Foreign Secretary William Hague and US Secretary of State John Kerry appear alarmingly keen on military action against the Syrian regime despite the absence of a UN vote in favour of such action. Both have developed itchy trigger fingers and seem unwilling to wait for irrefutable evidence that President Assad authorised the use of chemical warheads.
White House spokesman Jay Carney, speaking after UN weapons inspectors came under sniper fire en route to investigate the alleged toxic gas attack on a rebel-held suburb in a Damascus suburb last week, said: “There is very little doubt in our mind that the Syrian regime is culpable.” But surely, there should be a fairly substantial degree of doubt. Why would Assad use weapons of mass destruction in an area that may well have contained his own troops, bearing in mind there is no clear front line between regime and rebel forces? Why would he risk crossing President Obama’s red line and inflaming international outrage at a time when he had been enjoying a string of victories and appeared to be winning the war? Logically, as the Russians have pointed out, it just makes no sense.
Given that the rebel forces are the only people to gain anything from the repercussions of such an atrocity, it behoves the international community to investigate the events of last week very thoroughly indeed. We should not forget that the US and UK governments have previous form when it comes to manipulating evidence to suit their agendas.
Until we have irrefutable proof that Assad’s government instigated the use of nerve gas in Damascus, no military intervention should be contemplated. Even then, it should not be considered without a UN Security Council vote in favour. Belief without proof is no basis for war. Should compelling evidence come to light, the international response should be limited to the elimination of chemical weapons stocks.