Friday, April 26, 2013

Was Sarin used in Syria? if so, by whom and for what purpose?

“Our intelligence community does assess, with varying degrees of confidence, that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically, the chemical agent sarin,” the White House said in its letter, which was signed by Obama's legislative director, Miguel Rodriguez. (from "Syrian government has twice used chemical weapons, U.S. says" by

Robert Burns and Julie Pace, The Associated Press, in Toronto Star, April 25 2013, excerpted below) 

Immediately  the American Enterprise Institute, along with red-neck hawks like Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham, accuse the Obama administration of "waffling" on the issue, demonstrating weakness and refusing to take appropriate military action.
Let's see....Could there be some cause for caution when judging the reports of the intelligence community, given the disaster that was the Iraq war, when it was George W. Bush who took the world into that conflict "because of weapons of mass destruction" which were never found?
Could it be that Obama, on the very day he celebrated the opening of the George W. Bush Library and Institute at Southern Methodist University in Texas, was taking both the more cautious and more prudent road, precisely because of the extremely high costs and ultimately futility of that war?
Could it be that Obama is working for time, yes, to gather more conclusive information and also to assemble a larger cadre of nations with whom to approach the United Nations for a resolution condemning the use of saran gas by the Assad regime before taking military action in Syria?
There was a very insightful and cogent observation made by Richard Engel, foreign correspondent of NBC, appearing yesterday on the Chris Matthews' program on MSNBC, Hardball, which indicated that if and when saran gas is used, it usually results in hundreds of dead people. Given that this case so far demonstrates only a small number of people who have tested positive for the deadly chemical, saran, Engel agreed that the chemical could have been "strategically" placed and found and reported, in order to push, shove, induce, coerce the United States into entering the civil war on behalf of the rebel forces.
Manipulation of evidence in support of whatever causes deem such manipulation necessary, is clearly a strategy and a tactic of war. Seemingly, it is becoming more commonplace even among non-combatants, given the "co-incidental" timing of the arrest of two men in Canada by a Canadian government simultaneously driving a terrorist bill through the House of Commons...looks like very suspicious timing indeed.
Without skipping a beat, the American "right" in its traditional "macho" mask, will use whatever evidence it can and does find to promote military action, if for no other reason than to show the world that the United States is not to be taken lightly, and to demonstrate its proud tradition of hard power.
Obama, on the other hand, prefers a more subtle, more nuanced and also hopefully more collaborative approach, especially following two major, lengthy and costly wars. The 'right' neurotically stakes out the "hard power" side of masculinity, as its own, so that it will demonstrate "power'n'leadership" in its own mind, and thereby command the respect (votes) of a majority of the public.
Fortunately, that assumption may be losing its cache. Obama's approach, condemned by former Secretary of State, Condolessa Rice, speaking on behalf of the Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in the last presidential election as "leading from behind"..something Rice claimed was impossible...
The world can only hope first that reports of the use of saran on its own people by the Assad regime prove to be inconclusive and that, if reports turn out to be valid, any action to bring Assad down, and to attempt to rebuild Syria will have active, committed and sustainable participation from many quarters, including both Russia and China, as well as at least some of her Mid-East neighbours, along with the U.S., the U.K., France, and Europe.
Iran's support for Assad can never be discounted or minimized, and it may well turn out that her agents are responsible for the limited evidence of saran, in order to provoke the U.S. into retaliating, thereby giving Iran a reason to ramp up their military and intelligence support of Assad. Of course, that is pure speculation for which evidence must be found, if there is indeed any to be found.
If we had learned anything about international relations, it is that they are fraught with both complexity and subtlety, with multiple players with multiple motives, with often mixed alliances and conflicted goals and the job of untangling and unpacking and interpreting the evidence cannot proceed too  quickly nor too superficially...especially if those engaged in the process are already predisposed to quick military action.
Fortunately, in this case, that is not Obama's nature to move quickly, rashly and intemperately.
Eventually, however, he may be forced into the Syrian conflict, and the world will be both watching and holding its breath as that chapter of this cancer unfolds.


Syrian government has twice used chemical weapons, U.S. says


The White House disclosed the new intelligence Thursday in letters to two senators, and Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel, travelling in Abu Dhabi, also discussed it with reporters.

By Robert Burns and Julie Pace, The Associated Press, in Toronto Star, April 25 2013

WASHINGTON—U.S. intelligence has concluded “with some degree of varying confidence” that the Syrian government has twice used chemical weapons in its fierce civil war, the White House and other top administration officials said Thursday.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says the Syrian regime launched two chemical attacks.
However, officials also said more definitive proof was needed and the U.S. was not ready to escalate its involvement in Syria. That response appeared to be an effort to bide time, given President Barack Obama's repeated public assertions that Syria's use of chemical weapons, or the transfer of its stockpiles to a terrorist group, would cross a “red line.”
The White House disclosed the new intelligence Thursday in letters to two senators, and Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel, travelling in Abu Dhabi, also discussed it with reporters.
“Our intelligence community does assess, with varying degrees of confidence, that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically, the chemical agent sarin,” the White House said in its letter, which was signed by Obama's legislative director, Miguel Rodriguez.

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