Who knows? Sarin in Syria

 Ludwig von Gress

Who benefits? Who knows?


 In June this year US government stated it had “high confidence” that a nerve gas sarin was used in Syria. Apparently isopropyl methylphosphonic acid, a breakdown product, which “can only come from sarin”, was detected in urine samples from there. The victims’ count was approximately 150. Later we were shocked by the UN precise finding that as a result of the Syrian civil war there is one million refugee children.

It was still not enough, so the stakes were raised. This time the medially approved number is higher, 1,200 or 1,400. Medecines Sans Frontieres account for 350, but who is counting when there is an opportunity to drag the West into a civil war between two equally despicable opponents? And just in time, we got reports of the use of napalm.

It would be a mistake to assume that dictators act rationally, as Castro brothers abundantly prove, but one would imagine that al Assad, itching to use nerve gas, against all logic and reason, would use it in the area occupied and controlled by the rebels. Yet the rebels prevented the UN investigators, who then were a mere 20 minutes drive away from the location of the attack from going there for almost four days.

US State Secretary Kerry stated on the 2nd September that “Washington has proof the Syrian regime used sarin gas in a deadly Damascus attack.” The recent US Secretaries of State have a record of veracity not seen since the glory days of Gromyko. I would venture a guess that somebody definitely used some sarin somewhere, but the question of a culprit is not so straightforward. Al Assad, holding back the Muslim extremists more or less successfully for about two years, has nothing to gain by provoking the West to enter the conflict on his opponents’ side. Of course, he may be a masochist.

Enter the geopolitical genius and community organiser Obama. Let’s draw a red line in the sand, he said, or words to that effect, on the use of chemical weapons. Any normal person could have told him that his “red line” would act like a red rag to a bull, but the affirmative action cronies he surrounds himself with… If nobody else, the ex-KGB man in Kremlin must have seen the opportunity. In public he says how unwise it would be for America to get involved in Syria; in private he hopes it would and bleed there.

Some experts claim that Al Quaeda would not have the expertise to organise such a stunt. Maybe, but it certainly has the will, financial resources and access to willing experts. If it is sarin, and if it indeed was fired from the area occupied by Al Assad army, it would still be unwise to blame Al Assad. His army is armed and trained by Russia; and, as is the time honoured practice in such cases, many of its officers would be the agents of the GRU, the Russian military intelligence service.

The latest rationale for an attack on Syria peddled by the tame US media seems to be that a no-action now would make a fool out of Obama. But surely by now all but forty percent of US population got his measure.

 Will Russia benefit? Will the extreme Islam? Cruise missiles manufacturers? With the Obama’s abysmal record all we can be sure of is that whatever he is going to do, will be to the detriment of the United States of America.

Others, also not impressed:

Images of multiple dead bodies emerged from Syria last week. It was asserted that poison gas killed the victims, who according to some numbered in the hundreds. Others claimed the photos were faked while others said the rebels were at fault. The dominant view, however, maintains that the al Assad regime carried out the attack.

 The United States has so far avoided involvement in Syria’s civil war. This is not to say Washington has any love for the al Assad regime. Damascus’ close ties to Iran and Russia give the United States reason to be hostile toward Syria, and Washington participated in the campaign to force Syrian troops out of Lebanon. Still, the United States has learned to be concerned not just with unfriendly regimes, but also with what could follow such regimes. Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya have driven home the principle that deposing one regime means living with an imperfect successor. In those cases, changing the regime wound up rapidly entangling the United States in civil wars, the outcomes of which have not been worth the price. In the case of Syria, the insurgents are Sunni Muslims whose best-organized factions have ties to al Qaeda.

 Still, as frequently happens, many in the United States and Europe are appalled at the horrors of the civil war, some of whom have called on the United States to do something. The United States has been reluctant to heed these calls. As mentioned, Washington does not have a direct interest in the outcome, since all possible outcomes are bad from its perspective. Moreover, the people who are most emphatic that something be done to stop the killings will be the first to condemn the United States when its starts killing people to stop the killings. People would die in any such intervention, since there are simply no clean ways to end a civil war. – – -

