As far as I'm concerned, this doesn't change the rationale for not bombing Syria one bit. All it does is set up a war crimes trial in the Hague in the future.
Last Wednesday, in the hours after a horrific chemical attack east of Damascus, an official at the Syrian Ministry of Defense exchanged panicked phone calls with a leader of a chemical weapons unit, demanding answers for a nerve agent strike that killed more than 1,000 people. Those conversations were overheard by U.S. intelligence services, The Cable has learned. And that is the major reason why American officials now say they're certain that the attacks were the work of the Bashar al-Assad regime -- and why the U.S. military is likely to attack that regime in a matter of days.
But the intercept raises questions about culpability for the chemical massacre, even as it answers others: Was the attack on Aug. 21 the work of a Syrian officer overstepping his bounds? Or was the strike explicitly directed by senior members of the Assad regime? "It's unclear where control lies," one U.S. intelligence official told The Cable. "Is there just some sort of general blessing to use these things? Or are there explicit orders for each attack?"
Nor are U.S. analysts sure of the Syrian military's rationale for launching the strike -- if it had a rationale at all. Perhaps it was a lone general putting a long-standing battle plan in motion; perhaps it was a miscalculation by the Assad government. Whatever the reason, the attack has triggered worldwide outrage, and put the Obama administration on the brink of launching a strike of its own in Syria. "We don't know exactly why it happened," the intelligence official added. "We just know it was pretty fu**ing stupid."
American intelligence analysts are certain that chemical weapons were used on Aug. 21 -- the captured phone calls, combined with local doctors' accounts and video documentation of the tragedy -- are considered proof positive. That is why the U.S. government, from the president on down, has been unequivocal in its declarations that the Syrian military gassed thousands of civilians in the East Ghouta region.
However, U.S. spy services still have not acquired the evidence traditionally considered to be the gold standard in chemical weapons cases: soil, blood, and other environmental samples that test positive for reactions with nerve agent.
As analysts puzzle over what earthly reason the Syrian military had for using WMD to attack its own people, the only question we should be asking is, who would benefit by an attack on Assad?
Of all people, Dennis Kucinich gets it right:
Airstrikes on Syria would turn the U.S. military into "al Qaeda's air force," former Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) told The Hill.
The outspoken anti-war activist said any such action would plunge the United States into another war in the Middle East and embolden Islamist militants fighting Bashar Assad's regime.
"So what, we're about to become Al Qaeda's air force now?" Kucinich said. "This is a very, very serious matter that has broad implications internationally. And to try to minimize it by saying we're just going to have a 'targeted strike' -- that's an act of war. It's not anything to be trifled with."
Following a strike on Syria, would an Iranian attack on one of our bases in the Gulf require a military response? If so, where would it stop?
There is no good end to this intervention. And it may set in motion things that no one could imagine or desire.