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.
How harrowing could this get?
The Washington Examiner wrote: “Syrian President Bashar Assad’s anti-U.S. strategy during the 2003-11 Iraq War has come back to bite him. Mr. Assad allowed al Qaeda operatives to set up a ‘rat line’ through his country and into northeastern Iraq. Hundreds of young terrorists, many recruited from North Africa, took airline flights into Damascus and joined networks ready to sneak them across the border. Mr. Assad’s objective: to keep the U.S. occupation off balance by helping al Qaeda kill Americans. But Mr. Assad’s move also enabled al Qaeda to set up a logistics foothold in Syria that now is being used against him.”
There is little doubt that if al-Qaida obtained this type of weaponry, it would raise the terrorism stakes, here, in Europe and Russia.
In 2005, then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama traveled to Russia with Lugar, forging an alliance that prompted the two to write legislation to expand Nunn-Lugar to cover conventional weapons. As a presidential candidate in 2008, Obama cited his relationship with Lugar at his campaign kickoff in Springfield, Ill., and his Democratic National Convention acceptance speech.
President Obama now finds himself accountable for what he identified as a “red line” exactly a year prior to this attack, should Syria gas its own people.
“We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus,” Obama said on Aug. 20, 2012. “We have put together a range of contingency plans.”