Oil produced by the Islamic State group finances its bloodlust. But how is it extracted, transported and sold? Who is buying it, and how does it reach Israel?
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By Al-Araby al-Jadeed staff
Date of publication: 26 November, 2015
Let’s unite against the project by Al-Qaïda and Daesh
French intellectual, founder and chairman of Voltaire Network and the Axis for Peace Conference. His columns specializing in international relations feature in daily newspapers and weekly magazines in Arabic, Spanish and Russian. His last two books published in English : 9/11 the Big Lie
“In Syria It’s Secularism Versus Religious Extremism”
The conflict which has plunged Syria into mourning is not a war opposing different communities, but a war between two projects for society.
On one side, a modern, secular Syria, in other words, a society which is respectful of ethnic, religious, and political diversity ; on the other, the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood, who, since their creation in 1928, have been seeking to re-establish the Ottoman caliphate by means of jihad.
The Muslim Brotherhood claim that they wish to defend and propagate Islam. But their interpretation of the Qur’an excludes any spiritual experience of Allah, thus reducing it to a simple legal manual. They are preaching a religion without God.
From 1954, although the Muslim Brotherhood had assassinated two Egyptian Prime Ministers, the CIA decided to use them to destabilize the Soviet Union as well as to combat the Arab nationalist movements. As a result, Syria was obliged to deal with a murderous cycle of terrorist attacks (1978-82), until the military branch of the organisation was defeated at Hama.
In 1979, the Western powers decided to use the Muslim Brotherhood, with the help of Saudi Arabia, and under the command of Osama Bin Laden, to fight the Communist Afghan government. During the Cold War and afterwards, bin Laden’s men were used as a paramilitary force in ex-Yugoslavia (Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia), and then in the Russian Caucasus (Chechnya).
In 2005, Qatar took over from the Saudis. With their new sponsorship, the Brotherhood managed to convince some of us that they had changed, and that they were now able to exercise power. David Petraeus, against the advice of the White House, gave his support to the « Arab Spring ». At first won over by this movement, Tunisians, Egyptians, Libyans and Syrians quickly rose in revolt against the Brotherhood.
In 2012, the White House, exasperated, demanded the abdication of the Emir of Qatar and got rid of David Petraeus. The Muslim Brotherhood then placed themselves under the protection of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
The situation entered a new phase with Daesh’s decision to proclaim a caliphate, despite the opposition of Al-Qaïda, for whom the time of the caliphate had not yet come. Little by little, the multitude of fanatical groupuscules in Africa and Asia who were inspired by the Brotherhood rallied together under the blood-stained sabre of the « Caliphe ». Terrorism mushroomed. After the political assassinations, after the para-military operations, the Brotherhood began ideological cleansing on a massive scale, purging the Sunni community and massacring all others, until, finally, they reigned only over a vast cemetery. They did not hide their ambition to overthrow all the Arab régimes and to attack us on our own territory.
It’s time to make a true assessment of the activity of the Brotherhood and check our a prioris, which have been based on the lies spread about this unfortunate alliance.
Faced with the uninterrupted tidal wave of jihadists from all over the world, including our own nation, the Syrians have chosen to save their own people before defending their own land. Currently, 12 million of them have been forced to flee the combat zones. 4 million are now refugees in neighbouring countries, while 8 million have been able to seek protection by moving to the territories administered by the Republic. Of the 19 million who have stayed in Syria, almost 500,000 are now in the clutches of the jihadists, spread out across a vast territory.
Since the creation of Baba Amr’s « Islamic Emirate » (2012), in all of the occupied territories, including those administered by the « Free Syrian Army », whom we qualify as « legitimate opposition », schools have either been closed or burned, alcohol is forbidden, women are not allowed to leave their homes without being veiled and accompanied by a man of their family, and polygamy has been legalised. Everywhere, including in countries which are our allies, and whom we call « democratic », the right to vote has been repealed, our common heritage has been destroyed, homosexuals are thrown from windows, and slavery has been re-established. The jihadists kidnap any women they like as spoils of war and abuse them. Children are inducted by force and used as soldiers, kamikazes, or executioners.
Syria is a Republic, in other words, its government serves the general interest under the control of universal suffrage. The fact that the Syrian people participated massively in their elections, and that the results were validated by the diplomats present in Damascus is enough to prove that statement. Since the signing of the Geneva Communique (2012), the Syrian government has scrupulously applied its recommendations, and the country moves every day a little closer to Democracy.
However, we remain blinded by the war propaganda of our allies, like that of the « Syrian Observatory for Human Rights », a London-based branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, or the « National Council », a non-elected assembly dominated by the Brotherhood. Consequently, we continue to accuse Syria of being a dictatorship, of using chemical weapons, or having killed 11,000 of their citizens under torture. And yet, we are not so sure – after the signature of the 5+1 agreement with Iran, the Coalition helped the Syrians to defend Al-Hasakah.
Our resentment towards them is the result of a misunderstanding. We have been persuaded that Syria sought the destruction of the Israeli people. This is untrue. Syrians are a peaceful people. Their only request, in conformity with the pertinent UNO resolutions, is the restitution of the Golan Heights, which are still illegally occupied. President Bill Clinton organised negotiations to this end, which failed only because of the inflexibility of the Israeli party, to which he attested in his memoirs. Syria now awaits the resumption – and closure – of these talks.
By supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, we have opened the gates of Hell. Let’s help the Syrians and the Iraquis to close them again. Let’s answer the appeal of President Putin. Together, let’s defeat barbarism, save civilisation, and re-establish peace.
Translation Pete Kimberley
In my earlier articles – see appendix on the end – I claimed that there’s little dispute that a chemical agent was used in an Aug. 21st 2013 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. The CW attack nearly led to U.S. military intervention against Syria. From my perspective this case should not be forgotten as it is a good example about media war and can be repeared as e.g. as false flag operation in other theatres.
It might be possible that US did not implemented planned military intervention against Syria as its political leadership knew first that Syrian rebels had chemical weapons, second it knew that Al Assad regime maybe not used CW in Damascus August 2013 and third that Syrian opposition might on the end not be better alternative than Al Assad.
