First off, I want to acknowledge that there are definitely valid reasons to question the official Western narrative of the gas attacks in Syria. A primary one being the history of the Iraq war and the lies told to egg on that conflict. If for no other reason, that should make us wary of intervening without rock solid evidence of war crimes. The fact that a war monger who approves of the Iraq war even now despite all that we have learned over the years is now the National Security Advisor certainly doesn’t help matters.
However, I’ve seen a lot of talk in light of current events that appears to be taking many of the things Russian media and officials claim regarding the attacks in Syria as factual and trustworthy, and implying that there is no motive for Syria or Russia to have committed the attacks themselves. Sadly, Russia too has an, at best, checkered past when it comes to drumming up military conflict and false flag attacks explicitly.
Namely, that Putin rose to prominence shortly after a series of bombings of Russian apartment buildings under very shady circumstances. I won’t go into extreme depth on this matter, as I expect most who frequent this sub have heard of these bombings before. The short version is that a series of bombings blamed on Chechen Islamists was used as justification to start a war and vaulted Putin into being the leader of Russia. However, FSB agents were caught red handed staging the last attempted bombing, investigation into the matter was suppressed (including the apparent assassination of two members of the commission investigating the matter), and Alexander Litvinenko was likely killed because of his writings on the subject.
That covers the history of each side, but what about the motivations?
For the West, the motivations would likely be very similar to the Iraq war. There’s lots of profit to be made in these proxy conflicts, and political points to be made with “allies” in the region. Assad’s removal from power would also likely result in Russia losing their only Mediterranean naval port, which is a pretty big deal to Russia as it leaves them having to project naval power from either the Arctic, or the Black Sea through the Bosphorus Strait (Turkey).
It is also possible that Assad committed the attacks against his own people for purposes of fear, but this is also a big risk on his part if true. Though it certainly wouldn’t be the first time an authoritarian leader used extreme force against his own people to maintain power and control.
As for Russia, it does seem that it would be an odd move at first glance. The most plausible reasoning I can come up with would be a desire to cause further chaos in the West, with the possible outcome of Russia gaining an increased military presence and influence in the region.
To expand on that, if you’re a believer in the importance of the book Foundations of Geopolitics in Russian global strategy, you could view this as in line with their Middle Eastern strategy of creating a “continental Russian-Islamic alliance” in addition to the general strategy of “a sophisticated program of subversion, destabilization, and disinformation spearheaded by the Russian special services. This also ties in to the book’s stated goal of the formation of a Eurasian Empire based “on the fundamental principle of the common enemy: the rejection of Atlanticism, strategic control of the USA, and the refusal to allow liberal values to dominate us.”
The Russian advance claims of a “false flag” attack could be viewed in a different light in that context. They set themselves up to appear correct, commit the attack themselves or through intermediaries, and then reap the rewards of internal discord in the West over the validity of the Russian claims while banking on small Western retaliation that can be used to further drive home the idea that Assad’s Syria needs Russia to survive, and may also convince Turkey to be more openly distrustful of the USA and NATO.
Obviously I went more in depth on the Russian side, but I’ll readily admit that it is also very possible we’re getting another Iraq War run up to conflict that no one wants except the powerful.
Curious to see what others think.