As the world attempts to wade through information on the recent chemical weapons attack in Syria, the Obama administration has already come out saying that it is certain the attacks were carried out by forces loyal to the Bashar al-Assad government.
But there is a very real case to be made that the attack was instead carried out by Syrian rebels who receive U.S. and Western support, including various Al-Qaeda affiliates. This argument is given weight by a recent report published in Foreign Policy which brought to light the fact that the CIA knew about and did nothing to stop a series of nerve gas attacks by Saddam Hussein in the Iran-Iraq War. Given this acknowledgement, these declassified CIA documents may provide a precedent for U.S. involvement in chemical warfare in Syria specifically.
But there are other historical examples that could buttress this argument.
In the early 1980s, the United States was caught playing both sides of the border during the Iran-Iraq War. The Reagan administration was not-so-secretly helping Saddam Hussein and condemning the Iranian government, which the U.S. ironically helped to install. The U.S. was also running weapons to Iran as a negotiation tactic for freeing U.S. hostages in Lebanon. This became known as the infamous Iran-Contra Affair.
Recently discovered CIA documents reveal that not only did the U.S. know that Hussein was using chemical weapons to kill what has grown to 100,000 estimated Iranians, but the government also continued to assist Iraq financially and scientifically in the production of the chemical weapons. By knowing that Iraq was using the weapons, teaching them to make them, and turning a blind eye to their use, the U.S. government became complicit in one of the most atrocious chemical warfare events in history.
This instance juxtaposes with current events relating to the U.S. and Syria.
In August 2012, Obama made it clear that the U.S. would not tolerate the use or movement of chemical weapons by Assad. Then, in January, a curious event happened at the British Daily Mail news organization. For a single 24 hour period, the Daily Mail published a story saying that UK defense contractor, Britam, had been hacked. The story detailed that emails between two of the executives at Britam were discussing an offer from Qatar to supply Syrian rebels with chemical weapons. This scenario, according to the emails, was supported by the White House. Britam would later admit that they were indeed hacked, but refused to comment on the authenticity of the emails. A full list, including screen shots, of the allegedly hacked documents can be found here. That story was pulled down in less than one full day, and would never be seen again were it not for archive.org and others with screen shots. Yahoo News actually ran the story on January 30, and the comments were a mixed bag, but the story was generally received as bogus by the general public. Needless to say, the story disappeared – until now.
Just last week, a chemical weapons attack was carried out on the Ghouta region in Syria. It is estimated that some 1,200 people lost their lives. The rebels say it was Assad, and Assad says it was the rebels. Despite very little evidence to support its stance, the Obama administration continues to assert that Assad was the aggressor. To be certain, politicians across Washington are lining up to say they have tons of evidence to support the claim, but none of it seems to be publicly known.
Meanwhile, Syria requested a UN investigation into the late 2012 chemical attacks. Over the weekend, unidentifiable snipers began shooting at UN inspectors who were trying to carry out investigations into all of the attacks. Obama says it is too late for UN teams to investigate. Apparently, the day the attacks happened was too late because Obama had all the evidence he needed to point the finger at Assad.