However now Prof. Tim Andersson his comprehensive analysis – Chemical Fabrications: East Ghouta and Syria’s Missing Children – reblogged here below:
The dirty war on Syria has involved repeated scandals, often fabricated against the Syrian Government to help create pretexts for deeper intervention. Perhaps the most notorious was the East Ghouta incident of August 2013, where pictures of dead or drugged children were uploaded from an Islamist-held agricultural area east of Damascus, with the claim that the Syrian Government had used chemical weapons to murder hundreds of innocents. The incident generated such attention that direct US intervention was only averted by a Russian diplomatic initiative. The Syrian Government agreed to eliminate its entire stockpile of chemical weapons (Smith-Spark and Cohen 2013), maintaining that it had never used them in the recent conflict.
Indeed, all the independence evident on the East Ghouta incident (including evidence from the US and the UN) shows that the Syrian Government was falsely accused. This followed a series of other false accusations, ‘false flag’ claims recorded by senior nun Mother Agnes (SANA 2011), a shamefully biased investigation into the Houla massacre (see Anderson 2015) and failed or exposed attempts to blame the Syrian Government over Islamist group killings, for example at Daraya and Aqrab (Fisk 2012; Thompson 2012). The Islamist groups’ use of chemical weapons was mostly dismissed by the western powers, and that dismissal has been reflected in most western media reports. However, because the chemical weapon claims have been repeated for years, public perceptions seem to have little reference to facts based on evidence. After a little background, let’s consider the independent evidence on the East Ghouta incident, in some detail. Arising from that evidence we are led to another serious crime of war, the fate of the dead or drugged children portrayed in those infamous images.
1. Chemical Weapons in Syria
Chemical weapons are a crude relic of an earlier era, such as the trench warfare of a century ago. They have no utility in urban warfare, where an army hunts armed groups amongst streets, buildings and civilian populations. No real utility, unless a ruthless party wants to create a general panic. In the case of the Syrian Arab Army, their conventional weapons were far superior to such crude weapons and their urban warfare training, often done in Iran, had the aim of rooting out terrorist groups, building by building (al Akhras 2013). A stockpile of chemical weapons had been kept as a deterrent to Israel, which holds nuclear weapons; but there had been no proven use of them in recent decades.
By mid 2013 the war had turned in favour of the Government. Although parts of Aleppo and some parts of eastern Syria were held by various Islamist groups, the Army had secured the major populated areas in western Syria and had closed much of the armed traffic across the mountainous Lebanese border. Along the borders with states which backed the Islamists – Turkey, Israel and Jordan – there were regular incursions, but they were always beaten back by the Syrian Army. Over May-June 2013 the Army, backed by Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia, took back the city of Qusayr, south-west of Homs, from a combination of the Farouq Brigade and Jabhat al Nusra, including many foreigners (Mortada 2013).
In this context anti-government armed Islamist groups were accused of using chemical weapons. The main foreign support group for the Syrian Islamists, Jabhat al Nusra, were reported to have seized a chemical factory near Aleppo in December 2012 (Gerard Direct 2012). Then in March the Syrian Government complained to the UN that sarin gas had been used in a major battle with the Islamists at Khan al Assal, west of Aleppo. The Syrian news agency SANA reported that terrorists had fired a rocket ‘containing chemical materials’, killing 16 people and wounding 86, soldiers and civilians. The death toll later rose to 25 (Barnard 2013). The Muslim Brotherhood-aligned British-based source, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, along with other anti-government ‘activists’, confirmed the casualties but insinuated that the Syrian Army might have used the weapons and ‘accidentally’ hit themselves (Barnard 2013). Western media reports mostly elevated the Islamist counter-claims to the level of the Government’s report. In April 2013 Jabhat al Nusra was reported as having gained access to chlorine gas (NTI 2013).
About Khan al Asal, a 19 March statement from Syria’s UN Ambassador, Bashar al Ja’afari, said that ‘armed terrorist groups had fired a rocket from the Kfar De’il area towards Khan Al Asal (Aleppo district) … a thick cloud of smoke had left unconscious anyone who had inhaled it. The incident reportedly resulted in the deaths of 25 people and injured more than 110 civilians and soldiers who were taken to hospitals in Aleppo’. The following day the Syrian Government ‘requested the Secretary-General to establish a specialized, impartial independent mission to investigate the alleged incident’ (UNMIAUCWSAA 2013: 2-3).
Almost immediately following this, from 21 March onwards, the governments of the USA, France and Britain (all of which were by then directly or indirectly supporting the Islamist groups) began to add a series of incidents, claiming the use of chemical weapons in Syria (UNMIAUCWSAA 2013: 2-6). Washington repeatedly claimed there was ‘no proof’ the ‘rebels’ were responsible for chemical weapon use. They sought to turn the accusations against the Syrian Government.
However, in an interim statement in May, UN investigator Carla del Ponte said she had testimony from victims that ‘rebels’ had used sarin gas (BBC 2013). Then in May, Turkish security forces were reported to have found a 2kg canister of sarin, after raiding the homes of Jabhat al Nusra fighters (RT 2013). In July Russia announced it had evidence that Syrian ‘rebels’ were making their own sarin gas (Al Jazeera 2013).
Despite dissatisfaction over the Houla inquiry the previous year (see Anderson 2015), the Syrian Government invited UN inspectors to visit the Khan al Asal attack site. Details were organised and the UN’s Special Mission finally arrived in Damascus on 18 August 2013. The Mission ‘intended to contemporaneously investigate the reported allegations of the use of chemical weapons in Khan Al Asal, Saraqueb and Sheik Maqsood’, that is three of the 16 reported sites, ‘which were deemed credible’. However, ‘after the tragic events of 21 August 2013’ the UN Secretary General directed the group to investigate that incident ‘as a matter of priority’ (UNMIAUCWSAA 2013: 7-8). The East Ghouta incident and claims of mass gassing derailed the initially planned investigations. Despite the implausibility of the Syrian Government launching a chemical weapons attack, just as it had invited UN inspectors in Damascus, the Islamist claims succeeded in gaining world attention.
