Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Syria: The Impact of the Chemical Weapons Attack on Ghouta

With today's claims of chemical weapon attacks by Assad's regime on Ghouta near Damascus, the danger is  an instantaneous flurry of media coverage in which the rush to judgement benefits those statesmen wanting to harness it to support their realpolitik agenda under the cover of humanitarian concern.

It is obvious that the FSA would want to ramp up the claims of chemical weapons use in order to get Western intervention to overthrow Assad. But it is not impossible that Al Qaida could get its hands on chemical weapon. If it were to use them for an attack, they would hope to draw in the West.

Assad's regime would have had to be seemingly insane to use chemical weapons just days after the UN inspectors arrived in Syria because the US and Britain were bound to want to use this as a pretext to demand the inspectors have access and, if they cannot, this can act as a sign of his 'non-compliance'.

However, the fact is that even if Assad had rained down nerve gas on Ghouta, the West has no means of controlling events in Syria. If it sends huge supplies of weapons to the 'rebels', the chances are that they will fall into the hands of Al Qaida and help them 'liberate' chemical weapon stocks.

The bleak fact is that Syria is in such a situation that states, such as Britain with statesmen such as Hague at the forefront especially, are going to have to recognise that they cannot affect the outcome of this brutal civil war having been partly responsible for it in demanding 'Assad must go'.

Britain's diplomacy has been catastrophic. By backing the 'rebels' and refusing to engage in diplomacy with Iran, and so stay onside with Turkey and Iran's Persian Gulf rival in Saudi Arabia, Hague has blundered into a position where the oil rich kingdom is now calling the shots in Egypt.

In effect, this means widening already existing divisions among 'the rebels', as those backed by Qatar and Turkey belong to the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood are hardly going to want to fight alongside those backed by Saudi Arabia and who are less inclined to want the ballot box in any post-Assad Syria.

The only possible motive the Assad regime could have had in using chemical weapons ( assuming this attack is its work ) was to show that if the US and Western nations could allow the Egyptian military to repress the Muslim Brotherhood by 'eliminating them' then he could do something similar.

If that is so, it is hard to think what the Assad regime could think it was going to achieve, other than to show that he is still a force to be negotiated. In the absence of any realistic alternative to ending the civil war and with Iran and its Lebanese based proxy in Hizbollah backing him, he might have tried to play his hand this way.

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