Dan Drezner, definite clever clogs, explains all the news stories about Syria’s chemical weapons being “moved” or “prepared” that you’re seeing in the media as essentially an intelligence community fishing expedition.
TRANSLATION: “We’re seeing deviations from the status quo ante. We ‘re not entirely sure what this means, and we don’t like that, so we’re going to talk about it in the press to see if we can get a rise out of Assad.”
While noting that the unofficially official Obama administration policy seems to remain the same: bleeding Iran of treasure and political capital via a protracted Syrian civil war because it is easier and offers less immediate risk to the US than any form of direct military intervention.
Sounds likely to me, but I wonder if our own intelligence explainer, JPD, agrees.
Bonus read: Julian Borger of The Guardian bolsters JPD’s analysis that Turkey asked for NATO Patriot missiles because they’re worried about Assad’s chemical arsenal.
“We have intelligence from different sources that the Syrians will use ballistic missiles and chemical warheads,” a senior Turkish official said. “First they sent the infantry in against the rebels and they lost a lot of men, and many changed sides. Then they sent in the tanks, and they were taken out by anti-tank missiles. So now it’s air power. If that fails it will be missiles, perhaps with chemical warheads. That is why we asked Nato for protection.”
Maybe. It just seems too pat to me, and if Turkey was looking to establish a de facto no-fly zone this would be the perfect pretext for getting the hardware to do that in place. No-one argues much about defending against WMD, no matter how likely the threat actually is. Assad has to know that using such weapons would be the only thing guaranteed to bring a massive Western intervention.
Update: Engineers working for the Assad regime in Syria have begun combining the two chemical precursors needed to weaponize sarin gas, an American official with knowledge of the situation tells Danger Room.