So, there’s been recent reports of chemical weapons being used in Syria. This raised a few questions, and was seen as a ‘red line’ for intervention in the West. For this, I think it’s fair to add a few points of context and why this will probably make intervention less probable than it would seem to be. Also, I should say now that my stance is non-intervention in Syria, something you can see in my previous posts.
Most importantly, as soon as several politicians called chemical weapons a game changer, there were always going to be those on the rebels side who would want to stage a false flag attack to gain support. Analysts from the bottom-up predicted this (e.g. here), something that actually comes out looking quite rational (especially when you consider the array of factions involved against Assad).
First of all, countries such as the UK and the US need to recognise that the battle isn’t black and white; there is a tendency to idolise those fighting against enemies as freedom fighters, such as the Muhajideen against the Soviets, many of whom were later rebranded as ‘terrorists’.
In fact, the evidence points now that instead of one side using chemical weapons, and generally being the ‘bad guys’, both sides do. Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel announced that he had evidence the Syrian government had used chemical weapons in April (source), and yesterday UN human rights investigators reported that rebels had used the nerve agent Sarin (source).
So, this also turns into another claim made of the rebels that was said to be categorically wrong by those in the media. Here’s a list someone else made of some of the claims so far, that were later proved right:
- Rebels armed with advanced conventional weaponry such as AT, mortars, AA, grad rockets.
- Foreign fighters present.
- Foreign countries are financing the war (Qatar, Saudi Arabia…)
- Foreign countries are assisting entry and providing training to rebels (Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia…)
- Syria is fighting terrorists. (Al Nusra, and other extremist groups)
- Rebels have used chemical weapons.
What this ends up looking at, is a painful and no-win war. Of course, this is only from an outsider’s perspective, but it seems that siding with either the rebels or Assad means siding with those incompatible with the norms and values of the West, and that sitting on the sidelines means we’re just going to ‘let people die’.