The Obama administration is peddling two scenarios for a potential war in Syria. Withnews and official statements this week repeating uncorroborated allegations that the Assad regime is moving and mixing elements of chemical weapons and possibly loading the materials into bombs, administration officials warn that the US could intervene militarily (1) if the regime uses these weapons on its own people, and (2) if the danger that these chemical weapons could get into the hands of Islamic militant groups becomes too great.
While it is true that the Obama administration may intervene under scenario (1), public statements to this effect are misleading. Consider Bilal Y. Saab, Executive Director of the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, on why Obama’s supposed red line on the use of chemical weapons “lacks credibility.”
Why has the United States drawn a red line here and not elsewhere?
Obama’s words could reflect a humanitarian concern and a moral responsibility to prevent the further loss of life in Syria. Yet the president has not reacted forcefully to the tens of thousands who have already perished without a single poison being used. Chemical weapons are considered weapons of mass destruction, and if used effectively, could kill in the thousands. But so can fighter jets, helicopters, tanks and artillery—and they already have.
Indeed, chemical weapons draw international alarm, but they are no more a threat to civilian life really than what has already been going on in Syria. Additionally, in order to intervene on this basis, the US would have to justify it under the Responsibility to Protect doctrine, which is controversial to say the least. And the intervention would rest on even shakier legal basis because it would be unlikely to receive full support at the UN Security Council. Read more…