• Latest News
  • Pitch a Story
  • Work with a Journalist
  • Join the Blog Squad
  • Afghanistan
  • Africa
  • Asia
  • Baltimore
  • Canada
  • Egypt
  • Europe
  • Latin America
  • Middle East
  • Russia
  • Economy
  • Environment
  • Health Care
  • Military
  • Occupy
  • Organize This
  • Reality Asserts Itself
  • US Politics
  • The Fog of the Syrian Civil War

    The use of chemical weapons by Assad is still in question, and instead of focusing on military intervention, the US should be supporting a negotiated peace between both sides -   August 27, 13
    Members don't see ads. If you are a member, and you're seeing this appeal, click here


      Share to Twitter
    Share to Facebook

    I support The Real News Network because it lets viewers voice their uncensored opinions. - David Pear
    Log in and tell us why you support TRNN


    Omar S. Dahi is an associate professor of economics. He received his B.A. in economics from California State University at Long Beach, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in economics from the University of Notre Dame, Indiana. His research and teaching interests are in the areas of economic development and international trade, with a special focus on South-South economic cooperation, and on the political economy of the Middle East and North Africa.


    The Fog of the Syrian Civil WarJAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Jaisal Noor in Baltimore.

    In Syria on Monday, UN chemical weapons inspectors met with and took samples from victims of apparent gas attack in the rebel-held suburbs of Damascus. But on the way, the UN team members say that a sniper attack then hit a vehicle in their convoy. No one was injured. The results of this mission weigh heavily on whether or not the U.S. will directly intervene militarily in Syria, since President Obama has said that the use of chemical weapons by Assad would force his hand to intervene.

    Now joining us to discuss this latest news is Omar Dahi. He's an assistant professor of economics at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, and an editor at The Middle East Report.

    Thank you so much for joining us, Omar.


    NOOR: So, Omar, can you lay out the different scenarios that are being thrown around to explain this apparent poison gas attack? On one hand, it seems that there was a gas attack carried out in Syria in the suburbs of Damascus, but many people have argued that it wouldn't make sense for the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to use chemical weapons, because the Obama administration has said that they would use this to justify direct military intervention.

    DAHI: Sure. Well, there are two basic questions that have been discussed. The first is: was there actually a chemical attack? And the second is: if it did happen, who did the chemical attack? And I think by now, given the different reports, given the report issued by Doctors Without Borders that hospitals they supported did treat individuals who appeared to suffer from toxins and so forth, there is increasing evidence that beyond a doubt there was some sort of chemical attack involved.

    Where it gets more complicated is the accusation of who did it. And there are different scenarios that are being discussed. One of them is by the government and other observers who, as you pointed out, argue that the government has nothing to gain from this chemical attack, that they seem to be winning the war and have been able to do a lot of destruction through conventional weapons. There's a sort of international equilibrium that does not seem to be willing to intervene or ready to intervene, and that the only thing that might upset this equilibrium is such a chemical attack. Therefore it would not make sense to do so.

    On the other hand, accusing the rebels of doing so also raises some questions about plausibility, because if the rebels are capable of carrying out such a large-scale attack, and if they have the means to do so and they are murderous enough to unleash them on among civilians, then why would they choose to do it against rebel-held territory, and why would they not use it against the regime forces? Why would they not try to turn the tide of the war? That's also being a question that's being raised.

    A third scenario and fourth scenario that I've heard. One is that the government did the chemical attack in response to what it saw as a perceived or real escalation and advancement by rebel troops, that the rebels have been managing to turn the tide. And there was a report in Le Figaro, French newspaper, that U.S.-trained or U.S. special operations officers are in Syria and assisting the rebels, so that it might be an attack on those groups.

    A fourth plausible explanation is that the command structure within the regime itself is disintegrating and that perhaps the order did not come from the top leadership but came from someone else down the chain of command, or maybe high up within the top chain of command but reflecting a split in the very top leadership on how to handle the decision-making process. And so it could have been basically a signal from the regime that they're willing to go all the way, that they're willing to use whatever means at their disposal to end the war if the rebels continue making advances.

    All of these are speculation, and using logic or reason is really not the way, I think, to establish guilt or culpability in such a crime. I think such a crime should have an independent investigation. The UN team that's already in Syria should be allowed to investigate and the facts [incompr.] for themselves, as all the crimes that have been conducted the Syrian uprising. The chemical attack was horrific, but so has been the over 100,000 people being killed and million displaced. These are other crimes. And all of the crime should be investigated, no matter who did them.

