially if the
Assad regime's involvement in the latest atrocity is
established beyond any reasonable doubt.
Khalid Amayreh is an American-educated journalist
based in the occupied Palestinian territories.