As the apparent fervor to blow stuff up in the U.S. government can no longer be stymied, I can’t help but wonder: why the rush?
Obviously, the argument “because people are dying” is ridiculous in the case of Syria since 100k people have died and no military action has been taken yet. And we also know the previous chemical attacks have very possibly and likely come from the rebel forces themselves and not the Assad regime.
It seems waiting a few more days until the results of the U.N. inspectors can be confirmed would be rather wise in this situation. We are hearing from the likes of John Kerry and Chuck Hagel the U.S. has intelligence confirming it was the Assad regime that used chemical weapons last week but none is being produced at the moment. And since they haven’t claimed it to be a “slam-dunk” yet, we should probably make sure we aren’t fooled again.
Even VP Biden has stated the Syrian government is the only force in the war capable of using chemical weapons, which is a rather bizarre statement considering we know the U.S. government has been paying contractors to train rebels to handle chemical weapons for quite a while. And the rebels have captured a chemical plant, as reported by Der Spiegel:
Assad supporters also pointed out that the extremist Al-Nusra Front, which his aligned with al-Qaida, had gained control of the region east of Damascus and captured a chlorine gas plant there.
But experts doubt the rebels could have weaponized the chemicals found there. As poison gas specialist Stephen Johnson points out, enormous amounts of chemical agents are needed to kill hundreds of people, a feat impossible for the insurgents to pull off.
“Impossible” assuming they are untrained, which we know isn’t entirely true.
Then, there is the possibility some chemical weapons have made their way from Libya to Syria and, depending how much of a conspiracy theorist you may be, this may have been a residual factor in the whole Benghazi situation. We know chemical weapons, including sarin gas, survived the fall of Qaddafi and we’re pretty sure the CIA was selling weapons to Syrian rebels in Libya. Speculate for yourself.
Waiting a few more days for the results seems like the better option since they will seemingly be rather definitive, as reported in Foreign Policy:
While Sellstrom cannot explicitly say whether the Assad regime or the rebels conducted the attack, he can release information that would strongly implicate one party or the other — allowing U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to make the actual accusation.
The Syrian regime has been developing chemical weapons for decades; it has been Damascus’s strategy for offsetting the threat posed by the Israeli nuclear program. As a result, Duelfer said, the regime has acquired some extremely sophisticated systems for maintaining its stockpiles — adding chemical stabilizers to its toxic agents, for example, and creating binary munitions that mix the precursors to create a toxic agent after the rocket or mortar has been fired. “[I]f they find little bits of rockets or artillery shells with that degree of sophistication, it will point toward the Syrian military,” Duelfer said.
Meanwhile, if the toxic agent used in Damascus is found not to have included chemical stabilizers and the delivery method is more rudimentary, that may tilt the argument toward the side of Russia and the Assad regime.
Rushing to fire on Syria without knowing for sure who used chemical weapons last week creates a very important question that we should an answer for before launching the first missile: what will the Syrian population (and surrounding Middle-Eastern populations) think of the U.S. if it is discovered the sarin originated from a rebel group? Are we prepared to deal with that possibility?
This isn’t to say the international community should ignore the situation and nothing should be done. But we should certainly question whether we are making the right decision considering all the muddiness of the past and if this is the best decision in the long term.