While MPs get ready for what could be a bruising debate for the Tory front bench, when the weekend’s intervention in Syria is debated, and Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson obtains legal advice suggesting the bombing was illegal, there is one other issue that might add some spice to proceedings. Whisper it quietly, but firing all those missiles will not stop Bashar al-Assad’s régime gassing his own people all over again.
I’ll go further: Assad and his allies will not even miss a beat. If they wanted to, they could carry on the gassing right away, but as there has been such outrage after they struck Douma, they’ll probably leave it for a few days before resuming. Why the certainty? Simples. The bombing has not affected the Syrian Government’s capability to do the gassing. You thought it had? Press reports convinced you? Think again.
Eliot Higgins - bringer of inconvenient truths
Consider the reaction of Eliot Higgins of Bellingcat fame, who has stated “Douma was, at the very least, a chlorine attack, delivered by Hip helicopters. The number of airbases and Hip helicopters damaged or destroyed in the US/French/UK airstrikes? Zero”. So all those missiles have not degraded the Syrian military’s delivery system.
There is more. “Chlorine has been used as a chemical weapon since at least 2014 in Syria, both dropped from the air and fired in surface to surface rockets. Despite dozens of these attacks, including ones verified by the OPCW, this is the first time there's been a major response to those attacks”. Bit late to start bombing now, then.
And he had this warning. “It seems unlikely attacking infrastructure and equipment unrelated to the use of chlorine as a chemical weapon will have much effect on its future use by the Syrian government”. Unrelated to the use of chlorine as a chemical weapon. How can he be so sure? We’ll come back to that one later.
His prediction as to what Assad and Co will do next? “What we'll likely see is a pause in the reports of chemical weapon use, then reports of chlorine use which, beyond the initial reports, will get mostly ignored by the media and governments until there's another, well documented, mass casualty incident”. The gassing will just carry on.
But how do they get hold of the chlorine? Again, we see Bellingcat is on the case. Yes, the Syrians did it - and the disinformation campaign fronted by the Russians isn’t making it - but as Adam Rawnsley’s analysis for the site points out, “Chlorine is a widely-used industrial chemical, after all”. And it gets delivered in cylinders, like the ones that then get thrown out of the back of those Hip helicopters that haven’t been damaged in the bombing.
Once again, our Government has sold us a pup. Our armed forces have taken part in nothing more than a cheap publicity stunt designed to prop up another bunch of what Robin Day so memorably and rightly called “Here today and gone tomorrow politicians”.
On top of all that, the demonstrably useless intervention may well have been illegal under international law. And the media wonders why folks get cynical about politics.