Sarin is invisible, odourless and deadly in tiny amounts. The best way to detect it in your surroundings is to note that you’ve have just shit and pissed yourself, and are now choking to death as your own throat muscles contract.
If a terrorist group decided to crop dust London, they might consider that in agriculture, a crop duster would cover an area of about 1.5 square miles per day. Since London is 700 square miles, that would require 467 crop dusters. This is not such a brilliant terrorist plot since the planes could easily be shot down.
However, since Sarin is heavier than air, it naturally falls to ground level, so the terrorists could fly far higher and rely on gravity to take the poison to the quarry. Therefore we could crop dust London using jumbo jets to deliver nerve agent in industrial quantities, and wipe out 8 million people. This may be possible with as few as a dozen aircraft covering the capital in a vector grid.
The international convention to ban these chemicals came about following the killing of 5,000 Kurds in Iraq. Apart from a bizarre terrorist incident on the Tokyo subway, they haven’t been used since, so the ban had been effective right up until Syria.
The fact that Sarin has now been used, without consequence (so far), must have put ideas into the minds of other dictators. After all, it’s somewhat more effective than CS gas. This stuff can stop a riot in a minute and a revolution in a day. For dictators, possession of Sarin makes security of tenure guaranteed.
No one disputes that this chemical was created by Assad’s regime. If they created them, they must be willing to use them.
We’ve now got Putin striding the global stage, negotiating to decommission the weapons. Prior to the negotiations Assad had lied for years claiming that he had no such weapons. Immediately prior to the negotiation Putin was claiming that the rebels had used the Sarin on themselves.
Let’s be clear about the veracity of that previous claim. Putin now admits that Assad built the stock pile. Sarin doesn’t have any other use on Earth. It is a weapon. There is no dual purpose. It doesn’t come about by accident. It only exists in order to kill people. If Assad built this arsenal he must have been willing to use it.
Putin expected us to believe that when the rebels were approaching the centre of Damascus these weapons accidentally fell into their hands and they used them on themselves to gain sympathy.
Western pacifists accepted this rambling foolishness and insisted that a higher level of proof would be needed.
With all my years of experience in the criminal justice system, I can assure you that a jury in the Old Bailey, considering this evidence on the basis of “beyond reasonable doubt”, would convict Assad unanimously.
Proliferation must be disincentivised and seen to be so. Even if an attack against Assad does nothing more than send a token message, it is a message of importance. Dictators of the world must be made to see that creating and stockpiling these weapons will deliver greatly more problems than solutions.
Obama needs the credibilty to hit Assad with massive violence whenever he so wishes, in order to focus minds, and bring this matter to an expedient conclusion.