One Finite Planet

Syria: Why Assad did not use chemical weapons to kill Syrian citizens

First Published:

The proposal that Asad used chemical weapons in order to kill Syrians depends on the following steps, from the almost certain through steps with less and less certainty

  • it was chemical weapons that were really to blame for deaths in the recent attack
  • chemical weapons were in fact launched by forces supporting Assad, and not opponents
  • chemical weapons were launched by Syrian government forces
  • chemical weapons were launched by Syrian government forces under the direction of president Assad
  • chemical weapons were launched by Syrian government forces under the direction of president Assad in order to kill a group of ‘rebel citizens’

The problem with the last step, is that chemical weapons are very evidently no more effective to kill the people in question than conventional bombing, as previous bombing raids have shown. So if all you want is to attack those people, why go to the trouble of using expensive and troublesome chemical weapons?It could be that Assad is simply stupid, or else……. actually any other ‘or else’ comes back to the premise that if it was Assad, there was a motive beyond the resulting fatalities. Any ‘else’ requires something more than ‘using chemical weapons to achieve a military goal’ .

So what is the agenda? Angering the US? Changing Russia’s role? The army taking the action itself to damage Assad? Russia being more involved than is obvious?

What can be ruled out?

Yes, intelligence sources were adamant Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and now we are not so certain.  But I believe this time ,evidence is sufficient to be confident chemical weapons were used.  I also do not believe that the victims or their allies were in any way involved.  This was done by not only ruthless people, but also people who do not fear the truth being revealed. Russia has made statements the rebels themselves released these chemicals to bring the condemnation, but although there clearly is a twist, I simply cannot see that is that real twist.

Facts to consider.

Yes, this attack also killed children.  It was a horrible attack.  However, the reality is, bombs are no more selective in being able to avoid killing children, and even babies. It is simply not like this attack represented a standout horror in a war without many rival horror stories. There are statistics in many places, for example Wikipedia, on casualties from the war. Of course the recent chemical attack was horrific, but is dwarfed by the overall level of causalities, horrific maiming and shattered lives.

In many ways, one of the biggest differences is that this attack crosses a line that triggers international condemnation. Why cross that line that has such international impact without a bigger impact within Syria itself?


The logic breaks down on those steps at the top of this post at some stage. Is someone, perhaps even Assad, drawing the USA into this picture?  Or is that the game of someone else?


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