In an interview last night with Sean Hannity, Senator Rand Paul claimed that it wasn’t clear who was responsible for the chemical weapons attack in Syria earlier this month and that such attack benefitted the rebels, rather than Bashar Assad:
So, does it benefit Assad to have used chemical weapons? Absolutely not. That’s incurred the wrath of the world. And he’s known that it would.
Whose benefit? It seems to be to benefit of the rebels. So, the rebels have every incentive to have used chemical weapons. I don’t know who did, but I’ve been presented with no evidence yet and I would like to see the evidence before we go off half cocked into a war.
This strikes me as an extremely irresponsible statement on two grounds. First, by Paul’s own admission he hasn’t been presented any evidence that points to the Assad regime being responsible for the attack. So what about the communication intercepted by Israeli intelligence between Syrian officials concerning the chemical attack? US intelligence intercepted similar communications. What about the intelligence put forth by the UK? Is Paul unaware of these developments? Or does he dismiss them out of hand? If so, why does he object to the intelligence?
So is it possible that rebel forces could be responsible? It’s possible nor would I put it past them to do such a thing. But there hasn’t been any evidence presented in support of that contention. To this point, all that has been presented is speculation and that simply isn’t sufficient.
Which brings me to my second point. Paul argues that it is not in Assad’s interests to have deployed chemical weapons on the basis that it has “incurred the wrath of the world.” Well, let’s see here. The British Parliament isn’t on board nor is the Arab League or the UN. Obama may very well “go it alone”, but as Charles Krauthammer put it “perhaps we should be publishing the exact time the bombs will fall, lest we disrupt dinner in Damascus.” In other words, Obama’s response will be tepid assuming there’s any response at all. Some wrath.
Besides, I hardly think Assad cares what the world thinks of him. The only outside opinions that matter to him emanate from Tehran and Moscow. If anything, Assad did this knowing precisely how tepid the world’s response would be.
This isn’t to say that Obama’s strategy is prudent. Striking Syria could very well make things worse than they already are. But Rand Paul is equally imprudent for engaging in irreponsible speculation and for presuming any decency on the part of Bashar Assad.