2. The East Ghouta Incident
The main armed Islamist group which controlled the area, the Saudi-backed Islamic Front (Liwa al Islam), blamed the Government for gassing children. Photos of dozens of dead or injured children were circulated. Supporting the ‘rebel’ accusations, the US government and the Washington-based Human Rights Watch blamed the Syrian government. Human Rights Watch said it had ‘analyzed witness accounts of the rocket attacks, information on the likely source of the attacks, the physical remnants of the weapon systems used’, and claimed the rockets used were ‘weapon systems known and documented to be only in the possession of, and used by, Syrian government armed forces’ (HRW 2013a). Much the same was said by the US Government. Close links between the two should tell us that this was more collaboration than corroboration. A group of Nobel Prize winners would later accuse Human Rights Watch of running a ‘revolving door’ between its offices and those of the US government (Pérez Esquivel, and Maguire 2014).
The New York Times backed the US Government claim ‘that only Syrian government forces had the ability to carry out such a strike’ (Gladstone and Chivers 2013). The paper claimed vector calculations of the rocket trajectories indicated they must have been fired from Syrian Army bases in Damascus (Parry 2013). Yet studies at MIT quickly showed the rockets to have a much shorter range than was suggested. The NYT retreated from its telemetry claims saying, while ‘some argued that it was still possible the government was responsible’, new evidence ‘undermined the Obama administration’s assertions’ about the rocket launch points’ (Chivers 2013; also Parry 2013). The final MIT report was more emphatic, concluding that the rockets ‘could not possibly have been fired at East Ghouta from the ‘heart’, or from the eastern edge, of the Syrian Government controlled area shown in the intelligence map published by the White House on August 30, 2013’ (Lloyd and Postol 2014).
While western media outlets mostly repeated Washington’s accusations, independent reports continued to contradict the story. Journalists Dale Gavlak and Yahya Ababneh reported direct interviews with ‘doctors, Ghouta residents, rebel fighters and their families’ in the East Ghouta area. Many believed that the Islamists had received chemical weapons via Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, and were responsible for carrying out the gas attack (Gavlak and Ababneh 2013). The father of a rebel said his son had asked ‘what I thought the weapons were that he had been asked to carry’. His son and 12 other rebels were ‘killed inside of a tunnel used to store weapons provided by a Saudi militant, known as Abu Ayesha’ (Gavlak and Ababneh 2013). A female fighter complained they had no instructions on how to use chemical weapons. A rebel leader said much the same. Many of those interviewed reported that their salaries came from the Saudi government (Gavlak and Ababneh 2013).
Next a Syrian group, ISTEAMS, led by Mother Agnes Mariam, carried out a detailed examination of the video evidence, noting that bodies had been manipulated for the images and that many of the children appeared ill or drugged (ISTEAMS 2013: 32-35). The videos used ‘artificial scenic treatment … there is a flagrant lack of real families in East Ghouta … so who are the children that are exposed in those videos? (ISTEAMS 2013: 44). All reports came from ‘rebel’ controlled areas. The medical office of the area claimed 10,000 injured and 1,466 killed, 67% of whom were women and children; while the Local Coordinating Committee (an FSA linked group) said there were 1,188 victims; but videos showed less than 500 bodies, by no means all dead (ISTEAMS 2013: 36-38). Even more striking was the subsequent absence of verified bodies. ‘Eight corpses are seen buried. [The] remaining 1,458 corpses, where are they? Where are the children?’ (ISTEAMS 2013: 41). A ‘rebel’ spokesperson claimed that ‘burials took place quickly for fear the bodies might decompose as a result of the heat’ (Mroue 2013).
The ISTEAMS report suggested a possible link with a large scale abduction of children in Ballouta, Northern Latakia, just two weeks prior to the East Ghouta incident. ‘We refer also the list of the victims of the invasion of 11 Alawite villages in Lattakia the 4th of August 2013, where 150 women and children were abducted by Jobhat Al Nosra’ (ISTEAMS 2013: 43). The report said: ‘the families of some adducted women and children … recognise their relatives in the videos’, and called for an ‘unbiased’ investigation to determine the identity and whereabouts of the children (ISTEAMS 2013: 44). Later reports noted that the children abducted in northern Syria had been held in the northern town of Selma (Martin 2014; Mesler 2014), with one alleging the armed groups had drugged those children to create a video, sending it to East Ghouta to be uploaded (Mesler 2014). If this were true, those children were never in the East Ghouta.
At the end of 2013 a Turkish lawyers and writers group issued a substantial report on crimes against civilians in Syria. A particular focus was the responsibility of the Turkish Government, which was backing the ‘rebel’ groups. The report concluded that ‘most of the crimes’ against Syrian civilians, including the East Ghouta attack, were committed by ‘armed rebel forces in Syria’. The Saudi backed group Liwa al Islam, led by Zahran Alloush, was said ‘by several sources to be the organization behind the chemical attack (Peace Association and Lawyers for Justice 2013).
North American veteran journalist Seymour Hersh interviewed intelligence agents and concluded that Washington’s claims on the evidence had been fabricated. Al Nusra ‘should have been a suspect’, he said, ‘but the [US] administration cherry picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad’ (Hersh 2013). President Obama cited as evidence the Syrian Army’s preparation for a gas attack and ‘chatter’ on the Syrian airwaves at the time of the incident. However Hersh said he had found ‘intense concern’ and anger amongst agents over ‘the deliberate manipulation of intelligence’. One officer said the attack ‘was not the result of the current regime’ (Hersh 2013). The White House backgrounder combined facts after the event with those before. Hersh concludes that the White House ‘disregarded the available intelligence about al-Nusra’s potential access to sarin and continued to [wrongly] claim that the Assad government was in sole possession of chemical weapons’ (Hersh 2013).