    NOOR: Now, if it is confirmed beyond a shadow of a doubt that chemical weapons were used in Syria, would it become legal for the U.S. to intervene? And what are the alternatives to a military intervention?

    DAHI: Well, in terms of legality, the international legality would depend on a Security Council resolution. Only then under international law would it be legal to intervene, and that is unlikely to happen.

    I think the intervention, if it happens, is, according to the different reports that you read, likely to happen through long-range bombing, Tomahawk or cruise missiles launched from very far away that are outside the reach of the Syrian defense system. And I think they would do more harm than good.

    I mean, we've seen in the past two years at every level of escalation, whether it came to the militarization of the uprising or when it came to economic sanctions, there's been--after every massacre and every destruction unleashed by the regime, there's been a call to do something. And you can see that clearly in the case of economic sanctions, that it really hurt the most vulnerable people in Syria and have not really hurt the regime as much as it hurt the ordinary population, because the regime has resources that it has access to and it has support.

    In the case of military intervention, I think you're likely to see a further escalation in the rate of destruction, especially since the Syrian regime and its allies in Iran, primarily, and also in Russia, have been signaling that they're willing to stick with the regime till the very end. So there's no guarantee even if there's a strike that it will precipitate some quick solution. In fact, the most predictable outcome is that it will really increase the level of destruction, invite further retaliation by the regime and its allies, and perhaps trigger a much wider war, which is why I think despite a lot of the noises that you hear calling for intervention, despite what you see as preparations for such intervention, I don't think it's going to be a large-scale attack. I still don't believe that's going to happen. It might. Who knows?

    But there are alternatives that are also not very easy, and I think it's important to really note that there's a lot of uncertainty and there's difficult choices that need to be made. The best solution is really a political settlement, a settlement that ends the violence as quickly as possible, a negotiated solution. That sounds very implausible to a lot of people, and perhaps with every subsequent massacre it becomes more difficult. But the way to try to end the violence is to start a process to end the violence, not more violence. And we've seen in the last two years the logic that military solutions will end the crisis has proven to be false, tragically, time and time again. The best way is to demand a political settlement, to demand all sides end the cycle of violence, and to really pressure for some sort of negotiated outcome, which is going to be a process.

    It's not going to happen in one day. It's going to take confidence-building measures so that each side doesn't think that the other side will stop the agreement and start attacking them, so that each side has trust that they will not be annihilated if they surrender. I see it as the best possible outcome and what we should all be demanding.

    NOOR: And let's talk about the U.S.'s role in what's been happening in the Middle East, but also go back in history a little bit. Foreign Policy magazine just highlighted the hypocrisy of the U.S. when it comes to the use of chemical weapons as it revealed how the U.S. knew Saddam Hussein was launching some of the worst chemical attacks in history against Iran during their war in the '80s. And instead of drawing attention to it, the CIA actually gave them a hand and assisted in those attacks.

    DAHI: Absolutely, and you don't just have to go back to Iraq. You can go back further in the postwar period. Who has used chemical weapons in attacks and nuclear weapons? In fact, it's been the U.S. in the case of Japan, in the case of the Vietnam War, where chemical and biological weapons were attacked in sort of the Indonesian war, the Southeast Asian war. And so the U.S. has no moral ground to lecture and preach on others about chemical weapons.

    The U.S. furthermore has had a destructive foreign policy in the Middle East, being allied to human rights dictators and human rights abusers, allied to Saudi Arabia and Israel, who have a long history either of committing human rights, or in the case of Saudi Arabia, really a totalitarian, despotic government.

    In the case in Syria itself, the U.S. in my opinion has not been the primary mover. I think to a great extent there has been some learning from the Iraq War debacle that the U.S. has not rushed into intervention. It doesn't see it in its own interests to intervene.

    And I think in the case of Syria, the primary movers have been the Gulf states. They are the ones who have assisted the rebels. They're the ones who in many cases allowed the militarization of the rebel side or facilitated it. And you have other regional players that have resisted the regime. So in that sense, I don't think that the U.S. foreign policy in the case of Syria has been as destructive as it has been elsewhere in the Middle East, and I think there is a division within the elites in the U.S. on what to do.

