How Sure Are We That It Was Assad Who Used the Gas?

 

Pretty sure, it seems.

I received an email this morning from Ricochet member Manfred Arcane, who asked if there is any validity to the allegation that it was the rebels, and not the Assad regime, who used gas against Syrian civilians on August 21st.

To answer this question, I got in touch with regional experts (and previous podcast guests) Michael Totten and Jonathan Spyer. Michael told me that the Israelis intercepted signal intelligence from Syria and have recordings of regime officials discussing the chemical attacks, a welcome bit of hard evidence amid all the speculation. Jonathan sent me a link to a page on which a variety of chemical weapons specialists respond to the claim. The specialists are Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, the Former Commander of UK CBRN Forces and COO of SecureBio; Gwyn Winfield of the specialist magazine CBRNe World; Steve Johnson of Explosive and Hazardous Forensics at Cranfield University; and Dan Kaszeta, a veteran of the US Army Chemical Corps. All four believe, albeit with some reservations, that the odds are strongly in favor of the supposition that the Assad regime was responsible for the gas attack. 

There’s no shortage of remaining reasons to be queasy about a US military strike on Syria, but at least we can be reasonably certain that the precipitating incident is not being grossly misinterpreted.

There are 78 comments.

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  1. Profile Photo Inactive
    @ManfredArcane

    What?  They don’t envy our freedoms, they hate our freedoms.  “Death to Apostates”, remember?  They hate us because we choose to be infidels.  You are an infidel, Zafar, correct?  (Pardon my asking, it’s just that sometimes I can’t tell.)

    Zafar: Drones certainly might be!

    MMPadre:

    Obama is Al-Quaida’s best recruiter.

    But careful – you’re edging towards saying that they don’t just hate use because they envy our freedoms. · 1 hour ago

    • #61
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    @ManfredArcane

    Don’t understand this “free pass”.  We act in our Country’s self interest.  We try to promote freedom in Egypt, and Iran, and elsewhere, when we can, but have to choose the lesser of two evils sometimes.  Events in Egypt show how tricky this is.  Egypt is worse off now than under Mubarak probably.  Same with Iran and the Shah.  Would it be nice if democracy and freedom could be inaugurated in those places?  Sure, but that really isn’t an option, it seems.  All you get is a different form of tyranny, witness the MB. The revolution in Iran that deposed the Shah started out with more western, aka democratic aims, but was hijacked by the Mullahs.  That’s the way the cookie crumbles in this mad part of the world.  Freedom just doesn’t take in Islamic societies.  The Syrian Spring has devolved into a winter of Islamic madness, Sunni against Shia.  What is the West to do???

    Zafar: …It’s also giving the West a free pass to say that we just support the most Westernised elements in the ME.  What is Westernised?  A despot like the Shah or Mubarak?  What is so Westernised about them? 

    • #62
  3. Profile Photo Member
    @Zafar

    Gay man, Manfred, I’d be shot in the head.  But I don’t see Al Qaida flying a plane into a tower because I’m hanging out unmolested in NYC.  They aren’t motivated enough by who we are at home, it’s because of who we support over there.

    “They are here because we are there” – and ironically that holds true for both the Western armed forces and Al Qaida.

    • #63
  4. Profile Photo Contributor
    @JohnGrant

    The mere possession of chemical weapons is now enough to go to war over?

    So much for the equality of nations under the laws of nature and nature’s God.

    James Of England

    Howellis

    James Of England

    You’re right. I was meaning that the atrocity at Hama was helpful, but I got hopelessly confused. D’oh. Thanks for correcting me.

    John Grant: One of these days we will learn to be reluctant about simply accepting the arguments of foreign intelligence agencies.

    And there is the possibility that the release of the chemical agents was an accident. An accidental release occurred at Bari, Italy in 1943 when a German air raid destroyed an American ship carrying chemical weapons. Hundreds of Americans (and an unknown number of Italian) became casualties as a consequence. · 

    Like Saddam, but with even less excuse, Assad made an effort to effort to hinder inspections. If he didn’t use them, he clearly wants the world to believe he did. Occam’s Razor says he did. · 15 hours ago

    • #64
  5. Profile Photo Coolidge
    @ctlaw

    This is an Obama-Holder world. Only using them against politically correct victims is prohibited. According to SecState John F. Kerry: “Make no mistake: President Obama believes there must be accountability for those who would use the world’s most heinous weapons against the world’s most vulnerable people.”

    Presumably, Israelis and George Zimmerman won’t qualify as among the “most vulnerable”.

    John Grant: The mere possession of chemical weapons is now enough to go to war over?

    So much for the equality of nations under the laws of nature and nature’s God.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    • #65
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    @ManWiththeAxe
    Zafar: “They” hate us for all these things, Manfred, but hate is one thing and acting on that hatred, and against whom, and how, is another….

    They have hated Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, not to mention homosexuals, since the advent of Islam.

    They hate secularism, even that of nominal Muslims. They hate alcohol, western music, uncovered women, women who go to school, women who drive, women who vote. They believe that it is approved by their faith to rape non-believers, and to kill non-believers.

