[Added 9/17/13] The United Nations report indicates that the Syrian military used sarin gas on civilians. Click on UN Report Conclusive: Sarin Gas Was Used On a Large Scale, Linked to Syrian Regime for a summary by Juan Cole for Informed Comment.
If I were a dictator trying to put down a rebellion, and the world’s most heavily-armed superpower told me that the one thing that would unleash their attack on me is the use of poison gas, I don’t think I would use poison gas.
And if I did use poison gas, I would use it in a decisive way, that would end the rebellion once and for all. So I have been skeptical about charges that the Syrian government used poison gas against rebel forces. But a report by Doctors Without Borders / Medecins Sans Frontieres provides strong circumstantial evidence that thousands of people have symptoms of being victims of poison gas. [New Scientist magazine published a similar report. Added 8/30/13.]
I don’t think the rebel forces could have been the ones to use poison gas. It would have been virtually impossible to cover up. So while it still doesn’t make sense to me that the Syrian government would use poison gas, my experience of life tells me that people sometimes do things that don’t make sense.
Juan Cole, on his Informed Comment web log, suggested a reason why the Syrian government might have used gas and thought they could get away with it. Or maybe there is some other explanation. I don’t know. Neither do Joe Biden or John Kerry.
If gassing of civilians really is the main issue, the best thing is to wait for the report of the UN inspectors in Syria.
Syria: Thousands suffering neurotoxic symptoms treated in hospitals supported by MSF/Doctors Without Borders. A respected and impartial humanitarian organization said circumstantial evidence suggests that the Syrian government used poison gas.
Kerry signals US intervention in Syria, but to what end? by Juan Cole for Informed Comment. Cole thinks it is plausible that Assad used poison gas, but also thinks U.S. intervention would accomplish little.
UN inspectors examine Syria poison gas allegations by Deutsche Welle.
Syria’s darkest day? Opposition blames Assad forces for poison gas attacks by The Independent.
In Rush to Strike Syria, U.S. Tried to Derail U.N. Probe by Gareth Porter for Dissident Voice. [added later]
Operation Tomahawk with cheese by Pepe Escobar for Asia Times [added 8/29/13]
Rush to Western strike on Syria slows, but does not stall by Juan Cole for Informed Comment [added 8/29/13]
Winds and rockets clues in Syrian chemical puzzle by New Scientist. A respected and impartial publication said circumstantial evidence suggests that the Syrian government used poison gas, but that another possibility is that missiles or artillery hit one or more gas storage facilities. The latter happened in Iraq in the 1991 U.S. bombing campaign. [added 8/30/13]
U.S. officials say ‘no smoking gun’ implicating Assad in chemical attack by Mark Hosenball and Patricia Zengerie for Reuters [added 8/30/13]
Syria: Putin rubbishes chemical attack claims by Saptarshi Ray and others in The Guardian. [added 8/31/13]
Syrians in Ghouti Claim Saudi-Supported Rebels Behind Chemical Attack by Yahya Ababden and Dale Gavlack for MintPress News. [added 8/31/13]
OFFICIAL U.S. INTELLIGENCE ESTIMATE ON SYRIAN CHEMICAL WEAPONS [added 8/31/13]
Fiction, Fact… or Scandal? by Tyler Durden of Zero Hedge. Durden received what purports to be a series of hacked e-mails sent by one Colonel Anthony J. MacDonald about how the Syrian gas attacks were “well staged.” I don’t know whether they are genuine, but I’m not inclined to dismiss them out of hand as I once would have done. The pictures I see of gas victims on Google Image searches seem suspiciously unblemished. [added 9/4/13]
Letter Detailing Syrian Case to Congress Offers More Verifiable Claims than U.S. Case to Date by Brad Friedman for the Brad Blog. [added 9/11/13]
Al Qaeda’s air force still on stand-by by Pepe Escobar for Asia Times. [added 9/11/13]