The UN special mission on chemical weapons returned to Syria in late September and investigated several sites, including East Ghouta. They decided to investigate seven of the initial sixteen reports (UNMIAUCWSAA 2013: 10). This Mission was not briefed to determined responsibility, but rather to determine whether chemical weapons had been used and what had been the results. In a December 2013 report they reported that chemical weapons had been used in Syria, and specifically ‘against civilians, including children, on a relatively large scale in the Ghouta area of Damascus on 21 August … in Khan Al Asal on 19 March 2013 against soldiers and civilians … in Jobar on 24 August 2013 on a relatively small scale against soldiers … in Saraqueb on 24 August 2013 on a small scale, also against civilians … [and] in Ashrafiah Sahnaya on 25 August 2013 on a small scale against soldiers’ (UNMIAUCWSAA 2013: 19-21). Notice that on three of these five occasions chemical weapons were used against soldiers. Logically those attacks came from groups were fighting soldiers, not from government forces. A later report for the Human Rights Council (February 2014) noted that the chemical agents used in Khan-Al-Assal attack ‘bore the same unique hallmarks as those used in al Ghouta’; however they could not determine the perpetrator (HRC 2014: 19). The independent evidence was overwhelming and inescapable: chemical weapons had been used in East Ghouta, but the charges against the Syrian Army were fabricated.
|East Ghouta chemical weapons incident (August 2013): significant reports|
|Source/report/evidence||Method and conclusion|
|Carla del Ponte (UN)||Pre-East Ghouta: ‘Rebels’ believed to have used sarin gas in North Syria|
|Various news reports||Pre-East Ghouta: ‘Rebels’ (al Nusra) arrested in Turkey with sarin gas|
|‘Syrian Rebels’ and associates||1,300+ killed, including children, from Government CW shelling (however only 8 bodies are publicly buried)|
|Human Rights Watch||The CW used were only in possession of the SG|
|New York Times||Telemetry evidence links attacks to SG bases (later MIT studies force NYT to modify this claim)|
|Lloyd and Postol (MIT)||Rockets used had limited range and could not have been fired from suggested SG positions.|
|Gavlak and Ababneh (MINT Press)||CW had been supplied by Saudis to ‘rebel’ groups, some locals had died due to mishandling|
|Mother Agnes / ISTEAMS||Images were contrived, no social context, only eight people buried – who are the children?|
|John Mesler (NSNBC)||Parents identified children in photos as those kidnapped in Latakia, two weeks earlier|
|Seymour Hersh (LRB)||Interviewed US officials. Intelligence was manipulated to blame President Assad, false claims used.|
|Turkish lawyers and writers group (PALJ)||Saudi backed ‘rebel’ group Liwa al Islam believed to be responsible.|
|UN Dec 2013 report on CW attacks in Syria||CW were used in East Ghouta; three of five CW attacks were ‘against soldiers’ or ‘against soldiers and civilians’|
|HRC Feb 2014 report||chemical agents used in Khan-Al-Assal attack ‘bore the same unique hallmarks’ as those used in East Ghouta|
Independent evidence came from Syrian, Jordanian, Turkish and US sources, and from a United Nations team. Further, many of the displays of children were not reliably linked to East Ghouta. Nor is there independent verification of who those children are and what happened to them. The weight of evidence proves this was another ‘false flag’ incident, designed to attract deeper foreign intervention. The scale of independent reporting which undermines claims against the Syrian Government stands in contrast to the open self-publicity of ‘rebel’ atrocities such as beheadings, public executions, truck bombings, mortaring of cities, bombing of hospitals and destruction of mosques and churches. The fact that the Syrian Army strongly contests civilian atrocity claims (the treatment of captured fighters is another matter), while many of the ‘rebel’ groups publicise their own atrocities against civilians, sets a distinct background to these controversies.
3. Chemical Fabrications and Syria’s Missing Children
After the East Ghouta incident, Islamist groups supported by a range of anti-Syrian governments kept up their accusations, while covering up their own exposures. Jabhat al Nusra claimed the chemicals they were caught with in Turkey were ‘not for making sarin gas’ (Today’s Zaman 2013). Yet video evidence from south Syria showed al Nusra using chemical weapons against Syrian soldiers (Turbeville 2014). In July 2014 barrels containing sarin were reported as discovered in parts of ‘rebel-held Syria’ (RT 2014). Then in 2015 Iraqi Kurds reported the al-Nusra breakaway group ISIS using chemical weapons (Solomon 2015; Ariel 2015). Kurdish fighters seized chlorine canisters after a suicide bomb attack which left them ‘dizzy, nauseous and weak’ (Akbar 2015).
Anti-Syrian ‘activists’, plus US-based NGOs such as Avaaz, the Syria Campaign and The White Helmets, also repeated and extended their accusations, while urging a Libyan styled ‘no fly zone’ (NFZ Syria 2015; White Helmets 2015), clearly intended to topple the Government in Damascus. By 2014 there seemed little chance that would happen. Such one-sided campaigns seemed unlikely to do much except help extend the killings. In April 2014 Al Jazeera accused the Syrian Government of using chlorine gas (Baker 2014), while anonymous activists’ accused the Syrian army of a poison gas attack (Mroue and Lucas 2015). In neither case was there any independent verification. Counter-campaigners exposed the financial and political links between Washington and a range of US-based ‘civil society’ groups like Avaaz (Morningstar 2014; Sterling 2015). Nevertheless, media channels repeated the initial claims of the East Ghouta incident, as though they were fact, oblivious to the evidence. An April 2015 article in the UK Guardian, for example, claimed in its backgrounder that the Syrian Government had used chemical weapons and ‘killed up to 1,400 people in August 2013’ (Black 2015).
The smokescreens around chemical weapons have effectively derailed reasonable public discussion about the war in Syria, at least in western circles; and perhaps that was the point. It is sad, though, that reasonable discussion of the evidence should matter so little. Further, the constant stream of fabrications have certainly aggravated and helped prolong the violence. Islamist militia carry out their crimes with relative impunity, often blaming them on the Syrian Government.
Another crime has been buried by the chemical fabrications: the fate of the children kidnapped in Ballouta. Even Human Rights Watch reported this crime (HRW 2013b), if not the link to the children said to have been injured or killed in East Ghouta. This mass kidnapping was just one of many by the Islamist groups. The victims are held for ransom, for prisoner exchanges, or simply slaughtered because they are thought be from pro-government families. The latter was the case with Alawi families in the Aqrab massacre (Thompson 2012), while a failed prisoner exchange was behind the Daraya massacre (Fisk 2012).
