Aug 222013
 

It’s very hard to assess the chemical attack on the Damascus district of Ghouta, but as always the best approach is to ask who benefits.

How does the al-Assad regime gain from the universal condemnation of the atrocity?  On the face of it, there’s no benefit.  Already, France is rattling the sabres, demanding military intervention, but even that might be nothing more than a sour reminder of the Iraq fiasco.  The United States vilified the French when they refused to support the ludicrous pretext that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and declined to join the even-more ludicrous coalition of the willing.

syria chemical attack

Perhaps the latest statement by French foreign minister Laurent Fabius is simply a goad to the United States: If it is proven, France’s position is that there must be a reaction, a reaction that could take the form of a reaction with force.  Or it might be a nostalgic reassertion of France’s former imperialistic role in the Levant.

Interestingly, the reaction from the US has been considerably more muted, but the irony of the French position won’t be lost on the State Department.   Those Freedom Fries will be repeating for another few years.

On the other hand, perhaps Bashar has calculated that the game is worth the candle and that he cannot tolerate rebel occupation of a Damascus district commanding vital supply lines.  Who knows?  He might have decided to gas the whole lot of them, which would be no surprise, given the lack of scruples his family has shown over the years when it comes to mass murder, but it would be stupid, and Bashar al-Assad is not famous for his stupidity.

Who else benefits?  Perhaps it’s the rebels, but then you have to define precisely who they are.

Are we talking about the nebulous Free Syrian Army or are we talking about al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda backed by the Saudis?  If the Assad regime falls, these are the people who will take control of Syria and turn it into a rigid Islamic theocracy.  The Free Syrian Army will be dispersed to the winds.

The web is complicated.  Al-Nusra has been responsible for murdering Kurds in the northern regions of Syria, and is reported to have links with Turkish intelligence and with the Iraqi Islamic groups fostered by the ill-advised American invasion of that country.

Does the Free Syrian Army benefit from the gassing of the people in Ghouta?  Perhaps, but it’s unlikely to have been behind it.  The fanatics of al-Nusra, on the other hand,  can’t be said to have any more scruples than Bashar al-Assad when it comes to mass murder.  If this gains them a political advantage, they’ll be happy enough to take it.

Does it benefit Hezbollah, the dominant military force in Lebanon?  Certainly not.  As a Shia group, their sympathies lie with al-Assad, who is an Alawite.  In all likelihood, their intelligence services are already aware of who was behind the attack, and if it turns out to be Bashar, Hezbollah will be hopping mad.  They want him in power and the last thing they need is an international move to depose him.  This puts them in the same camp as the Syrian Christians, Kurds and Druze, all of whom recognise pragmatically that it’s better to live under a non-religious despot than an Islamic extremist.  Like his father before him, and like Saddam, Bashar has no interest in a person’s religious affiliation.

Do the Israelis benefit?  Possibly.  It might be in their interest to have a Sunni government in Syria, constantly at odds with a powerful Shia militia in Lebanon, weakening each other and keeping pressure off Israel.

So cui bono?

In the long term, not Bashar al-Assad, though he might have resorted to it for short-term tactical reasons.

The Free Syrian Army?  No.

Al-Nusra?  Yes.  Certainly.

Hezbollah?  Absolutely not.

Israel?  In the medium term, yes, if it helps to establish an extremist Sunni government in Syria.

There you go.  I have no more information on this than you do.  We still have no hard facts, but it will be at the far end of absurd if these gas attacks provoke a Western intervention that results in the installation of yet another extremist religious government in the Middle East.

Bashar al-Assad is a nasty piece of work.  He’s a despot, just like his father and just like Saddam Hussein but since when has it been the business of the so-called West to depose despots?  They never did it with Stalin or with Mao.  They don’t attempt it now in North Korea.  They didn’t do it with  Pol Pot — that role fell to the Vietnamese.  They don’t do it with the vile Saudi royal family and they didn’t do it with Gadaffi.  They didn’t intervene when the genocide was taking place in Rwanda, and they placed an arms embargo on the Bosnians despite Mladic’s ethnic cleansing.

They wouldn’t have done it with Saddam Hussein either if he didn’t happen to have the oil that Dick Cheney’s Halliburton wanted to get their hands on.   As the hysterically funny right-wing American commentator, PJ O’Rourke, remarked in Holidays in Hell, what’s the Kuwaiti national anthem?  Onward Christian Soldiers.

Here’s a horrible question.  Is there an obligation on the world to unseat tyrants?

I don’t think so, unless we’re prepared to govern the territory ourselves, which we will never do.

No matter how vile the despot, all an intervention achieves is to open the doors to worse tyrants.

I don’t like it.  You don’t like it, but that’s how it is.  Feel free to suggest a better way.

__________

Previously on Bock the Robber

The Most Bloodiest Man

  39 Responses to “Chemical Weapons Attack in Syria. Who Benefits?”

Comments (39)
  1.  

