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Russia and Syria Have a Moral Compass. Does Washington?

Are we really supposed to believe that Syria and Russia are barbarian nations? It is far more probable when one looks at “who wins advantage?” that the culprits of the Idlib gas attack are those tasked with further destabilizing Syria

This post first appeared on Russia Insider

In 2013 it was reported that chemical weapons had been used against civilians in Syria. Due to the spin and automated populist unthinking response, many responded by shouting “Assad did it”. This despite the fact that the agreement brokered with the participation of the US, President Assad’s Syria, Russia and others to remove chemical weapons stockpiled in Syria.

It does not take a mental giant to see that any time we hear about chemical weapons in Syria — regardless of the evidence — the MSM and populist talking heads repeat the mantra “Assad did it”.

<figcaption>We've seen this before</figcaption>
We've seen this before

In matters of business and markets, I try to follow the money; it usually leads to a truth and other discoveries. In matters political, the same applies plus the factor “who wins advantage?”

No matter how much I poke at this question, I see no advantages whatsoever for Assad to ever order the use of chemical weapons on the territory of his country. Quite the opposite and the Syrian government is very well aware of how perceptions are spun outside of Syria. They are far from stupid, contrary to the braying of opinion makers in the west. Assuming that Syria, a secular State, has no moral compass whatsoever is simply not true. I find it inconceivable that Russia would condone, much less support the use of chemical weapons against civilians, even if they are citizens of a foreign sovereign nation.

Russia is a country I have come to know in detail, and to put it mildly, such support would simply be beyond the pale of reality. Russia is a country which has known war on its own land, has been at the receiving end, and is well aware of the terminal realities and their is not a game, and the reality cannot be made virtual or rebooted.

It is far more probable when one looks at “who wins advantage?” that the culprit(s) are those tasked with further destabilizing Syria, overthrowing President Assad, and further degrading the country with several more years of internal conflict between moderate rebelling madmen and extremist rebelling madmen in the name of the all merciful.

President Trump certainly did away with lines in the sand, giving new meaning to bold populist decision making. I can only admire his intestinal fortitude while dining with Mr. Xi, and not giving him a hint even over dessert. One can argue about what signals this sends to all manner of interest groups, time will certainly clarify that.

Fifty-nine Tomahawks at $1.4 million (courtesy of Raytheon) a pop exploding on that small Syrian government air base, and the next day flights resumed from that airfield? Were no canisters of sarin or similar ruptured from the overpressure waves? Were chemical weapons ever present at that air base to be loaded on attack aircraft? Any evidence, or chemical traces at that base, even after bombardment? If I were a betting man, I’d put my money on the anti-Assad groups as being the most likely culprits to have used such weapons as the blame will, without on the ground investigation, fall on the villain aka President Assad.

The questions that arise, and which should concern every American, are the same 14 specific questions posed by the speaker of the house Boehner in 2013 to the occupants of the White House in order to clarify and justify armed intervention in Syria. Let me recap them to refresh our focus and memory:

  1. What standard did the Administration use to determine that this scope of chemical weapons use warrants potential military action?
  2. Does the Administration consider such a response to be precedent setting, should further humanitarian atrocities occur?
  3. What result is the Administration seeking from its response?
  4. What is the intended effect of the potential military strikes?
  5. If potential strikes do not have the intended effect, will further strikes be conducted?
  6. Would the sole purpose of a potential strike be to send a warning to the Assad regime about the use of chemical weapons? Or would a potential strike be intended to help shift the security momentum away from the regime and toward the opposition?
  7. If it remains unclear whether the strikes compel the Assad regime to renounce and stop the use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people, or if President Assad escalates their usage, will the Administration contemplate escalatory military action?
  8. Will your Administration conduct strikes if chemical weapons are utilized on a smaller scale?
  9. Would you consider using the United States military to respond to situations or scenarios that do not directly involve the use or transfer of chemical weapons?
  10. Assuming the targets of potential military strikes are restricted to the Assad inner circle and military leadership, does the Administration have contingency plans in case the strikes disrupt or throw into confusion the command and control of the regime’s weapons stocks?
  11. Does the Administration have contingency plans if the momentum does shift away from the regime but toward terrorist organizations fighting to gain and maintain control of territory?
  12. Does the Administration have contingency plans to deter or respond should Assad retaliate against U.S. interests or allies in the region?
  13. Does the Administration have contingency plans should the strikes implicate foreign power interests, such as Iran or Russia?
  14. Does the Administration intend to submit a supplemental appropriations request to Congress, should the scope and duration of the potential military strikes exceed the initial planning?

Joining with Boehner, more than 100 lawmakers — 97 Republicans and 17 Democrats — signed a letter spearheaded by Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Va.) that urged the president to seek Congressional authorization before any strike, lest the results spin out of control as in Libya, Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. I am not hearing any of the above questions being considered or addressed today.

I hope that “Make America Great Again” does not degrade and become same-old, same-old police officer and moral evangelist preaching to the world…. That was not at all part of the pre-election promise, quite emphatically the opposite.

Paul Goncharoff is Chairman, Disciplinary Committee, National Association of Corporate Directors, Russia

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