However in the East Ghouta incident, several sources (ISTEAMS 2013; Martin 2014; Mesler 2014) now link the Ballouta children to the photos of the dead or drugged little bodies said to be in Ghouta. That is, their images may have been uploaded from East Ghouta but the bodies were never there. While some of those kidnapped were released in a 2014 prisoner exchange, many are still held; and this is said to be why many families in north Syria have not yet more publicly identified their children. The want to see them released. Western media sources continue refer to ’1,400′ dead, without names, but only eight bodies are known to have been buried. In the fog of war, Mother Agnes Mariam has been right all along to insist on names and details of people killed, and not just a recital of numbers, as though these killings were a cricket match. Back in September 2013 her ISTEAMS group posed one of the most most vital questions of this whole affair: ‘Eight corpses are seen buried’. [The] remaining 1,458 corpses, where are they? Where are the children?’ (ISTEAMS 2013: 41).
Al Akhras, Samir (2013) Interview with this writer, Damascus, 24 December
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Mesler, John (2014) ‘Combating the Propaganda Machine in Syria: The ‘Moderate Opposition’, the Children from Ballouta, and the Sarin Gas Attack on Eastern Ghouta’, NSNBC, 10 October, online: http://nsnbc.me/2014/10/10/combating-propaganda-machine-syria/
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Original article by Tim Anderson [GlobalResearch 12/4/2015]
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Syria Updates: The New Islamic Front And Whodunnit III
Syria Chemical Weapons Attack – Whodunnit II
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
Odessa is not only Ukraine’s most important remaining port for access to the Black Sea. It has also allegedly been a key avenue for Russian companies to export, sometimes with illicit or controversial purposes, goods overseas. Russian arms to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad allegedly flowed through Odessa, for example.
In my earlier article Arms Trade: The Crux Of The MIC I described where U.S. and Russia were supplying their weaponry as part of geopolitical game. One part of international arms trade is made via semi-official channels or through clandestine operations. One example about these activities – from U.S. side – is described in my article – U.S. Recycles Its Old Balkan Practice With Syria . Now there is also an example of implemented practice from Russian side.
Russia’s biggest, money-making exports — after oil and gas and other natural resources — is weaponry. Russia’s state-owned defence equipment export company Rosoboronexport seemingly has had a record year, reporting exports of almost $39 billion in 2013-14. The regions of Ukraine where pro-Russian separatists are rebelling is home to more than 50 factories that have been building specialized military equipment for Moscow over the last two decades.
Most of Russia’s massive arms exports was channeled through the Ukrainian port of Oktyabrsk – about 100 km east of Odessa. Oktyabrsk is specially built by the Soviet Union to ship weapons and possesses a number of qualities making it well-suited for arms exports: advantageous geography, specialized equipment, transportation infrastructure to major FSU defense-industrial plants, and more.
At least until 2014 Oktyabrsk the highly secure, very Russian “specialized sea port” from which the Kremlin exported out Kh-55 cruise missiles to Iran, Pechora-2 surface-to-air missiles to Eritrea, T-72 tanks to Venezuela and South Sudan, even more tanks and rockets to Myanmar (Burma) … and all of the above to Syria.
The Odessa Network
A new study by independent conflict researchers describes a heavy volume of traffic in the past two years from Ukraine’s Oktyabrsk port, just up the Black Sea coast from Odessa, to Syria’s main ports on the Mediterranean. In late 2012, Farley Mesko and Tom Wallace – security analysts at C4ADS – began investigating an intricate network of Ukraine-based individuals and logistics companies responsible for transporting weapons out of Russia and Ukraine on behalf of government sellers. Their report – The Odessa Network: Mapping Facilitators of Russian and Ukrainian Arms Transfers (later the report) presents a picture of a very opaque system, in this case the system of maritime arms transfers related to the Russian government and former Ukrainian government. C4ADS is a ,Washington-based, nonprofit research organization whose mission is to understand global conflict and security through on-the-ground research and data-driven analysis.
Despite being in Ukraine, Oktyabrsk “is functionally controlled by Russia,” and the port is headed by a former Russian navy captain and owned by a business magnate with close ties to the Kremlin, the report said. Major Russian weapons exporters have offices there, alongside Ukrainian and Russian shipping and logistics companies the report has dubbed the “Odessa Network”. Oktyabrsk is specially built by the Soviet Union to ship weapons and possesses a number of qualities making it well-suited for arms exports: advantageous geography, specialized equipment, transportation infrastructure to major FSU defense-industrial plants, and more.
The Odessa Network is a loose collection of logistics contractors for the governments of Russia and Ukraine, not independent arms dealers. Key companies and figures in Odessa include Kaalbye Group, Phoenix Trans-Servis. Affiliated EU and Russian shipping firms such as Briese Schiffahrts (and its subsidiary BBC Chartering) and Balchart play an important specialized role in transporting particularly large or sensitive shipments. To protect their weapons shipments, some of the Ukrainian and Russian firms own or contract with multiple private maritime security companies – such as Moran Security Group, Muse Professional Group, Helicon Security, Changsuk Security Group, and Al Mina Security Group – who also operate in African conflict zones. These companies’ business model revolves around staffing ships transiting dangerous areas (particularly the Gulf of Aden and Gulf of Guinea) with heavily armed FSU (Former Soviet Union) military veterans, who provide protection from pirates. The companies work with state weapons export agencies such as Rosoboronexport and Ukrspetsexport.
The Odessa Network is not a hierarchical, unitary organization. It is better characterized as a “contacts market:” clusters of individuals and firms geographically concentrated in a particular area, and performing a specific sub-task of the weapons-export process. For example, the primary logistics contractors for Russian and Ukrainian weapons exports are shipping companies headquartered in the city of Odessa, while the financial services sometimes used to ‘clean’ profits are located in Latvia.
