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Ten years after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the American war machine might be revving up for another strike, this time in Syria. The push has accelerated in the last few days after rebels and government forces accused each other of using chemical weapons in a rocket attack Tuesday outside of Aleppo, though reports now suggestsuch weapons were not fired.
Republicans, latching on to President Obama’s assertion that government use of chemical weapons would be a “game changer,” are trying to convince the public that the allegations about President Bashar Assad’s stockpiling of and willingness to use such weapons are true, despite the lack of evidence. GOP Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, along with Michigan Rep. Mike Rogers, have all been pressing for the use of force in Syria for more than a year. Recently, they have used the prospect of chemical warfare in an effort to shape public opinion.
Last week Rogers wrote a piece in The Washington Post calling on the U.S. to deploy “small groups with specialized capabilities” into Syria. He bases the need to use force on unspecified “public reports [that] suggest that the regime may be preparing to use chemical weapons.”
But first, he asks the reader to think of Saddam Hussein’s use of chemical weapons against the Kurds 25 years ago.
“As we remember that horror and reflect on the lives ended by a tyrant, we must realize the world is on the brink of witnessing a similar atrocity in Syria,” he writes.
Rogers does not mention the more than 100,000 Iraqis and 4,475 U.S. personnel killed in Iraq after WMD fear mongering led to a war.
Despite the consequences of the pre-emptive war with Iraq, Republicans argue that there is no other option in Syria. “Absolutely, you’ve got to get on the ground,” Graham said in an interview with Foreign Policy’s Josh Rogin. “There is no substitute for securing these weapons. I don’t care what it takes. We need partners in the region.”
Graham, who has been urging an intervention for the past 18 months, argues it is too risky to wait for a proper assessment of whether the Assad regime has chemical weapons.
“If the choice is to send in troops to secure the weapons sites versus allowing chemical weapons to get in the hands of some of the most violent people in the world, I vote to cut this off before it becomes a problem,” he said.
Many Israeli officials have joined the hype, claiming that there is hard evidence that the Syrian government used chemical weapons earlier this week. Cabinet Ministers Tzipi Livni and Yuval Steinetz assured President Obama on Wednesday during his visit to Israel that they had proof of the attack, though it has not been made public.
Russia, which is Syria’s most powerful ally, says that Western nations are engaged in “delaying tactics” that distract the global community from focusing on aid and negotiations in the region. Russia’s U.N. envoy, Vitaly I. Churkin, said the possibility that rebels fabricated the attack in an effort to mobilize Western forces is not out of the question. Current events, he said, are mirroring those leading up to the Iraq invasion in 2003. It was a war, Churkin has said, that “is not in line with the Geneva document.” The allegations toward Syria, he continued, are a stepping-stone for repeating the same violations.
Churkin criticized the U.S. for how it is handling and reporting the accusations.
“Instead of launching those propaganda balloons, it is better to get our focus right,” he said.