In my earlier article – Whodunnit in Syria – I claimed that there’s little dispute that a chemical agent was used in an Aug. 21st attack outside of Damascus – and probably on a smaller scale before that – but there is a reasonable doubt if the Assad regime used sarin gas in this operation. Since then new aspects what happened are emerging and when there is some perspective about diplomatic solution it is also important to note for future developing that the roles of actors are changing in operation theatre. While these newest developments are shaping the future in Syria it is in my opinion still important to study Aug. 21st attack as it might help to plan further actions – and alliances.
The UN Report made on 13th Sep 2013 on the alleged use of chemical weapons in the Ghouta area of Damascus on Aug. 21st , 2013 has clarified many issues but left the key questions unanswered: who committed the attack and who are the victims?The UN report does not confirm anything other than chemical weapons were used. More interesting is an other report made by a Syria-based human rights group ISTEAMS. This later report has also been submitted to UN and it clarifies a bit the core question – Whodunnit?
“To launch a chemical weapons attack in Damascus on the very day that a United Nations chemical-weapons inspection team arrives in Damascususing an out-of-date missile in an ancient launchermust be a new definition of madness.” (George Galloway in British parliament on Syria late August)
The UN report tells that CW and sarin gas was used in Damascus 21. Aug. 2013 – and that’s it, practically none has claimed the opposite. The report does not tell who were implementing or ordering gas attack nor answering the basic question of “to whose benefit?”. However the critical analysis of UN report makes clear that the narrative “only the Syrian regime could have carried out the attacks” will not hold. I would like to highlight following points which cast a reasonable doubt against mentioned one-sided (US) approach. As source I have used mainly Land Destroyer Report by Tony Cartalucci.
1. Chemical weapons were delivered with munitions not used by rebels: these particularly larger diameter rockets (140mm and 330mm) have not been seen in the hands of terrorists operating within and along Syria’s borders, however rockets similar in construction and operation, but smaller, most certainly in the hands of the militants. According to UN chemical weapons inspectors, unguided 140 mm rockets were used in the attacks. The UN inspectors suggested that Soviet BM-14-17 (MLRS) rocket launchers were used. However, Syria long ago removed those systems from its arsenal, and the army does not use them. They were replaced by modern Soviet 122 mm “Grad” (MLRS BM-21) and Chinese 107 mm Type 63 light rocket launchers. Syria may have also used 220 mm Soviet-made Hurricane rocket launchers (MLRS 9P140). (Source: The New Eastern Outlook/NEO http://journal-neo.org/2013/09/20/rus-siriya-himicheskaya-ataka-ili-provokatsiya/ )
The Washington Post contends that somehow these larger rockets require “technology” the militants have no access to. This is categorically false. A rocket is launched from a simple tube, and the only additional technology terrorists may have required for the larger rockets would have been a truck to mount them on. For an armed front fielding stolen tanks, finding trucks to mount large metal tubes upon would seem a rather elementary task – especially to carry out a staged attack that would justify foreign intervention and salvage their faltering offensive. That the same rocket used in Damascus has now been seen launched from makeshift flatbeds and not olive green military rocket launchers, along with answering the basic question of “to whose benefit?” and considering that militants are confirmed to have US training in handling of chemical weapons – all at the very least tear down the narrative that “only the Syrian regime” could have carried out the attacks. So how did the obsolete MLRS BM-14-17 systems get there? Perhaps they came with the rockets supplied by external opposition supporters who had previously obtained those sorts of weapons from the Soviet Union. As an alternative explanation, one cannot exclude the possibility that the opposition captured the munitions from Syrian weapons depots that might have held them.
2. The sarin was fired from a regime-controlled area: The report concludes that the shells came from the northwest of the targeted neighborhood – from area which was and is controlled by Syrian regime forces and is awfully close to a Syrian military base. If the shells had been fired by Syrian rebels, they likely would have come from the rebel-held southeast. However the “limitations” the UN team itself put on the credibility of their findings. On page 18 of the report (22 of the .pdf), the UN states [emphasis added]:
”The time necessary to conduct a detailed survey of both locations as well as take samples was very limited. The sites have been well travelled by other individuals both before and during the investigation. Fragments and other possible evidence have clearly been handled/moved prior to the arrival of the investigation team.”
It should also be noted that militants still controlled the area after the alleged attack and up to and including during the investigation by UN personnel. So possible tampering or planting of evidence would have been carried out by “opposition” members – and surely the Syrian government would not point rockets in directions that would implicate themselves.
3. Chemical analysis suggests sarin likely came from controlled supply, butany staged attack would also need to utilize stabilized chemical weapons and personnel trained in their use. From stockpiles looted in Libya, to chemical arms covertly transferred from the US, UK, or Israel, through Saudi Arabia or Qatar, there is no short supply of possible sources. Regarding “rebels” lacking the necessary training to handle chemical weapons – US policy has seen to it that not only did they receive the necessary training, but Western defense contractors specializing in chemical warfare are reported to be on the ground with militants inside Syria. CNN reported in their 2012 article, that: ”The United States and some European allies are using defense contractors to train Syrian rebels on how to secure chemical weapons stockpiles in Syria, a senior U.S. official and several senior diplomats told CNN Sunday.”
