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Should the United States have pre-empted the Syrian chemical attack?

Should the United States have pre-empted the Syrian chemical attack?

Mideast Media Sampler – 08/26/2013 – Could the United States have intervened to save hundreds of lives?

I was skeptical at first about the claims of a chemical attack in Syria. Something didn’t seem right with the photographs. Additionally, it was reported that the United Nations already had an inspection team in Syria. But then it didn’t take long for Israeli intelligence to determine that chemical weapons had been used.

How did Israeli intelligence come to its conclusion so soon without any apparent sources on the ground? I don’t know, but David Martin of CBS reported something suggestive this past Friday.

Administration officials said Friday that U.S. intelligence detected activity at known Syrian chemical weapons sites before Wednesday’s possible chemical weapons attack that killed at least 1,000 people, CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports.

Similar activity has been detected before, and the assumption then was that the Syrians were moving things around for security reasons. Now, according to the officials, the most recent activity, which was detected last week, is seen as possible preparation for Wednesday’s attack.

According to earlier reports the United States was monitoring Syria’s chemical weapon stores. For example CBS reported this past December.

Monitoring of Syrian bases has picked up evidence engineers have loaded the chemicals — which combine to form the deadly nerve agent sarin — into bombs that could be dropped from airplanes. Satellites have seen trucks moving among the bunkers where the weapons and agents are believed to be stored. U.S. officials say the evidence is strong, but circumstantial — not definitive.

But, that, combined with fighting in the suburbs of Damascus, has led to fears of what the Assad regime might do if it feels cornered.

But if the United States had been tracking the weapons, and chemical weapons had previously been used, why didn’t the United States act to prevent their deployment? Last week’s report leaves out specifics. Was the detected activity something that was detected previously prior to chemical attacks? Or was the activity something that was detected without any deadly followup? (David Martin’s report suggests the last possibility, but doesn’t tell us enough to know for certain.)

Presumably, Israeli intelligence came to its conclusion based on activity it detected. According to Syrian rebels the chemicals were delivered by four rockets fired to the targeted neighborhoods, as opposed to being dropped from airplanes in bombs.

Jamraya, where Syria has a military research center that Israel has reportedly struck is between 10 and 15 miles away from the neighborhoods attacked by Assad’s forces last Wednesday. Israel was possibly trying to destroy Syria’s capacity for delivering the chemical agents. If that was Israel’s goal, then it was apparently not fully successful.

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Obviously there is a lot that we don’t know. But if David Martin is correct and the United States didn’t act when it could have prevented a huge loss of life, what is the point of “red lines?” Having a “red line” and daring a tyrant to cross it will never be as effective as proactively taking action against the tyrant.

President Obama said:

But Obama added that “the notion that the [United States] can somehow solve what is a sectarian complex problem inside of Syria sometimes is overstated.”

If we’re looking at the big picture, the President is correct. But if the question is whether the United States had the ability to prevent a catastrophe and didn’t act, the answer is not as clear.


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I don’t trust Israeli intelligence on this. As a matter of fact, I don’t trust anybody.

Which side has the most to gain by insisting chemical weapons were used? Which side has the most to lose?

I tend to disbelieve these reports and I think this “attack” on the UN inspectors backs this up. The government wouldn’t invite the UN in to take a look and then shoot at them, but the opposition would if they were faking the chemical attack and did not want the UN to report back that there was no evidence of a chemical attack.

    For about 1 week Assad refused that permission. It took the President of Iran to get Assad to agree to let the UN in to have a look.

    The lone shooter could be from either side, but it could be a deliberate attempt by Assad to try and place blame on the Opposition.

There was absolutely no reason for Assad to use chemical weapons as the government had gained the upperhand in recent weeks and it looks like they’ll win the war.

Don’t be surprised or shocked if the alleged use of chemical weapons turns out to be false.

There are conflicting conclusions to what may have happened.

UN’s Del Ponte says evidence Syria rebels ‘used sarin’

I agree with Anchovy. The rebels, domestic, foreign, and terrorist have more to gain by confusing the situation. We should be careful not to repeat a Kosovo intervention before we have fully characterized each and every party involved.

That said, after the deceptions perpetrated by our own government in the cases of arming cartels in Mexico, terrorists in Libya, and “rebels” in Syria, as well as numerous other incidents, I don’t think that their assessment of anything is worth much at all.

As for Obama, he was more optimistic of solving the sectarian complex problem in Libya and Egypt, and exacerbating the problem in Mexico, as well as America. Why is he now hesitating in Syria? Is it because Russia has a strategic interest in that area?

    David Gerstman in reply to n.n. | August 26, 2013 at 11:35 pm

    Del Ponte is not credible.

