While the Jewish world and the international community was focused on the U.N. debate and vote to change the Palestinian Authority’s status to non-member observer in the international body, there was a dramatically escalating crisis in Syria which was barely on the radar screen. Three signs have emerged within the past several days which should have pontificators at the U.N. truly concerned and not whether the Palestinians will or will not be able to bring charges against Israeli leaders before the International Court of Justice in the Hague as a result of its new found status.
First, the Syrian rebels apparently now have weapons to shoot down Syrian MIGs. As reported the rebels forces downed a MIG yesterday and even captured a pilot. The implications are that at least in Aleppo the rebel forces have begun to receive serious weapons which could dramatically shift their ability to respond to Assad’s forces. Whether the weapons come from regular Syrian stashes or from newly supplied sources is not clear; but in either case it will intensify the nature and intensity of the growing conflict.
Second, as reported today the U.S.—and undoubtedly other NATO countries– are considering becoming more actively involved in trying to end the Syrian bloodbath. Whether this will be through humanitarian assistance and/or non-fly zones and/or increased military aid is unclear; but that it is becoming an reasonable possibility is clear. Coupled with increased defensive capabilities for Turkey (which were probably already confirmed during Secretary Clinton’s recent meetings in Cairo during the Gaza crisis), the U.S. is preparing to assume an elevated presence in the conflict.
Finally, reports appear to confirm that Syria has cut off internet service as well as telephone and mobile phone connections. If that situation persists, it might well suggest that the Assad regime was preparing to cover up its final last maneuver. Assad may well be hatching his escape or he is concocting for the final crushing of the rebels with the use of chemical and biological weapons, stockpiled throughout the country. In either case the major fear, aside from the tragic humanitarian one—the use of chemical and biological weapons against the opposition forces—may be about to happen.
The West understands that the use of these CBW weapons would be capable of initiating an horrific end to the current civil war. Whether Assad will resort to this option is unclear; whether the West and Israel can wait to see if this will happen also is unclear; whether any exit for Assad can still be negotiated appears to be unlikely; but events of the last few days suggest that the possible use of CBW could be imminent and may necessitate action.