According report there is evidence that some of these “Odessa Network” companies employ Latvian banks known or accused of money laundering and a series of Panamanian companies run by Latvian nationals who act as “proxy directors.”is a member of the EU, and so money cleaned through Latvia can readily be transferred into safe havens in Zurich or London. Over half of the $25 billion held in Latvian banks is held by foreign depositors; the IMF estimates FSU entities account for 90% of this.
The Weapons Shipment Data in report presents dataset on Russian and Ukrainian weapons shipments, and the ships, companies, and ports used to facilitate them. The dataset includes 43 separate shipment events, and at least 21 different purchasing countries. These shipments include weapons ranging from crates of surplus ammunition to state of the art SAM systems, customers ranging from countries in good international standing to states under active international sanction, and span over a decade of time. Some of these arms transfers are well-known, while others were previously undetected. These shipments were facilitated by a comparatively small group of Ukrainian and EU companies and individuals with close ties to one another, and to senior Russian and Ukrainian governmental and military-industrial officials. The report for example notes that Kaalbye –company carried arms to President Assad’s forces in Syria in 2012 and to the Venezuela government from 2011 to 2013. Previous shipments have included cruise missiles to China and Iran, assault rifles and grenades to Angola, and tanks and RPGs to South Sudan.
A network of Ukraine-based individuals and logistics companies—referred to as the “Odessa Network” due to its key leadership being located in Odessa, Ukraine—is responsible for transporting weapons out of Russia and Ukraine on behalf of government sellers. Odessa Network company leaders have personal and financial relationships with cabinet level officials in the Russian and Ukrainian governments.
According the report the Odessa companies’ greatest asset: connections. Link and network analysis reveals that the Odessa companies and personnel are the center of a rich network of businesses and individuals who provide all the services necessary for a weapons shipment to occur. The Odessa Network firms are logistics contractors for the Russian and Ukrainian governments. State agencies such as Rosoboronexport and Ukrspetsexport own the weapons and broker almost all foreign sales. The Odessa Network companies play a critical role in making these arms transfers happen, but they only do so on behalf of powerful customers in Moscow and Kiev. The key assumption is that there must be persistent links and contractual relationships between the Odessa Network and government officials. The Odessa Network has moved billions of dollars of advanced military hardware, which indicates a high level of government trust in its competency and honesty, implying contact between leaders on both sides.
Click HERE for bigger picture.
The maritime shipments by Odessa Network are only one part of Russia’s and Ukraine’s arms trade. The Norwegian firm Eide Marine Services is the second most frequent weapons transporter in our dataset (after Kaalbye). Eide is a perfect example of how EU firms provide specialized ships to handle large or unusual cargo the Odessa firms cannot, such as warships and submarines. Eide is one of the few firms which possesses exactly such a ship, the Eide Transporter, which has been used multiple times to move unusual Russian military cargo to foreign customers. This includes Tarantul-class missile corvettes, Gepard-class frigates, and Svetlyak-class patrol boats to Vietnam, and Kilo-class submarines to China. However Eide-Odessa connections are unclear.
Many of Russia and Ukraine’s customers are geographic neighbors or landlocked, making it impractical or impossible to use sea transportation. For example, when Russia exports weapons to neighboring Kazakhstan it does so by plane, rail, or truck. Similarly, even distant customers may be purchasing military equipment that is typically not moved by sea. For example, Russia has a $300 million contract to supply Su–30 MK2 and Su–27 SKM fighters to Indonesia, but these are transported on An–124 transport aircraft, not ships. Similarly, Ukraine has a contract to supply BTR–3E1 APCs to Thailand, but previous shipments have been flown on an Il–76 to U-Tapao Airport, not shipped.
Selling of advanced weapons also indicates the facilitator of weapons shipments are an important foreign policy tool. Governmental ownership of exported weapons since the early 2000s confirms a narrative of Russian politics that emphasizes reassertion of state control over national assets (defense plants, oil and gas, industrial concerns, etc.) and profits resulting from sale of these assets being distributed to regime stakeholders via sanctioned corruption in exchange for political loyalty.
The situation in Ukraine has its effect to arms trade – not only to Russian exports but to imports too.The volume of import substitution program in the defense sector is 22.8 billion rubles, “Kommersant” writes citing a senior source in the Russian defense industry. “The sanctions will encourage the expansion of the programme of import substitution and speed up the development and introduction of new domestic technologies.”
Downriver from Dnepropetrovk is Zaporizhia, home of Motor Sich. While Russia was annexing the Crimea from Ukraine the Motor Sich inherited most of the former Soviet Union’s aeronautical engine manufacturing capability Motor Sich signed a new, upgraded co-operation agreement with Rostec, the umbrella organization for Russia’s defence industry.
Speaking about sanctions it is a bit ironic that the embargo on the rotorcraft engine exports to Russia will not have a negative impact on one significant contract – the delivery of 63 Mi-17V-5 tactical transport helicopters for the Afghan armed forces ordered by the US for some $1.33 billion.
As the Saudi backed plan to seduce US into military intervention against Syria failed due Russia’s successful initiative about destruction Syria’s chemical weapons some new developments e.g. in form of the new Islamic Front are ongoing as well investigative reporting brings more light to the question whodunnit in Damascus on Aug. 2013.
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states—Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates—along with certain Arab League countries, plus Turkey and Israel, have early December 2013 committed themselves to raising nearly $6 billion seed money for new Islamic Front (IF) in Syria. This coalition wants also USA to particapate onto a plan to oust the Syrian government by funding, arming, training and facilitating a front formed out of an alliance of seven “moderate” rebel factions. Beside of toppling the Assad regime the other benefit would be truncating Iran’s growing influence.
$6 billion might look big investment. However the ”marketing slogan” for US involvement is ”better six billon than six trillion”. The claim is well based to the definitive Brown University study (The Costs of War project), which examined costs of the US wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, the total amount for all three topped six trillion dollars . This never before released figure includes costs of direct and indirect Congressional appropriations, lost equipment, US military and foreign contractors fraud, and the cost of caring for wounded American servicemen and their families (war costs to date 4 trillion + interest rates 2 trillion for 40 years). In this sense few billions US money for IF could be a good bargain.
