The regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad crossed a line today by firing at least six Scud missile on the Syrian people, apparently in a desperate attempt to send a message to the Syrian rebels fighting against Assad.
The missile, which became well-known to Americans during the first Gulf War conflict because they were used by Saddam Hussein, evoked worry from experts around the world because it indicated Assad will stop at nothing to stay in power. Some observers are concerned that the Scud missile could be the regime’s way of testing the range for a chemical weapons attack on Syrians. Thus far, the 21-month conflict in Syria has resulted in more than 44,000 deaths, with more than 2,300 children killed.
President Obama and other leaders have warned Assad that he would be crossing the line by using chemical weapons against his own people and such a move would provoke a severe reaction.
“Today I want to make it absolutely clear to Assad and those under his command: The world is watching,” Obama said on Dec. 3. “The use of chemical weapons is and would be totally unacceptable. And if you make the tragic mistake of using these weapons, there will be consequences and you will be held accountable.”
Benjamin Barry, a weapons expert at the International Institute of Strategic Studies, a London think tank, told the Telegraph, “The most likely explanation is that it indicates the diminishing capability of the regime’s air force to hit rebel areas, either because they are running out of pilots or the rebel air defenses are doing too much damage.”
The Washington Post interpreted the use of the Scuds as possibly a warning to other nations considering offering aide to the rebels.
“We condemn this in the strongest possible terms. It demonstrates the appalling brutality of the regime and its desperation to go to any lengths to deny his people their legitimate aspiration,” a spokesman for the British Foreign Office told the Telegraph.
“Assad must be getting desperate,” said British MP Adam Holloway. “He put himself on a par with Saddam Hussein and, given the losses he’s suffered, it makes you think there is nothing he wouldn’t do.”
As the world learned of the Scuds, 114 countries were meeting in Morocco on Wednesday to recognize the Syrian Opposition Coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people. Such a recognition could mean that outside forces could act to arm the rebels against Assad.