    Yeah, it has been an absolute shitstorm of disinformation coming out of Syria for the longest time… so, very hard to tell. No doubt on this though, most of Assad’s Syrian critics want him to cling to power… the alternative, as you allude to, is a catastrophic implosion. Western agenda, yet again, is perhaps the darkest talking point about this fractured war, when the west needs to let each country evolve as naturally as possible.

  2.  

    As you say, “Bashar al-Assad ia not famous for his stupidity.”

    Why would he say fuck you to the UN chemical weapons inspection that have only just arrived in the country to assess three prior incidents?

    If al-Assad wanted to murder an entire neighbourhood, he has many other means at his disposal to do so (heavy shelling combined with a ariel carpet-bombing comes to mind).

    So surely, such an act from him would be madness? Would you risk pissing off the Russians or Chinese in your current predicament? I think not.

    This war is as much a battle on the ground as it is a it is a war of propaganda.

    For example. the video footage claiming the killing of Kurds by rebels has, I understand, turned out to have been faked.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/the-evidence-of-chemical-attack-seems-compelling–but-remember–theres-a-propaganda-war-on-8778918.html

    Additionally, poisonous gasses like sarin can be synthesized using fertilisers.

    Al-Nusra are strong contenders to my mind – but the fog of war and all that…

  3.  

    I look forward to Louisemay’s input on this subject as she expressed such concern for the Syrians on your Park and Ride thread.

  4.  

    No doubt Louisemay will share her immense depth of understanding on the matter.

  5.  

    A very well researched post, I’ll give you that.
    But one with several questions on several levels.
    Where to start?

    Cui bono, indeed?

    I think that sometimes it’s not that simple.

    Assad might be clever, but he is also brass-necked.
    Why?
    It might be his personal trait, as despots go, it might be that he has “friends in high places” that is, powers who want to keep him on the throne. Conspiracy?

    Obama might be indecisive, but as American presidents go, he depends on advisers and, well, circumstances or rather powerful people. Or maybe Syria is just not interesting enough for American interests. Always look for financial interests. Conspiracy?

    All the different factions in the Middle East, of which I lost count over the years by now – do they actually need a reason, and excuse? Conspiracy we don’t know of?

    Israel. Well that is another thing. I think that any unrest in the Arab world would just suit them fine, unless they fear the people as such. An Arab despot might be easier to feed their cause than a whole people fighting to get rid of an despot? … Conspiracy?

    What I know though is that the general silence or rather ignorance about it all is puzzling.

    Or maybe not. Isn’t it such that only atrocities which affect Western interests (and western means all capitalist countries, be they in the actual West or not) are condemned and fought against?

    I do believe that the chemical attacks happened as I do believe that there were killins with other means of who knows how many people in Syria since the uprising, or unrest.

    One other thing I’ve been thinking of is, however, why we wonder that no-one intervenes, that Europe or more importantly Obama (as representative of the US-forces) is quiet – despite our critique of “Western”, especially US-intervention in all sorts of countries.

    What is actually going on in the power-distribution of the world?

    Personally I wish that someone would kill that Assad-guy just to stop the senseless killing he is responsible for.
    On the other hand I wish that our oh so “superior” Western world would stop interfering in other country’s and cultures’ affairs.
    Probably it’s too late for that, since the Western ideology is by now too ingrained all over the world. Like the Christian church.

    But what do I know? The complex world and all the real conspiracies and lies of the powers are beyond my wildest nightmares by now anyway.

  6.  

    I’ll wait to see what the Xposé team come up with later.

    Today I heard someone on radio say that gassing is a “crime against humanity”. So killing people with bombs and bullets was ok all along then?

  7.  

    cui bono?

    Unless they are caught red handed, Al-Nusra are the only one’s who stand to gain from this one. Complicating his position, Assad will want to keep the investigation ‘in house’, which will only serve to draw more scrutiny towards him. No way in hell does Assad commit this atrocity, and I believe the western powers know this already.

    Thankfully, the US is out of the invasion game for as long as Obama is POTUS, and hopefully for much longer than that. I say leave the Syrian conflict to those closer to the action. I think it is time for Europe and or Russia to get their hand dirty for a change. As well, I’d expect Israel to start taking potshots at Hezbollah to weaken their/Iran’s position in advance of the looming power shift.

    Outcome? Europe haven’t the stomach or resources for a fight, so the UN take on this puppy with heavy Russian influence.

  8.  

    And the US stops invading people who didn’t attack them?

  9.  

    Bock,

    Amen to that brother!!!

  10.  

    Bock

    No argument here.

  11.  

    Your attitude towards Israel is pretty well-known. That is why it does not surprise me that amongst many reasons why to use gas against civilians in Syria, Israel comes as a second best in your view. Visiting this site quite often I would be more surprised with the opposite.

