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article imageOp-Ed: Western intelligence good enough no need for UN experts

By Ken Hanly     Aug 26, 2013 in World
Damascus - Many western powers including the US, Britian, France, and Germany have already decided that there was a chemical attack in the suburbs of Damascus and it was carried out by the Assad regime.
Yesterday Britain, US, and France all announced they had no doubt what had happened and who was responsible. The UN inspection was too late. Anyway as the Wall Street Journal reports: Administration officials made clear Mr. Obama would make his decision based on the U.S. assessment and not the findings brought back by the U.N. inspectors. Surely the US intelligence officials know what they are supposed to find evidence of. The area is controlled by the rebels. They can probably arrange that the appropriate evidence is supplied. The Wall Street Journal actually reports some of the evidence, going beyond most reports which cannot be bothered with such trivia: The U.S. evidence includes an analysis by U.S. spy agencies of the type of rocket used in last week's assaults to deliver chemical weapons. The agencies concluded that the type of rocket used was solely in the possession of regime forces, not the opposition, providing the White House with greater certainty of Mr. Assad's involvement, according to U.S. officials. So just how did they obtain this rocket? Did they get it from the rebels in the area? Is it possible that the rebels captured such rockets ? These questions apparently do not need answers. The bare presentation of a claimed fact is sufficient. Certainly there is no need for UN inspectors to be involved.
So clear is the evidence presented by their own intelligence operatives that the US felt that it would be wise to call off the UN inspectors for their own safety: "The U.S. had earlier delivered a caution to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, with a senior official telling him the inspection mission was pointless and no longer safe, said a person familiar with the matter. "
Fortunately, Ban resisted the US pressure to stop. At first, I was rather surprised at the seeming reluctance to have the UN investigate. I thought that the rebels would try to present evidence that the Assad regime carried out the attack. Perhaps they would but there is other evidence that might count against the Assad regime having carried out the attack. This is made clear even from some experts' commentary on the You Tube video footage: Gwyn Winfield, editor of CBRNe World magazine, which specializes in chemical weapons issues, said the evidence did not suggest that the chemicals used were of the weapons-grade that the Syrian army possesses in its stockpiles.“We’re not seeing reports that doctors and nurses… are becoming fatalities, so that would suggest that the toxicity of it isn’t what we would consider military sarin. It may well be that it is a lower-grade,” Winfield told AFP.
Perhaps the problem for the US and its allies is not that the evidence may be too degraded to be valuable at this stage but not degraded enough. In any event the discourse now is not about blame. That issue is decided. The issue now the talking heads will discuss is: What is to be done? Range of targets, severity of response and so forth will be the topic of discussion. Naturally there must be a group of countries willing to go along with the attack so that it can be said to be legitimate. If a number of countries jointly violate international law and the UN charter it is always OK. There is ample precedent. If necessary a UN resolution can approve an assistance force afterwards as happened in Afghanistan. The plan of having a UN resolution under the responsibility to protect will probably not fly, it has been grounded since the Libya adventure, Russia and others are not likely to go along for another ride using that strategy.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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