Red Lines Drawn with Syrian Blood


It doesn’t matter whether or not Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons. The US and its allies are likely to carry out an attack on Syria in the very near future; the reasons for this have nothing to do with the recent incident in Ghouta.

In response to the chemical attack in April of this year, two months later the United States declared that the al-Assad regime had crossed its “red line” and began to provide arms to the rebels. They provided enough assistance to complicate the regime’s campaigns in critical areas, but not nearly enough support to allow the rebels to march on Damascus.

10.0pt;line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>The Washington Post, this policy was decided weeks before the reports of chemical weapons use had surfaced; in fact, CBS News reported that these efforts were already underway before the chemical attacks occurred—they were merely stepped-up in June. That is, the reports of chemical weapons use in Syria were used as a pretext to justify a deeply unpopular decision the Administration had already committed to.

10.0pt;line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>a number of serious problems with the Obama Administration’s case against al-Assad. Having reviewed the evidence of the US and its allies, the UN declared it to be unconvincing and ordered their own investigation into the incident. Subsequently, their chief investigator would claim that the evidence strongly suggested that it was the rebels who carried out the attack.

history of resorting to these tactics, and the means, motive, and demonstrated intent to do so. The attacks were small-scale, using a chemical agent that the organization is known to possess. Moreover, the attack was carried out on an area which was actually under government control at the time, rather than a rebel-held area. 

"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:
"Times New Roman";color:black”>The Administration’s response to the latest incident has been equally disturbing. After demanding a UN investigation, following al-Assad’s surprise decision to 
facilitate the inquiry (claiming he could prove the attack was carried out by the rebels)—the US and its allies expressed a total disinterest in whatever the investigation may find and indicated that they were not going to wait around for the results. They never intended to: it was their hope that al-Assad would play into their narrative by obstructing the investigation—this would allow the US to assert “he must have something to hide,” and more easily presume guilt in the absence of evidence. Astonishingly, they have decided to stick to this course despite al-Assad’s compliance.

come out against it); the United States is preparing 20,000 soldiers for deployment into the Syrian theater although the Administration does not have Congressional approval to engage (rendering the White House’s actions legally questionable). The UK has drafted a UNSC resolution blaming al-Assad for the attack and sanctioning violence as a response, declaring their intention to strike even without a UN mandate (i.e. in violation of international law), regardless of the ongoing UN investigation, and in defiance of warnings by the UN special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi (fortunately, the British Labour Party has interfered with this plan, at least temporarily).

What’s the rush? As they say, timing is everything.

argued vehemently that some kind of immediate intervention was needed to interrupt these efforts, which were otherwise likely to be successful—and devastating for the rebellion. This new chemical weapons incident just happened to occur at a moment when the regime is on the verge of a general de facto victory over the insurgency while the world’s attention was focused primarily on the unfolding crisis in Egypt.

font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";
mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>no doubt” that al-Assad carried out the attack. And even though by its own account of the events, the Syrian Ministry of Information was outraged by strike, which the state did not authorize, the Administration has been labeling the incident as a provocation which demands “punishment.”

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mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>slam dunk.”

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10.0pt;line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>given the dynamics of the conflict, the Administration would be using some other means of justifying intervention. Much like R2P, the “War on Terror,” or spreading “democracy/ human rights,” WMD claims are used almost exclusively to justify interventions against “inconvenient” actors. Western powers are more than happy to cooperate with agents carrying out the very atrocities they are condemning when geopolitically expedient (consider for a moment that Saudi Arabia is one of the primary allies “bringing democracy” to Syria); when there is little to gain from an intervention, they are eager to turn a blind eye to astonishing human suffering. The ideologies are used to justify rather than determine policy.

font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";
mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>the popular discourse of the conflict is the virtual antithesis of what seems to be happening on the ground.

more lives are lost under R2P than stood to be lost without intervention, greater oppression follows Western “liberation,” greater atrocities unfold as a result of Western “punishment” for “crimes against humanity,” more extremists are created as a result of the “War on Terror.” But it is irrelevant whether or not the espoused “moral” end is achieved, as long as the geopolitical aim is successful.

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>the Obama Administration has made abundantly clear, the impending Western strikes in Syria will not be aimed at deposing al-Assad. The goal is not to resolve, but to perpetuate the conflict. It is unacceptable to Western policymakers that al-Assad emerge victorious in the conflict, as he stands poised to do in the near-to-medium term. However, a rebel victory is not a plausible option at the moment either—even if the US agreed to a Libya-style intervention (insofar as “victory” is understood as liberal or West-compliant factions of the rebels being able to effectively seize, wield, and maintain power and legitimacy in the aftermath of al-Assad being deposed). So because the “right” people are not able to win, the goal is to prevent anyone from prevailing.

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>bolster rather than prevent a negotiated settlement, they will also continue their inconsistent and half-hearted pursuit of a diplomatic resolution—even as they continue to undermine these efforts by insisting that the President step down as a precondition to talks. One way or another, the war will not be permitted to end unless and until the US achieves its goal.

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mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman";
color:black”> is a research fellow with the Southwest Initiative for the Study of Middle East Conflicts (
SISMEC); he has a MA in philosophy from the University of Arizona. You can follow him on Twitter @Musa_alGharbi. 

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