Well, what did anyone expect them to say? “All right, coppers, you caught us” in full Edward G. Robinson mode? Not that this denial will make much difference on intervention, as key NATO partners backed Barack Obama yesterday, but the pro forma response isn’t aimed at the West anyway:
The Syrian government on Friday dismissed U.S. charges that it used chemical weapons as “full of lies,” accusing President Barack Obama of resorting to fabrications to justify his decision to arm Syrian rebels. The commander of the main rebel umbrella group welcomed the U.S. move. …
“The White House has issued a statement full of lies about the use of chemical weapons in Syria based on fabricated information,” a statement issued Friday by the Syrian Foreign Ministry said. “The United States is using cheap tactics to justify President Barack Obama’s decision to arm the Syrian opposition,” it said.
The commander of the main Western-backed rebel group fighting in Syria said he hoped that U.S. weapons will be in the hands of rebels in the near future, noting it would boost the spirits of the fighters on the ground.
“We hope to have the weapons and ammunition that we need in the near future,” Gen. Salim Idris told Al-Arabiya TV.
“This will surely reflect positively on the rebels’ morale, which is high despite attempts by the regime, Hezbollah and Iran to show that their morale after the fall of Qusair deteriorated,” he said, referring to the town near the border with Lebanon.
You can take that with a large grain of salt, too. One reason that the White House is moving now on the red line, long after everyone knew it’d been crossed, is because the West fears that the rebellion will collapse. The US and NATO want to use the rebellion as leverage to get Bashar al-Assad to leave in order to break Iranian power on the Mediterranean, which would be a lovely goal if the only real alternative wasn’t a fractious collection of radical Sunni terrorist militias.
The only way to get Assad to conduct talks for his eventual departure is if he’s losing. Ironically, Assad had agreed in principle to attend the Geneva talks already; it was the rebels that balked at his involvement and refused to attend. Will an infusion of American arms convince them to talk peace? Hardly, but both sides in Libya — excuse me, Syria (they look so much alike) — are busy playing three-dimensional chess while we’re playing checkers.
For that matter, what exactly will be the American infusion of arms? No one knows, and Obama won’t have a plan until at least next week. That stunned Charles Krauthammer, who points out that the White House has had months to plan out its moves:
“The red line is officially crossed. You would think they would have actually considered what you do on the day the red line is crossed. You don’t think it anew on the morning of the announcement.”
On Obama’s apparent timetable? “In a week? In a week Hezbollah is amassing outside of Aleppo.”
Like I said, it’s checkers to chess, just as it was in Libya.