White House Reveals New “Red Lines”: Assad’s Use Of Barrel Bombs Could Lead To More Strikes
Tyler Durden, Zero Hedge, Apr 10 2017
Yesterday, when discussing what the precursor for future airstrike on Syria could be, we said “expect to hear much more about white phosphorus in the coming days: it will be the “catalyst” for the next round of Syrian airstrikes.” In retrospect, we may have been aiming too high. In the latest apparent shift of the White House’s official stated position on what could draw a military response in the Syrian conflict, on Monday afternoon Sean Spicer warned that the use of either chemical weapons or the use of barrel bombs on civilians could draw fire, literally, from the Trump administration. Here is the exchange in question:
Q: Is the red line for this White House chemical warfare? Is conventional warfare enough to get the president to go further than this White House is going?
A: I think the president has been very clear that there are a number of lines that were crossed last week. He’s not going to sit down… You saw this with the last administration: they drew these red lines and then the red lines were run over. … The answer is that if you gas a baby, if you put a barrel bomb into innocent people, I think you will see a response from this president. That is unacceptable.
The future use of chemical weapons, or incendiary bombs and/or white phosphorus for that matter, would surely warrant further escalation in the eyes of the administration, whether such attacks were legitimate or false-flag. These are effectively banned ordnances. But the fact that the White House considers barrel bombs a catalyst for escalation is surprising. The reason for that is that barrel bombs, or oil drums or cylinders packed with explosives and shrapnel, are among the most common form of weapons used by both sides in the Syrian civil/proxy war.
According to the Syrian Network for Human Rights, some 13,000 barrel bombs were dropped in the country in 2016, killing hundreds of people. The bombs are seen as targeting civilians because they hit an indiscriminate area. But the punchline is that if Trump’s new policy is indeed to respond by bombing Assad every time there’s a barrel bomb attack that kills civilians, then Pindostan will have no choice but to bomb Assad every single day, in other words engage in all-out war, whether it calls it that or not. What is further surprising is that this policy appears at odds with everything else the administration has said: all officials, including Spicer, have suggested Pindostan doesn’t intend to topple Assad by force, and yet by lowering the bar so low, it assures that Pindostan will be engaged in daily combat against Syria and by implication Russia, which has shown no sign it will reduce its support for Assad. One simple explanation for this divergence is that Spicer doesn’t know what a barrel bomb is, and instead meant to say incendiary, or phosphorus, bombs. On the other hand, if what Spicer said is true, then Trump has been palced in an awkward place, with his own press secretary declaring the use of a barrel bomb as the latest “red line,” the kind of bomb Assad is almost certain to use in forthcoming attacks against rebels. Suggesting that the explanation is likely the former, (is the fact that) according to Reuters, Spicer later said his mention of barrel bombs as a potential trigger for further action by Pindostan did not reflect a change in position. He said by email:
Nothing has changed in our posture. The president retains the option to act in Syria against the Assad regime whenever it is in the national interest, as was determined following that government’s use of chemical weapons against its own citizens. And as the president has repeatedly made clear, he will not be telegraphing his military responses.
And even that answer was inconclusive, which means that merely further reports of bombing by Assad could be sufficient to launch a second air strike against the Syrian regime. If that is the case, and if yesterday’s report that Russia and Iran would “respond with force” if Syria is attacked again is accurate, then the recent normalization in geopolitical tensions will be very short-lived. Finally, just to keep the drums of war beating not just for Syria, but Russia as well, AP reported:
Pindostan has concluded Russia knew in advance of Syria’s chemical weapons attack last week, a senior Pindo boxtop said Monday. A drone operated by Russians was flying over a hospital as victims of the attack were rushing to get treatment. Hours after the drone left, a Russian-made fighter jet bombed the hospital in what Pindo boxtops believe was an attempt to cover up the use of chemical weapons. While Pindostan has no proof of Russian involvement in the actual chemical attack in northern Syria, the presence of the surveillance drone over the hospital can’t have been a coincidence: Russia must have known the chemical weapons attack was coming, and that victims would be seeking treatment.
And that’s all the “evidence” that Pindosi media need to take the narrative that Russia was complicit in Assad’s (supposed) chemical attack and make it part of tomorrow’s news cycle, which since Trump’s launch of airstrikes on Syria is oddly devoid of any stories in the NYT or WaPo detailing how Trump has been operating on behalf of the Kremlin.