Chemical weapons in Syria: fact, fiction, and fib

In a guest post at Joshua Landis’ Syria Comment, Aron Lund writes: On the WMD discussion in your last post, which I think was spot on: My guess is that what’s happening is that some intelligence agencies are really picking up signals of WMD motion on the ground, but that the dramatic “mixing sarin and putting it into bombs” info is pure propaganda. It seems designed to spook the public, make a case for intervention, and, to some extent, force the hand of the Obama administration.

In the unlikely event that Assad has really started activating his WMD capacity, it could be for a military purpose or as a political signal. There are basically three things he would be interested in: 1) to threaten any would-be intervention force, e.g. Turkey, 2) to remind everyone that he could carry out a lethal last strike on Israel if the regime falls, 3) possibly, to shift chemical material over to allies in Lebanon, to create a kind of second-strike capability if the regime is attacked and unable to respond.

None of these things involve gassing populated areas in Syria with air-dropped bombs. It could perhaps be done, but it would be hugely counter-productive, not least in terms of an international response, and it’s obviously dangerous on a complex close-quarters battlefield such as Syria’s. It is certainly possible that the regime could have an internal meltdown and start making irrational choices, but so far its decision-makers seem to be acting rationally and in their own best interest. Given that, they’re not going to be poison-gassing Aleppo anytime soon. [Continue reading…]

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