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Syrian war talk: Reaction to chemical attack

August 27, 2013

THE war talk emanating from various Western capitals regarding Syria may result in a dangerous escalation of an already bloody conflict. The US is mulling military action against Damascus in reaction to an alleged chemical attack last week, while the UK and France have said the UN could be bypassed in order to allow armed intervention. Washington also says Syria’s decision to allow UN inspectors to probe the reported attack has come “too late”. While international opponents of Bashar al-Assad’s regime blame the strongman for the alleged atrocity, Damascus says the Syrian rebels are responsible. Many in the international community are not keen to launch another pointless war: Russia and Iran have forcefully condemned the war talk while China has called for a “cautious” approach.

What is clear is that any war, whether it involves Western\Nato boots on the ground — not likely in Syria’s case — or aerial bombardment, will only worsen the situation. While there are reports that US intelligence agencies have “very little doubt” the Assad regime orchestrated the chemical attack, this must be taken with a grain of salt. The devastation of Iraq is testimony to the folly of launching wars on the basis of questionable intelligence. Besides, if Mr Assad falls because of Western intervention, who will fill the power vacuum? The list of candidates — from hardened Islamist militants to the more secular yet hapless rebels — is not very appealing and the US military’s top brass has admitted as much. As for the chemical attack itself, it must be condemned no matter who perpetrated it. The UN team of inspectors investigating the incident must be allowed to do its job while global players must realise that going to war after bypassing the world body will have disastrous results. The fog of war often obfuscates the truth; that is the reason why irresponsible talk of aggression on the basis of unverified intelligence should not be used to push Syria further into chaos.