The IDF assumed the Syrians would not make ‘first use’ of chemical weapons but would respond with them if Israel attacked Syrian territory with weapons of mass destruction. All that has changed.
Syria changed its status two weeks ago: The regime in Damascus admitted that it had stockpiles of chemical weapons that were ready to be used. The switchover was done casually, in the shadow of that country’s raging civil war. But it seems it deserves more attention than it has received.
The acknowledgment of the chemical weapons came from Syria’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Jihad Makdissi, who merely wanted to clarify that the regime didn’t plan to slaughter its people using weapons of mass destruction. In this way, he inadvertently revealed his country’s chemical capabilities. Syria will never use chemical weapons or any other nonconventional weapon against its own people, he said at a briefing to journalists. They would only be used against an external attack.
That was how he ended the chemical ambiguity that Syria had adopted since the 1970s; he hinted at the existence of biological weapons and, more importantly, made clear that Syria was sticking to its policy of “first use.”