On April 4 in Khan Sheikoun (alternatively, Khan Shaykhun), a city of the Idlib province of Northeastern Syria, a chemical attack was purported to have been carried out which claimed the lives of 50-100 individuals (a few more current estimates put death toll at 87), mostly non-combatant persons unaffiliated with the Syrian War. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was quickly highlighted as the likely culprit by the United States and two days later American President, Donald J. Trump ordered a military strike upon the Shayrat airbase in the Hom province. Shayrat is believed to be the area from whence the chemical attack was launched, according to U.S. intelligence sources. 59 missiles were launched with only half hitting the airfield. Syrian reports state that the missile attack killed 7-8 Syrian soldiers, 5 adult civilians and 4 children.
But what of the evidence that actually ties President Assad to the chemical attack? Much like in the 2013 Ghouta chemical attack, no evidence has yet been presented that demonstrates any ties between Bashar al-Assad and the attack itself. The only information pertaining to the matter which the Trump Administration has yet released was comprised of four pages of white paper from the White House (you can read the papers here) which states that the Administration is, “-confident that the Syrian regime conducted a chemical weapons attack,” and that they have, “signals intelligence, geospatial intelligence, laboratory analysis,” and, “-open source reporting,” to back up their claims. The declassified and rather bombastically styled document then goes on to state that though there is a wealth of information pointing the finger to Assad as the nefarious culprit, said information cannot (or, perhaps, will not) be released by the White House due to security concerns about sources and methodology.
This is extremely odd as sources are one thing but the methodology – geospatial mapping for instance – is well known worldwide. Every sufficiently organized, technologically savvy and collectively intelligent country on earth knows the United States utilizes such technology, it is not as if that is some great secret. Furthermore the document also points back to Ghouta as the precedent for the most recent chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun, yet in 2013 no evidence was uncovered linking Assad and the attack, and this despite a extensive U.N. investigation (Russia has unanimously vetoed a U.N. backed investigation into the Sheikoun attack, citing prejudice against Syria from America and the U.N. collectively for their decision).
Lastly, there is the motive – or rather, lack thereof. For what sense does it make for Assad (a man who, whatever you think of him, is clearly not insane) to gas his own people as he is turning the tide of the Syrian War in his favor, especially after the United States clearly stated it would militarily intervene if such action was taken? The answer is: none. It makes absolutely zero sense at all and sets a strange precedent for the Trump Administration, one which seems to prize righteous indignation and gut instinct over factually verifiable information (i.e. Nikki Haley and her predilection for photos of dead babies).
If indeed the White House has information that proves Assad’s complicity in the attack they should simply release it and yet they choose not to which suggests that more is going on then meets the eye. Regardless, it is imminently important for anyone, but especially those who backed Trump because of his “America First” campaign promises, to press the Administration on this point before it becomes involved in yet another bloody Middle-Eastern quagmire.