The Chemical Weapons Card

The US plays it whenever it feels it plans in Syria are being confounded

By Abdel Bari Atwan

There is a Golden Rule, which we have learned by heart, that has applied since the start of the crisis in Syria some seven years ago. Whenever the US senses the growing defeat of its plans for the country, it resorts to playing the chemical weapons card, as a pretext to launch attacks against Syrian military targets.

On Friday, Defence Secretary James Mattis announced to journalists that his country was concerned that sarin gas may recently have been used in Syria. He concede that the US had no proof of this, but added that “other groups on the ground – NGOs, fighters on the ground – have said that sarin has been used, so we are looking for evidence.” 

Prior to the defence secretary’s remarks, an administration official who did not want to be named was quoted as saying that both President Bashar al-Asad’s regime and the Islamic State (IS) group were continuing to use chemical weapons, that President Donald Trump was not ruling out any options, and that the use of military force was being kept under constant review.

These statements are ominous because they put the Syrian government on a par with IS, directing the same accusations at both of them, while implicitly absolving the other warring factions of the charge, let alone of actually using chemical weapons.

The search for evidence is unlikely to take long, for the simple reason that we have become accustomed to the US administration levelling accusations and then providing pre-prepared fabricated evidence, along with testimony from ‘international experts’, to support them. This is not confined to Syria. It was done in Iraq and many other places. We will not waste time recounting all these incidents.

The US adopted a similar ‘scenario’ in April last year, when it struck the Shueirat Airbase near Homs with 59 Tomahawk missiles in response to the alleged dropping of bombs containing sarin by a Syrian airforce plane on the town of Shaikoun, supposedly causing the death of 100 people.  The same scenario could easily be repeated in any other location predetermined by the US military.

Last time it was Shaikhoun. This time the talk is of the Eastern Ghouta district, much of which is controlled by warring militias that are battling each other for influence, and occasionally use the area as a launching-pad to fire missiles and artillery shells against the capital, Damascus.

The question that arises is why would Syrian forces use chemical weapons against this district when they know full well that this could provoke American retaliation, at a time like now when the Syrian army and its allies have been making gains on most of the country’s battlefronts, and when the Syrian state is on the verge of recovering and making firm strides towards stability and reconstruction?

If the Americans concede that IS also has chemical weapons, why shouldn’t other, smaller, armed opposition groups possess supplies of them too? And why shouldn’t they use them in Eastern Ghouta, with a nod from the Americans, in order to furnish pretexts for retaliatory attacks against regime military targets?

The US has renowned intelligence agencies like the CIA, which lead the world in hatching conspiracies and are famed for their ‘black-ops’ operations against Syria, Iraq and Libya, and other Arab states that disobey Washington’s dictates. They fabricated the Libyan ‘revolution’, a move that was later openly regretted by former president Barack Obama. US political, media and military plans for detonating the situation in Syrian were put in place seven years ago, as a number of the US’ ambassadors and allies in the region have since admitted. It is no longer in dispute that the US fabricated the Iraq WMD lie, and infiltrated its intelligence operatives into the UN weapons inspectors for that purpose.

In light of the defeats dealt to the US’ project in Syria at the hands of its Russian adversary, we should expect another desperate American missile strike against somewhere or other in Syria in the coming days and weeks, once the ‘evidence’ has been produced – a simple and guaranteed process, involving many willing volunteers.

The US tried to sabotage the all-party Syrian dialogue conference in Sochi and failed. It made great efforts to halt the Syrian army’s advance into Idlib and failed. It tried to prevent a clash between its old Turkish ally and its new Kurdish allies and failed. All it can do now is try to prove its relevance, and divert attention from its political and military defeats, with a new attack somewhere in Syria. It is sure to fail there too.