 Al Assad is a ruthless man: He would not hesitate to use chemical weapons if he had to. He is also a very rational man: He would use chemical weapons only if that were his sole option. At the moment, it is difficult to see what desperate situation would have caused him to use chemical weapons and risk the worst. His opponents are equally ruthless, and we can imagine them using chemical weapons to force the United States to intervene and depose al Assad. But their ability to access chemical weapons is unclear, and if found out, the maneuver could cost them all Western support. It is possible that lower-ranking officers in al Assad’s military used chemical weapons without his knowledge and perhaps against his wishes. It is possible that the casualties were far less than claimed. And it is possible that some of the pictures were faked. – – -

 The truth here has been politicized, and whoever claims to have found the truth, whatever it actually is, will be charged with lying. Nevertheless, the dominant emerging story is that al Assad carried out the attack, killing hundreds of men, women and children and crossing the red line Obama set with impunity. The U.S. president is backed into a corner. – – -

 This is no longer simply about Syria. The United States has stated a condition that commits it to an intervention. If it does not act when there is a clear violation of the condition, Obama increases the chance of war with other countries like North Korea and Iran. One of the tools the United States can use to shape the behavior of countries like these without going to war is stating conditions that will cause intervention, allowing the other side to avoid crossing the line. If these countries come to believe that the United States is actually bluffing, then the possibility of miscalculation soars. Washington could issue a red line whose violation it could not tolerate, like a North Korean nuclear-armed missile, but the other side could decide this was just another Syria and cross that line. Washington would have to attack, an attack that might not have been necessary had it not had its Syria bluff called.

 There are also the Russian and Iranian questions. Both have invested a great deal in supporting al Assad. They might both retaliate were someone to attack the Syrian regime. There are already rumors in Beirut that Iran has told Hezbollah to begin taking Americans hostage if the United States attacks Syria. Russia meanwhile has shown in the Snowden affair what Obama clearly regards as a hostile intent. If he strikes, he thus must prepare for Russian counters. If he doesn’t strike, he must assume the Russians and Iranians will read this as weakness.

 Syria was not an issue that affected the U.S. national interest until Obama declared a red line. It escalated in importance at that point not because Syria is critical to the United States, but because the credibility of its stated limits are of vital importance. Obama’s problem is that the majority of the American people oppose military intervention, Congress is not fully behind an intervention and those now rooting the United States on are not bearing the bulk of the military burden — nor will they bear the criticism that will follow the inevitable civilian casualties, accidents and misdeeds that are part of war regardless of the purity of the intent. 

 The question therefore becomes what the United States and the new coalition of the willing will do if the red line has been crossed. The fantasy is that a series of airstrikes, destroying only chemical weapons, will be so perfectly executed that no one will be killed except those who deserve to die. But it is hard to distinguish a man’s soul from 10,000 feet. There will be deaths, and the United States will be blamed for them. – – -

 A war on chemical weapons has a built-in insanity to it. The problem is not chemical weapons, which probably can’t be eradicated from the air. The problem under the definition of this war would be the existence of a regime that uses chemical weapons. It is hard to imagine how an attack on chemical weapons can avoid an attack on the regime — and regimes are not destroyed from the air. Doing so requires troops. Moreover, regimes that are destroyed must be replaced, and one cannot assume that the regime that succeeds al Assad will be grateful to those who deposed him. One must only recall the Shia in Iraq who celebrated Saddam’s fall and then armed to fight the Americans. – – -

 When Obama proclaimed his red line on Syria and chemical weapons, he assumed the issue would not come up. He made a gesture to those in his administration who believe that the United States has a moral obligation to put an end to brutality. He also made a gesture to those who don’t want to go to war again. It was one of those smart moves that can blow up in a president’s face when it turns out his assumption was wrong.”

Read full article: 
Obama’s Bluff | Stratfor 


And another:


Rebel spokesmen initially said 1,200 had died, but another estimate, from French agency Doctors Without Borders, puts the overall death toll at 355.

Videos and photos taken after daylight broke showed eerily quiet streets full of twisted corpses. Inside ruined houses, entire families lay dead in their beds. Rows of toddlers, open-mouthed and wrapped in blankets, were laid out in morgues.

These sobering images shocked the world. But some have asked if we can really trust them. They were, after all, taken and dispersed with the co-operation of rebel forces, who are likely to have been acutely aware of their propaganda value.

Russia, which supports the Assad regime, has claimed that the attack was faked by rebels as a ‘provocation’ to force Western intervention. They and other sceptics doubt that Assad would have sanctioned an attack guaranteed to lead to such a combative response from the West, particularly the US.

