Is Bashar al-Assad’s personal guilt over the use of chemical weapons against the people of Syria important? If so, we might consider that the tide of evidence that contradicts that appears to be rising:
President Bashar al-Assad did not personally order last month’s chemical weapons attack near Damascus that has triggered calls for US military intervention, and blocked numerous requests from his military commanders to use chemical weapons against regime opponents in recent months, a German newspaper has reported , citing unidentified, high-level national security sources.
The intelligence findings were based on phone calls intercepted by a German surveillance ship operated by the BND, the German intelligence service, and deployed off the Syrian coast, Bild am Sonntag said. The intercepted communications suggested Assad, who is accused of war crimes by the west, including foreign secretary William Hague, was not himself involved in last month’s attack or in other instances when government forces have allegedly used chemical weapons.
Assad sought to exonerate himself from the August attack in which hundreds died. “There has been no evidence that I used chemical weapons against my own people,” he said in an interview with CBS.
But the intercepts tended to add weight to the claims of the Obama administration and Britain and France that elements of the Assad regime, and not renegade rebel groups, were responsible for the attack in the suburb of Ghouta, Bild said.
Doesn’t that argue that regime change rather than “degrading” Assad’s capabilities, the strategy being argued by Secretary of State Kerry, is really the required outcome?
Just as a reminder, I think it’s likely that chemical weapons have been used in Syria, I don’t know the nature of the chemical weapons that have been used, and I don’t know who used them, whether at Bashar al-Assad’s specific command, by other members of the regime, by some low-ranking Syrian military officer, or by the rebels. I don’t honestly think that anybody else does, either.
The questions I’m raising are what level of proof should be required before we use military force, what should be its objective, and what kind of authorization should be necessary for its use? IMO that’s a discussion worth having.