Assad, Rebels, Factions, International Players

Last week's serin gas attack on a Syrian rebel position revived calls for Western action.

by James Towe

The initial reaction of the international community was that of doubt; a possible act of desperation by rebel groups facing defeat. As it became clear that the reports of mass deaths were accurate, my focus changed to the party responsible. The intelligence community insists the rebels lack a chemical weapons capability (Link), despite the Syrian Free Army claims that it indeed has WMD capability (Link).

Loose borders and the lack of cohesion within the Syrian opposition would indicate that nearly any scenario is possible with last week's serin gas attack.

At a time when the rebel groups were on their heels and the Obama administration had made it quite clear the US would offer no meaningful intervention, it was a bizarre turn of events that the Assad regime would risk its position by escalating WMD use this late in Syria's civil war.

It should be added that the Syrian Free Army comprises of tens of thousands of defectors from Bashar al-Assad's Syrian army. These defections include lugging away military hardware, not just personnel. One could posit that chemical weapons would quite easily find their way into rebel hands in this tumultuous environment.

What I find bizarre is the propensity of certain people in Congress to push with such vigor for a U.S. response. Because of the lack clarity in that civil war, I view both sides as equally undesirable. By destroying Assad, we may help to build a new, less controllable regime that we could mightily regret.