UK Has No Case For War On Syria

29 August 2013 — Moon of Alabama

[I was in the middle of putting together a piece on the UK’s obscene lust for war when MofA put this up. Thanks MofA. WB]

The British government is trying to construct a case to allow itself to attack Syria. To this purpose the British Joint Intelligence Organisations issued a two page paper on Syria: Reported Chemical Weapon Use (pdf). The paper cites the amount of propaganda Youtube videos of a certain incident as supporting “evidence”:

Unlike previous attacks, the degree of open source reporting of CW use on 21 August has been considerable. As a result, there is little serious dispute that chemical attacks causing mass casualties on a larger scale than hitherto [..] took place.

It blames the Syrian government for the incident because the other side could not have done it.

It is being claimed, including by the regime, that the attacks were either faked or undertaken by the Syrian Armed Opposition. We have tested this assertion using a wide range of intelligence and open sources, and invited HMG and outside experts to help us establish whether such a thing is possible. There is no credible intelligence or other evidence to substantiate the claims or the possession of CW by the opposition. The JIC has therefore concluded that there are no plausible alternative scenarios to regime responsibility.

The British JIO obviously needs some help in using the Google:

Al-Qa’ida and associated extremist groups have a wide variety of potential agents and delivery means to choose from for chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear (CBRN) attacks.

Does the JIO find those reports implausible? The whole argument of the JIC is

  • Lots of propaganda videos show something bad happened.
  • Maybe Al Qaeda didn’t do it.
  • Assad must have done it.

How can such a line of thought be called intelligence?

Even worse than the sloppy intelligence case is the legal case, based on the intelligence, the UK government is trying to assert:

If action in the Security Council is blocked, the UK would still be permitted under international law to take exceptional measures in order to alleviate the scale of the overwhelming humanitarian catastrophe in Syria by deterring and disrupting the further use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime. Such a legal basis is available, under the doctrine of humanitarian intervention, provided three conditions are met: …

“Humanitarian intervention” is highly controversial (pdf) in international law because it contradicts the charter of the United Nations, which is established and binding law, and has been frequently used as sorry excuse for illegal wars. It is not even a “legal doctrine” but simply the opinion of some government lawyers. Such a case for “humanitarian intervention” could also be made on Egypt where the military junta killed over 1,000 people who protested against its coup against a democratically elected government. Why isn’t Cameron making that more urgent case?

In fact both papers show that Cameron has nothing. No defining intelligence that the Syrian army used any chemical weapon nor is there a legal case for waging war on Syria. There would not be even be a case if the Syrian army had used chemical weapons. The Geneva Protocol of 1925 do not involve any enforcement clauses and Syria is not part of the Chemical Weapon Convention.

An AP report today about the U.S. intelligence case on the incident in Syria shows that it is just as weak as the JIO’s thin assertions: AP sources: Intelligence on weapons no ‘slam dunk’

[M]ultiple U.S. officials used the phrase “not a slam dunk” to describe the intelligence picture — a reference to then-CIA Director George Tenet’s insistence in 2002 that U.S. intelligence showing Iraq had weapons of mass destruction was a “slam dunk” — intelligence that turned out to be wrong.

A report by the Office of the Director for National Intelligence outlining that evidence against Syria is thick with caveats. It builds a case that Assad’s forces are most likely responsible while outlining gaps in the U.S. intelligence picture.

Are the U.S. and the UK really going to war based on a “most likely responsible” assertion fiddled from very thin and dubious actual information?

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