Following the August 21 attack on Eastern Ghouta, which the US and a number of other states say were carried out by the Syrian regime using nerve agents, skeptical observers have questioned the absence of a discernible motive for the regime to commit such a brazen violation of Obama’s stated “red line,” right under the nose of UN chemical weapons inspectors.
After all, they say, there was no military necessity to employ such weapons given the regime’s advances in recent months using conventional weaponry and amid the likelihood of provoking a response from the US.
By any measure, it appeared a reckless move and colossal miscalculation.
Syrian regime allies on the other hand deny the regime’s responsibility on grounds that it would have been “utter nonsense” for government troops to use such tactics in a war it was already winning, to borrow a phrase from Vladimir Putin.
Were rebels threatening the regime in Damascus?
Some commentators and opposition supporters have countered that the Syrian government was, in reality, on the defensive against opposition forces in recent weeks, and that rebels have been making steady gains since late July from Eastern Ghouta – where the chemicals were then unleashed – toward the capital’s center.
The main source to support this claim appears to be an August 9 piece by Elizabeth O’Bagy titled “The opposition advances in Damascus,” published on the website of the Institute for the Study of War (ISW.)