U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, a fiercely anti-war Orlando Democrat who recently raised questions about Syrian chemical-weapons use, said a new United Nation’s weapons report puts that matter to rest -- but it doesn’t vindicate the president’s case for war.
Though it indicates gas was used, the UN report doesn’t prove Obama Administration claims that Bashar al-Assad’s regime was responsible for the use of the chemical weapons, said Grayson.
Grayson puts more stock in little-reported German intelligence sources that say rogue Syrian army officials bucked Assad by deploying poison gas without permission.
Grayson said he therefore doesn’t believe President Obama’s saber-rattling over Syria led Assad to agree to talks about giving up his chemical stockpile.
“It’s a good outcome, if the president wants to take credit for it [Syrian chemical-weapons talks] that’s fine with me. Maybe he’ll win a second Nobel Peace Prize,” Grayson said.
“They [German intelligence sources] imply that the Syrian government itself recognizes these chemical weapons are no longer within its control and therefore are dangerous to it,” Grayson said. “And therefore it’s literally in everybody’s interest that the weapons be removed from Syria.”
The rogue-Syrian forces news was first reported Sept. 8 by Germany's Bild am Sonntag, which reported spies intercepted radio messages of Syrian brigade and division commanders who had asked Assad’s palace – and were denied – permission to use the gas for nearly five months. (McClatchy DC’s story on the German report is here.)
Despite the blockbuster reports, which have not been debunked, U.S. media outlets have barely mentioned them, especially on cable news. The AP didn’t do so at all in today’s story about the UN report that found gas had been used in Syria.
“This is a war crime,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the U.N. Security Council when he presented the report. “The results are overwhelming and indisputable. The facts speak for themselves.”
The U.S. and France were quick to blame Assad, Russia was quick to suggest rebels had a hand in it. But little is clear. There are more than one rebel faction, Islamists are fighting side-by-side with more moderate forces against the regime, religious factions are warring and now there’s the specter of splits within the established Syrian state – all of it could add up to a multi-faceted chaotic mess boiling beneath tons of deadly nerve agents.
Russia, a Syria ally, has tried to broker an accord not just to keep influence in the Middle East but to make sure chemical weapons don’t fall into the hands Islamic radicals in the Caucasus region.
Grayson said Russian President Vladimir Putin probably wasn’t too worried about the U.S. attacking Syria. He said multiple media reports made it clear to the world that Obama was going to lose a vote of Congress.
“I’m assuming Russian intelligence has access to the Washington Post website. I’m sure the Syrian high command has an internet connection,” Grayson said. “They could see for themselves the opposition to military intervention in Syria was not only substantial but overwhelming, approaching – as high as 2:1 in the Senate; 10:1 in the U.S. House – and bipartisan, across every ideological line, from every region in the country. And that actually was an actual manifestation of the public’s own overwhelming opposition to U.S. military involvement in Syria.”
Indeed, Grayson (on the opposite side of Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson) is more in line with Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who also opposes military action in Syria right now.
“Repeating over and over and over again that there was a chemical attack on the morning of Aug. 21 in the suburbs of Damascus does not give anyone any clue about what the best response to the attack would be,” Grayson said. “And the specific plans the administration proposed were rejected overwhelmingly on the basis that they were pointless and dangerous.”