Douma ‘chemical attack’: ‘It would be stupid for Assad to commit war crime amid landslide victories’
Two F-15 fighters targeted Syria’s T-4 airbase in Homs province on Sunday night, shortly after Western powers accused the Syrian government of orchestrating an alleged chlorine attack in the militant-held town of Douma.
The alleged chemical attack was reported by the White Helmets, a controversial group repeatedly accused of having ties to terrorists. RT discussed the allegations with Middle East analysts.
Max Abrahms, a specialist on terrorism and political violence, and professor at Northeastern University, explained that the "key determinate" to attacking civilians is "weakness" when the government is "losing in battle when it looks like the regime change is imminent."
"The structural conditions in this scenario are the exact opposite. Assad is not losing, he is winning... the civil war is no longer in dispute... the regime is not at all desperate," the political scientist explained.
"Why would the Syrian Arab Army intentionally not only attack civilians but basically violate the taboo against WMD [weapon of mass destruction] by using chemical weapons where the predictable response is the international community coalescing against Syria?" Abrahms said.
He added he does not see the logic behind this type of attack: "All of the incentives go in the opposite direction that the rebels would want to pin this kind of an attack on the regime, an attack the regime never wanted."
Abrahms said he is skeptical about the story that the regime would use chemical weapons at this point, at the height of its strength and when the militants have essentially lost.
“This kind of an attack would be the single stupidest thing that the regime, which previously seem to have acted so strategically, would suddenly act irrationally,” he concluded.
"I don't think we should base our assessment strictly on the so-called White Helmets. These are not impartial narrators if you will. They have a political agenda. They are pro-opposition," the analyst noted.
According to Ammar Waqqaf, director of Gnosos, a British think tank that focuses on crises in Syria and the Middle East, “the claims are made by people who would like to see the Syrian government as having the intent of killing as many possible civilians as it can.”
“If you look at it from the Syrian government’s point of view as we understand it, they look at the people of Douma as hostages in a hostage situation eager to go to freedom just like their fellow eastern Ghouta people did… [and] to get rid of the militants,” he explained.
In Waqqaf’s opinion, it would be illogical for the Syrian government to kill those people, “especially, they would be looking forward to reintegrate them into the state and so on.”
“On the other hand, we know that Jaysh al-Islam has chemical weapons. It is actually the only faction in Syria that acknowledged the usage of chemical weapons exactly, two years ago in Aleppo, in Sheikh Maqsood area,” Waqqaf pointed out.
He noted that “it is not beyond reason to think they either are requesting indirectly some NATO bombers to come and to do something against the Syrian army positions; or at least to send some investigation unit to delay the surrender of Ghouta, in order for them to get out of Douma with the best possible condition.”
Dr. Maged Botros, head of the political science department at Helwan University in Cairo, is certain that the allegations that the Syrian government is behind the alleged chemical attack in Douma are “by all means false.” Explaining his point, he said that the Syrian government is regaining the territories it lost before. It’s a “landslide victory,” he said, adding: “Why would the Syrian regime commit a war crime? There is no possible reason for this.”
He also recalled that two weeks ago the Syrian government said that there are alerts that terrorists are planning a chemical attack “to put pressure on the Syrian regime.”
“Why should I as a regime use this when I have to keep a low profile and not provoke the international community?” he asked. “It’s not logical.”