The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Qatari PM: Assad "Used Chemicals, and There Is Evidence"

GERMANY-QATAR-MERKEL-AL-TAHNI

Qatar joined France, the UK, and Israel to officially state that Butcher Assad has used chemical weapons during Syria’s civil war, something that the Obama Administration threatened was a “red line.” Blake Hounshell reports for Foreign Policy:

“Chemicals? He used chemicals, and there is evidence,” [Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim] Al Thani said, referring to Assad. He described the Syrian ruler’s strategy as an attempt to “test your reactions” and incrementally cross U.S. President Barack Obama’s “red lines.” Al Thani did not say whether Qatar had made its own independent assessment of the use of chemical weapons, or whether it was relying on other countries’ reports.

The US, though, is sticking to what it knows. As Bloomberg reports:

“We have not come to the conclusion that there has been that use,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters in Washington [yesterday]. “It is precisely because of the seriousness of the use of chemical weapons—and the seriousness with which the president made clear that that use would be unacceptable—that it is incumbent upon us and our partners to investigate thoroughly and validate or verify allegations of chemical weapons use.”

“Suspicions are one thing,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told reporters. “Evidence is another.”

We can’t be sure if Assad is really dancing on Obama’s red line, but a number of our allies are convinced that he is. What will the Obama administration do if it finds the evidence it needs? The President has repeatedly said this is a “red line” and “unacceptable.” What does that mean? The Syrian civil war is now so complicated and has destroyed so much of Syria and its people, radicalizing combatants and civilians alike, that it is much harder to accomplish American goals there than it was when this conflict was only a few months old. More than that, American dithering has sent a clear signal to Iran: dance on the red lines, cross them if you want; we won’t come after you until it’s too late.

UPDATE: Chuck Hagel is now “confident” Syria has used chemical weapons, according to the BBC. More to come.

UPDATE 2: The White House has acknowledged for the first time that chemical weapons have been used in Syria.

[Photo of Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani courtesy of Getty]

Published on April 25, 2013 11:52 am
  • http://twitter.com/BlatonHardey Blaton Hardey

    I suggest the President defines additional green, purple and yellow lines. Such a variety of colors is much more impressive and probably very confusing, thus paralyzing any evil-doer around. When dealing with color-blind evil-doers, the most effective way to prevent the doing of evil is to vaguely mention a mysterious web of 50 lines, with a unique shade of gray each.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Luke-Lea/579129865 Luke Lea

    Beware the false flag.

    • http://twitter.com/BlatonHardey Blaton Hardey

      a flag is a flag

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Luke-Lea/579129865 Luke Lea

        A flag is an easy thing to fake, and this is a perfect situation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_flag

        • f1b0nacc1

          While I don’t entirely disagree with your concern here, it is entirely possible that Assad no longer has complete control over his chemical arsenal, or (if he does), that he considers the immediacy of losing the war to a coalition pledged to destroy him (literally as well as figuratively) a far more serious problem than the possible entry of the US (which would likely be more merciful in dealing with him ) into the existing conflict.
          Finally, Assad might not consider the US threat credible, having taken the measure of Obama and found him wanting….

        • http://twitter.com/BlatonHardey Blaton Hardey

          What I meant was, chemical weapons were used, by whomever. This means either Assad ordered their use, or Assad’s forces just used them without further discussion.

          I do not believe anyone else “faked” the attack in order to “bring in the US against” Assad.

          If a rebel group actually has access to chemical weapons, wouldn’t they just use them against Assad’s troops, instead of wasting them to cause some more bad publicity for the eye-doctor? It surely doesn’t look like this “false flag” operation yields a lot of results, and it didn’t really look like it would before. It isn’t one.

          • f1b0nacc1

            If you believe that framing Assad for using chemical weapons (which is what I believe is being suggested here by the use of the phrase ‘false flag’) would get the Americans to enter the war (either directly or indirectly), then it makes a great deal of sense to use the chemicals to frame Assad. After all, even with almost ideal circumstances chemicals aren’t going to be all that useful for an attacker (they are primarily valuable for defensive operations and some interdiction attacks), whereas American air strikes (or even simply upgraded logistics support) would be an enormous force multiplier.
            With that said, I think that this is all too clever by half. Using chemicals in a false flag operation (and NOT getting caught doing so…even the hint of it would be enough to discredit your group) isn’t an easy thing under the best of circumstances with well trained troops, and these are not the best of circumstances and the troops are not well-trained. Much more likely that Assad (who has well-trained units experienced in using chemicals) is doing what we think he is.

          • http://twitter.com/BlatonHardey Blaton Hardey

            Well as I said, “I do NOT believe anyone else “faked” the attack in order to “bring in the US against” Assad.”

            And while I agree that most rebel groups are simply not capable of launching / succeeding at such an operation– I don’t even think they’d consider it.

            You said “If you believe that framing Assad for using chemical weapons (..) would get the Americans to enter the war (either directly or indirectly), then it makes a great deal of sense to use the chemicals to frame Assad.”

            I don’t believe anybody in Syria thinks the US might begin getting militarily involved under any circumstances.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alexander.scipio Alexander Scipio

    What does “unacceptable” mean? It means Obama/Kerry/Hagel will say, “Stop! Or we’ll say ‘Stop!’ again!” Nothing more. American “leadership” now is an international joke.

  • Fred

    Well, that’s what we get when we elect a gelding president.