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Saturday, April 8, 2017

An Interesting Question About Syria

The recent events in Syria raise a very interesting question:  was the American government aware that Assad still had chemical weapons?  Let's back up a bit to explain the importance of this issue.

In 2013, Assad's military used chemical weapons repeatedly on areas supporting the rebels.  Thousands were killed.  There was no real international response as the attacks continued.  President Obama had announced the year before that were Assad to use chemical weapons it would cross a "red line" for the USA.  As the Assad gas attacks continued, Obama tried to dodge the need for a response by claiming that we did not have proof yet that any chemical weapons had been used.  Then in the Summer of 2013, video was taken by the rebels of an attack with sarin gas on a town and the aftermath of that attack.  Images of hundreds of people dead or dying with the telltale signs of sarin exposure were spread across the globe via the internet.  Obama could no longer deny what was happening.  That began another great Obama dither.  Obama threatened military action but at the last minute punted the matter to Congress for approval.  Obama made no push to get Congressional authorization for action, but just continued to vacillate.  Then, secretary of state John Kerry said at a news conference in London that the use of force might be avoided if Assad would give up his chemical weapons.  That caused the Russians to pounce.  They negotiated a deal under which Assad gave up his weapons and agreed to make no more while the USA agreed to take no action against Assad.

After the deal with Assad/Russia was struck, there was a show made of the Syrians giving up their chemical weapons.  The US government announced through John Kerry that Syria had given up ALL of its chemical weapons. 

In 2016, the Syrians started using chlorine gas as a weapon on the rebels.  Obama did nothing.  In fact, the state department people said that chlorine was not covered by the 2013 agreement.  It was not just a chemical weapon; chlorine could be used to keep swimming pools clean.  (Just think how many swimming pools there must be in Damascus.)  Sure, chlorine gas was one of the major chemical weapons used during World War I that led to the banning of all such weapons after that war, but Obama's people had left chlorine off the list of chemical weapons Assad could not use (I guess to keep those swimming pools clean.)

In the last week, however, the Assad forces were back using sarin gas and the world saw the results on video.  The response from President Trump was the exact opposite of Obama's.  Trump took action and wiped away a Syrian air base with cruise missiles.

But how did Assad get sarin gas?  Obama and Kerry assured us that Assad had surrendered his entire stockpile of that weapon.  Did Assad secretly put his chemical weapons program back together?  Did the Russians know that this had happened?  Did the Russians tell us?  Did the American intelligence agencies like the CIA and NSA learn that the Syrians were back doing production of chemical weapons?  Did president Obama know?  Did President Trump?  And when was this knowledge learned?

These are important questions.  After all, it may be that when Obama and Kerry told us that Assad had given up all his chemical weapons, they were just telling lies to the American people.  Maybe they had just been duped by the Russians and the Syrians.  That makes Obama and Kerry either liars or fools (or both). 

Remember, we can be pretty sure that the attack a week ago was not the first that the US learned of Assad's chemical weapons.  We've already heard that in targeting the cruise missile strike on the airbase from which the chemical attack was launched, American planners stayed away from the storage facilities for the gas.  We've been told that this target selection was set so that no large clouds of sarin or other chemical weapons would be wafting across the Syrian countryside killing hundreds or thousands of civilians.  So American intelligence knew in which buildings on the airbase the sarin gas components are stored.  When did we get that knowledge?


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