Home Middle-East Who is really to blame for the chemical attacks in Syria?

Who is really to blame for the chemical attacks in Syria?

By Abderazak Belbouah

Rabat- MWN

The use of chemical weapons against civilian targets in Ghouta has been described as highly likely since the pictures of victims have started flowing through the international media and even on Syrian state channels. The local opposition and the international community, as a whole, concurrently directed the accusations towards Bachar al-Assad, who not only mobilized all possible means and backed authorities to deter the blame, but also reversed the accusations against the active armed opposition and its foreign supporters. However, the trade of accusations rises to a level of little importance, at neither the intrastate nor the interstate level, as the motives behind the attack do. Thus, it is only by uncovering, comparing and contrasting the motives behind the attack that we can unmask the chargeable attackers.

One would safely argue that there is practically no sound mind that could understand, accept and support motives that may qualify the attack of civilians to an inevitable warring option in Damascus decision corridors. Al-Assad and his warring lords must have known beforehand that the use of chemical attacks would certainly cause more harm than good for their cause, which basically targets the ouster of terrorist groups and the restoration of order in the country. Actually, even an amateur observer would naturally warn against the attack and consider it a tactical suicidal move against the al-Assad regime and in favor of the revolution.

For this reason, al-Assad declared that the accusations levied against his troops are “nonsense” and wondered how and why “the government can use chemical weapons, or any other weapons of mass destruction, in an area where its troops are situated.”1 Approaching this declaration from a mere military pragmatic stand makes sense since there are probably no military officers who would attack an area they control with even traditional arms, let alone with chemicals.   

Furthermore, al-Assad is undoubtedly aware that his combat capacities depend heavily on the moral, political and military support of his allies, notably Russia, China and Iran. The Syrian state, after all, is wise enough to know that the use of internationally banned arms would embarrass and implicate its strategic allies to an extent that they would have to reevaluate and reconsider their priorities from realistic-to-liberal, to liberal-to-realistic and from unconditional to conditional.

In actuality, Julian Borger and Dan Roberts of the Guardian reports, “Moscow and Washington had a mutual interest in pushing for an immediate investigation by UN investigators.”2 Supposing that these investigations conclude the responsibility of the Syrian government, what other cards and maneuvering options would al-Assad leave on the table for his international allies to play?

The other party to blame in the chemical attack against Ghouta should be the armed opposition. One argument in favor of this claim would be that one or many armed groups, either independently or together, might have used chemical weapons to implicate al-Assad’s army and further demonize their image worldwide. After all, one would argue, the loss of 1,300 civilians is nothing compared to the gain of a whole war that is on the verge of being lost. Accordingly, the Russians’ early reaction to the tragic chemical incident claimed, “Syrian rebels could have staged the chemical attack themselves”3for reasons mentioned earlier in this paragraph.

Yet, the assumptions of this argument weaken once the following truths are summoned. One is that neither the Syrian Free Army nor any of the rebelling groups owns, or should own, weapons of mass destruction (WMD). This is for the very simple reason that the West does not and cannot allow WMDs to fall into the hands of the rebels since that constitutes a serious threat to Israel, in particular, and the whole region, in general – keeping in mind the heavy presence of Islamist radical groups fighting on the ground. Another relates to the calls from the opposition for an urgent UN inspection to the attacked site. If the rebels were the party behind the chemical attack, they would not have shown such excitement calling for UN inspectors. The other truth evokes from the pivotal claim that the use of chemicals has no strategic, political or military interests for the opposition. Instead, their use will no more than stain their legitimate fight for democracy.

So, who is to blame?

Considering the above discussions, the chemical attack is most probably the responsibility of a third party. And most probably, this third party acted from within the al-Assad army; nevertheless, the party attacked without the consent of the highest authorities, and there are three different probable reasons: to implicate the regime and bring the war to an end, to take revenge against the rebels, or to serve the agendas of a neighboring state. 

The bottom line is that whoever might have attacked Ghouta does not seem to fully understand that the continuity and end of the war in Syria is in the hands of foreign powers, not in the hands of Syrians. The war in Syria will immediately stop the day the foreign powers want it to stop. Unfortunately, that day is still too far in the future and millions of Syrians shall, consequently, suffer as the civil war rages on.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy

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