When I wrote in a previous post that Assad may deploy chemical weapons against the Syrian opposition in revenge for the July 18 bombing in Damascus, it is equally important to emphasize this type of violence could also occur in a post-Assad Syria.
The United States, Russia, Jordan and Israel all agree that Syria possesses a massive chemical arsenal and have warned Assad against using WMD on his own citizens. Jordan and Israel in particular have taken extra precautions in securing their borders. Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi insists Damascus will only use chemical weapons in self-defense if attacked by another country.
Washington and the Arab League and Turkey claim that it is only a matter of when, not if, Assad goes. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta argues that the Syrian military should remain intact after Assad’s departure, and facilitate a process of democratic transition toward a civilian government.
This may be wishful thinking. A military democratic transition in Syria is not even a remote possibility, especially considering the delicate sectarian fabric of the Syrian state. As in Egypt, the generals are in no rush to relinquish power. It is more plausible that Assad’s removal will have an opposite effect (at least temporarily) of greater instability. A vicious cycle of retribution and revenge attacks will most certainly be perpetrated by Alawites, Sunnis, Christians, Druze and Kurds.