The Genie is Out of the Bottle
By Jon Snow
Note – This item was posted on the Channel 4 (UK) website at this location http://blogs.channel4.com/snowblog/nuclear-strikes-syria-genie-bottle/20846 on August 05, 2013, and has since been removed. A copy can still be found at Google Cache – and has been recovered and archived below.
The fight against Assad’s brutal regime has taken an unexpected turn late Thursday afternoon when a large weapons cache belonging to the so-called national protection force in Homs city, an arm of Assad’s Shabeeha, was destroyed.
The explosion was reminiscent of the attack on Qasyoon mountain, a stronghold for the Syrian army and a location said to house missiles targeting Israel.
It was first reported that the missile fueling station had blown up which seemed like a reasonable proposition especially since an ammunition depot was targeted.
But the two explosions in Homs and Qasyoon share the same property: They are both above ground air bursts according to Greg Thielmann, an expert on arms control policy whom I spoke with on Saturday at great length. I was first alerted to the connection by slow twitter chatter right after the bombing in Homs.
Needless to say I was shocked at what he told me next: “The fact of the matter is, what we are seeing in both these cases is a tactical nuclear strike, probably by cruise missiles launched from aircrafts near the borders of Syria or right off the coast in the Mediterranean.”
But sure, Greg, wouldn’t this mean a nuclear holocaust? Not so he says. “Tactical nuclear weapons lower the threshold on use of a nuclear bomb as their modern incarnation can be tuned in yield in order to target military sites using stand off weapons without escalating by destroy surrounding civilian infrastructure.”
He went on: “Keep in mind a nuclear bomb sounds like a huge device, but it can have a yield as small as the equivalent conventional payload carried by a formation of 5 F-15s. Sites in Syria are inaccessible to these jets due to the Russian support available in the field of air defense. So these strikes are an option for the west to implement its policy.”
The likely assailant in both cases is Israel he claims: “Israel is the only nation that can deploy these sorts of weapons with impunity without fear of a counter-attack. Syria has shown no appetite to get into a shooting fight even over the deployment of such weapons”.
This all presented a remarkably delicious possibility of removing the tyrant Assad using all tools available. “The army can be gradually destroyed with these sort of strikes, or destroyed all in one go in a devastating nuclear attack. Should Assad attempt to counter-attack, the cities can be destroyed by larger nuclear bombs with ease, since the insurgents have done the job of deteriorating Assad’s command on the ground”, an anonymous military strategist added.
What about the coast, I asked him? “The coast does present a problem for suppression of air defense missions by NATO due to Russian missiles stationed there, but as I speak hordes of Muslims are throwing themselves on coastal cities in the hopes of destroying these weapons to allow Israel and NATO to intervene.”.
This made no sense to me since the coastal cities are amongst the most supportive of Assad. “It’s not an issue, the insurgents are now armed with chemical weapons manufactured in Georgia exactly for this scenario. Assad’s pulse was tested in Khan Assal a week ago when an entire brigade was killed with chemical weapons and there was no response. We don’t see a likely response to further use of this tool.”
I concluded with him that it is awfully ironic that an inhuman weapon such as nuclear weapons and chemical weapons could be used to promote human rights and freedom in the world. But the Syrian people, or at least who will remain of them after these attacks, deserve to enjoy the same freedoms enjoyed today by Iraqis.
“Don’t be so sure”, another anonymous strategist disagreed, “We are now playing with nuclear fire and the use of all these weapons of mass destruction will definitely attract a counterattack with massive force. We are now on a slippery slope, there is no such thing as a limited nuclear strike, the retaliation will be delayed, but it is coming and god save us all when the nuclear fire spreads to our backyards.”
Spooky stuff. All I know is, I’ll be spending time in my summer home in the woods for the next few weeks.