The new Islamic Front
Among the Islamist militia joining the new Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)-backed coalition are Aleppo’s biggest fighting force, Liwa al-Tawhid (Tawhid Brigade), the Salafist group Ahrar al-Sham, Suqour al-Sham, al-Haq Brigades, Ansar al-Sham and the Islamic Army, which is centered around Damascus. The Kurdish Islamic Front also reportedly joined the alliance. None of these groups have been designated foreign terrorist organizations by the US, and therefore, as an Israeli official argued in a meeting with AIPAC and Congress this week, nothing stands in the way of US funding and support for them. IF’s declared aim is to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government, whatever the human and material cost it may require, and replace it with an “Islamic state.”
This combined force – IF – is estimated by the CIA to number at around 75,000 fightersthat will fight under one command. What is not included to this new front is other Muslim militia—Daash or al-Nusra or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, for instance—that comprise the IF’s chief rivals.
According to sources in Aleppo and Damascus, the IF’s top leadership positions have been parceled out among five of the seven groups. Four days after the IF was announced, the organization released an official charter. The charter calls for an Islamic state and the implementation of sharia law, though it does not define exactly what this means. The IF is firmly against secularism, human legislation (i.e., it believes that laws come from God, not people), civil government, and a Kurdish breakaway state. The charter states that the group will secure minority rights in post-Assad Syria based on sharia, which could mean the dhimma (“protected peoples”) system, or de facto second-class citizenship for Christians and other minorities.
Some Washington officials and analysts are wondering if US participation would help unify notoriously hostile rebel ranks and curtail the growing power of al-Qaeda in Syria, or whether it is simply another Saudi project to create a hierarchical revolutionary army with the aim of fighting the Syrian regime essentially alongside al-Qaeda? (Source: Bibi and Bandar Badger Obama: Better Six Billion than Six Trillion! by Franklin Lamb – TRANSCEND Media Service)
A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda. While the initial conflict was disingenuously portrayed as the spontaneous militarization of unarmed protesters fighting against a “brutal regime,” in reality Al Nusra was already inside the country and operating on a national scale. The US State Department itself would reveal this in its December 2012 Terrorist Designations of the al-Nusrah Front as an Alias for al-Qa’ida in Iraq, which stated:
Since November 2011, al-Nusrah Front has claimed nearly 600 attacks – ranging from more than 40 suicide attacks to small arms and improvised explosive device operations – in major city centers including Damascus, Aleppo, Hamah, Dara, Homs, Idlib, and Dayr al-Zawr. During these attacks numerous innocent Syrians have been killed.
The terror implemented by those groups who are not included to the new Islamic Front continues against civilians. Recently Al-Qaeda linked Islamists have kidnapped at least 120 Kurdish civilians from a village in Aleppo province near the border with Turkey, Observatory for Human Rights reported. The incident is the latest in the armed conflict between Syrian Kurds and Islamic factions. 51 Kurdish civilians from the towns of Manbij and Jarablus, northeast of Aleppo, have been kidnapped by Islamist fighters since the beginning of December.
The armed opposition has been opportunistic and bloody from the start, targeting security forces, on and off duty, and pro-government civilians since March 2011. While there were indeed Syrian army defectors who joined the “revolution” early on in the conflict in response to government clampdowns and/or their own genuine political sentiments, much of the armed rebellion has been funded, assisted and organized from outside Syria’s borders. It is known, that non-Syrians were entering the country right from the beginning. These people were provided with wages, weapons, intelligence and training, with the expectation that a hard thrust against al-Assad’s government would unseat him in short shrift, much like what had already happened in other Arab states.
This opposition has been funded and assembled by foreign foes of Syria for geopolitical gain. Their goal was to unseat a “dictator” so that they could then come in and establish their own foreign-backed “dictatorship” at the heart of the Resistance Axis. The reason this opposition has never been able to articulate a cohesive, inclusive, political platform for the Syrian people is because they are all backed by different, sometimes competing, interests, and because their goal is not a politically reformed Syria, but instead the establishment of their own power and economic bases.
The new UN report
“The United Nations Mission concludes that chemical weapons have been used in the ongoing conflict between the parties in the Syrian Arab Republic,” (Åke Sellstrom, chief UN investigator )
A new UN report states that in addition to the widely publicised chemical weapons attack on August 21 near Damascus, such weapons were probably used in four other locations in Syria between March and late August. The findings show that in at least 3 attacks, civilians as well as soldiers were targeted, which is a strong indication that the rebels were in possession of chemical weapons and that these chemical weapons were used against both Syrian government forces as well as civilians. For example assessment reletaed to CW attack against soldiers (government forces) and civilians in Khan Al Asal on 19 March 2013 (p.19 in UN report) was in response to a formal request by the Syrian government. In a letter (dated 19 March 2013), the Representative of Syria to the UN informed the Secretary-General and the President of the Security Council of its allegation that, at 0730 hours on 19 March, armed terrorist groups had fired a rocket from the Kfar De’il area towards Khan Al Asal in the Aleppo governorate.
“What is written in the current report does not change but even confirms our conviction that fighters, not the Syrian government, are behind the use of chemical weapons in Syria,” Russian Permanent Envoy to the UN Vitaly Churkin said on Rossiya-24 news television channel.
But the revised UN analysis, attached to a new UN report on several other alleged chemical weapons incidents in Syria, punched a new hole in the notion that the Republican Guard fired a Sarin-laden missile into Moadamiyah. The UN inspectors found no chemical weapons agents on the remnants of the crudely made missile that landed in Moadamiyah (or for that matter no Sarin anywhere else in the area). In the earlier UN report about the Aug. 21 incident, one of two UN labs had detected on a metal fragment what the lab thought was a chemical residue that can be left behind by degraded Sarin. But the new analysis withdraws that finding, an indication of how fragile the chemistry can be in getting false positives on derivative chemical residue. The two UN laboratories are now in agreement that there was neither Sarin nor possible derivatives of Sarin on the metal fragments from the Moadamiyah missile.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon established the Sellstrom investigation after the Syrian government wrote to him accusing the rebels of carrying out the chemical weapons attack in Khan al-Assal. The United Nations has since received a total of 16 reports of possible chemical weapons use in Syria, mainly from the Syrian government, Britain, France and the United States. The experts looked closely at seven of those cases.
