The Obama Administration has further confirmed what military analysts have been suggesting for months; according to a senior Obama Administration official on Sunday, there is “very little doubt” within the intelligence community that Syria has used chemical weapons against their own citizens.
Such a revelation leads to the questions: Where did Syria get the weapons of mass destruction? And whatever happened to those WMDs in Iraq, Syria’s neighbor to the East?
The statement by the senior official was released on Sunday under the condition that the official not be named publicly. It includes strong indications that the Obama Administration’s stance is that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s military forces used chemical weapons on civilians and that Syria’s commitment to allowing UN inspectors in comes too late.
The statement notes,
“Based on the reported number of victims, reported symptoms of those who were killed or injured, witness accounts and other facts gathered by open sources, the U.S. intelligence community, and international partners, there is very little doubt at this point that a chemical weapon was used by the Syrian regime against civilians in this incident.”
The official also claimed that the President has not yet decided whether or not to act on the suspected attack in a Damascus suburb that left hundreds dead.
The tougher posturing by the White House comes after months of criticism by Republicans that the Obama Administration had not taken seriously enough allegations that Syria had used chemical weapons in previous attacks. President Obama declared last year that the use of WMDs against civilians by Syria would be a “red line” that would force action from the international community.
Though naval forces have moved closer to Syria, indicating a potential military strike against select Syrian military installations, Syria has declared that any military engagement would force them to “create a ball of fire that will inflame the Middle East.”
The Obama Administration will have some tough choices ahead. Iran is allied with Syria and, more dangerously, the Russians remain the only member of the U.N. Security Council still allied with Syria, which can further complicate the already-strained relations between the two countries.
Further, the Obama Administration has already augmented several of the Bush Administration’s more unpopular policies by heightening drone usage and turning NSA surveillance onto the American people. Mounting a military operation without the complete backing of the UN over WMDs will only make it harder for the Obama Administration to pretend that they represent the “hope” and “change” promised to the American people.
Lastly, admitting that Syria is using WMDs will force America to question where the Syrians obtained the sarin gas. As intelligence prior to the invasion of Iraq indicated that Saddam’s Iraq had sarin gas and amidst large speculation that such weapons were moved to Syria, the use of sarin gas in Syria might prove to vindicate the Bush Administration’s assertions that WMDs were, in fact, in Iraq.
In January, 2006, former Iraqi general, Georges Sada publicly declared that Saddam’s military transferred large stockpiles of chemical weapons to Syria using civilian aircraft with the passenger seats removed. “There are weapons of mass destruction gone out from Iraq to Syria, and they must be found and returned to safe hands,’ Mr. Sada said. ‘I am confident they were taken over.’”
Sada, Hussein’s number 2 in the Iraqi Air Force, claims that 56 trips by two Iraqi Airways Boeings were used to smuggle the weapons into Syria under the guise of civilian flights. “Saddam realized, this time, the Americans are coming,” Sada said. “They handed over the weapons of mass destruction to the Syrians.”
In March, retired Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney spoke publicly about the likelihood of WMDs in Syria and the high probability that the weapons were moved to Syria immediately prior to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
After an alleged chemical attack near Aleppo, Syria, Lt. Gen. McInerney was asked what the chances were that the chemicals weapons came from Iraq.
“I think there is a high probability of that,” McInerney declared. “That’s conjecture, but we do know prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom, there was a lot of vehicles crossing the border into Syria. And there was a great deal of conjecture. A Iraqi major general swore by it. He said he delivered it. And so I think that it would be a very high probability if we could get into those bunkers that they would have Iraqi signatures on them.”
If the Obama administration authorizes military action without UN approval, we can expect that the White House will claim that this military action is, somehow, radically different from Bush’s military action. Further, Americans shouldn’t expect to hear any apologies from the left to Bush or his supporters. Though Syria’s WMD usage might seem to vindicate President Bush’s intelligence reports, Democrats will likely have a hard time letting go of the increasingly-improbable theory that Bush purposefully lied in order to wage a war.