Tuesday, April 10, 2018

WMD redux

Interesting piece by David Warsh:

Cloak and… Megaphone

The Skripal affair is obviously different. The attempt on the lives of a former Russian spy and his daughter, on British soil, using some variant of a nerve gas developed by the former Soviet Union in the 1970s, has been condemned around the world. It seems to echo the 2006 assassination in London of Alexander Litvinenko, a Russian Secret Service specialist in organized crime who had defected.

But while the British prime minister Theresa May has accused the Russian government of “almost certainly” perpetrating the crime, details of her government’s investigation have been skimpy and, so far, unconvincing. Knowledgeable skeptics have been busy, especially the blogger Moon of Alabama.

Even less apparent has been a plausible motive. Why further sabotage relations with the West on the eve of the showcase soccer matches? Are there no other powerful factions, in Moscow or elsewhere, who might benefit from the further rupture of relations that has ensued? The Russians, of course, have claimed they were framed.
The same question of motive arises in the case of Syria's alleged use of poison gas in Ghouta last week.

From all appearances Assad's fortunes were on the rise. His forces were gaining ground and the Trump admin signalled that they were not ready to add Syria to the list misbegotten foreign adventures. Moreover, he was about to gain a powerful propaganda win as Syrian Christians returned to their churches to worship on Easter Sunday in areas his forces liberated from ISIS.

If he used gas, then he threw all that away all that. For what gain?

The western media will happily traffic in conspiracy theories when they attack their preferred targets. Hence, Russian "experts" like Masha Gessen are allowed to speculate that Putin and his allies were responsible for terrorist outrages in Moscow. But no one dares suggest that an anti-Assad group would mount a false flag attack in a last-ditch attempt to provoke US intervention.

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