Why Did Assad Use Nerve Gas?

It is hard to explain why Bashar Assad used nerve gas -- probably Sarin -- in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in Syria’s northern Idlib province. On the surface, at least, it would seem to be a totally counterproductive and reckless move likely to anger the Europeans, the Americans, and even his patrons the Russians. Then why would he do it? It was a surprise, coming as it did immediately after U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley announced that “regime change” in Syria was no longer a priority and the U.S. focus would be on ISIS. This was a major change from the Obama administration and should have reassured Assad that he could hang on as ruler of Syria. But some pundits saw the U.S. policy shift as a perverse incentive for Assad, making it possible for him to believe he could use highly lethal chemical weapons without fear of retaliation. The Sarin would thus be a test of whether the new policy was real. To some degree, the announcement by the British prime...(Read Full Article)