4. Cyrillic characters on the sides of the shells: Terrorists operating inside of Syria also possess rifles and even tanks of Russian origin – stolen or acquired through a large network of illicit arms constructed by NATO and its regional allies to perpetuate the conflict. (Source and more in Land Destroyer Report )A label found on a warhead. Mikhail Barabanov, an expert with the Russian Centre for the Analysis of Strategies and Technologies commented that this label matches those on missiles produced in 1967 in Novosibirsk (Russia). One might justifiably wonder why the Syrian Army would launch a 46-year-old missile when it holds abundant stockpiles of far more reliable modern weapons. It is also worth noting that the production of chemical weapons in Syria began in the 1990s, when chemical facilities were built near Damascus, in Homs, Hama, and Aleppo. Thus, those missiles, filled with chemical agents, should be dated accordingly or later. If the date of a missile’s production does not match the production date for its chemical agent, it stands to reason that the warhead was filled in an underground laboratory or was even homemade.(Source Voltairenet )
5. A closer look at the charts shows a massive discrepancy in lab results from east and west Ghouta. There is not a single environmental sample in Moadamiyah ( west Ghouta) that tested positive for Sarin. Yet it is in Moadamiyah where alleged victims of a CW attack tested highest for Sarin exposure. Sothere is stark discrepancy between human and environmental test results in Moadamiyah. Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, former commander of the British military’s chemical defense regiment and CEO at CW specialists, SecureBio Ltd notes:
“I think that it is strange that the environmental and human samples don’t match up. This could be because there have been lots of people trampling through the area and moving things. Unless the patients were brought in from other areas. There doesn’t seem another plausible explanation.”
All the patients were pre-selected by Ghouta doctors and opposition groups for presentation to the UN teams. Although the highest rate of Sarin-exposure was found in Moadamiyah “survivors,” the UN team found no traces of Sarin on the 140mm rocket identified as the source of the alleged CW attack – or in its immediate environment.
The discrepancies in the story of the Ghouta CW attacks are vast. Casualty figures range from a more modest 300+ to the more dramatic 1,400+ figures touted by western governments. The UN investigators were not able to confirm any of these numbers – they only saw 80 survivors and tested only 36 of these. They saw none of the dead – neither in graves nor in morgues. (Source: Questions Plague UN Report on Syria – “Saudi Intelligence Behind the Attacks…” by Sharmine Narwani and Radwan Mortada )
The US intelligence community selected or nominated 13 videos that the Obama Administration used in their case against the Syrian government. It was job of US intelligence to examine and authenticate these videos however it seems that they made sloppy or even worse purpose-orientated job. ISTEAMS – a Syria-based human rights group working in conjunction with the International Institute for Peace, Justice and Human Rights – got its motivation to study case further as follows:
ISTEAMS found some conflicts between videos and reality on the ground as well between videos and conclusions made from them. That analysis was later expanded on by a report from ISTEAMS, In this thorough report numerous discrepancies and inconsistencies in the footage are documented.
The ISTEAMS report raises many troubling questions about the scenes in the Ghouta videos. Were the victims of the attack local children? If so, why were they there after these areas had been largely abandoned? Where are their parents? An answer to threse questions might be found from videos posted by the Mujahedeen Press Office to YouTube just six days before the attack confirming that the terrorists had kidnapped hundreds of women and children from the rural villages of Alawite stronghold Lattakia to use as bargaining chips in the conflict. Were these kidnap victims moved to Ghouta to be killed in the chemical weapons attack? Is this why so many children were there in these largely-vacated areas, and why so few parents appear on video mourning their children? If true, are evidence of the most disgraceful war crimes imaginable and the most cold-blooded manipulations of evidence to suit an agenda.
One of the core conclusion from the ISTEAMS report:
“Contrary to the claims of the Free Syrian Army and the Western services, the only identified victims of the Ghouta massacre are those belonging to families that support the Syrian government. In the videos, the individuals that show outrage against the ‘crimes of Bashar el-Assad’ are in reality their killers.”
The report documents through eyewitness testimony and video evidence that the affected areas had been largely abandoned by local residents in the days prior to the attack. Yet in the footage of the aftermath, there are large numbers of child victims who are portrayed. There exists very little footage of parents with their children, and what little footage exists portrays some of the parents apparently “discovering” their children on multiple occasions in different locations. Other footage shows the same children arranged in different formations in geographically distant neighborhoods. The report concludes that the footage was carefully stage managed to create the greatest emotional impact on foreign audiences. These videos were then used by the Obama administration to convince the Senate of their case for military intervention.
Conclusion: What the study [ISTEAMS report] does is logically point out through its observations that there is empirical evidence that the sample of videos that the US Intelligence Community has analyzed and nominated as authentic footage has been stage-managed.
Some discrepancies and inconsistencies in the videos that the Obama Administration used in their case against the Syrian government:
- The same couple appears as parents looking for their children in two different videos and each time they claim a different child as theirs among the corpses.