    And you've seen the media coverage actually--compared to the case of Iraq, compared to the case of Afghanistan, if you're really honest about critical thinking about this coverage and what has--comparing the two cases, you'll see much more of a divided opinion and a mixed picture when it comes to Syria. There's a lot of apprehension. And I think that's a good thing. I think the strike by the U.S. is also unpopular. A recent poll that I read showed that only 9 percent of U.S. citizens are in support of U.S. direct intervention into Syria.

    And I think that is to say that we should be seizing on this and supporting it or supporting the idea of a political settlement and pushing back against the tide of military direct intervention as the only solution. As difficult as it seems and as murderous as the Syrian regime is, we should not participate in a course of action that will increase the destruction, but trying our best to minimize the violence. And a political solution is the only way to do that.

    NOOR: Omar Dahi, thank you so much for joining us.

    DAHI: Thanks for having me.

    NOOR: Thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.


    DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


    Our automatic spam filter blocks comments with multiple links and multiple users using the same IP address. Please make thoughtful comments with minimal links using only one user name. If you think your comment has been mistakenly removed please email us at


    Latest Stories

    Affirmative Action Ruling Will Further Racial Inequality
    Evidence for Russian Involvement in East Ukraine Based on Shoddy Journalism
    Ivy League Study: The General Public Has Virtually No Influence on Policy
    The Modern History of Venezuela and Popular Democracy - Edgardo Lander on RAI (9/9)
    An Asia "Pivot" Should Mean Cooperating with China to Solve the Global Environmental Crisis
    Assessing the U.S. Environmental Movement
    Intimidation and Political Interference Goes Unpunished in UAW Case
    Exclusive Investigation Uncovers How BP Uses Bribes To Do Business
    The Modern History of Venezuela, The Protests and Democracy - Edgardo Lander on RAI (8/9)
    Greek Politics 4 Years After The Financial Crisis
    CBO Report Confirms U.S. Deficit Back to Normal Level
    Israel Uses Refugees as "Currency" in Arms Trade with Africa
    Who Will Pay for Climate Change Disaster?
    Canada Shifts to Right Under Harper, Mimicking the United States
    The Savings and Loan Crisis Demonstrates the Importance of Glass-Steagall
    South African Platinum Miner's Struggle Challenges ANC Leadership
    TRNN Original Report: Manning Determined to Fight Back After Army Upholds 35- Year Sentence
    Hundredth Anniversary of the Ludlow Massacre
    The Bundy Ranch Standoff Demonstrates Values Shared by Corporations and the Far Right
    The Resegregation of American Schools
    The Modern History of Venezuela, Why Still So Much Crime? - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (7/9)
    What Role Has Russia Played in Eastern Ukraine?
    Can Johns Hopkins Afford to Pay A Living Wage? (2/2)
    University Sit-In Targets World's Largest Private Coal Company
    The Modern History of Venezuela and the Need for a Post-Oil Economy - Edgardo Lander on RAI (6/9)
    Can Johns Hopkins Afford to Pay A Living Wage? (1/2)
    One Percent of Environmentalists Killings Lead to Convictions
    Investigation Finds Former Ukraine President Not Responsible For Sniper Attack on Protestors
    The Modern History of Venezuela from 1973 to the Caracazo Massacre - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (3/9)
    Ukraine Transitional Gov't Moves Militarily To Reclaim Seized Buildings
    IPCC Report Flawed By Narrow Focus on Carbon Emissions
    The Modern History of Venezuela: The Bolivarian Revolution - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (5/9)
    Obama Signs Directives to Reduce the Gender Wage Gap
    Eastern Ukraine Lacks Political Representation in Kiev
    Demystifying the Role of Mitigation in the Most Recent IPCC Report
    Hypersurveillance State Won't Prevent Another Boston Marathon Bombing
    The Modern History of Venezuela from 1973 to the Caracazo Massacre - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (3/9)
    Univ. of Maine Faculty Reinstated After Students Protest Against Cuts
