Syria: Another chemical attack?

Syria is preparing another chemical attack, so says the Trump White House, warning of dire consequences if the Assad regime carries that out. I talked about this a few minutes ago with host P.J. Maloney on KQV News Radio in Pittsburgh.

I don’t have any direct information one way of the other, but let’s consider some background.

–The awful April chemical attack that killed about 70 people in Idlib province appeared designed to drive civilians out of a town before a government offensive. Terrorism, in other words. It worked, by the way.

So where does the Syrian regime need to use chemical weapons to clear out an area now? The White House didn’t say. As the Al-Jazeera map above illustrates, Syria has been reduced to a patchwork of competing enclaves, and there is heavy fighting going on in several parts of Syria, including near the border of the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights. So it’s conceivable that one of these pockets might be a target. But there’s no obvious place where a chemical attack would serve the purposes of the Assad regime.

–Now let’s look at the cynical possibilities, once again with no evidence to back them up: If Syria carries out a chemical attack, the US could retaliate the way it did in April, bombing a Syrian air force base. The attack accomplished little on the ground, as Russia was warned beforehand and got the Syrian forces out of the base before the onslaught of dozens of cruise missiles, and the base was back in operation within days. But Trump got what he wanted–a “message” to Assad and the world, for whatever that’s worth. Not much, in my view–the era of “messages” is long past. Their targets have to believe that there’s something painful and punishing behind them, and usually there isn’t.

So let’s say it’s all bogus, “fake news,” there never was going to be another Syrian chemical attack, and there isn’t one. Then the Trump administration can proclaim that it prevented an attack with its warning. Win-win.

I’ll keep looking, but it’s unlikely that any evidence one way or the other is going to turn up, unless the attack actually happens. As I said in the broadcast, that’s a horrible way to confirm a news story.

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