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Chemical Hell Breaks Lose in the Syrian Civil War – Total War Ensues?

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Things are seriously packing up heat in Syria. After reports from MSF confirming that civilians have been treated and also died from symptoms of a chemical weapons attack, the theories and accusations of who were behind this attack started to flourish, with US Sec. of State John Kerry making pretty bold statements regarding what happened and who did it. The Obama administration is blaming Assad, only hours after UN investigators were on the ground. Russia and China are strongly urging the West to hold off any accusations and attacks until at least after the UN investigators will have been able to say something about the substance and origin behind what is likely to have been the use of chemical weapons.

Today, supposedly leaked secret documents reveal that the American government may have given a blank check in the use of chemical weapons in Syria. Those who are hypothesizing about a false flag operation seem confident that this new information means that America orchestrated the whole attack, in order to get the international and domestic support needed to enter the Syrian war. Certainly, the West has been eager to do so for a while, but with growing tiredness of entanglement into wars in the middle east, political leaders have been hesitant to get down and dirty in Syria. That has not stopped them from arming and training Syrian opposition forces in neighboring countries, of course.

We are seemingly offered two different theories behind the chemical weapons attacks: Either Assad went ahead with the attacks, or the Obama administration orchestrated it in order to take Assad down.

What do I think? Sure, it is technically not impossible that the Obama administration gave a blank check for the go ahead of a chemical weapons attack. Not impossible, but highly improbable. At the moment, we don’t know the plausibility of those leaks. It might deserve further investigation, sure, however, I can not see how that fits the motive of entering the war.

There is, of course, no reason to believe what the American government is saying is always true, like with any other government. There has been enough revelations about secrets and lies within the American government to indicate that things are not always what they seem to be. But still, their main motivation to get into the war has been to save civilian lives and bring democracy to the country, in order to bring peace and stability to the region (however extremely flawed that flimsy plan is). Even if there are secondary goals, the main motive seems to fit neatly with the overall goal of positive international relations, or “PR”, if you will. Positive international relations are what ensures America’s position as a trusted hegemon, at least within the western hemisphere. They need that trust. As far as foreign policy goes, they have no greater national interest than that. How would slaughtering civilians in a horrible way serve that purpose? It would not, and I find it hard to believe that they did. There is too much risk involved with that. With the amount of problems they have had in keeping secrets safe from the public. this would be a certain political suicide. PR is important to America. PR is important to Obama. PR is why they want to “bring democracy to Syria”. Chemical weapons are not good PR.

So did Assad do it then? As of now, before investigations have dug up any solid evidence to indicate that he did, it seems equally unlikely that Assad would be behind the chemical weapons attacks. The Assad regime was warned several months ago that if he stepped over the line and used chemical weapons, America could not sit idly by any longer. In other words: He knew that he would automatically forfeit the war and sign his own obituary if he used chemical weapons. For a man fighting to stay in power and keep his cushy, despotic, government job in Syria, this seems like a really stupid decision. Too stupid.

Assad, on the other hand, blames the rebels, and with that enters a new theory that has gone remarkably unmentioned by governments and the media alike. Who are these rebels?

First of all, the rebels are not a unified group of people sharing the same ideals and ideas for a new Syrian state. The West have been communicating and cooperating with the supposedly democratic and moderate faction of the rebel forces, also called the Free Syrian Army. While the West may have been rightfully sympathetic to this group in Syria, what is important to note is that a huge chunk of the rebel forces fighting in Syria are not the Free Syrian Army, but people connected with the Al Nusra Front.

Who, then, are the Al Nusra Front? Wikipedia will tell you that it is an ally of Al-Qaeda operating and fighting in Syria. They are likely the most powerful rebel faction fighting in Syria to date, and they are one of the groups being armed and trained by the West, in order to fight Assad. It would not be worth mentioning the Al Nusra Front in this context, unless there are reasons to believe they were involved in the chemical weapons attack. Were they?

This is where the whole story takes a huge turn for the worse. In May of this year, Turkish authorities caught members of the Al Nusra Front with 2 kilograms of “sarin”, a substance used in chemical weapons. The Al Nusra Front members were in the works of using the chemicals in a bomb. This is why it is key for UN investigators to at least be given the time to look into the matter, even though one should not necessarily trust them to be able to come up with any solid conclusions (not because of bias or accusation of incompetence, but because of the enormous difficulty of such a task). It has already been theorized that the chemical used in the attacks was in fact “sarin”, because it fits the bill. If that is the case, then there exists not only two theories for the cause and origin of the attack, but three:

1) The Assad regime launched the attack.
2) The Obama administration orchestrated the attack.
3) Rebel forces executed a terrorist attack with chemical weapons in order to trick America into joining the war and fighting Assad.

