A victory for the butcher of Damascus
By Nureddin Sabir
Editor, Redress Information & Analysis
We commiserate the Syrian people and everyone who is able to put himself or herself above the cynics’ dictum of “my enemy’s enemy is my friend. As the former Middle East editor of the Guardian newspaper, Brian Whitaker, says in a blogpost today:
Following last week’s meeting of the UN Security Council which in effect gave a green light for chemical attacks in Syria, the Assad regime now has a second green light – this time from Britain…
A jubilant editorial in today’s Guardian praises Ed Miliband, the Labour opposition leader, for his stand and hails the result as a classic example of “the legislature holding the executive to account”.
Arab journalist Hassan Hassan, on the other hand, sees it as a case of democracy saving a dictator.
And Assad, we hasten to add, is no ordinary dictator but one whose chemical attack on Syrian civilians on 21 August resulted in the death of 1,429 people, including 426 children.
For the additional disasters that may now befall the Syrian people as a result, we have only to thank the war crimes suspect, Tony Blair, and his accomplice, George W. Bush.
Debate about Syria in Britain – among politician and the public – has been framed by the experience with Iraq 10 years ago. Having been deceived by Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2003, MPs were bending over backwards not to fall into a similar trap with Cameron and Syria. But in their eagerness to avoid that they have now fallen into the hands of Bashar al-Assad.
The result of Blair’s trickery is that the level of proof required for military intervention is not merely high (as it should be) but unrealistically high. In this, Cameron has got himself neatly off the hook by saying that he defers to the will of parliament and the British people, even though he disagrees with it…
Obviously, things would be a lot easier if we had a “smoking gun” in connection with last week’s chemical attacks. We don’t have one at present and we may never get one. There are hopes that the UN inspectors will identify the chemicals used, and they may also identify the weaponry used to deliver them. That would be helpful but it would still not be a smoking gun – and the inspectors’ mandate specifically excludes establishing who is to blame.
A major reason for the nervousness of those opposed to deterring the Assad regime from further using chemical weapons against his own people is the suspicion that the rebels themselves – especially the Islamists whose brutality is almost a match for that of Assad – may have been responsible for last week’s chemical crime. This suspicion is underpinned by a preliminary UN investigation into a previous, much smaller chemical attack last May which suggested that the rebels, rather than the government, had used chemical weapons.
However, in a carefully-worded report issued yesterday, the British government’s Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) states very clearly that the rebels could not have been responsible:
It is being claimed, including by the regime, that the attacks were either faked or undertaken by the Syrian Armed Opposition. We have tested this assertion using a wide range of intelligence and open sources, and invited HMG and outside experts to help us establish whether such a thing is possible.
There is no credible intelligence or other evidence to substantiate the claims or the possession of CW [chemical weapons] by the opposition. The [committee] has therefore concluded that there are no plausible alternative scenarios to regime responsibility…
There is no credible evidence that any opposition group has used CW [chemical weapons]. A number continue to seek a CW capability, but none currently has the capability to conduct a CW attack on this scale.
The committee concludes that is it “highly likely that the regime was responsible for the CW attacks on 21 August. The JIC had high confidence in all of its assessments except in relation to the regime’s precise motivation for carrying out an attack of this scale at this time”.
Even so, it continues:
We also have a limited but growing body of intelligence which supports the judgement that the regime was responsible for the attacks and that they were conducted to help clear the Opposition from strategic parts of Damascus. Some of this intelligence is highly sensitive but you [Prime Minister David Cameron] have had access to it all.
But, sadly, it would seem that neither the dead will get justice nor the living will now escape the butcher of Damascus’s deadly, invisible killer.
What a victory for British democracy!