Can the U.S. be trusted on Syria’s weapons of mass destruction?

As the U.S. worries about weapons in Syria, some in the Middle East worry about the U.S.  

Jack Rodolico By Jack Rodolico

People carry the body of Ahmed Muqrash, whom protesters say was killed by forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. (Reuters/Shaam News Network)

An unstable nation in the Middle East. A population living under an oppressive regime. And the looming threat of weapons of mass destruction.

“Syria or Iraq?” you may wonder.

As the Syrian civil war rages into its 17th bloody month, Western politicians and analysts are increasingly fearful that terrorists could get control over Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s stockpile of chemical weapons.

Just check the headlines: “Syria regime “‘reeling, armed to the teeth’ with chemical weapons” (MSNBC); “Foreign minister warns Israel will act if Syria’s weapons arsenal is breached” (Fox News); “Syria weapons worry Canada” (The Chronicle Herald.)

There’s no doubt that it would be horrific if chemical weapons were unleashed (whether by terrorists or forces loyal to Assad) into an already bloody conflict. (Activists say July is the deadliest month so far with over 2750 dead.)

But, if the U.S. government rattles its saber and calls for a military intervention to secure those weapons, can we be sure that Washington’s fears are trustworthy? We still haven’t found Saddam Hussein’s purported chemical weapon stockpiles in Iraq, after all.

The United Arab Emirate’s The National is skeptical. In an editorial, the newspaper says the U.S. has a poor track record for predicting where and when weapons of mass destruction will turn up:

Have we been here before? A decade ago, the international community was worried about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. They were not concerned that Saddam Hussein had been brutalising his people, or that international sanctions had destroyed whole communities, or that Iraqis – as a direct consequence of sanctions – were living without food and medicine. None of that mattered; only the weapons. Which turned out not to exist.

The editorial is quick to point out that Assad does indeed have chemical weapons:

…the Assad regime admitted as much when it said it would not use its stockpile against civilians, but threatened a chemical-weapon retaliation in the case of foreign intervention.

But The National says the U.S.’ concerns about regional instability are dubious:

The United States said this week that the use of chemical weapons would be ‘unacceptable’. Was it acceptable for the Syrian regime to slaughter its own people? Was it acceptable to rain mortar shells into residential areas, for regime thugs, the shabbiha, to kill women and children? The regime has done all this while the world watches.

At Latitude News, we think it’s important to listen to what the rest of the world has to say about the U.S. But more importantly, we like to know what you think.