      And Obama and Kerry are? How many people died in Mexico and surrounding states, and Americans, with arms supplied to a cartel by our federal government? How many people died in Libya with our military aid, and Americans without our aid? How many people died in Egypt with our moral support?

      Far more people died in Mexico alone than have died in Syria, and the source of the weapons and the perpetrators are undeniable. We were accessories to those crimes.

      The Syrian situation is far from undeniable. The evidence supports the belief that chemical weapons were used, but the evidence, destroyed or otherwise, does not expose the perpetrators, and is certainly not undeniable.

    Doctors Without Borders report that people who had been affected by a neurotoxic substance came to them for assistance.

    No one has named the actual chemical that has been used. It could have been sarin… Saddam Hussein had made sarin and moved it across the border into Syria.

      aerily in reply to Aussie. | August 27, 2013 at 11:04 pm

      sarin gas is my bet. It’s been used in Syria previously during this civil war, it’s non-persistent and would cause the symptoms seen in the photographs and videos. A little more murky is who used it.

      aerily in reply to Aussie. | August 27, 2013 at 11:32 pm

      I forgot to say that this is very unlikely to be of Iraqi origin. The shelf life of sarin is a couple of weeks to a month or two depending on the purity of the isopropanol and methylphosphonyl difluoride which are used to make the weapon. methylphosphonyl difluoride can last about ten years so any of Iraqi manufacture would be useless by now.

    JackRussellTerrierist in reply to n.n. | August 27, 2013 at 2:24 pm

    Not only are our government’s assessments not reliable, particularly with this lame administration, they aren’t trustworthy in terms of their motives and political calculations.

The report says that the US thought that Syria was repositioning chemical weapons, so the actual use was a surprise, if you believe the story. Preventive action was not on anyone’s screen.

As to the attack being some sort of false flag operation, the number killed was huge. Hard to believe that one of the parties would kill that many of its own people to embarrass someone else.

    fatman6502002 in reply to James IIa. | August 27, 2013 at 5:27 pm


    You posted the following:
    “As to the attack being some sort of false flag operation, the number killed was huge. Hard to believe that one of the parties would kill that many of its own people to embarrass someone else.”

    You’re joking, right? If not then it should be obvious that you have never spent time with muslims in the middle east. If you had you would know just how cheap life is in those areas. Resist the temptation, if you have not spent time outside the west in 3rd world countries, to think that all places are civilized like most of the US, they’re not. If Assad or some islamist rebel commander thought that it would help them win the war by killing a few hundred of his own people he would do it in a heart-beat; if he thought it would kill 10’s or even 100’s of thousands they would still do it because any of them would believe they were doing those to be killed a huge favor-getting them into paradise as martyrs. That’s the highest honor for many of those in that part of the world. Once you spend some time over there you will realize that the people in that part of the world really do practice Islam more as a death cult than as an actual religion.

    In answer to the question of what should we do in Syria, I believe that we should not spend one dime or one drop of American blood defending any Syrians because we will just end up spending American blood and treasure and nothing will be solved because the muslims will still be killing each other for the foreseeable future. Let them kill each other, each one that is killed is one less terrorist civilized people have to worry about and it is really none of our business. In this war there are no good guys, it is only terrorists killing other terrorists. Leave them alone so they can continue to do what we in the West, are probably going to have to do some day in the not to distant future anyway.

The die was cast five years ago when the United States walked away from Iraq after the “war” was virtually won. It was a mistake of colossal proportions. The hard work was done, relative peace and calm had settled in, and the country had begun the difficult work of establishing a political mechanism for working out its internal differences. Geopolitically a reduced, continued presence in a peaceful Iraq would have ensured a high degree of peace for that country and stabilized the region.

No one will argue that problems, difficult problems, would not have continued in the region but there would have been leverage–American, Iraqi, Israeli, Egyptian, Gulf state, and yes, Saudi leverage–available to manage them, piecemeal, as they arose, without massive human tragedy and reducing the region to rubble.

No one knows what to do, that’s for sure. The thought of projecting power in the form of drone or cruise missile strikes surely tempts the administation but then, followed up by what? In support of whom? To think of sending even a single soldier into the mess that exists there today, after abandoning the victories won at such a high price by the so relatively few who serve so well in today’s military, is repulsive. This, when we won’t even stand publicly with Israel, the only country in the region whose citizens are not killing each other, destroying their own villages, towns, and cities; Israel who gets nothing but public lectures, insults, and browbeating from Washington. What possible basis could we have for doing anything now even if we knew what to do?

The most troubling scenario is that this president and administration will do something for the sole purpose of displaying their toughness, their resolve, their commitment to…whatever jive they come up with. In their arrogance, ignorance, and naiveté they allowed problems in the region to grow, unrestrained, to monumental proportions and simultaneously have denied the region any reasonable means to address them.

Meanwhile, over in Iran…

People who hate us killing people who hate us in the 7th century.

