A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

War Crime at Khan Shaykhun

In certain circles, it has become almost fashionable to defend the Bashar al-Asad regime; oddly in the US the temptation seems to seduce not only the ideological right but also the ideological left. Outside of Syria's Russian, Iranian, and Hizbullah enablers, it is time for the scales to fall from their eyes. The chemical weapons attack on the town of Khan Shaykhun in Idlib province.

It is true that the Syrian regime denies it was behind the attack and claims it is a "false flag"operation by the opposition. Notwithstanding the fact that witnesses said the attack was delivered by a Sukhoi Su-22 with Arabic markings. The only air forces in Syria flying Su-22s are Syria's and Russia's, and I doubt the Russians would do the dirty work themselves.

The death toll is said to be somewhere in the 80s, including at least 25 children. Most accounts say the gas was Sarin, but those are preliminary reads, and chlorine, which Syria also has used.an have similar symptoms.

But wait! Didn't Syria agree in 2013 to surrender all its chemical weapons? Well, yes, it did.

The world has responded as usual, with massive denunciations. (Though the US Trump Administration said it was the result of President Obama's failure to carry through on his "red line" threats in 2013, which it characterized as weakness, but it offered no prospect of strong action now.

Six years of war in Syria has produced nearly five million external refugees and over six million internally displaced persons. This is a humanitarian disaster of historic proportions. The Asad regime is not solely responsible, but an internationally recognized government systematically gassing its own people deserves no international tolerance.

I am not advocating American boots on the ground, since that almost always backfires, but instead of Russia and some in this country defending Asad, it is time to brand this regime a pariah like North Korea, and treat it as the renegade it has become. If the world cannot find a way, or the will, to stop the atrocities, it should end any pretense of toleration. My language may offend, but the far greater offense is Asad's; this is fucking barbarism, and it is time to call it by its proper name.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

To question the source of the chemical weapons attacks in Syria is in no way a defense of the Assad regime; rather, it is to recognize that those butchers share the stage with equally vile adversaries who are characterized by varying degrees of religious fanaticism and have turned the lives of the people who lived in areas they control, such as Idlib, into sheer hell. Would this war end with those jihadi factions ruling one or more parts of Syria will condemn its refugees and IDPs to permanent exile from their homes. Following the earlier CW attacks, it was the DNI and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs who told President Obama that they lacked conclusive evidence of Regime guilt and that there were other alternatives. If the President was in error, it was by choosing to proceed with the worthwhile goal of getting the Assad supply of CW out of the country but not confronting the dominant narrative of the day. It is not unreasonable to seek, as many have called for, samples from the scene collected by scientists and having an undisputed chain of custody before accepting the opposition narrative.

That the Syrian regime did bomb a target in Idlib that night is not denied, but whether it dropped the chemicals or led to their dispersal from a rebel weapons store is in question. As with previous attacks, there is the possibility that the jihadi rebels exploded the canisters themselves as suggested by some scientists. To say that the timing of such an attack that would sure to arouse international condemnation or worse is another question. Assad and company are guilty of an infinite number of war crimes and human rights violations that reaffirm that they are sadists, but does not make them stupid.

I do not know who committed this atrocity in Idlib but after all the "evidence" that took us to war in Iraq, I'd like to find out before accepting the word of government officials and outside experts with their own agendas, much less the word of the rulers in the region who support their deadly proxies in Syria. One thing is clear, though, our media learned nothing from their complicity in the lead up to the Iraq war. In the case of Syria they totally ignore the question of just WHO these rebels are that control that region and have made the lives of its people unbearable. Like so many conflicts, this one has so many victims but no real heroes.