- The same groups that have been involved with posting and disseminating the videos that the US Intelligence Community has selected have also tried to pass pictures of Egyptian civilians killed in Cairo’s Rabaa Al-Adawiya Square as Syrian victims.
- The body of a little boy in a red shirt that was filmed in Zamalka and then in filmed again among different bodies in Jobar and the inanimate bodies of at least nine of the children that filmed in Kafarbatna also oddly appear at makeshift morgue in Al-Majr a few hours later.
- Why, in many instances, are the same individuals shown as both dead and alive?
- The report also highlights the fact that there have been no public funerals or announcements about all the dead children. This is outside of both cultural and religious norms.
- In the footage of one burial, only eight people are buried and three of them are not even covered in white shrouds, which is a compulsory ritual.
- Where are remaining 1,458 corpses other than the eight whose burials have been documented?
- A large amount (150 cases are known) of women and children were abducted on August 4, 2013 in Latakia by the anti-government forces, specifically by Jabhat Al-Nusra, as hostages to be used for negotiations and trade with the Syrian government for captured insurgents. ISTEAMS mentions that that Syrians from Latakia have come forward claiming that their relatives were on display in the footage that the US Intelligence Community has showcased to justify bombing Syria. The Latakia connection would explain a lot of the questions that arise about the bodies of the unaccompanied children.
Source and more in The Chemical Attacks in East Ghouta Used to Justify a Military Intervention in SyriaBy Mother Agnes Mariam, September 16, 2013 and in ISTEAMS report .
Some other related random excerpts about the Syrian CW case:
- An indictment from the Adana Public Prosecutor’s Office has declared that anti-Assad gangs are known to be producing chemical weapons inside of Turkey.Prosecution attorney presented the court with a 132-page document which contained prosecution attorney’s gathered evidence of the suspects’ links to terrorist groups in Syria including al-Nusra Front and al-Qaeda-linked Islamic States on Iraq and Levant (Ahrar al-Sham).On May 28 Turkish security forces found a 2-kg cylinder with sarin gas after searching the homes of terrorists from the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front who were previously detained.
The recent findings on the chemical weapons attack of Aug. 21 on the outskirts of Damascus, Syria, was “indeed a self-inflicted attack” by the Syrian opposition to provoke U.S. and military intervention in Syria. An Italian former journalist Domenico Quirico and a Belgian researcher Pierre Piccinin who were recently freed from their al-Nusra captives say they overheard their captors talking about their involvement in a deadly chemical attack “last month,” which would have been the Aug. 21, 2013 chemical weapons attack in Damascus.
The sarin nerve gas used in the Allepo attack, sources say, had been prepared by former Iraqi Military Industries Brig. Gen. Adnan al-Dulaimi. It then was supplied to Baath-affiliated foreign fighters of the Sunni and Saudi Arabian-backed al-Nusra Front in Aleppo, with Turkey’s cooperation, through the Turkish town of Antakya in Hatay Province.
- Currently a UN team of CW inspectors are in Syria and investigating three chemical weapons attacks alleged to have happened after the 21 August attack in Damascus that left hundreds dead and sparked a threat of US military action.The UN said its team, led by Ake Sellstrom, arrived in Syria for its second visit on 25 September and it is working on a “comprehensive report” that it expects to have finished by late October. The UN listed the alleged attacks, which all took place this year, as Khan al-Assal on 19 March; Sheikh Maqsoud on 13 April; Saraqeb on 29 April; Ghouta on 21 August; Bahhariya on 22 August; Jobar on 24 August and Ashrafieh Sahnaya on 25 August. Damascus pushed for the investigation of the three post-21 August incidents, accusing “militants” of using chemical gas against the army in Bahhariya, Jobar and Ashrafieh Sahnaya.
- And a short background video about use of CW in Syria:
September 25 is the date of dramatic turn of events in Syria. The consequences may affect the way the situation unfolds further on. The plans to stage a provocation and get the West involved in the conflict had failed, so the opposition threw away the democratic veil and showed its real face. Thirteen most combat capable groups severed ties with the National Syrian Coalition and the Free Syrian Army to form an Islamic alliance of their own. Jabhat-al-Nusra, an Al Qaeda affiliated group, is the core element of the new coalition. Liwa al-Tawhid, Liwa al-Islam and Suqur Al-Sham and a number of smaller groups joined the new alliance.
There is no other way to preserve any influence for secular opposition but to reach a reasonable compromise with Bashar Assad within the framework of Geneva peace process. More in my recent article Demolition Of CW Stockpiles Is Only Contributory Factor In The Syria War
- The Four-stage Plan For Syria – Can It Work
- Whodunnit in Syria
- Syrian Rebels Admit Chemical Attack In Damascus???
- Syria: From War To Dissolution With Help Of Media
“The main conclusion is that the type of sarin used in that [Aleppo, March 2013] incident was homemade. We also have evidence to assert that the type of sarin used on August 21 was the same, only of higher concentration.” Russian FM Sergey Lavrov