    The Modern History of Venezuela from 1908 to 1973 - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (2/9)
    IMF Will Address Global Inequality, Says Managing Director Christine Lagarde
    Raising Big Banks' Leverage Ratio Good, But Not Nearly Enough
    TRNN Replay: Austerity Road to 19th Century
    Has Palestinian Maneuvering Revived Peace Talks?
    Late Jackson Mayor Lumumba's Son Wins Primary to Replace His Father, Runoff Election Ahead
    Quebecers Reject PQ and Elect a Liberal Government Representing Big Business
    TRNN Debate: Decriminalization vs. Legalization
    The Beginning of the Chavez Era - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (4/9)
    "Off With His Head": Court Upholds Obama's Power to Kill
    Workers at Nation's Top Hospital Strike For Fair Wages
    From Exile to Radicalization in Venezuela - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (1/9)
    Rwanda 20 Years Later: Genocide, Western Plunder of Congo, and President Kagame
    Ukrainian Protesters in the East Demand More Autonomy From Kiev Government
    Hunger Strikers Demand President Obama Halt His Record 2 Million Deportations
    Indian Parliamentary Elections - A Primer With Vijay Prashad
    West Looks to Carve Up Ukraine & Privatize Industries Held by Kleptocrats
    Where Are Israeli-Palestinian Peace Negotiations Headed?
    The Multiple Kingdoms of Saudi Arabia (5/5)
    Do the Afghan Presidential Elections Signify Progress?
    Republican Presidential Hopefuls Pay Homage to Billionaire Casino Tycoon Sheldon Adelson
    Will Extremist Lieberman Become Israel's Next Prime Minister?
    Why do the Saudis Want the US to Attack Iran? (4/5)
    Immigrant Advocates and Families Tell President Obama 'Not One More'
    Elections, Pipelines, and Protests - The Canada Panel
    Chris Hedges on "Israel's War on American Universities"
    Baltimore Residents Decry Lack of Affordable Housing
    Yellen Talks the Talk But Will She Walk the Walk?
    Hopkins Hospital Workers Speak Out against "Poverty Wages"
    Will Venezuela's New Floating Exchange Rate Curb Inflation?
    The European Central Bank's War on Wages is Pushing Europe's Economy to the Brink
    Supreme Court Decision Opens Floodgates for More Campaign Cash
    Charles Keating, the Financier Behind the Savings and Loan Scandal, Dies at 90
    Saudi Arabia and the al-Qaeda Monster (3/5)
    Maryland Residents Voice Opposition to Natural Gas Fracking Export Facility
    Supreme Court Ruling Gives Wealthy Individuals More Influence Over Elections
    What are the Saudis Afraid Of? - Madawi Al-Rasheed (2/5)
    Baltimore's MICA Adjunct Professors Set to Vote on Unionization
    Boycott of Israel Moving to Next Level?
    Hypocrisy Dressed Up as "Realism" Justifies American Alliance with Saudi Dictatorship
    Immigration Reform in the Shadows of Cesar Chavez's Legacy
    Leaked Senate Report Shows Use of Torture As "Ineffective"
    UN Report Says Climate Change Will Threaten Food Production Worldwide
    The Hypocrisy of US Calling for Enforcement of International Law
    How the Ecuadorian Economy Grew in a Global Recession
    'Shadows of Liberty' Trailer
    Kristina Borjesson on Why CBS Shut Down Her investigation into Flight 800 (2/8)
    Glen Ford on Racism in the American Media (3/8)
    Paul Jay on What Drives Corporate Media and What Drive The Real News (4/8)
    Creating a New Media Paradigm After Citizens United (5/8)
    Should The Left Engage with the Mainstream Media? (6/8)
    What Is the Financial Backing For The Real News? (7/8)
    Standing up to Character Assassination (8/8)
    Oligarchs, Fascists and the People's Protest in Ukraine
    TRNN Debate: Is Obamacare In the Interest of Workers?
    Too-Big-To-Fail Advantage Remains Intact For Big Banks
    Obama and the Saudi Agenda
    TRNN Replay: Investigating the Saudi Government's 9/11 Connection and the Path to Disilliusionment - Sen. Graham on Reality Asserts Itself pt 1
    The Iraq War's Real Legacy
    Petitions with 100,000+ Signatures Call for Snowden's Passport to be Reinstated
    We Need to Harness People Power - Andy Shallal on Reality Asserts Itself (4/4)
    BC Pipeline Fight and Quebec Elections - The Canada Panel
    Jonathan Schell - 1943-2014: Board Member of TRNN on Why We Need The Real News
    Teachers on Strike from the UK to Argentina
