Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has warned that the current mission in Syria is “spinning out of control”, after a bomb left two government leaders dead as rebels look to gain the upper hand in the almost two-year long civil war. A major worry for Panetta and UK Defense Secretary Phillip Hammond appears to be over Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile, which the Assad regime may employ if the situation gets desperate enough for him.
A bomb targeting Syria’s National Security headquarters killed Defense Minister Dawoud Rajhah and Assad's brother-in-law Major General Assef Shawkat, as well as injuring Interior minister Mohammed al-Shaar and General Hisham Ikhtiyar, head of National Security. The rebels are showing that they are able to take the fighting deep into Damascus, and there is a growing worry that Assad may use chemical weapons against the rebels if his military can’t hold out by conventional means.
Hammond and Panetta have tried to get Russia and China, two of Assad’s most influential allies, to pressure Assad into a peaceful resolution to the conflict, but talks have not made progress. Moscow and Beijing have been helping Damascus with weapons and ammunition since the uprising began. However, with the Assad regime fragmenting, and the rebels thriving, turning Moscow and Beijing off of Damascus could be the deciding blow that could topple the Assad regime.