Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.


The growing turmoil in Syria raises a new crisis everyday or a new spin to an old one. The latest news to fear as President Assad sails into oblivion is whether he will give orders and watch over the enemies of Syria being attacked by the chemical and biological weapons which he and his father have been stock-piling for at least 25 years.  All the anti-Assad rhetoric aside, there is little chance that the West, the Arab League, Israel or even the Russians would be able to destroy all the various locations where his forces probably have stockpiled CBW. 

There probably is so much of CBW, it is so lethal, it is all over the place, and it does not require much preparation. It needs only a proper water source, wind direction, or some other action from Mother Nature to bring about the type of horrible disaster that this material can cause. The crisis,                                                                                                                                                                       unfortunately, has now reached such proportions that it is not clear whether those seeking refuge can even escape.

There is another observation about the current crisis which Stephen Starr explains in a piece in Foreign Policy. Starr, an American living in Syria as a free-lance journalist since 2007, suggested that many of the people he knew in his village outside of Damascus, were at least as afraid of the what might occur after Assad leaves than they are about the way life was under his rule; even now. Starr write that he believed that a sizeable majority of the Christians, Sunnis, Alawites, and Druze living in Jdaydieh Artouz are terribly afraid of a radical Muslim regime taking over and clamping down on the open, pluralistic life that they have enjoyed. From dress, to liquor sales, to religious festivals, most people do not believe that the rebel victory will end well for them. He suggests that this represents the mood throughout much of Syria.

For the people of Jdaydieh Artouz and similar places in Syria it may well be much too late. As one of the comments on Starr’s piece noted, this may be the initial price to be paid for the revolution. As it was in Egypt and even in Libya, the Arab Spring produced a result that was exceedingly disruptive to the status quo and represents the new challenge for the Arab world. 

The people in Jdaydieh Artouz are rather naïve. The Arab world is in turmoil and they assumed that they lived in an oasis! It will be some time before the full spillover from all the Arab ferment truly can be assessed. Change is not simple and rarely follows a straight line. So many people were suffering throughout the years the Assad family ruled Syria with a very tight, punitive fist.  Over the past 18 months the country has exploded. Syria will need to go through a series of phases and trial regimes. Perhaps at the end the idyllic life they enjoyed in Jdaydieh Artouz will return, but they will be fighting for their survival until then, as if they clearly have now begun to do so as the civil war has hit them too.  Imagine what they will feel if and when the CBW hits them too.

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