While Syria doesn’t have nuclear weapons, it is believed to have a rather large supply of chemical weapons, and outsiders have expressed concern that the regime could potentially use them against its own people.
In August, President Barack Obama warned that the use of such weapons — or even just moving the weapons around — constituted a red line that, if crossed, would spark some unspecified reaction by the United States.
White said that his view on whether Assad’s regime would use its stockpiles of chemical weapons against its people have changed.
“I used to say that I did not believe that the regime would use chemical weapons against its own people. I don’t believe that anymore,” he said. “I believe, you know, they may well use it against their own people in extremis.”
White added that he thinks the regime was readying some chemical weapons several weeks ago as fighting intensified in and around Damascus and it looked like the rebels could threaten the airport there.
But there are other scenarios in which he could imagine chemical weapons being employed.
“It could be rogue use — a commander with both the weapons and access to the means to deploy them could use them,” he said.
“Could be a demonstration use to, you know, terrorize population in a given area, try to break the link between the civilian population and the armed elements and so on. Or it could be an actual military or tactical operational use to try to stop something or achieve a change in the military situation.”
“I think we should be prepared to see that happen,” he stated.
Andrew Tabler, a senior fellow a the Washington Institute who lived in Syria for eight years, said that though the regime may soon fall, he doesn’t believe that will be the last of the fighting.
“I think one phase of the battle is over, but I don’t think the struggle, or the war, over Syria will be complete for sometime,” he said during his presentation.
“While the regime’s forces seem close to the breaking point in large parts of Syria, the Assad regime, either as an organized force or a reconstituted Alawi-led popular army … may be positioned to fight in one form or another for some time in different parts of Syria,” he added.
“It will be not only to maintain their grip on the country, but also to probably maintain the security and safety of the Alawi population and the other minorities.”