  12.  

    If you think there’s something wrong with the logic, say what it is. Otherwise, you’re just spouting hot air.

  13.  

    Sooner or later we will know who is behind this gas attack. I just cannot see how would Israel benefit long term from this if they did it. You can accuse them of anything, except logic decisions.

  14.  

    Did you see an accusation in this post?

  15.  

    Accusation in this post? No… actually no accusations in any of your posts. Just spouting hot air. Good night.

  16.  

    Was that a flounce?

  17.  

    Hard for me to find out what a ‘flounce’ means exactly, apart the item I can find on some of my clothes. So the response was primarily tiredness and resignation. Good night (with no flounce).

  18.  

    You agree that there are no accusations in this post then?

  19.  

    I thought I have written it already: “Accusation in this post? No… actually no accusations in any of your posts.” But just to be more accurate: I agree that there are no accusations in this post. (now and then and forever)

  20.  

    Do you have any views on what I actually said in this post, as opposed to my supposed well-known attitude?

  21.  

    I said I cannot see how would Israel benefit long term from killing Syrian civilians. That is it. Good night.

  22.  

    That’s not what you said. Goodnight.

  23.  

    They’re all a shower of shits and there’s nothing much ‘the West’ or the Russians can do about it without letting a bunch of islamist shits take over from Assad’s shits. Is my summary a balanced view of the shituation?

    The Irish general public probably will pass the hat around to finance the sending of food and life supplies to the burgeoning refugee camps adjacent to Syria.

  24.  

    The repellent George Galloway, who first burst forth onto the British political scene from John Hurt’s rib cage in Aliens 1 a few years back, reckons Israel are behind it. Galloway is the honourable MP for Islamic Jihad and Sharia Law in the UK.

  25.  

    At this point, it’s impossible to say for sure who’s behind it. All you can do is ask who benefits.

  26.  

    I can’t see how Israel benefits from a failed state, having signed a peace treaty with a settled Egypt under Sadat. As for do we intervene, I thought that the UN approved principle of R2P was constructed to allow just that, considering that a unanimous Security Council vote was never likely to allow the prevention of genocide. Kosovo and Rwanda being examples.

  27.  

    Do you think it at all possible that Assad does not have complete control over his own troops ?
    Who ever wins this thing it will be a true hell for the losers, with the very worst kind of revenge taken. In the face of that I can see either side using whatever weapons they have at hand.

    I’m by no means an Israel apologist but I would imagine the best outcome for Israel is for Assad to cling on to a broken country that will have to spend the next 20 years just rebuilding……….rather that than the place filling up with islamic crazies.

  28.  

    Who loses?

  29.  

    Who loses? Ordinary Syrians. No matter who benefits…

  30.  

    Looks like the western powers will go beyond bluster now, to what extent remains to be seen.

    Of course al-Assad will lose but unlike in Libya I can’t see events on the ground being tilted as a result.

  31.  

    P.S. Russia, China and Iran will not countenance a Libyan style adventure.

  32.  

    Niall, I think you’re right, the US and some Europeans will hit the Assad military but do you really think the Russians, Chinese and Iranians are going to join up for WW III ?

  33.  

    I for one do NOT support any further Western intervention in this region, and not because I am a critic – I think it’s time that all the religous and prolitical extremists in the Middle east were left to their own devices (and oil is no longer the motivation that it used to be for any intervention).

    Also, I agree that asking who benefits from the chemical weapon attack is one good angle for analysis.

    Another one is, who has the capability to supply, load, aim and fire chemical filled artillery shells in Damascus? Whoever can answer this question will know the truth!

  34.  

    Hello all.
    A question of the delivery system has been in my mind.
    I assume the chemical cocktail arrives in some sort of shell casing, which bursts?
    Fragments of that shell casing would point the finger towards the manufacturer.

  35.  

    I think that might be a major factor in the report of the inspection team.

  36.  

    Hi Bob, I can’t see how the identification of the manufacturer would help in identifying the culprit. It is widely known that rebel groups gained control of a considerable amount of government stocks during the conflict.

    As a note, The Americans are saying that the delivery mechanism was by short range rocket but there is little evidence to prove this. It is quite possible that the chemicals could have been proliferated in situ by persons wearing suitable protection.

  37.  

    HI Niall, I was just thinking of other implications too.
    As well as country of origin, suppose the casing had Israeli markings or Turkish or Russian or Irish come to that.
    It would, at the very least supply circumstantial evidence and a lead for further investigation. It would be a step towards a positive i/d of just who, what group, what regime, what individual has a sick enough mentality to agree to sear the lungs and bring about the death of men and women and children and babies.

    Apparently The government of Syria has stockpiled this stuff . Assad is reported to have said he wouldn’t use it. I would ask “what do you want with it then”?

    I take your point if there were no rockets, but that kinda narrows it down too.

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