By Daan de Wit
Translated by Ben Kearney
The White House is working overtime to generate as much support as possible for an overt attack on Syria. Everyone is doing his part, and Secretary of State John Kerry is aiming high: in front of the cameras, by means of his now famous speech, and behind the scenes, by comparing Assad to Hitler and warning the world not to make the same mistake that it did in 1938. Russia is eyeing the situation with astonishment. 'To us, it looks as though [George W.] Bush, [Dick] Cheney and [Donald] Rumsfeld never left the White House,'says Alexei Pushkov, head of the foreign affairs committee of the Russian parliament. 'I am at a complete loss to understand what the US thinks it is doing.'
On the surface it’s straightforward: the U.S. wants to liberate Syria from a brutal dictator who is attacking his own people with poison gas. But beneath the surface there is something very different going on. For it is there that the story about chemical weapons turns out to be different than first thought, and with other arguments appearing to play a leading role in the battle for Syria. The main prize at stake in this battle: Iran. Earlier, once the parties involved proved unable to claim this prize, it became obvious to them that the road to Tehran runs through Damascus.
The battle for Syria is thus a battle for Iran, and is it most fundamentally a battle for influence and energy. The goal of those seeking to attack Syria is to shift the current balance of power within both Syria and Iran and in the surrounding region. By shifting the balance of power, they gain access to the flows of energy. In order to achieve this goal, the Western component of the forces which are arrayed against Syria needs the support of its citizenry. Hence the current debate over the use of chemical weapons. Even though this debate is focused on the form rather than the content, it is still useful to examine the issue in detail.
Who is behind the chemical weapons attack?
The West is holding President Assad responsible for the gas attack. According to Russia, the rebels are behind the attack. How realistic is this second scenario? The fact is that this wouldn’t be the first time that such a thing is conceivable. Back in December, a defector stated
that it was quite possible that the rebels could gain access to Assad’s chemical weapons. It is precisely this scenario that Michael Eisenstadt of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy described
as being 'almost inevitable'. In May, UN researcher Carla Del Ponte said
that there were indications that sarin had been used. “This was use on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities.” And there are more signs pointing in this direction as well. In July, Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s permanent representative to the UN, presented
evidence to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council of a chemical weapons attack that was carried out in Aleppo in March. This evidence indicated that the attack was the work of the rebels. Portions of the report from which he cites have since been made public
. Later, following the now infamous attack
on 21 August on the Ghouta region from the rebel-besieged town of Douma, he presented evidence assembled from satellite data, as reported by sources (1
). This information has thus far remained sealed behind closed doors at the UN. The Associated Press writes
that the U.S. no longer knows for sure who has control of what weapons. There are so many reports
on how and when rebels could have put their hands on chemical weapons that there is no room to list them all here. Perhaps it is this flurry of reports that, despite the stern statements made by John Kerry in his speech, 'U.S. intelligence officials are
not so certain that the suspected chemical attack was carried out on Assad's orders.'
Influence of interested parties
And then there are the potential weapons shipments from interested parties located outside Syria. Take for example Qatar, which is responsible for funding a major portion of the international fight against Syria
. This country has already invested three billion
dollars in the effort. But there is also another country with huge interests at stake: Saudi Arabia. There is an article
circulating from Dale Gavlak, a reporter who has covered the Middle East for decades for the Associated Press and many other news agencies. In the article he explains that the chemical attack which occurred on the 21st of August was carried out by the rebels by mistake. The chief of the Saudi intelligence agency, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, is alleged to be behind the chemical weapons shipment, but 'they didn’t tell us what these arms were or how to use them,' complained one female fighter. 'We didn’t know they were chemical weapons. We never imagined they were chemical weapons.' It was Bandar who first tipped off
the U.S. to the use of chemical weapons, which according to him was perpetrated by the Syrian regime. And it was Israel
, another country with interests at stake, which supplied
the U.S., and thus Kerry, with intelligence that the Secretary of State used in his forceful speech. At the same time, it is already well known
that Israel fabricated evidence in the past that was used by the U.S. against Iran. Is this Israeli intelligence the ‘evidence’ that was shared
with a secret session of the Dutch parliament this past Wednesday in The Hague?