Remember Hama? Hama is Syria’s fourth largest city. In 1982, in a military conflict with the Muslim Brotherhood, Hafez al Assad (Bashar’s father) destroyed the city by indiscriminately launching aerial and heavy weapons strikes against it. In Hama, a stronghold of the Muslim Brotherhood, everyone was considered an enemy. The exact number of dead is unknown, but 25,000 is a reasonable guess.
Those who were wounded or simply hidden in the rubble were alleged to have been eliminated by heavy mechanized use of cyanide gas. The world could barely contain itself to say nothing about the wanton slaughter.
Between 1964 and 1969, in the civil war in Yemen, the Egyptian army used poison gas in support of the rebel militias against the monarchy. The world was outraged to the point of deafening silence.
Then there was the nasty business of combination gases that the United States used in Vietnam to clear Vietcong tunnels. Although the United States claimed the use did not violate the Geneva Conventions, many nations saw it otherwise, especially with regard to DM gas, which can kill, although not designed to do so. When the Ford administration signed the Geneva Protocol on the use of chemical weapons, the previous use of gas in Vietnam was prohibited.
The Saudis brought in French troops who used poison gas to clear the tunnels of the Grand Mosque after it had been seized by militant fundamentalists generally believed to be the precursors of al-Qaeda. The world was silent.
To date, Bashar Assad has used poison gas fifteen times against Syrian militants and civilians. And yet, there was no demand by the international community or the Obama administration to employ military retaliation against the regime. So, why now?
The party line is that now there is clear evidence. But it is difficult to believe that the other fourteen times were vague, especially since the administration has said repeatedly that only the regime has the access and capability to deploy chemical agents. (An allegation Russian scientists, incidentally, strongly dispute.) If that is true now, it certainly was equally true before.
When the world of diplomacy is ambiguous and every Obama lemming is quoting administration talking points as if they were facts, then it is time to follow the money or, in this case, the pipelines.
The first thing that is vital to understanding the Middle East under Obama is that Obama has bet on Turkey’s Tayyip Erdogan as our man in the region. The second thing to note is that Turkey is Russian Gazprom’s second biggest customer, right after the European Union.
Gazprom owns the world’s largest network of pipelines and, in Eastern Europe, is often the sole distributor of gas and oil. As Belarus learned, Russia has no problem using Gazprom to apply political pressure. Fail to do what Russia wants and your energy supplies will be cut off or your prices will be raised.