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I realize the title is counter-intuitive, but please read my reasoning.

We know that Assad always maintained control over the use of his chemical weapons, and denied repeated requests to use them near Damascus, per the German intelligence. The Germans have concluded that Assad neither ordered nor approved the use of the weapons.

If accurate, that is bad, because it means that Assad's commanders are willing to cross him. Which means that Syria is entering a post-Assad era, and the commanders are now concerned with their own fate in that new regime.

More below the Orange Squiggle of Power.

Consider Afghanistan and Iraq as examples of what happens when nations composed of many fractious tribes lose strong central authority. In Afghanistan most of the country is ruled by warlords; in Iraq, the central government has a little more control but there is still sectarian and tribal battling.

Now throw chemical weapons into the mix. Suppose you are a military commander under Assad who is in control of chemical weapons. The odds are pretty good that you have your position because you were perceived as loyal to Assad; but you see the handwriting on the wall, and you are more loyal to yourself than to him.

The odds are also pretty good that you are a ruthless bastard, as I think that's a characteristic Bashar al-Assad would value in a military commander.

So now, in post Assad Syria, you want to be a Warlord! And rule a vast domain! Are you willing to use chemical weapons to secure and expand your domain? Sure - if you can get away with it. And you also have to worry that your neighboring Warlord will if you don't.

Imagine, if you will, 5 or 10 or 20 fiefdoms, each armed with chemical weapons and ruled by a warlord willing to use them. With shifting alliances, some of these warlords are allied with extra-Syrian powers - Iran, or Al Qaeda, or Hezbollah, or Israel, or the US, or Russia, or Turkey, or Saudi Arabia, or whoever else you can imagine wanting to have a finger in that particular pie.

In a colossal clustering copulation like that, how long would it be until another mass casualty attack occurred - and then another - and then another? And the pressure would be very great for the United States to Lead the World in Doing Something.

Getting UN approval would not be the problem. Going in and getting the weapons would be a very big problem. As in Iraq, the sequel, sized problem.

For all of our sakes, I hope the diplomacy works. And if the diplomacy doesn't work, I hope Assad is in fact in control of his chemical weapons.

Because an innocent Assad might mean war, later rather than sooner, and very large rather than "incredibly small".

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (12+ / 0-)

    I'm on a mission! Testing the new site rules.

    by blue aardvark on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 12:08:01 PM PDT

  •  I surely hope that you are wrong (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blue aardvark, Sylv, schumann

    but I fear that you are right. In any case, Assad does seem to have had the fear of God put into him by Obama (with a possible dressing down by Putin as well) and that is not a bad thing.

  •  Didn't you claim earlier that Assad did the (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:


  •  I think it depends heavily (5+ / 0-)

    on whether the person who ordered the attack was disobeying the command for their own benefit or because they genuinely thought it was helpful for the regime. Either way, all the more reason to get international troops in to secure the CWs. Otherwise we would be looking at ground troops going in, not just some air strikes. I think the likelihood of this turning into a situation where there are a bunch of warlords with chemical weapons is pretty low. More likely is that Russia moves in and reinforces the regime by seizing the CW sites until international monitors can move in. Or they just move troops in to reinforce the regime and then the US risks killing Russians if we attack.

    It's all very risky and interesting.

    •  Russia lacks the ability to really project power (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      AoT, Justanothernyer, Empower Ink

      in Syria, not without cooperation from Turkey (which has a long history of not cooperating with the Czar Premiere Russian President.

      I'm on a mission! Testing the new site rules.

      by blue aardvark on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 12:37:00 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  They have a naval base (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        and they have an air force. I'm betting they can figure something out. At the very least they can put some soldiers on the ground that would be in the way of a potential US strike. If Russia is being underhanded that's the sort of things they'll follow up with.

        •  I mean that Russia cannot seize the (0+ / 0-)

          chemical weapons if the world decides that must be done. I really don't think they could keep an army supplied and in the field for several weeks.

          I'm on a mission! Testing the new site rules.

          by blue aardvark on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 12:48:35 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Russia couldn't deploy a few thousand? (0+ / 0-)

            I find it hard to believe the Russians couldn't fly in a few thousand troops just to reinforce Assad's loyalists in guarding the CW sites. It would be truly shocking if a rogue military commander whose main supplier of weapons has been the Russians attacked Russian forces to get the CW.

            I'm no expert on the state of the Russian military but this seems like it would be within the capacity of a former superpower.

            There's a difference between a responsible gun owner and one that's been lucky so far.

            by BeerNotWar on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 01:04:07 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  How About (0+ / 0-)

        Shipping conventional arms -- the kind Israel likes to use in Gaza like cluster munitions and white phosphorous -- through Iran and then Iraq?  How would that require Turkish cooperation?

        This aggression will not stand, man.

        by kaleidescope on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 12:49:16 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  You misunderstand me (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          If the UN Security Council passes a resolution authorizing the use of force to go into a divided Syria and disarm the hypothetical future warlords of their sarin, the forces would be mainly American and / or Turkish.

          No one besides the US can support an army for long in a place not next to their borders. Turkey, of course, shares a border.

          I'm on a mission! Testing the new site rules.

          by blue aardvark on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 12:54:13 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  nah. trouble? yes. our war? unh/uh. (0+ / 0-)

    Don Benedetto was murdered.-IgnazioSilone(BreadAndWine)

    by renzo capetti on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 12:29:48 PM PDT

  •  Or (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Israel or Saudi Arabia slipped some sarin to a rebel group so Obama's so-called "red line" would be crossed and the U.S. would intervene on the Israeli- Saudi-supported side.

