According to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Syrian citizens were exposed to sarin, a chemical weapon, in April of 2017 in the Khan Shaykhun area of Syria. The OPCW didn’t visit the site of the attack, but they did interview people and examine materials that came from the area.
The OPCW did not say who was responsible for the Sarin exposure. That wasn’t their job.
Ambassador Nikki Haley put out a press release saying the OPCW report is “… concluding that the chemical weapon sarin or a sarin-like substance was used in the attack.”
Notice Haley’s replacement of “sarin” from the OPCW report with “sarin or a sarin-like substance” for her press release. That’s a tell. It means Haley has some reason to be skeptical that sarin was involved. If the OPCW is willing to call it sarin, why hedge?
The OPCW does not offer an opinion on who was responsible for the exposure, or even that it came from an “attack.” Yet somehow Nikki Haley knows the chemicals came from a “chemical weapons attack.” Russia claims an airstrike on a nearby storage facility accidentally released deadly gas. But Russia is less credible than CNN, so that doesn’t mean anything.
Perhaps the United States has reliable evidence connecting the gas on the ground to an actual attack, but we citizens haven’t seen it. We did learn that a Syrian jet bombed the area at the time of the chemical exposure. But I don’t believe anyone found bomb fragments with sarin, or anything that conclusive. If so, we haven’t seen that evidence.
We are also asked to believe that Syria is planning “another” attack from the same place as the last one, while we watch every step of the way, using drones and whatnot. Does that sound like something a dictator does when he is on the brink of winning and – this is the best part – the only way he can lose from this strong position is by senselessly using chemical weapons?
Well, maybe. But Syria’s Assad and his Russian mentors don’t seem crazy to me. Brutal, sure. Liars, sure. But crazy? I haven’t seen evidence of that yet.
Apparently Assad has used chemical weapons in the past. If the event that leads to his demise is a manufactured story about his continued use of chemical weapons, I won’t feel any moral outrage. He has it coming. And I assume there is some military/strategic/negotiating advantage for the United States that comes from labelling Assad a repeat user of chemical weapons. So I still have confidence in the United States military leadership.
But I automatically doubt any claim that comes from a war zone. This one is less credible than most.
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