The most striking detail about the third one, if the Al Nusra Front indeed were capable of performing the attack, which – if reports are accurate – they certainly were, is that the Al Nusra Front would have everything to gain and nothing to lose in using chemical weapons against Syrian civilians. They are militant, barbaric and immoral enough to do whatever it takes to achieve their goals, and not to mention, it would be of great help to their cause to try to trick the West into joining them against Assad. Last, but not least, there are no down sides for them in using such a strategy. They are already armed to the teeth, by the help of America, and America is never going to jump into the war and help Assad after all the diplomatic hate jargon they have thrown at him over the last couple of years. Worst case scenario for Al Nusra Front is that nothing changes and they will simply continue the war as they have been. Their best case scenario, however, is that America hands them the chance to gain power and control in Syria and strengthen Al-Qaeda’s foothold in the Syrian-Iraqi region. That again serves their greater long-term purpose of fighting America and Israel. This does not serve America’s national interest at all.

Update [08/30/13]: While the media depicts the rebels in Syria and the Free Syrian Army as moderates and pro-democratic, it is fair to say – if Libya and Egypt are anything to go by – that this does not necessarily mean they are anywhere close to to being moderate and pro-democratic in the Western meaning of the words – only relative to the Islamic fascist alternatives. We also have no reason to trust the rebel leaders in Syria, no matter how promising they sound. But even if the leaders are honest, soldiers fighting for the Free Syrian Army may equally be members of the Al Nusra Front, or other factions. Indeed, if reports by Full Disclosure are accurate, this is exactly what has happened. This means that just as the Al Nusra Front could be the faction behind the attacks, it is equally possible for the Free Syrian Army and the rebels at large to be behind the attacks, since tricking America into joining the war against Assad means a rebel victory. In the same way, America’s dedication to a diplomatic offense against Assad means that the Obama administration can not lose face by supporting Assad in the war.

Why has this made the third theory more plausible? New information from Russian intelligence and the Assad regime, with videos from the rebel forces in Syria, show evidence of the rebel forces storing and using chemical weapons, some of which are alleged to be of Saudi origin. The Saudis have supported the rebel forces in Syria since the beginning of the war. It now seems possible that they have been dealing chemical weapons to factions within the rebel forces. Whether or not the chemical weapons ingredients found by Turkish authorities in May share the same origin is so far undisclosed or unknown, however, it makes it very likely that U.S. allies have been producing, facilitating and using chemical weapons in Syria, be it the Al Nusra Front, the Free Syrian Army or any other faction. It also makes the most sense out the alternatives, and this puts the Obama administrating in a very dangerous and embarrassing position, having essentially enabled the situation to happen through their offensive diplomacy based on bad intelligence and political snobbery.

But it gets even worse yet: Even if Assad’s regime were behind the attack, and the West enters the war to fight Assad, it will still only serve the goals of the rebels and the Al Nusra Front, which not only further undermines the theory that Assad did it, but also means that no matter what America and the West does in this situation, they have already lost. If the rebels win, the civil war will enter phase two, when the rebel factions fight amongst each other. The most radical parts of the rebel forces, most notably the Al Nusra Front, are already positioned to win such a war, leaving Syria ripe for Islamic fascism, jihadists and harboring of Al-Qaeda terrorists. This not only means that America will have to wage even more war in Syria, but it seriously endangers the West and Israel. Ironically, the best case scenario for the West is that the Syrian war will turn out to be somewhat the same embarrassment as the Vietnam war was for America, with the exception that the West will hopefully not intervene in this one.

All in all: Syria has now become the potential ignition source for total war. This is what Russia and China are worried about, and this is what America and Europe are completely ignoring. No one wants a strong Al-Qaeda presence in the region, and no one wants a Muslim world that is being further radicalized, but it seems like Putin is the only leader who is able to see where the chips are falling. Will Russia and China put force behind their warnings before the West? Will they stop a Western intervention in the Syrian war, knowing that enabling a rebel victory means a stronger foothold for Islamic fascism in the region? This is not certain at this point. Beyond UN diplomacy, I doubt it, but I wouldn’t bet against it. What I believe to be certain, however, is that there exists no moral obligation nor authority for the West to enter the Syrian war – meaning there is absolutely no rational reason for the West to put military men and women in danger for a cause that doesn’t exist, and for a victory that cannot be achieved. Ask yourselves: What would our national interests and goals be in a Syrian war? Entering the war would be nothing but a self-sacrifice, on the off-chance of perhaps saving face and hopefully achieving some goodwill within the in-crowd of Western governments and radicalized groups in the middle east, and that is nothing but a perfect example of immoral political elitism.

Maybe, just maybe, the West should have listened when Putin warned them about supporting and arming rebel forces, whose soldiers eat the flesh of their fallen enemies. Seems like pretty sound advice to me.

Written by Morten Rolland

August 28, 2013 at 6:29 am