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August 21, 2013


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Did you mean "(1) Assad is absolutely sure that chemical weapons use will NOT threaten his support from the axis of unpleasantry or lead to intervention"?

If so, then yes and more so. This is a very public way for Assad to say that Obama is all talk and no action, that Assad can and will win, and that running or trying to make a deal now is the only way for a rebel to survive.

No one in Syria strikes me as being especially competent, or good, politicians, at least not ones with long-term thinking in mind.

It would be astonishing. Assad provoked the rebellion ... and then, at great odds, showing superior military strategy, managed to fight them to a standstill.

At which point he gambles it all to kill 1000 civilians? Here's the astounding thing: directed artillery barrages can kill about as many as efficiently, with just as much local terror ... AND AT NO RISK OF INTERNATIONAL INTERVENTION!

I think David has regime thinking down. Problem is, the rebels won't hear that message. And a halfway decent strategist should know that.

Now, neither the U.S. nor the U.N. have any good options. But we have a whole bunch of less-bad ones. They won't destroy the regime, but they will weaken it. Right now, Assad's only hope is that the Jordanians convince Washington to do nothing. (Unless it turns out to have not been a chemical attack, which is looking less likely by the minute. You would need access to a Hollywood studio or a plethora of amazing child actors to fake the videos that I made the mistake of accessing.)

Dude, it's not as if there are many people who actually believe the video, because people believes the timing is far too suspicious. Moreover, there doesn't even seem to be much proof that the regime did it, rather than potentially a false flag effort centered around previous US Administration rhetoric.

As for whether the rebels can continue? I view that as unlikely. In another four months, it will be winter again. I strongly doubt the rebels can do anything but suck down cash, and I very strongly doubt that the regional geopolitical landscape is capable of holding focus in Syria for much longer. I'm pretty sure that Egypt has a very strong chance of boiling over completely.

Was reading this article:

which is an interesting, if relatively sympathetic to Ikhwan, construction of what happened. I also think that events in Egypt has severely undermined international credibility in a way that impacts meetings about what to do with Syria.

I can't leave that out there, Shah8. My apologies if what follows sounds a bit harsh. Conspiracy claims merit harshness, however: please do not take it personally.

First, who are these "most people" who don't believe the videos? Most trained observers? Most of the English-language press? Well, no, neither of those. So ... who? And what is the basis for their belief?

(Here are some of the less graphic videos: http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/08/21/video-and-images-of-victims-of-suspected-syrian-chemical-attack/. The more-graphic ones shook up Richard Engel.)

Second, why is the timing suspicious? Because ... uh ... what? Because President Obama said something a year ago? Because the U.N. is in town? Sorry, that's not suspicious. In fact, to be blunt: there is nothing suspicious about the timing. Nothing at all. Not unless you redefine "suspicious" to mean "puzzling." Which is something that conspiracy theorists do.

(The reason it is puzzling is in my above post: namely that the use of chemical weapons gains no operational or strategic advantages. Nothing directly to do with the timing. Someone else who is puzzled for the same reasons: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/aug/22/assad-toxic-gas-claims-syria.)

Third, what is incredible about the myriad videos coming out of the area? They look like the nerve gas symptoms we were trained to look out for at Fort Benning in 2002. The only thing absent is uncontrolled defecation, and that could be selection bias, as in I have not looked for and not found images of people having shit themselves.


Why do you think it could be a "false flag" operation? Foreign countries didn't secretly deliver nerve gas to the affected parts of Damascus. Which leaves the rebels themselves. In which case, how did they obtain the weapons and why would they use them to kill their own supporters instead of hitting military targets?

It is remotely possible that it was some sort of industrial accident. It is also possible that government troops intended to launch a much smaller-scale attack (as they have done previously, for equally inexplicable reasons) but miscalculated. An attack with too-much or too-strong CS or CN or other tear gas is unlikely: you would see a lot of red eyes and inflammed noses and lips.)

In short, attributions that "most people" think the videos are false, claims without explanation that the timing is suspicious, and veiled accusations that the United States launched the attack ... are very silly things to write.

Again, I apologize, but I think it valuable to warn my friends when they start veering into conspiracyland.

Well, I am often accused of conspirational thinking even when I do the proverbial two plus two. Even when I have a strong tendency to be right.

Here's the thing, though, you accuse me of being way out there in wacko-land, but just how much support does the idea of Assad actually doing the bombing have among non-Western, non-GCC media? When all of the previous attempts at chemical warfare, to great effect in Western media, have either turned out to be fake, or most likely perpetrated by rebels (those chlorine bombs), just what obligation do we have as neutral observers to believe the current reports without any real proof. And no, I mean real proof in terms of some sort of credible investigatory outfit on the scene and documenting everything professionally.

With regard to the point of rebel motives, I've pretty much treated the Syrian conflict as largely analogous to Nicauragua-Contra or '80s Angola conflict. Along with the less similar Algerian conflict, these conflict have had multiple occasions where guerrillas targeted their own population, either directly, or indirectly by provoking regime response deliberately. The Syrian rebels show no lack of brutality in their deeply mercenary outlook. Civilians are just so much easier to kill and wave a bloody flag afterwards, than to use such weapons on military personnel and infrastructure.

Believe me, there is no rush to believe anything (especially stuff that sounds too convenient) that happens in Syria, given the preponderance of lies, and currently, the Russians are waving some sort of digital evidence that the attack was announced before it actually happened...

Oh, wait, I totally missed the part about "suspicious timing"...

1) I do not think it's credible to dismiss the use of chemical weapons (in a construction of events that sez the rebels did it) as a mechanism to force international military intervention. When Obama has treated the use of chemical weapons as a brightline in a repeated fashion, there is a clear button to push. Broadly, the weight of context is such that people who deny that Obama's speeches have no impact have the greater burden in constructing a narrative. There have been repeated efforts to use the appearance of chemical weapons to get the US to impose a No Fly Zone in the past. So...well, you know, I think that merits more than "conspiracy mongerer!"

2) So when we talk about timing, we have to talk about what the presence of UN personel actually means to the various parties. How this works out for Assad is very difficult to parse, while it's easy to contemplate what the rebels stand to gain, and even more easy to see that the rebels do not stand to lose much in credibility--they don't really get much support from civilians anyways, and they won't stop fighting because everyone hates them. Remember, the foremost and likeliest thing the rebels stand to gain is breathing time as the SAA would have to suspend operations in nearby areas in its siege efforts in order for inspectors to safely visit.

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