Question About Syria

The Russians are saying that their satellite imaging clearly shows two rockets being launched from territory presently held by the Syrian rebels and they are asserting that those rockets carried the chemical weapons that have caused all the death, destruction, and uproar over the use of chemical weapons by the regime.

Just for the sake of discussion, let’s assume that the Russian evidence is incontrovertible and that the Syrian rebels did, indeed, use chemical weapons, presumably in an attempt at drawing the West into the Syrian civil war.

Here’s my question. What should the president do?

I think given what we know right now we should wait to make any decision about the use of force in Syria until the UN inspectors have issued a report. Even assuming that the intelligence in the hands of the U. S. contradicts what the Russians are saying we still don’t know whether military chemical weapons were used against Syrian civilians. Based on the information that I’ve read and heard it seems far more likely that CS and/or CN, anti-riot agents not subject to the ban, were used than, say, sarin.

FILED UNDER: Quick Takes
Dave Schuler
About Dave Schuler
Over the years Dave Schuler has worked as a martial arts instructor, a handyman, a musician, a cook, and a translator. He's owned his own company for the last thirty years and has a post-graduate degree in his field. He comes from a family of politicians, teachers, and vaudeville entertainers. All-in-all a pretty good preparation for blogging. He has contributed to OTB since November 2006 but mostly writes at his own blog, The Glittering Eye, which he started in March 2004.

Comments

  1. TastyBits says:

    I doubt that many people are interested in anything that would hinder their preferred action. I think there are a few possibilities: 1) CS/CN, 2) rogue Syrian commander, 3) ammo mistake, 4) rebel ploy, 5) Syrian trial balloon.

    Here’s my question. What should the president do?

    All-in or all-out. With all-out, he could still lob a few missiles just to shut up some people.

  2. michael reynolds says:

    Two chemical warheads did not cause that level of fatalities. The Russians are lying.

    But since I don’t favor any intervention at this time (on grounds different from many) I don’t have a good answer to the hypothetical.

  3. DC Loser says:

    According to this site the lethal dosage for sarin is 0.5 mg.

    This is data from 1990 on Iraqi Scud chemical warhead dispersal patterns and dosage.

    The casualties in Syria would be on the low side for such a warhead.

  4. PD Shaw says:

    Sorry, Dave, I found your assumptions difficult to assume — the alternative scenarios seem like that they would be controverted.

    I do not believe the U.S. should take punitive military measures in response to the use of non-lethal weapons (though that term is not really accurate), like CS and/or CN. I am assuming that the chemicals themselves are identifiable, and thus this point would seem to be eventually incontrovertible, but the U.S. seems to be arguing its too late for forensic analysis? If that is the U.S. position, I would need more explanation of the chemistry or the situation on the ground, because it doesn’t seem plausible.

  5. michael reynolds says:

    @DC Loser:

    Yeah but that’s assuming a mathematically precise distribution. That’s the thing with chemical weapons – they get very hinky in distribution. In WW1 there were cases of Germans being killed by their own mustard gas when the wind shifted.

  6. dazedandconfused says:

    I suppose we would be compelled to help Assad hit the rebels. Awwkwaaaard.

  7. michael reynolds says:

    Incidentally if rebels have gained access to sarin then we have bigger problems.

  8. Franklin says:

    Mr. Schuler – I appreciate somebody keeping an eye on non-American perspectives, thanks.

  9. DC Loser says:

    Yeah but that’s assuming a mathematically precise distribution. That’s the thing with chemical weapons – they get very hinky in distribution. In WW1 there were cases of Germans being killed by their own mustard gas when the wind shifted.

    Which would support a scenario that the rebels did something stupid and backfired, or that it was staged.

  10. walt moffett says:

    To deal with the what-if it’s the rebels, secure commitments to cut off all foreign assistance until the guilty (and their confessions) are surrendered alive. At which point this all breaks down, the rebels (and their backers) are fragmented and just as likely to kill each other, smuggling is an art form, and what to do with the perps, confirming the confessions and a tragic suicide aren’t in vogue anymore. So more likely analysis paralysis then a cruise missile or eight at the largest camps in the region and/or oops how did Assad get copies of the satellite photos.

    But right now I still see who did what as an open question.