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Does the 'Red Line' Apply to Syrian Rebels, Too?

Only those encouraging an escalation of western involvement in Syria would buy unsubstantiated claims that the Syrian government used chemical weapons in an attack near Damascus last week.

It's much more likely that the al-Qaeda-infused, Saudi Arabia-backed Syrian rebels used the weapons in an act of desperation to try to whip up western support for their failing efforts.

Simply look at who would gain from the use of chemical weapons, and recall the wide-ranging atrocities carried out not just by Syrian forces, but also by the rebels.

President Bashar al-Assad had no reason to poison Syrian civilians

In recent months, fractured Syrian opposition offered little resistance to Assad's forces. Strategically, there would be no upside to Assad using nerve gas at a time when conventional weapons were sufficient in putting down the opposition.

Further, on the day of the chemical attack in Syria, UN inspectors were visiting Damascus to look into previous alleged chemical weapons usage. It is highly unlikely and completely illogical that Assad would have launched a chemical attack on that day in particular.

But Syrian rebels such as the Nusra Front -- who have recruited child soldiers, eaten the hearts out of soldiers, carried out beheadings, and instituted Islamic law in parts of Syria -- have the capability of producing chemical warheads, and were likely behind the first chemical attack earlier this year.

Assad was well aware that using chemical weapons was unnecessary and would risk bringing other countries, including the United States, into the military equation in Syria.

Russia, British MP George Galloway and others agreed, saying Assad's forces did not carry out the attacks

"Russia isn't persuaded by any of these reports. Nobody in Moscow believes Assad would use chemical weapons, especially now that he's winning without them, and he'd be crazy to do so on the very day that UN inspectors are visiting Damascus to look into reports of chemical weapon use," says Sergei Markov, a frequent adviser to President Vladimir Putin.

"It's obvious to us that we're looking at a well-prepared provocation, possibly staged by Qatar or Saudi Arabian intelligence, aimed at whipping up emotions in the West and triggering an armed intervention to aid the rebels. It's clear the rebels can't hope to win without such assistance from outside, so they are the only ones who have any stake in creating an example like this. Russia is not going to support any moves in that direction," he adds.

George Galloway stated, "If there has been a use of chemical weapons it was al-Qaeda that used the chemical weapons - who gave al-Qaeda the chemical weapons? Here's my theory, Israel gave them the chemical weapons."

Does the "red line" apply to Syrian rebels, too?

Uber-hawk, Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said Obama is right to verify the facts. "We want to have proof of Syria chemical use," before committing to military action in Syria.

If the UN carries out a true investigation of what happened in Damascus last week it is more likely to discover evidence that chemical weapons were used by Syrian rebels, than by Assad. At that point, would those who are calling for cruise missile strikes on Assad's forces reverse course and call for military action against Syrian rebels? Of course not, which is even more reason not to believe their claims in the first place.