British intelligence report offers no explanation about why Assad would order chemical attacks

The Guardian reports: The report by Britain’s Joint Intelligence Committee on the Syrian chemical warfare attacks fails to answer a central question – about the motivation of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Its conclusion that the Syrian government was “highly likely” to be responsible largely rests on precedent and the firm view that the opposition was not capable of carrying out attacks on this scale.

The JIC did say that it had “some intelligence” to suggest “regime culpability” for the August 21st attack, which it says resulted in at least 350 fatalities. David Cameron, according to a covering letter from the JIC chairman, Jon Day, has had access to it all. But there is no further elaboration on this central point.

There is also a striking lack of any scientific evidence in the document.

The committee’s most unequivocal statement is that it was “not possible” for the anti-Assad opposition to have carried out a CW attack on this scale. The Syrian regime and supporters such as Russia (“with a good degree of confidence”) claim (though without producing supporting evidence) that that is exactly what did happen. The JIC addressed this point simply by noting that a number of (unidentified) opposition groups “continue to seek a CW capability”.

Overall, Day told the prime minister, the JIC had “high confidence” in the accuracy of all its assessments. But there was one significant qualification: “Except in relation to the regime’s precise motivation for carrying out an attack of this scale at this time – though intelligence may increase our confidence in the future.” [Continue reading…]

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