The fight against Assad’s brutal regime has taken an unexpected turn late Thursday afternoon when a large weapons cache belonging to the so-called national protection force in Homs city, an arm of Assad’s Shabeeha, was destroyed.
The explosion was reminiscent of the attack on Qasyoon mountain, a stronghold for the Syrian army and a location said to house missiles targeting Israel.
It was first reported that the missile fueling station had blown up which seemed like a reasonable proposition especially since an ammunition depot was targeted.
But the two explosions in Homs and Qasyoon share the same property: They are both above ground air bursts according to Greg Thielmann, an expert on arms control policy whom I spoke with on Saturday at great length. I was first alerted to the connection by slow twitter chatter right after the bombing in Homs.
Needless to say I was shocked at what he told me next: “The fact of the matter is, what we are seeing in both these cases is a tactical nuclear strike, probably by cruise missiles launched from aircrafts near the borders of Syria or right off the coast in the Mediterranean.”
But sure, Greg, wouldn’t this mean a nuclear holocaust? Not so he says. “Tactical nuclear weapons lower the threshold on use of a nuclear bomb as their modern incarnation can be tuned in yield in order to target military sites using stand off weapons without escalating by destroy surrounding civilian infrastructure.”
He went on: “Keep in mind a nuclear bomb sounds like a huge device, but it can have a yield as small as the equivalent conventional payload carried by a formation of 5 F-15s. Sites in Syria are inaccessible to these jets due to the Russian support available in the field of air defense. So these strikes are an option for the west to implement its policy.”
The likely assailant in both cases is Israel he claims: “Israel is the only nation that can deploy these sorts of weapons with impunity without fear of a counter-attack. Syria has shown no appetite to get into a shooting fight even over the deployment of such weapons”.