    Connecticut Poised to Become First State with $10.10 Minimum Wage
    Oil Spill Threatens Wildlife and Local Economy
    DC School Test Scores Up, But Poor Black Kids Are Doing Worse - Andy Shallal on RAI (3/4)
    Obama's Proposal To End NSA Bulk Data Collection Won't Protect Privacy
    How Google, Apple & The Biggest Tech Companies Colluded to Fix Workers' Wages
    An American Should be One that Questions Their Government - Andy Shallal on RAI (2/4)
    What's Driving Putin & Obama's Posturing on Ukraine?
    Hundreds of Students & Faculty Occupy College Campus to Fight Cuts to Public Higher Ed
    Due Process 'Impossible' In Harsh Death Sentencing Of Over 500 Muslim Brotherhood Members
    Has Anglo-American Capitalism Run Out of Steam?
    Being the "Other" in America - Andy Shallal on Reality Asserts Itself (1/4)
    TRNN Debate: Should Baltimore 'Ban The Box'?
    How Fallujah Became the Iraqi Government's New Battleground
    Why I Decided to Blow the Whistle on the NSA
    NASA Climate Predictions Show Serious Threat To Humanity
    Professor Who Teaches Israel-Palestine Conflict Accuses College of Violating His Academic Freedom
    CIA and NSA Wrongdoing Requires Independent Investigation, Says Former Church Committee Staff
    Are Tuition Breaks Enough To Combat High Student Debt And Low Graduation Rates?
    Industries Across the U.S. Are Stealing Wages From Their Lowest Paid Workers
    Who In Ukraine Will Benefit From An IMF Bailout?
    NSA Recording All International Calls From U.S.
    Israel "Making Lives Miserable" for Africans, Hoping They 'Self-Deport' (2/2)
    BP Gets Green Light to Drill in Gulf, But Has Safety Improved?
    Residents Still Not Drinking Tap Water Two Months After West Virginia Spill (1/2)
    Libya's Descent Into Turmoil Three Years After NATO Intervention
    From Pipelines to Peladeau - Canadian Report
    Israel "Making Lives Miserable" for Africans, Hoping They 'Self-Deport' (1/2)
    Congressional Progressive Caucus Budget Strikes Back Against Austerity
    Libya Three Years Later - Chaos and Partition
    Why Was Gaddafi Overthrown?
    Should Ukraine and West Accept De Facto Crimea Joining Russia? (2/2)
    Tony Benn Saw Socialism as the Culmination of Democratization
    Why Didn't Bush/Cheney Attack Iran and Can Obama Make and Sell a Deal? - Gareth Porter on Reality Asserts Itself (3/3)
    After Late Mayor Lumumba is Laid to Rest, What's Next for Jackson, Mississippi? (2/2)
    Crimea Referendum: Self Determination or Big Power Manipulation? (1/2)
    Sen. Graham: President Must Side with Openness About CIA and 9/11
    Manufacturing a Narrative for War - Gareth Porter on Reality Asserts Itself (2/3)
    Protesters Hit the Streets of Brooklyn to Demand $15 Minimum Wage
    Hammer: 'Moral Bankruptcy' Behind Massive GM Recall
    White House Withholds Thousands of Documents from Senate CIA Probe
    I Grew Up Believing in Time Magazine's Version of America - Gareth Porter on RAI (1/3)
    Western European Banks Vulnerable to Ukrainian Sovereign Debt Crisis
    TRNN Debate: What's Driving Inflation in Venezuela? (2/2)
    CIA vs. Senate: Who Is Obama Protecting?
    Will Tipped Workers Get Excluded Again From Minimum Wage Hike?
    TRNN Debate: What's Driving Inflation in Venezuela? (1/2)
    After Late Mayor Lumumba is Laid to Rest, What's Next for Jackson, Mississippi?(1/2)
    TRNN Replay: A Look at Who's Poised to Become No.2 at the Fed
    How Right-Wing Nationalism Rose to Influence in Ukraine (2/2)
    Netanyahu Attacks Boycott As Campaign Enters New Phase
    Moving Towards a Police State - Michael Ratner on Reality Asserts Itself (7/7)
    Fighting Reagan's Secret, Illegal Wars - Michael Ratner on Reality Asserts Itself (6/7)
    Puerto Rican Independence Movement and Cuba Further Radicalized Me - Michael Ratner on RAI (5/7)
    The Butcher of Attica - Michael Ratner on Reality Asserts Itself (4/7)
    MLK and a Radicalizing Moment in American History - Michael Ratner on Reality Asserts Itself (3/7), Real News Network, Real News, Real News For Real People, IWT are trademarks and service marks of IWT.TV inc. "The Real News" is the flagship show of IWT and Real News Network.

    All original content on this site is copyright of The Real News Network.  Click here for more

    Problems with this site? Please let us know

    Linux VPS Hosting by Star Dot Hosting