When one side says they want to be a pro-American, cheese burger eating pillar of Jeffersonian democracy and friend to the west and absolutely tolerant to Christians, homos and women… I’ll start measuring my desire to intervene in measurements greater than nano-give-a-shits. Until then, send bacon draped coffins.

Seriously- I’m tired of the US giving guns to the neighborhood thugs and sending our best young men to die for people who hate us and never will like us.

I don’t buy the story.. can anybody here tell me definitively who deployed those chemical weapons? (if they were actually used)

It’s very possible a rebel group funded by “who knows who” (tsk tsk) used them to discredit Assad and force the U.S. into intervening.

What happens if after a thousand dead marines it turns out the chemical weapons attack was instigated by third parties? Are you really that interested in attacking Syria now?

    I do not know for certain who used the chemical weapons. However, there are things that point in the direction of Maher Assad and his unit who were stationed in a position in the hills outside of Damascus.

    The pointers for me include the fact that Assad refused to allow the UN inspectors to investigate in a timely fashion. He had enough time to tamper with the evidence prior to finally agreeing to allow the UN to proceed.

I think somtimes people are looking at this as too much of an intellectual game. Instead of looking at intricate motives, we have to look at instead who had access to these sorts of weapons and who had the opportunity and ability to deliver them.

Every political player in Syria has some kind of possible motive, and speculating based purely on perceived motive is not really that helpful in creating the most probable scenario.

Either way, the US should stay out of this conflict. They shouldn’t just ignore it, but direct action or indirect support is rather foolish. No matter who wins, there’s nothing to be gained for American interests in the region.

Obama’s line in the sand bluster was stupid because no one believed him so the threat was completely ineffectual. And, should Obama have to resort to military violence to try to back up his words, he’ll just make the situation worse and become even more unpopular among his supporters. Lose-lose. And all for not keeping his mouth shut. Such an amateur…

    JackRussellTerrierist in reply to Yukio Ngaby. | August 27, 2013 at 2:35 pm

    Obastard: Wrong or lying about Egypt, wrong and lying about Libya, wrong and lying about Iran, wrong and lying about Iraq, and wrong about Israel.

    One need only look at his insulting and destructive stance toward Israel to understand that the less he does/says/thinks, the better off the world will be.

    And…..heh…..if he actually sent our young men there, what would their ROEs be? The same as they have been? Show up weaponless and stand down like a cadre of eunuch K-Mart security guards?

Israel’s nose isn’t clean.

Obama’s problem is that IF he goes into Syria with guns (or bombs) blazing, the truth will come out that he’s a saudi’ puppet. The saud’s want Assad gone.

Did Assad shoot of chemical weapons? WHY? He’s winning his war, and the saudi funded rebels are LOSING!

I’m not even so sure it’s as easy as “Obama presses the button,” because Obama doesn’t have UN support! He’s got British support. But Cameron has problems of his own with this NSA snooping.

It would be STUPID of Obama to fire into Syria now.

Which may beg the point? Given that Obama is incompetent, what’s the most incompetent route he can take? (Yeah, letting Kerry “make da’ case.”) Sure.

Israeli intelligence was using intercepted messages to determine who might be responsible for the attack.

The use of chemical weapons was confirmed by Doctors Without Borders who saw hundreds of victims. They estimated that 322 died and over 1000 were injured.

    BannedbytheGuardian in reply to Aussie. | August 27, 2013 at 5:48 am

    Medicin sans frontiers are a political body as ever existed .

    As much as the Red Crescent & yeah – we believe them just as much.

      They may be a political body with partisan interests. Their input should be considered with other sources. The question that needs to be answered is when is a physical conflict (e.g. military) justified. They seem to be relying on a consensus of circumstantial or uncharacterized evidence. The outcome of this consensus will be to commit murder, which may or may not be ultimately justified. The risk of committing a violation while relying solely on a consensus is elevated. Unfortunately, the present American administration has been proven untrustworthy on numerous occasions.

if this really was an attack with Sarin, why weren’t there any casualties amongst the unprotected first responders?

Sarin dissipates rather quickly, but even in Japan, when it wasn’t mil-spec nerve agent, there were casualties amongst the caregivers.

my guess is that someone (pick a party) used pesticides to replicate a nerve agent attack without the area contamination even a non-persistent agent would cause.

that would cause the “neurotoxic” injuries being reported, as well as deaths, etc, but without the local contamination issue, so cameras, etc, could get into the area in time to record all the gore.

BannedbytheGuardian | August 27, 2013 at 5:54 am

Colin wants to know if they are white vans. He has his blurry pics ready .

Q: “Should the Uuinted States have pre-empted the Syrian chemical attack?”

A: Yes. We did in March 2003. It worked. Obama, no, we, quit.

