Syria: #WTF?

It's Kinda Like Iraq: Still About Oil, Flaky Evidence and WMDs Being Replaced by Chemical Weapons

Written by Lord Lansdowne

I never thought I'd find myself agreeing with anything coming from the Prime Minister's Office, but reportedly while "Canada is preparing to increase humanitarian aid for the war-ravaged Syrian people," it has no intention to contribute to "any Western air strikes on Syria." Prime Minister Stephen Harper, leader of the Conservative party, will probably be called a bleeding heart Liberal by the United States, but when you look at all the facts presented by the news, this approach actually makes sense:

WTF #1: The reason the United States is pushing forward in bombing Syria stems from the fact that the Assad regime reportedly used chemical weapons on its own people. I say reportedly, as at the time of writing this, the U.N. Inspectors hadn't even had a chance to write their report. Some are even arguing that the chemical attack was staged by the U.S..

WTF #2: According to The Daily Record, the British sold "nerve gas chemicals [...] 10 months after the Syrian uprising began." Then, supposedly, Syria used these gas weapons even after Obama said that it would cross "a red line" (no, wait, he didn't?).

WTF #3: It's beginning to sound like gas weapons are highly ineffective, so what's the big deal with them now? Depending on who you listen to, between 281 (according to France), 350 (according to the British) and 1,429 (according to the U.S.) casualties resulted to the gas attack. That's a lot of people, even if you take the U.S. number as legit. Do you know how many people died in the Syrian conflict thanks to "sanctioned" weapons? It's estimated to be at 100,000 so far, with millions displaced living in horrible conditions. I ask, again, what's the big deal with gas weapons when conventional ones have done far more damage? Why is the International community acting now?

WTF #4: Remember al-Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden, the attack on 9/11? They're getting regularly bombed in Afghanistan and Pakistan because they're the bad guys. Currently, al-Qaeda is fighting on the Syrian opposition side (i.e. against the Syrian government). Wouldn't then that make Assad the good guy? If the U.N. attacks Assad, are the United States then on al-Qaeda's side? What happened to the war on terror? And by the way, despite the world's sympathy for them, it doesn't sound like the rebels are very nice either.

WTF #5: Reportedly, al-Qaeda means "the database," referring to "the computer file of the thousands of mujahideen who were recruited and trained with help from the CIA to defeat the Russians." And this is also weird.

WTF #6: The Washington Post has this handy list of 10 things that could go wrong in Syria if the U.S. bombs it. I loved this one:

5) "You bombed it, you own it." The "Pottery Barn Rule" -- "you break it, you buy it" -- became famous during the Iraq war. "You are going to be the proud owner of 25 million people," Colin Powell told President Bush before the invasion of Iraq. "You will own all their hopes, aspirations and problems. You'll own it all." (As it happens, that's not the Pottery Barn's rule. They simply write off broken merchandise as a loss.)

Syria isn't Iraq. But a congressional force authorization followed by a bombing campaign will firmly involve us in Syria. It will make it much harder for us to say that what happens in Syria isn't our problem. It will mean many more members of the Syrian opposition have contacts with Washington journalists and defense policymakers. The Obama administration believes it can send some missiles and be done with it. That may not prove true.

WTF #7: Perhaps the best argument in favour of bombing Syria, despite the nonsense listed above, comes from Secretary of State John Kerry, which The Washington Post kindly summarized in a way everyone can understand:

Bottom line, the effect of upholding the norm against chemical weapons is to reduce the chance that chemical weapons will be used in future wars. What Kerry is really promising is that, if we punish Assad with a few cruise missiles, there?s a non-zero chance that some hypothetical future war will be less likely to include chemical weapons, and thus will cost fewer civilians their lives. That?s actually a sound case and is a potentially low-cost way for the United States to save civilian lives. But it's also impossible to prove, and it requires admitting that the United States can't stop future wars any more than it can stop this one.

Okay, really, what's going on here? Remember the war in Iraq? The U.S. went because Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. Then they found none (which was okay, because in the end it really was about the oil). Have gas weapons really been used? Were they really from the Syrian regime? Let's find out. Meanwhile, we can all wonder what the real motives behind this sudden desire to bomb is really about. Is it to sway the world's attention from Snowden and the NSA? Nope. Put pressure on Iran? No, well, not yet at least. Apparently it really is about oil all over again:

These strategic concerns, motivated by fear of expanding Iranian influence, impacted Syria primarily in relation to pipeline geopolitics. In 2009 - the same year former French foreign minister Dumas alleges the British began planning operations in Syria - Assad refused to sign a proposed agreement with Qatar that would run a pipeline from the latter's North field, contiguous with Iran's South Pars field, through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and on to Turkey, with a view to supply European markets - albeit crucially bypassing Russia. Assad's rationale was "to protect the interests of [his] Russian ally, which is Europe's top supplier of natural gas."

Instead, the following year, Assad pursued negotiations for an alternative $10 billion pipeline plan with Iran, across Iraq to Syria, that would also potentially allow Iran to supply gas to Europe from its South Pars field shared with Qatar. The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the project was signed in July 2012 - just as Syria's civil war was spreading to Damascus and Aleppo - and earlier this year Iraq signed a framework agreement for construction of the gas pipelines.

If it really is about oil, it's no wonder Canada doesn't need to participate. Canada exports more oil (2,365 thousand barrels per day) to the United States than Saudi Arabia (1,431 thousand barrels per day), Iraq (228 thousand barrels per day) and Kuwait (217 thousand barrels per day) combined. Unless, of course, Canada's participation in Syria will mimic that had in Iraq.