A member of the United Nations commission of inquiry announced on a Swiss-Italian television show that they believe the Syrian rebels have used chemical weapons on Assad's troops. "Our investigators have been in neighboring countries interviewing victims, doctors and field hospitals and, according to their report of last week which I have seen, there are strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof of the use of sarin gas, from the way the victims were treated," said Carla Del Ponte, a member of the commission. "This was use on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities."
Well, this complicates matters. It was just ten days ago that the United States shook its fist and officially declared that chemical weapons were being used by the Assad regime against its own people. This indicated that the Syrian government had crossed the "red line" that Obama determined last year and opened the possibility of greater U.S. involvement. But if it was the other way around — if the good guys sprayed sarin gas on the bad guys? That makes assisting the rebels a much more complicated transaction. Chemical weapons are horrible, no doubt about that. And sarin gas is absolutely off limits, according to the Geneva Protocol, and with three reported uses in Syria, it's not like it was an accident. Also, chemical weapons are horrible.
Before anybody does anything, though, the U.N. commission's claims need to be verified. There's been nothing but misinformation spewing out of Syria, as the conflict turned to an all out civil war, and it's not unimaginable that the Assad regime has been able to spin some information to their advantage. Plus how in the world would the rebels even get sarin gas? It doesn't grow on trees, and though the government does have a bunch on hand, they've been guarding it heavily. That said, it's not like it's the Syrian state news agency that's making the sarin claim. It's the United Nations — or at least their sources. They seem like honest, human rights-loving world citizens, right?
While it'll take a little more sleuthing before we can positively confirm who's using what weapons, one thing is for sure: Things have gone from bad to worse to really bad in Syria these past few months. And now that Israel's started shelling the country, it'll probably keep getting worse before it gets better.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
We want to hear what you think. Submit a letter to the editor or write to email@example.com.