    They go nuts when a Jew kills a Muslim, but they don’t even blink when Muslims kill other Muslims by the hundreds of thousands. Deaths of non-Muslims at the hands of Muslims are cause for celebration.

    They work toward the goal of Muslim domination under Sharia of the entire world.

    I have a hard time believing that “they” are motivated in the main to hate Americans by American foreign policy.

    • #66
  7. Profile Photo Inactive
    @ManfredArcane

    It is always useful to hear the other side of the argument, but the problem here is that the information has to be considered analytically.  For example, if military aircraft attacks cause fewer collateral casualties, as L Lewis seems to claims, it could very well be because they are generally used to prosecute an attack against a military force, meaning on a battlefield that has been somewhat denuded of civilians.  So I advise care in assimilating this “data”.

    Otherwise, I don’t know how you expect to defeat Taliban, Al Queda and their like if you don’t allow yourself to kill folks who interact with them.  Seems a necessary evil of the war we are in.

    Finally, I don’t get this idea that sniper fire is morally superior to drone attacks because the sniper takes “personal risks”.  Don’t get that at all.

    MMPadre: M. Arcane,

    I may take that cold shower, butFWIW:

    VOA News

    Air Force Scrubs Drone Data

    L Lewis

    Stanford Law Report

    And using drones is nothing like using snipers, who single out a clearly-identified target and take personal risks.  Obama merely classifies any teenager caught in the blast-radius a “terrorist”.  He. Lies. 

    • #67
  8. Profile Photo Member
    @

    During the Iraq war I saw many stories reporting that the Assad regime was arming and supplying terrorists in Iraq who were killing and maiming American troops. For some reason that not enough to make the US government declare a redline and bomb Syria.

    Now- with the US essentially out of Iraq- somehow we are supposed to be really concerned because that regime is doing the exact same thing it has been doing for decades- killing people.

    Meh. I’m just not feeling it. As far as I’m concerned Assad can kill as many jihadis as he is able, and it is no concern of the United States.

    We have no dog in this fight, nor should we labor to find one.

    • #68
  9. Profile Photo Moderator
    @JamesOfEngland
    John Grant: The mere possession of chemical weapons is now enough to go to war over?

    So much for the equality of nations under the laws of nature and nature’s God.

    James Of England

    Howellis

    James Of England

    John Grant:

    Like Saddam, but with even less excuse, Assad made an effort to effort to hinder inspections. If he didn’t use them, he clearly wants the world to believe he did. Occam’s Razor says he did. ·

    I didn’t mean that Assad hindered inspections of his chemical weapon pile (he admits to having them, so inspections wouldn’t be terribly valuable). I meant that Assad hindered inspections of the site. Mere possession was apparently not enough to be a problem, but breaking the red line and using them, well, that’s a problem.

    There is no equality of nations put forth by Nature’s God. Neither scripture nor natural law demand the treaty of Westphalia. Rather, people are equal, regardless of their nationalities, whether they are from East or West, are Jews or Greeks. Quoting scripture to justify an indifference to the deaths of foreigners is grotesque. If, instead, you’re advocating progressive international law, please be explicit.

    • #69
  10. Profile Photo Member
    @Zafar

    Sure.  Sometimes that promotes freedom in the ME and sometimes that doesn’t.

    Manfred Arcane: Don’t understand this “free pass”.  We act in our Country’s self interest.  

    • #70
  11. Profile Photo Member
    @Zafar

    They’re motivated to act against America by US foreign policy.  Otherwise they seem okay about hating the West at home, which seems like a better option for us.

    Howellis

    I have a hard time believing that “they” are motivated in the main to hate Americans by American foreign policy. · 8 hours ago

    • #71
  12. Profile Photo Inactive
    @ManWiththeAxe
    Zafar: They’re motivated to act against America by US foreign policy.  Otherwise they seem okay about hating the West at home, which seems like a better option for us.

    Howellis

     

    I have a hard time believing that “they” are motivated in the main to hate Americans by American foreign policy. ·

    I can’t refute the possibility that US foreign policy contributes to Islamic motivations, but how to explain the carrying out of literally thousands of Muslim terror attacks in many other countries where foreign policy is irrelevant?  

    For example:  terror attacks by Boko Haram in Nigeria against Christians and against secular schools, attacks in India, attacks against Jews in countries around the world, against Coptic Christians in Egypt, attacks in the Philippines, in Bali, shootings of girls and their teachers in schools, attacks on Shiites by Sunnis and vice-versa, and attacks in other places too numerous to mention?

    If all of these attacks have little or no basis in foreign policy, maybe the attacks on Americans are similarly mostly based on something else, namely, hatred of all things western.

    • #72
  13. Profile Photo Contributor
    @JohnGrant

    I was referring to the Declaration of Independence James.

    By the way, the equality of nations was a bedrock principle of American international law until the Progressive Era. The equality of nations follows from the equality of individuals.

    James Of England

    John Grant: The mere possession of chemical weapons is now enough to go to war over?