    Your argument is a heads-we-win, tails-you-lose argument for war.  Either Assad used the weapons, in which case we have to intervene, or Assad didn't use the weapons, in which case we have to intervene.

    Israel and Saudi Arabia turned what had been a civil conflict into a foreign-funded and -armed civil war.  Let them sort it out.  They're the ones who are most endangered  by whatever flows from the war they started.

    Fuck both countries.

    This aggression will not stand, man.

    by kaleidescope on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 12:46:58 PM PDT

  •  Tribalism in Afghanistan (3+ / 0-)

    Tribalism in Afghanistan often gets, I think, overstressed. Factionalism there is a whole lot more complex and multifaceted than just tribe (or, even, than just ethnicity).

    Tribal structures have been very strongly broken by 30 years of war. Tribal leaders get especially targeted for killing, and the constant movements of people fleeing the war breaks tribal structures down.

    And the tanzim (the political parties, the mujahideen outfits) have become of very high importance since the Soviet occupation times. They have an ethnic dimension to them, but it was a switch to a combined religious/political/military leadership style.

    A modern Afghan warlord is very likely to be a tanzim leader, not a tribal one.

  •  Concur (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blue aardvark
    •  I see four possibilities. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      blue aardvark, ColoTim

      No Sarin or other nerve agent was used. Low probability. The next three choices are considered about equal in probability.

      Bashar al-Assad ordered their use. JSOC is authorized in my mind.

      Bashar al-Assad knows that the use was not with his permission. Two sub-cases here. If he is still in command he can remit the miscreants in handcuffs to Den Haag and turn the stockpile and factories over or admit that he is not in charge and throw himself on the mercy of the ICC.

      False flag.

      They weren't used.

  •  I'm a deather (3+ / 0-)

    I'll believe that one of Assad's commanders defied his orders when I see the commander's death certificate.  

    (Long form only.)

    But seriously, I have seen nothing to suggest that the Assad regime was so close to falling that his commanders would be planning (and acting on plans) for a post-Assad Syria.

  •  Evidence that rebels did the gas attack? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ColoTim, barkworsethanbite

    Freed Captives Differ on Claim Syrian Rebels Framed Assad With Gas Attack:

    La Stampa also published video of Mr. Quirico’s emotional return to his newsroom and an English translation of his statement taking issue with part of an account given by a fellow captive, the Belgian academic Pierre Piccinin. As the Belgian newspaper Le Soir reported, Mr. Piccinin said in a television interview on Monday, after he too returned home, that “it was not the government of Bashar al-Assad that used sarin or some other gas during combat in the Damascus suburbs” last month.

    According to Mr. Piccinin — who described himself as a previously “fierce supporter of the Free Syrian Army in their just struggle for democracy” — at one stage during their captivity, he and Mr. Quirico overheard rebels saying that the deadly gas attacks last month had been carried out by anti-Assad forces to frame the government and provoke intervention.

    Mr. Quirico confirmed the incident but disagreed sharply with Mr. Piccinin on what it meant. “We heard some people we didn’t know talking through a half-closed door,” he said. “It’s impossible to know whether what was said was based on real fact or just hearsay.”

    By the way, if this conversation was on Skype (as Quirico says elsewhere), wouldn't the NSA have monitored it?

    The influence of the [executive] has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.

    by lysias on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 02:04:08 PM PDT

    •  Reporters in Ghouta say Saudi gas was mishandled (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      by rebels on the spot in Ghouta, according to people they interviewed in Ghouta.  EXCLUSIVE: Syrians In Ghouta Claim Saudi-Supplied Rebels Behind Chemical Attack:

      However, from numerous interviews with doctors, Ghouta residents, rebel fighters and their families, a different picture emerges. Many believe that certain rebels received chemical weapons via the Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, and were responsible for carrying out the dealing gas attack.

      . . .

      “They didn’t tell us what these arms were or how to use them,” complained a female fighter named ‘K.’ “We didn’t know they were chemical weapons. We never imagined they were chemical weapons.”

      “When Saudi Prince Bandar gives such weapons to people, he must give them to those who know how to handle and use them,” she warned. She, like other Syrians, do not want to use their full names for fear of retribution.

      A well-known rebel leader in Ghouta named ‘J’ agreed. “Jabhat al-Nusra militants do not cooperate with other rebels, except with fighting on the ground. They do not share secret information. They merely used some ordinary rebels to carry and operate this material,” he said.

      “We were very curious about these arms. And unfortunately, some of the fighters handled the weapons improperly and set off the explosions,” ‘J’ said.

      The influence of the [executive] has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.

      by lysias on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 02:18:02 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Not working (0+ / 0-)

      We also have the US satellite data showing the artillery firing from Syrian government controlled locations.

      It was the Syrian government. The only question is if Assad knew. That's it.

      I'm on a mission! Testing the new site rules.

      by blue aardvark on Wed Sep 11, 2013 at 06:24:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You may have seen the satellite data, (0+ / 0-)

        but I most certainly have not.

        Until I see the evidence, I simply do not trust the U.S. government.

        The influence of the [executive] has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.

        by lysias on Wed Sep 11, 2013 at 07:01:20 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  And thousands of eyewitnesses (0+ / 0-)

          who say they were shelled. Do you intend to blame them as part of the vast conspiracy? That not all witnesses saw rockets does not mean there were no rockets.

          I'm on a mission! Testing the new site rules.

          by blue aardvark on Wed Sep 11, 2013 at 07:28:57 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

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