The United States claims to have inside “proof” of the Assad regime’s involvement in a recent chemical attack in Syria, with officials stating that no prior UN approval is necessary for intervention to take place. However, UN investigators are telling a different story…
Controversy has ensued in the wake of the Obama administration’s recent plans for intervention in Syria, following an alleged chemical attack that occurred several days ago, which was purportedly carried out by the Assad regime. However, sources are now reporting today that the preparations being carried out by the U.S. and their allies are based on inside intelligence, which includes satellite images and intercepted communications, cited by unnamed U.S. and Israeli officials as “proof” that the Assad were indeed behind the chemical attacks.
Since the end of World War I and, more specifically, the biological weapons ban enacted in 1968 by the 18-nation Disarmament Committee, ongoing activism would eventually lead to the Chemical Weapons Convention, which has sought internationally to prevent the use of poison gas in combat situations. “The use of chemical weapons on the scale that we saw on Aug. 21 cannot be ignored,” White House Spokesman Jay Carney said of the attack, citing the convention. “It must be responded to, because to allow it to happen without a response would be to invite further use of chemical weapons and to have that international standard dissolved.”
Despite the precedent for intervention being cited by the West, a number of groups have begun to organize protests in response to the planned action in Syria, including The Stop the War coalition, who held a massive demonstration earlier today outside the UK Prime Minister’s Downing Street office. A similar protest march has been planned for Saturday, where protesters will carry on into central London.
Similar dissenting opinions have appeared online as well. Turkish-based political blogger Michael van der Galien lashed out in response to the claim that “unnamed” officials had supported the information about intercepted Syrian communications. “Can we trust this ‘evidence’?” he asked in a post online, where he also questioned whether the sources would eventually be shared or not. The 27-year-old former editor of David Horowitz’s NewsReal blog further asked, “does it truly matter whether you kill 1500 people with chemical weapons vs. 100.000 people by conventional methods? What hypocrisy is this?”
Perhaps there is good reason to approach the situation with due skepticism, as van der Galien advocates, since information being presented at present–specifically from UN investigators on the scene–has at times appeared to be contradicting.
A report that appeared at the RT website criticized Western insinuation that the Assad regime was behind the attack, based primarily on the alleged inside sources cited by “unnamed” officials, in addition to suspicion that mounted after UN investigators were denied access to the site for a prolonged period of five days. According to the RT report:
[E]vidence from witnesses indicates Syrian rebels used a chemical weapon in last week’s attack, not regime forces, a senior UN official has said.
Carla del Ponte, a member of the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, said there were “strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof,” that rebels had used sarin nerve gas in the Damascus suburb attack.
This statement, issued by del Ponte, a UN investigator, is perhaps the most revealing information that has surfaced in the days since the chemical attack. And yet, further statements were issued today by the U.N.’s special envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, who agreed that, “it does seem like some kind of [chemical] substance was used.” Brahimi further noted that, “international law says that any U.S. led military action must be taken,” but only after agreement is reached from within the 15-nation Security Council. The Blaze reported further that Brahimi noted of President Barack Obama’s administration that it is “not known to be trigger-happy.”
Much of this stands in stark contrast to a statement BBC News carried earlier today, issued by U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, who claimed that the United States does not need UN approval to enter Syria:
“No nation, no group of nations is bound by only one dimension of whether they’d make a decision to respond to any self-defense or any other violation of the kind of humanitarian violations that we saw in Syria.”
Hagel also maintained that he and the Obama administration felt it was “pretty clear” that the Assad had been behind the attack, despite the statements being issued by UN investigators.
Further statements questioning the Assad’s use of chemical weapons were issued by Saleh Muslim, head of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, in an interview with Reuters. Muslim pointed out that Syria’s president would not have chosen to take action involving chemical weapons, since “he felt he had the upper hand in the country’s civil war.” Reuters quoted Muslim further, who said:
“The regime in Syria … has chemical weapons, but they wouldn’t use them around Damascus, 5 km from the (U.N.) committee which is investigating chemical weapons. Of course they are not so stupid as to do so.”
Egyptian writer Dr. John Ward asked a similar question this morning, saying that, “The ultimate question still remains, in light of this massive military presence in the area, why would the Assad regime launch a chemical attack, [if] in fact they had been gaining some relative military success over recent weeks?”
Ward commented further, examining also the foreign involvement that appears to be mounting in the region:
“What is interesting with regards [to] the naval build up in the Mediterranean in response to the chemical attack in Syria (even though no published report has yet to be filed), is the participants of this military build up! Not only does the USA have its 6th fleet sitting in the [Mediterranean], but we also have the British contingent, French, Italian, Spanish, and not forgetting the Russian Mediterranean task force, which is comprised of upwards of 9 vessels including over 2000 marines. While the Egyptian army has offered in the last few months a military base for the Russian army, the so called NATO block has air fields spread across the Middle East and neighbouring Europe.”
An attack on Syria’s chemical weapons could present logistic problems as well. Washington editor for the Christian Science Monitor, Peter Grier, noted this, citing earlier today that in the event the U.S. decided to attack Syrian chemical weapons, the downside could be much further reaching. “Chemical weapons would not just harmlessly vaporize in an attack,” Grier wrote this morning. “If hit by US munitions, chemical dumps could release some poisons into the air or in liquid form on the ground. Predicting the environmental effect in the surrounding area would be extremely difficult.” Grier further noted that if US cruise missiles were used in such attacks, they “would not be able to destroy chemical stocks, because their payload would not be “big enough to incinerate chemical weapons.”
And yet, perhaps the most controversial problem with Western action against the Assad regime, as pointed out by Robert Fisk earlier today, is that by attacking the Assad, the Obama administration is effectively fighting on the side of al-Qa’ida, a known terrorist organization founded by Osama bin Laden, who expresses strong anti-American sentiment, and has carried out a number of deadly operations that include the September 2001 terrorist attacks in New York.
It might be wise for the Obama administration to proceed with extreme caution, lest the old controversy regarding “WMDs” from the Bush years begin to resurface, with perhaps twice the amount of public outcry. Where Bush had gone into Iraq based on what, at the time, was believed to be “reasonable suspicion” that WMDs existed there, with Syria we have a number of obviously conflicting reports as to who launched the recent chemical attack. This is in addition to Obama administration officials claiming they have no need for gaining UN approval, as Chuck Hagel has already made clear, based on the fact that the Chemical Weapons Convention, as well as Obama’s famous “red line,” entail that force can, and will be used, if chemical weapons use begins to surface.
We understand fully the justification behind the proposed intervention… let’s just hope that if a target must be chosen, American leaders will think carefully, and choose the right one.
Image by Sajed via Wikimedia Commons.