With apologies for my long winded rant, above.

Let’s see now. If I were Assad and I wanted to make sure that Obama lobbed a few hundred or so cruise missles my way with the backing of the “international community” and the mainstream press and McCain and Graham I would certainly gas a thousand or so civilians and make sure there were lots of pictures “leaked” of the victims. That Assad guy sure must be smart to have done that.
Sometimes the moonbats are right:

I was skeptical at first about the claims of a chemical attack in Syria.

And I still am. We keep getting played for suckers, and it’s like we never learn.

And as someone pointed out above, no-one there is our ally. They all hate us, and would kill us as soon as look at us.

Why is getting involved in any of this a judicious use of our limited resources?

Midwest Rhino | August 27, 2013 at 8:45 am

Elizabeth O’Bagy was on Special Report last night, and outlined the different groups that make up the rebels. She felt perhaps Assad is not really winning, and the chemical use was desperation, and many rebel groups are worth supporting and can be identified as more moderate. She believes the bulk are moderate, but could be “radicalized” by the al Qaeda types. (Obama/Holder know how well spreading hate works)

We can’t know what intel they have on the chemical weapons … apparently it takes a little effort to combine the agents they have stored, and supposedly we know a little of when that starts to happen. It seems now we will likely take out those supplies, hopefully without them being relocated. Surely we would have done it before except for Russian involvement, or some other unknown (to us) intel.

It seems now Obama would like to stop with just that, but it would be more strategic to perhaps take out much of their air capability while we are poised for attack. Hopefully there are smart people somewhere dealing with Russia and all our interests, but Obama has been systematically replacing people with his hard core leftists.

Is the problem the civilian casualties, or the use of gas?

Henry Hawkins | August 27, 2013 at 10:46 am

The Obama administration is waiting to see how the prevailing belief as to who did what turns out among the American people. This will determine the next move, decided by where the political profits lie.

Syria is a crisis to Obama only in that Obama called a red line one year ago and is taking political heat for the appearance of his powerlessness. But, it is a crisis, and the Obaman response is always to exploit a crisis for political gain. To predict what he’ll do with Syria is to calculate where the political gain is.

If the picture as to who deployed the nerve gas remains muddied, he will rattle sabers and do nothing.

If the picture emerges that it was the rebel side who deployed it, he will rattle sabers and do nothing.

If it becomes undeniable that Assad deployed the nerve gas, he will make a gesture of attack, destroy a Syrian government building or two, maybe the airport, maybe a munitions warehouse, something similar to Clinton’s sending missiles into empty tents. any nerve gas storage facilities will not be hit for obvious reasons. The action will accomplish nothing militarily.

Obama will give a press release afterwards, talk tough, and try to get his butch mojo back. He will risk his golf swing with excessive pats to his own back.

The press will laud Obama’s moral rectitude, marvel at the courage he showed in making the tough decision, and declare the entire Obama foreign policy record a booming success, and by extension, the whole Obama presidency. Why, he may just have secured his second Nobel Peace Prize, they’ll say.

Within days or weeks, Assad will again deploy nerve gas. Iran, Russia, and China will have their final confirmation that the American Commander-in-Chief is Doogie Howser, LD.

And the Obama administration will be blessed with many more crises to exploit.

why should I care? any US citizens getting attacked?
as long as the syrian conflicts stay within syria I say let them do whatever they want.
no money, no arms, no nothing.
sometimes seems everyone wants us to be the worlds policeman only so they can have means to call us bullies while taking our aid.
like a crack whore.

I don’t believe any of them. And I don’t care if koranimals are killing koranimals. I DON’T CARE!

There have been occasional reports of sarin gas attacks for months now, but nothing ‘big’, nothing impressive, nothing proven.

Probes. Seeing how far they can go. Seeing what advantage can be wrought. They got no response.

So now they go big. Press the advantage further. See if they can get away with it. If they can, they’ve reset the bar. This ‘level’ of sarin gas attack becomes acceptable. Below the radar.

It’s a classic technique.

I personally believe that Saddam Hussein transferred the majority of his chemical weapons to Syria before the Iraq far and that about a third of it was used on the 20-ton attack against Jordan that was caught by the Jordanian secret service. If this is in fact sarin delivered by binary-mixing artillery shell, that would fit with the most common munition Saddam was reputed to have, and with the occasional mention of such assault in the past months.

Saddam was supposed to have sometimes placed the sarin shells in amongst normal artillery shells via some markings or methods known only to commanders, so it’s very possible that when using stolen of black-market-bought shells that came from that source, one might randomly commit a sarin attack – but only a small-scale individual one. Killing 300 people takes a continued assault.

America hating jihadists killing America hating jihadists. The proper question is “How can we help?”

What an atypically ridiculous blog entry. Reads like something out of Huffpo