By Nile Bowie
Aug 27, 2013
The military buildup in the Mediterranean indicates that Assad’s opponents intend to militarily intervene in Syria under cover of ‘humanitarian intervention’, a disingenuous narrative that could not be further from the truth.
Pictures and videos that have surfaced following the alleged use of chemical agents in the eastern suburbs of Damascus are profoundly disturbing and a thorough and substantial investigation into what took place there is absolutely essential. However, it is conversely disturbing that those Western governments who have staunchly supported anti-government militants are using this opportunity to legitimize the use of force against the government in Damascus.
The United States, Britain, and France are unwavering in their assertions that the Assad government and the Syrian Arab army were the perpetrators of the chemical weapon attack, despite no evidence to substantiate these claims. These governments seem to be sure that Damascus is guilty on the basis of it preventing a UN investigation team from visiting the site, and when investigators eventually did reach the area, it didn’t matter to them because they argued that the Syrian government had destroyed all evidence of wrongdoing.
Assad’s opponents have constructed a deeply cynical and hysterical political narrative that Western leaders are now parroting in unison.
There are several reasons why Damascus showed hesitation in allowing UN inspectors to access the site, the most apparent being that this attack allegedly took place in rebel-held strongholds on the outskirts of the capital, and that the security of the UN team could not be guaranteed if rebels attacked them or launched more chemical weapons during their visit.
Syrian rebels have demonstrated their hostility to UN forces on previous occasions; anti-government groups kidnapped 21 UN peacekeepers in the Golan Heights in March, and another four peacekeepers later in May. That the UN convoy was fired upon by unidentified snipers is hardly surprising in that it is another stunt in a series of moves to escalate the situation to provoke an international response.
The UN team eventually made it to the site to collect evidence and, contrary to Western assertions, the UN claimed that it was still possible for the team of experts to gather necessary evidence despite the time elapsed since the alleged attack.
Who benefits from using chemical weapons?
The narrative that the Assad government used chemical weapons, specifically while a UN team was in Damascus to investigate previous uses of chemical weapons, is tactically and politically illogical and in no way serves the interests of the Syrian government.
These attacks transparently serve the interests of anti-government militias who have long called for NATO intervention, as well as the Syrian political opposition who are now refusing to take part in any planned Geneva negotiations. Furthermore, allegations that the regime used chemical weapons benefits the international opponents of Assad, who have materially and financially aided and armed non-state actors and foreign fighters on an unprecedented scale.
Above all, the use of chemical weapons benefits the arms industry, as four US warships with ballistic missiles are moving into position in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, ready to shower Damascus with Tomahawk cruise missiles – all under the auspices of protecting civilians. Lockheed Martin’s stock prices have dramatically shot up since news of the chemical weapons attack.
There are numerous revelations that would suggest that anti-government militias have access to these weapons and are in fact guilty of using them. Carla Del Ponte, head of a UN commission of inquiry that looked into the use of chemical weapons in northern Syria in late March suggested that the evidence was stronger to implicate anti-government militants in using chemical weapons, not the Syrian government.
In May, Turkish police found cylinders of sarin nerve gas in the homes of Syrian militants from the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra Front who were detained in the south near Syria’s northern border. In July, Russian experts submitted reports to the UN detailing how the missiles used in previous chemical weapon attacks were crude and not factory made, and that the chemical components found were not consistent with what the Syrian military has.
The Syrian military has just recently discovered chemical weapons in a rebel tunnel in the Jobar suburb of Damascus, including shells, gasmasks manufactured in the United States, chemical substances of Saudi Arabian origin. Arabic language reports also indicate that a former high-ranking Saudi Arabian member of Al-Nusra Front claimed that the group possessed chemical weapons in a tweet.
NATO intervention replicating the Kosovo model?
The speeches and statements from John Kerry, Laurent Fabius, or William Hague all imply that military action will be taken against Damascus despite lacking a legal basis of action. If ‘humanitarian intervention’ were to be undertaken, it would need approval from the UNSC in the form of a resolution, but such a resolution would not be passed because countries such as Russia believe that this kind of intervention would be used as a pretext to remove the legal government of Syria, as it has been used in the recent past in the former Yugoslavia, Iraq and Libya – all with undeniable abuses of force that have resulted in substantial civilian casualties.
Reports indicate that Obama’s team is now studying the NATO mission in Kosovo as a “possible blueprint for acting without a mandate from the United Nations.” It is ominous, alarming and bizarre how NATO’s intervention in the former Yugoslavia could be used a positive reference point for anything. NATO rained down bombs for 78 straight days, effectively smashing civilian infrastructure in Serbia and Montenegro while hospitals, schools, and public utilities were damaged beyond repair, killing over 1,200 civilians and injuring 4,500 more.
Despite Obama’s cautious tone in recent interviews, all indications point to military intervention already being decided. Carla Del Ponte’s assessment was whitewashed, and any other evidence provided by the UN that does not fit conveniently into the Western narrative will be suppressed – the US position is that it is already “too late” for any evidence to be credible.
The huge military buildup of US and British ships and warplanes in the Mediterranean comes while the Pentagon is reportedly making the initial preparations for a cruise missile attack on Syrian government forces.
The intransigence and cynical duplicity of Assad’s opponents is unparalleled, and their media outlets are complicit in pulling the heart strings of their audiences while offering a totally one-sided perspective in support of R2P, the ‘right to protect.’
The US, Britain, and France see themselves as righteous protectors, and rationality and evidence will not be enough to break their dangerous and ridiculous delusions; these states are the vanguards of militant corporatism and have demonstrated that they seek only their private economic and geopolitical objectives in the region.
Those countries that represent a balanced approach to this crisis should not stand idly by while the West ‘comes to the aid’ of the Syrian people with cruise missiles and airstrikes – they should not allow intervention under ‘humanitarian’ auspices to harm civilians and topple the legal authorities in Damascus.
Nile Bowie is a political analyst and photographer currently residing in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.