-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger
President Obama claims that a chemical weapons attack was carried out by the Syrian government in Ghouta on Aug 21. The Obama Administration then sent an “intelligence official” to Foreign Policy magazine to leak the intelligence supporting that claim. That intelligence consisted of captured phone call between an official of the Syrian Ministry of Defense and the leader of a chemical weapons unit. The phone calls were described as panicky with the official demanding answers.
You can kiss that intelligence collection method goodbye. This “leak” also may have endangered the NOC who placed the device. As the phone call shows, the Assad regime is responsible, but that regime includes everyone from Syrian President Assad to the lowliest private in the Syrian army.
The phone call does not indicate who gave the order. The repeated referrals to the entire “regime” means that the Obama Administration hasn’t narrowed it down. The easiest way to prevent irate phone call from a Ministry of Defense official is to claim that Bashar al-Assad or his brutal younger brother, Maher, gave the order. That would have put an end to any future phone calls.
One intelligence official asked: “Was the attack on Aug. 21 the work of a Syrian officer overstepping his bounds? Or was the strike explicitly directed by senior members of the Assad regime? It’s unclear where control lies.” Intelligence analysts say that without the intercepted call does not establish who gave the order and could indicate that it was a mistake.
Assad is head of a weak regime, whose Alawite constituency is far outnumbered by the Sunni population. The use of chemical weapons in such circumstances is a typical behavior. It seems unlikely that a single, limited US strike of Syria will change the motivation for using chemical weapons. After Syria survives the US strike, the next chemical weapons usage will place the US in an increasingly difficult position. Future US strikes will become more and more politically difficult.
The Syrian civil war has provided a vehicle for a resurgence of al-Qaeda. A Syrian rebel group, the Al-Nusra Front, has pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda leader Sheik Ayman al-Zawahri. The Syrian Free Army, a group of rebels made up of Syrian soldiers who have defected, will “collaborate with any faction allowing them to topple” Assad. Networks are being set up to funnel foreign jihadis into Syria. In areas controlled by Al-Nusra, Sharia law is being enforced.
With a choice between Assad and his chemical weapons, and another Islamic state sworn to the destruction of Israel, it’s time to sit one out.