Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

Columns

August 27, 2013

The Pandora's Box in Syria

The images we’ve seen this week are grotesque, disturbing, heart breaking and may be just a preview of things to come.

The chemical attacks – apparently by the Syrian government against rebel strongholds outside of Damascus – have killed an estimated 1,300, including dozens of children.

In a civil war against the Assad regime, more than 100,000 people have been killed as Iran, Russia and Hezbollah have supported the government. But the chilling specter is the potential for al Qaeda to not only take power in this fractured state, or part of it, but to gain control of Syria’s chemical stockpiles.

Former U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar spent the last 20 years of his Senate career trying to prevent this type of attack, forging the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Act that initially took aim at the decaying nuclear, biological and chemical stockpiles in the old Soviet Union. Over time, Nunn-Lugar worked to rid Albania of its chemical stockpiles

In a statement to Howey Politics Indiana, Lugar said recently, “One year ago, while in Moscow, I made a public suggestion that the United States and Russia work together to secure and destroy chemical weapons in Syria. Recent reports on the use of chemical weapons in Syria, and the destabilizing effect the conflict in Syria is having on the broader Middle East, underscore the continuing importance of the United States seeking to work with Russia and our NATO allies to ensure that chemical and biological weapons in Syria and elsewhere are identified and destroyed.”

Lugar was defeated for reelection in the Republican primary in 2012, leaving a void in Congress on who will continue the crusade to stabilize and eliminate the WMD stockpiles. There has been notable success, as states such as Ukraine, Belarus, Albania and Kazakhstan have given up their stockpiles.

But the events in Syria raise the nightmare scenario of terror networks obtaining chemical shells. As Nunn-Lugar officials explained on an August 2007 tour of Russia, one sarin gas shell strapped in C4 plastic explosives and carried in a briefcase could kill tens of thousands of people in a Western subway or sports stadium.

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