by Martin Odoni

Following on from what I wrote last night, and today’s alarming knee-jerk reaction of the US President Donald Trump to Tuesday’s chemical weapons attack in Khan Sheikhoun; I am increasingly convinced that Syria’s dictator, Bashar al-Assad, has been wrongly accused once more. I feel no personal sympathy for him, given some of the dreadful crimes his regime has committed over the years, but the practical reality is that the Tomahawk missile strikes on Syria are benefiting the likelier culprits.

Now I must stress that I am not being definitive here. Until a full investigation of the chemical attack has been completed, no one can say for sure who was the perpetrator. But the more I look at the details, the less convinced I am that Assad could have been behind it. Here is why; –

Both history and present circumstances suggest that a chemical attack by Assad makes little sense. As I mentioned yesterday, he was wrongly blamed for the chemical attack on Damascus in 2013, even though his forces had more or less retaken control of Eastern Ghouta by the time it happened. In reality, the attack was almost certainly the handiwork of the al-Nusra Front, an affiliate of so-called ‘al-Qaeda’. But it is telling that, in getting the blame, Assad saw the strength of international opposition to military use of chemical agents. He must surely have realised then that he could not risk such a move in future.

Over the next couple of years, he went as far as scrapping his stockpile of chemical weapons, under political pressure from Russia and the USA – a task that was completed last year – and while it is possible he obtained new weapons since then, it does raise a substantial doubt as to whether the regime even has the capability for this sort of attack anymore.

By contrast, it is quite apparent that al-Nusra has a supply-line for chemical agents, most likely tapping the late Colonel Ghaddafi’s old stockpile in Libya. Just as telling, look at the timing of the Khan Sheikhoun attack; it happened justĀ five days after the Trump administration publicly ruled out deposing the Assad regime.

Whether the whole incident was a theatrical set-up by the rebels, or a genuine case of an air-strike releasing chemicals by accident, I am as yet unsure. A British journalist in Syria called Tom Duggan seems fairly certain it is the latter (although the fact he appears to work for the paranoid 21st Century Wire says nothing for his credentials), but either way, when I add two and two, I find the number four to be distinctly al-Nusra-shaped. The weapons were probably theirs, not Assad’s.

As for the Tomahawk strikes on al-Shayrat Airbase, Trump has disproven once and for all the claims of his apologists that he would be ‘less warlike’ than Hillary Clinton. The destabilising effects of his reckless command have been two-fold; one, it has boosted the position of Daesh as it attempts to take Homs. Two, it has seriously endangered relations with Russia.

Meanwhile, Britain has yet again shown itself to be the spineless sycophant of US expansionism, expressing its usual unstinting support for heavy explosive American violence. Thankfully, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, the man the media are always telling us is ‘insane’, has once again dared to be a rare insight on the world as it really is, pointing out how the missile strikes are liable only to make matters worse. With the Syrian media claiming that four children were killed by the missile strikes, it could well be argued that they have already done precisely that.