Questions have also been raised about varying death tolls, as well as the veracity of footage showing victims being treated by medical staff who are not wearing protective clothing or gas masks.

Some experts have claimed that if sarin had indeed been used, doctors would surely have known better than to put themselves at serious risk of cross-contamination.

Others have raised serious doubts about reports from survivors, who described having inhaled clouds of a ‘foul-smelling’ orange-brown gas. Sarin is both invisible and odourless.

Assad’s forces are known to have stockpiles of sarin, along with mustard gas and the even more lethal VX. But that doesn’t mean they are the only ones in Syria able to access illegal chemical weapons.

Sarin is tricky to make, and even more difficult to contain and safely transport, so it tends to be the province of governments with sophisticated chemical and military capabilities.

However, elsewhere in the world, rogue militia groups have successfully used sarin in terrorist attacks. In 1995, for example, a relatively small Japanese cult group, Aum Shinrikyo, was able to release the nerve agent on the Tokyo subway, killing 13 and injuring hundreds more.

There is, therefore, a chance that rebel forces could have laid their hands on sarin – and, in an act of extraordinary cynicism, targeted their own people in order to prompt international intervention.

Given recent reported tensions between different rebel factions, it’s also possible that the attack was ordered by a militia commander targeting the stronghold of a rival faction.

To cause widespread casualties, as seen at Ghouta, it must be dispersed in tiny droplets over a wide area. The ten missiles used in the attack were specialist pieces of military hardware which did exactly that. If rebels were responsible, it would suggest they had obtained the missiles via a previously-unreported theft from Assad’s own stockpile.

In May, Carla Del Ponte, a member of the UN’s human rights commission on Syria, told Swiss TV that she had ‘strong, concrete suspicions’ that rebel forces had been using sarin, on a small scale, during the conflict.

Soon afterwards, Turkish security forces were reported to have found the nerve agent in the possession of fighters for the al-Nusra front, a rebel group linked to Al Qaeda, who were detained while heading across the border into Syria.

- – -

Barack Obama had said the use of chemical weapons in Syria would be crossing a ‘red line’, and prompt US intervention

The US claimed yesterday to have evidence that Assad’s regime was behind the chemical attack after American spies intercepted a crucial phone call made just a few hours after the atrocity took place.

Last Wednesday morning, an official at the Syrian ministry of defence was overheard having a ‘panicked’ conversation with the leader of the army’s chemical weapons unit, in which he demanded to know why the attack had taken place. However, as the Iraq war showed, such intelligence shouldn’t always be taken at face value. And some sceptics have pointed out that it doesn’t actually prove that Assad or his men were directly responsible for the release of chemical weapons.

Indeed, it may instead indicate that the attack was the work of a rogue Syrian official overstepping his remit – and that the ministry of defence was unaware the attack had taken place.

- – -

Assad may be many things, but he is certainly not a fool. Western opponents of military intervention therefore argue that he couldn’t possibly have approved a chemical attack while a team of United Nations weapons inspectors were stationed in Damascus.

The group is staying at the Four Seasons Hotel, a mere 20-minute car journey from Ghouta. In theory, they could have begun investigating the attack within hours.

In practice, however, Assad is likely to have known that inspectors could be kept from the scene for several days. Indeed, it took until Monday for the group to gain diplomatic consent to leave their luxury accommodation.

That was long enough for some of the most crucial evidence to have disappeared.

Evidence of sarin begins to degrade within 48 hours, while the bodies of victims – which may contain other crucial clues – were buried within 24 hours of death, according to Islamic tradition.

Little wonder, then, that the inspectors have yet to release any concrete findings – leaving the truth about the incident wholly unclear.”

Read more:


About Avadoro Worden

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4 Responses to Who knows? Sarin in Syria

  1. Treminer says:

    Obama – a fool or foe?

  2. Despicable me cheat says:

    I considered every one of the concepts you have presented with your article. Good, just publish.

  3. Bianca says:

    Do not supply arms to anonye. To play by talking arms so that Assad might withdraw is childish in this day and age. Invite women into the peace talks; they can’t do worse than you men and it would be an evolutionary phase in such talks and the region . I think both sides could be guilty of chemical weapons so I advise one get’s off the soapbox on that.

  4. Davis says:

    Still no real, credible evidence of sarin?

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