Part of the Obama Administration’s case against the Assad government rests on information you can’t know. This information, only available in classified briefings to members of Congress, supposedly proves the case that Bashar al-Assad ordered a chemical weapons attack and thereby violated international “norms” that only the US is willing to unilaterally enforce.
But apparently some members of Congress, even after seeing the best evidence the Obama Administration can muster, are not convinced Assad ordered the attack.
Ezra Klein: So you’re saying that you don’t question the idea that a chemical weapons attack happened, just the idea that Assad himself gave the order.
Congressman Alan Grayson: The administration has said there’s no direct evidence, only circumstantial evidence. I know what that circumstantial evidence is, and I’m not impressed. The whole discourse is, ‘how do we change his incentives?’ But they may not be relevant here. If there were direct evidence that Assad ordered it, it would be quite meaningful to say Assad ordered it and how do we change his incentives in the future. But if we assume he’s a rational, calculating person, why would he have ordered the attack in the first place?
Congressman Rush Holt has also expressed skepticism on the intelligence saying he thought it was “moderately convincing.” Adding “Nobody’s using the phrase ‘slam dunk’. And they’d better not, because it’s not that good. ”
And now reports have surfaced that German Intelligence believes that Assad did not personally order the attacks.
President Bashar al-Assad did not personally order last month’s chemical weapons attack near Damascus that has triggered calls for US military intervention, and blocked numerous requests from his military commanders to use chemical weapons against regime opponents in recent months, a German newspaper has reported , citing unidentified, high-level national security sources.
The intelligence findings were based on phone calls intercepted by a German surveillance ship operated by the BND, the German intelligence service, and deployed off the Syrian coast, Bild am Sonntag said. The intercepted communications suggested Assad, who is accused of war crimes by the west, including foreign secretary William Hague, was not himself involved in last month’s attack or in other instances when government forces have allegedly used chemical weapons.
These findings pose an interesting question – if Assad did not order the attack, what is the point of bombing him? If this is a game of incentives then the planned strikes are completely worthless if Assad did not even order the attack. Behavior modification for non-existent behavior.
As the Obama Administration’s Bush-esque public relations campaign for war on Syria rolls on it is worth taking a moment to look at the facts.