The world is in an uproar about the apparent gas attack in Syria. Western nations, and the Western media, have blamed Bashar al-Assad. The Russians say their man Assad didn’t do it; that a conventional bombing strike against a rebel storehouse must have released toxic substances that were to be used in chemical weapons.
I have no doubt that Mr. Assad is a brutal and ruthless man, and I do not ascribe to him any moral compunction that would have stayed his hand. I must say, however, that I have no reason to doubt that he is shrewd and intelligent, and so I cannot imagine that he would not have seen the colossal stupidity of making such an attack — especially right now, when the world, which is so weary of this civil war and the chaos it has caused, had all but abandoned the idea of removing him from power. Was there some tactical gain he achieved — with a gas attack, far from the front lines, that killed a hundred or so people, many of them civilians and children — that could not have been accomplished with conventional ordnance? If so, I can’t see it.
For Assad to have done this thing, then, makes no sense. It certainly makes far less sense than the alternatives: that the Russian account is correct, or that it was a false-flag operation mounted in reaction to the diminishing prospect of a Syrian regime change.
These considerations are, it seems to me, so obvious that I think it is their relative absence from the mainstream discussion of this event that wants explaining. (It’s certainly just the thing if you want to make a case for U.S. action against the regime, and by proxy, against Russia.)
Always ask: cui bono?