    So much for the equality of nations under the laws of nature and nature’s God.

    James Of England

    Howellis

    James Of England

    John Grant:

    Like Saddam, but with even less excuse, Assad made an effort to effort to hinder inspections. If he didn’t use them, he clearly wants the world to believe he did. Occam’s Razor says he did. ·

    There is no equality of nations put forth by Nature’s God. Neither scripture nor natural law demand the treaty of Westphalia. Rather, people are equal, regardless of their nationalities, whether they are from East or West, are Jews or Greeks. Quoting scripture to justify an indifference to the deaths of foreigners is grotesque. If, instead, you’re advocating progressive international law, please be explicit. · 2 hours ago

    • #73
  14. Profile Photo Inactive
    @ManWiththeAxe
    Zafar: True enough, but they aren’t attacking Copts because they hate America – are they?  They aren’t attacking Shias/Sunnis/Homosexuals/Women because they hate Christians.

    It seems irrational to insist that eithereverythingis about you ornothingis.  Life is more nuanced.

    Howellis

    …how to explain the carrying out of literally thousands of Muslim terror attacks in many other countries where foreign policy is irrelevant?  

    I sagree that foreign policy is relevant. I hate them for their foreign policy against Israel. But I also hate their cultural practices, especially their treatment of women and religious minorities, such as Bahais.

    My point:  They hate all who are not Muslims, as well as Muslims of differing theology or politics.

    Granted, America is (or at least was) the most significant political and military enemy of the caliphate, but it is also the most significant cultural enemy of Sharia, with our rights for women and homosexuals, Jews in high places, and our sexual libertinism expressed in the way women dress, our music, movies, and our use of alcohol.

    One has to be willingly blind to miss that Islamists hate us for these latter reasons regardless of our role in world politics.

    • #74
  15. Profile Photo Inactive
    @ManWiththeAxe

    Zafar, I don’t agree that Muslims would leave us alone to our wicked ways if we just had a different policy for the middle east.  They don’t leave anyone else alone. That was my original point. Our policies, such as the presence of infidel troops in the holy land, or support for Israel, and the like, strike me as pretextual rationales for attacking us.

    My evidence for this is that their animosity towards us doesn’t change when our policies change. We leave Iraq: no change. We save millions of Muslims in Bosnia: no change. We take a harder tack with Israel: no change. We stay out of the Iranian upheaval: no change. We champion the overthrow of dictators we used to support (Ghadaffi, Mubarak, etc.): no change.

    If you want to know what they truly think of us, listen to what their imams say, not what their politicians say.

    • #75
  16. Profile Photo Member
    @Zafar

    True enough, but they aren’t attacking Copts because they hate America – are they?  They aren’t attacking Shias/Sunnis/Homosexuals/Women because they hate Christians.

    It seems irrational to insist that either everything is about you or nothing is.  Life is more nuanced.

    Howellis

    I can’t refute the possibility that US foreign policy contributes to Islamic motivations, but how to explain the carrying out of literally thousands of Muslim terror attacks in many other countries where foreign policy is irrelevant?  

    • #76
  17. Profile Photo Moderator
    @JamesOfEngland
    John Grant: I was referring to the Declaration of Independence James.

    By the way, the equality of nations was a bedrock principle of American international law until the Progressive Era. The equality of nations follows from the equality of individuals.

    James Of England

    John Grant:

    James Of England

    I recognized the reference to Nature’s God, but the declaration refers to “peoples” as being equal. When the majority of a state is striving to prevent its abuse at the hands of a better armed minority and reaches out its hand in friendship, it is a perversion to say that the hand should be rejected because the minority is considered a synecdoche for the people as a whole.

    While there are elements of Westphalian thought that do permeate American jurisprudence, there are also firm rejections of it. Not least amongst these is the right to revolt, but also the right to abandon your citizenship and become the naturalized citizen of another state.

    The rights and privileges of dictators in no way flow from a belief in universal human freedom. A Christian or humanist belief in the shared humanity of Americans and Syrians does not promote indifference to Syrian suffering.

    • #77
  18. Profile Photo Member
    @Zafar

    Honestly, I think they might see all of these things differently from you. (We haven’t left Iraq.  We’re embargoing Iran.  We blocked the Bosnian Govt from importing heavy weapons to defend themselves.  We’re rather embarrassingly leading from behind wrt Mubarak et and and now refuse to call a coup in Egypt a coup, etc. etc.)

    Howellis:

    My evidence for this is that their animosity towards us doesn’t change when our policies change. We leave Iraq: no change. We save millions of Muslims in Bosnia: no change. We take a harder tack with Israel: no change. We stay out of the Iranian upheaval: no change. We champion the overthrow of dictators we used to support (Ghadaffi, Mubarak, etc.): no change.

    You may be right, but there’s no way so far of telling.  And I remember growing up when there was just not that much of an Islamist threat against the world – what’s changed and what’s the same?

    (Don’t listen to their Imams, listen to their talk shows – iow, Aljazeera. jmho)

    • #78
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