Further to Ed’s post this morning, here’s a crafty theory I saw floated somewhere on Twitter last night to possibly explain why the rebels, rather than Assad, are suddenly tossing chemical weapons at their enemies: What if an Assad ally, like Iran or Russia, gave it to them? The longer the war drags on, the greater the risk of western intervention; if, like Moscow or Tehran, you’re rooting for the regime, that intervention is an unhappy prospect. The only way to force the west to keep its distance might be by making the rebels so politically toxic that the White House simply can’t sell a partnership with them to the American public. You would think the fact that the rebel ranks are teeming with jihadists would be enough to ensure that, but no: The administration will find someone among the opposition with whom it can do business, or rather someone it can point to for purposes of domestic politics as someone with whom it might potentially do business. Phase two, then, if you’re pro-Assad/anti-intervention is to ratchet up the taboo another way — maybe by feeding a small amount of chemical weapons to some of the nuttier elements among the rebels and hope that they sabotage their western support by using them.
Lots of flaws in that theory, though. For starters, Assad and his allies wouldn’t need to hand the weapons over to the rebels. They would use them themselves in a staged attack against their own side to “prove” that it’s the regime that’s being targeted by WMD, not vice versa. (Which reminds me: Why exactly is Carney “highly skeptical” of the UN report? Does he think the witnesses they spoke to are lying, or is he endorsing some sort of false-flag theory in which Assad used WMD but tried to make it look like the rebels had?) For another thing, without absolute smoking-gun proof that the rebels are the guilty party here, realistically nothing’s going to deter the White House from blaming Assad. Not even a UN finding will steer them away. This is no longer about WMD deterrence, after all, it’s about Obama having to protect the credibility of his previous statements, from the dumb “red line” that he may or may not even have meant to draw to his own well-publicized statement in Jerusalem that he was “highly skeptical” that the rebels, rather than Assad, would use chemical weapons. The new UN claim pointing the finger the other way makes him look like a sucker, and Israel’s airstrikes on the regime over the weekend make Obama look weak and ambivalent about countermeasures by comparison. No wonder he’s doubling down by blaming Assad today.
Speaking of quixotic western interventions, the new Libya continues to develop about as well as expected.