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Damascus unlikely to use chemical weapons.

ANKARA (CyHAN)- Despite the grave concerns of the international community regarding the use of chemical weapons by Syria, analysts agree that embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime would not dare use chemical weapons as this would be a direct reason for a possible intervention into war-torn Syria.

"The Syrian regime will not dare use chemical weapons. Neither Russia nor Iran, two close allies of the regime, would allow this to happen because chemical weapons would be a strong legitimate reason for a possible intervention," Mehmet Seyfettin Erol, the head of Ankara's International Strategic and Security Research Center (USGAM), told Sunday's Zaman.

While there has been intense fighting on the ground, particularly in Damascus, in the past few days, there is also growing international concern that the Syrian regime is contemplating the use of chemical weapons.

Due to these concerns, Assad has been warned that the use of chemical weapons would trigger direct military intervention against him from the West, which has so far declined to intervene in Syria's civil war.

However, the West started to consider a military intervention openly after US media reports recently said that the Syrian military had been detected moving around and readying chemical weapons.

US officials said the White House and its allies are weighing military options to secure Syria's chemical and biological weapons.

On Thursday, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad denounced claims that the Syrian government might be preparing to resort to chemical weapons. He said the chemical weapons "chorus" was part of a conspiracy that is possibly laying out the foundations for a military intervention in Syria, calling accusations that Syria would use these weapons against its own people "disgusting."

Ali Hussein Bakeer, an expert at the Ankara-based International Strategic Research Organization (USAK), said theoretically in these conditions, the regime could use chemical weapons, but in practice it was not an easy task to control chemical weapons and their implications. "Therefore, the possibility of Assad using these weapons is weak. These weapons may affect the neighboring countries, which might keep the regime in a more difficult position," Bakeer told Sunday's Zaman.

Turkey requested that NATO deploy Patriot missile defenses last month, following intelligence that the Syrian government was considering using missiles and chemical weapons on opposition areas, the Guardian newspaper reported recently.

Turkish officials reportedly told the Guardian they had credible evidence that if the regime's standard attacks on opposition areas failed, the government would consider using missiles and chemical weapons.

However, experts believe that the Syrian regime would not make such a tragic mistake, which would be a deadly blow to its existence.

"I am sure Assad was planning to use chemical weapons, but after the harsh warnings from the US and its allies, the regime would not dare to because the regime knows that there would be an intervention in Syria directly in such a case. Assad is aware of the danger this time," Fawaz Tello, a prominent dissident who resigned from the Syrian National Council (SNC) last May, told Sunday's Zaman.

Tello believes that the regime will collapse from within, not by military intervention. "Opposition forces are advancing currently. The regime is going to collapse in Damascus," said Tello.

The fighting over the past few weeks in and around Damascus has been the most serious in the capital since July, when Syrian opposition forces captured several neighborhoods before a swift government counteroffensive swept them out.

According to Bakeer, since the recent establishment of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) has become more serious with regard to the necessity of uniting its units and intensifying its operations, especially in Damascus, Assad's stronghold. "The strategic assets of the regime have started to fall one after another, including air defense bases, military airports, armories, missile battalions, barracks, border checkpoints and supply routes," said Bakeer.

Meanwhile, the UN recently suspended operations in embattled Syria and began withdrawing its staff as the brutal civil conflict raged. The UN said it was withdrawing most of its international staff from Syria due to security concerns.

"We are near the end. The withdrawal of the UN is a sign before the fall of the regime," said Tello.

The UN pullout coincided with the US voicing concerns that Assad's forces might be weighing up the use of chemical weapons.

Given the latest developments in the region such as the UN withdrawal from Syria, the NATO approval of Patriot missile deployment in Turkey and the debate over chemical weapons, experts believe the Syrian crisis is heading through a new critical phase.

"The new phase in the crisis will have a military dimension. A process leading to a military intervention seems to have opened. NATO has started to put more weight on the Syrian crisis. Although the Patriots are a symbolic issue, it is an indication of NATO being dragged into the Syrian crisis," said Erol.

NATO agreed on Tuesday to send Patriot missiles to Turkey to defend against a possible Syrian missile attack and voiced grave concern about reports that Damascus may be preparing to use chemical weapons.

Mohammad al-Abdallah, executive director at the Syria Justice and Accountability Center (SJAC), told Sunday's Zaman that the deployment of the Patriots was to deter Assad. "I don't think that Assad will dare use chemical weapons," said Abdallah.

The Patriot batteries in Turkey will be linked to NATO's air defense system and will be under the alliance's command and control. If a Syrian missile were to be fired at Turkey, long-range radar systems would identify the missile's trajectory and cue the Patriot batteries to take countermeasures.

Germany, the Netherlands and the United States plan to provide Patriot missile batteries. Deployment is expected to take several weeks, given the need for approval by national parliaments and the logistics of delivering the missiles. Germany's cabinet on Thursday approved sending German Patriot air defense missiles to Turkey to protect the NATO member against possible attacks from Syria, in a major step toward a possible Western military role in the Syrian conflict.

Ankara, which has been highly supportive of the Syrian opposition to Assad's regime, says it wants the Patriots to defend against possible retaliatory attacks by Syrian missiles carrying chemical warheads.

A senior NATO commander said on Wednesday that the Patriot defense missile that NATO approved for deployment in Turkey could be used to intercept Syrian missiles with chemical warheads.

Syria is reported to have an array of artillery rockets, as well as short- and medium-range missiles in its arsenal -- some capable of carrying chemical warheads.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoy-lu has claimed that the Syrian regime has some 700 missiles and that Ankara knows exactly where they are, how they are stored and who controls them. (Cihan/Sundays Zaman) CyHAN

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Publication:Cihan News Agency (CNA)
Date:Dec 9, 2012
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