The last two weeks have seen the mainstream media soaked with headlines containing the word "Syria" and "Attack" as Washington desperately spins narratives left and right to cling to their reason for existence in Syria (legal or illegal, we will let you decide).
All of which made us wonder - is the American public being 'softened' up for something?
And now we have an answer - or at least we have a strong a strawman as we have yet seen.
Six weeks after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson blamed Assad for a new chemical attack and accused Russia of allowing it, he admitted that he really doesn't know much at all about "whoever conducted the attacks".
Which was followed a month ago by threats of military action against Syria from General Mattis (despite having no evidence)...
"I don’t have the evidence,” Mattis said. “What I am saying is that other groups on the ground - NGOs, fighters on the ground - have said that sarin has been used, so we are looking for evidence.”
And then Israel piled on by attacking a site just outside of Syria's capital city called Jamraya - believed to be a military research facility related to chemical weapons.
Which leads us to today - after weeks of "Syria...attack" headlines, The Washington Post reports that the Trump administration has considered new military action against the Syrian government in response to reports of ongoing chemical weapons use, officials said, raising the prospect of a second U.S. strike on President Bashar al-Assad in less than a year.
The president reportedly requested options for punishing the Assad government following reported chlorine gas attacks - at least seven so far this year - and possibly other chemicals affecting civilians in opposition-controlled areas.
Of course, this could be nothing but a strawman, as WaPo carefully acknowledges lower in their story (away from the headlines) that
" One official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to address internal deliberations, said the president did not endorse any military action..."
And, Dana White, chief Pentagon spokeswoman, denied Mattis took part in discussions about military action in Syria and said the “conversation did not happen.”
These accusations all stem from a Feb. 25 incident, during which residents and medical staff in a rebel-held Damascus suburb, Eastern Ghouta, described symptoms associated with chlorine exposure. One child died, medical staff reported.
Notably, WaPo reports that Mattis was "adamantly" against military response to recent chlorine attacks, but McMaster "was for it."
Even if Trump authorized another attack, WaPo points out that the Pentagon is likely to advocate limiting U.S. involvement in the war. The April attack, which included 59 cruise missiles, was aimed narrowly at an isolated airfield, minimizing the likelihood of tit-for-tat escalations.
Finally, we note that Reuters reports, The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is investigating whether chlorine was used in recent attacks in Eastern Ghouta.
As a reminder, President Trump ordered the Pentagon to fire Tomahawk missiles on the Syrian facility believed to be linked to a sarin gas attack that killed 80 people in April of last year, following another unverified attack.
Of course, as we noted previously, now that unverified claims of chemical attack incidents in Syria (and their subsequent uncritical amplification by media and politicians) have become routine, the following somewhat obvious observations need to be recalled:
The Assad government has long been winning the war, what incentive does it have to do the one thing (use CW) that would hasten its demise?
The US is a party to the conflict, so its claims must be evaluated accordingly.
The "NGOs and fighters on the ground" (in Mattis' own words) are an even more direct party to the conflict.
The only way anti-Assad fighters can survive at this point is by triggering massive US military intervention (by claiming "Assad is gassing his own people!").
The greater the momentum of Syria/Russia/Iran forces in defeating jihadists on Syrian territory, the more frequent the claims of chemical attacks become - issued from those very jihadists suffering near certain defeat.
In the midst of a grinding 7-year long "fog of war" conflict involving constant claims and counterclaims, mere "open source" information means nothing in terms of proof or hard evidence.
Al-Qaeda administers the locations from which chemical attack allegations are being made.
US officials stand ready to make use of "chemical attack" claims with or without "evidence credible or uncredible" (in Mattis' words) anytime further pressure needs to be applied toward Russia or Syria.
Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence (Iraq WMD anyone?).
We would not hold our breath, waiting for this attack to happen. Washington needs a 'legitimate' excuse to re-engage in Syria and Trump needs another distraction from his Trade Wars distraction from the Russian meddling investigations.