At the start of the new year, there is increasing concern that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is growing so desperate to hold onto power that he might be on the verge of using chemical weapons—his last resort. But in the meantime, his forces, which are in control of only about a fourth of Syria, have stepped up their offensive on the rebels in recent days, while at the same time trying to lure the rebels to the table for peace talks.

There is a fear in Syria that the rebels are on the verge of taking the capital city of Damascus, where Assad sits in the presidential palace trying to hold on. The suburbs ringing the city have become a stronghold for rebel forces, who were attacked in the Daraya suburb yesterday by government forces intent on beating them back.

While the Syrian state news agency, SANA, claimed that the military was clearing Daraya and had “destroyed a terrorist base and killed huge numbers of terrorists,” opposition groups alleged that just between three and nine people were killed by government bombs.

The last hope for Assad might rest with the talks being overseen by U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who said Sunday that he has a plan that he believes would be acceptable to world powers. The plan calls for all sides in Syria to end hostilities, enter into a national dialogue, and form a transitional government leading to new elections.

The only problem with the plan is that it doesn’t mention the fate of President Assad. Rebels have said they won’t come to the table unless Assad steps down.

Rebels claim that Assad has already used chemical weapons against them, but Western intelligence services have yet to verify that claim. The opposition says chemical weapons have been used dozens of times over the past two weeks, and even has video footage showing the hospitalized victims of the attacks—but Western agencies haven’t even been able to verify the videos.

Assad’s regime boasts one of the largest stockpiles of chemical weapons in the region. The United States has plans to act in conjunction with other nations to seize Assad’s chemical weapons if they believe he will use them, while Israel has said it can bomb Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile if needed.


Chemical weaponsDamascusNewsPoliticsSyrian president bashar al-assadWorld

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