The new UN report suggests that Syrian rebels have developed a capability to produce at least crude chemical weapons and delivery systems, further adding to the possibility that the Aug. 21 attack east of Damascus could have resulted from a botched rebel launch of a makeshift missile aimed at government targets or as an accident. The investigation found likely use of chemical weapons in Khan al-Assal, near the northern city of Aleppo, in March; in Saraqeb, near the northern city of Idlib, in April; and in Jobar and Ashrafiat Sahnaya, near Damascus, in August. Rebels have seized all kinds of weapons from military depots across the country, according to the United Nations. Western powers say the rebels do not have access to chemical arms.
An annex to the UN report reproduced YouTube photographs of some recovered munitions, including a rocket that ‘indicatively matches’ the specifics of a 330mm calibre artillery rocket. The New York Times wrote that the existence of the rockets essentially proved that the Syrian government was responsible for the attack ‘because the weapons in question had not been previously documented or reported to be in possession of the insurgency’. Theodore Postol, a professor of technology and national security at MIT, reviewed the UN photos with a group of his colleagues and concluded that the large calibre rocket was an improvised munition that was very likely manufactured locally. The rocket in the photos, he added, fails to match the specifications of a similar but smaller rocket known to be in the Syrian arsenal. The New York Times, again relying on data in the UN report, also analysed the flight path of two of the spent rockets that were believed to have carried sarin, and concluded that the angle of descent ‘pointed directly’ to their being fired from a Syrian army base more than nine kilometres from the landing zone. However the range of the improvised rockets was ‘unlikely’ to be more than two kilometres.
Read the full (final) report here: United Nations Mission to Investigate Allegations of the Use of Chemical Weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic.
Mother Agnes Mariam in her interview: One of the reasons that I would like to see the graves is because 1,466 deaths is a real “social tsunami” in the Syrian society where everybody knows everybody and everybody is related. In the case of East Ghouta, we did not even have one case show up. We did not know of one single person who is dead. You know, to have relatives claiming this – the brother, the friend – nobody did. We did not have the “echo” of the death of 1,466 people. We are asking for a neutral inquiry with the presence of witnesses from both sides, where they will open the pits, see the victims, they will take samples randomly – where they took it, how they took it, etc. Samples should be sent to 5 labs under the same conditions and precautions. Until then there is a question mark on everything.
In a December article for the London Review of Books, investigative reporter Seymour Hersh confirmed that President Barack Obama misled the American people over the Aug. 21 (2013) Syrian chemical attack by cherry-picking evidence about the Syrian government’s presumed guilt and excluding suspicions about the rebels’ capability to produce their own Sarin gas. Hersh also reported that he discovered a deep schism within the U.S. intelligence community over how the case was sold to pin the blame on President Assad. Hersh wrote that he encountered “intense concern, and on occasion anger” when he interviewed American intelligence and military experts “over what was repeatedly seen as the deliberate manipulation of intelligence.” According to Hersh, “One high-level intelligence officer, in an email to a colleague, called the administration’s assurances of Assad’s responsibility a ‘ruse’. The attack ‘was not the result of the current regime’, he wrote.”
President Obama failed to acknowledge something known to the US intelligence community: that the Syrian army is not the only party in the country’s civil war with access to sarin. In the months before the attack, the American intelligence agencies produced a series of highly classified reports, culminating in a formal Operations Order – a planning document that precedes a ground invasion – citing evidence that the al-Nusra Front, a jihadi group affiliated with al-Qaida, had mastered the mechanics of creating sarin and was capable of manufacturing it in quantity. When the attack occurred al-Nusra should have been a suspect, but the administration cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad. A quote from mentioned Hersh article:
[President Obama] cited a list of what appeared to be hard-won evidence of Assad’s culpability: ‘In the days leading up to August 21st, we know that Assad’s chemical weapons personnel prepared for an attack near an area where they mix sarin gas. They distributed gas masks to their troops. Then they fired rockets from a regime-controlled area into 11 neighbourhoods that the regime has been trying to wipe clear of opposition forces.’ But in recent interviews with intelligence and military officers and consultants past and present, I found intense concern, and on occasion anger, over what was repeatedly seen as the deliberate manipulation of intelligence… A former senior intelligence official told me that the Obama administration had altered the available information – in terms of its timing and sequence – to enable the president and his advisers to make intelligence retrieved days after the attack look as if it had been picked up and analysed in real time, as the attack was happening.
Hersh describes also that in Syria there is also a secret sensor system inside Syria, designed to provide early warning of any change in status of the regime’s chemical weapons arsenal. The sensors are monitored by the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), the agency that controls all US intelligence satellites in orbit. NRO sensors have been implanted near all known chemical warfare sites in Syria. They are designed to provide constant monitoring of the movement of chemical warheads stored by the military. But far more important, in terms of early warning, is the sensors’ ability to alert US and Israeli intelligence when warheads are being loaded with sarin. A chemical warhead, once loaded with sarin, has a shelf life of a few days or less – the nerve agent begins eroding the rocket almost immediately. The sensors detected no movement in the months and days before 21 August. It is of course possible that sarin had been supplied to the Syrian army by other means, but the lack of warning meant that Washington was unable to monitor the events in Eastern Ghouta as they unfolded. The sensors had worked in the past, e.g. last December (2012) the sensor system picked up signs of what seemed to be sarin production at a chemical weapons depot. It was not immediately clear whether the Syrian army was simulating sarin production as part of an exercise or actually preparing an attack. At the time, Obama publicly warned Syria that using sarin was ‘totally unacceptable’; a similar message was also passed by diplomatic means. This time there was not the same warning.
On 30 August the White House invited a select group of Washington journalists, and handed them a document carefully labelled as a ‘government assessment’, which laid out what was essentially a political argument to bolster the administration’s case against the Assad government. The document stated, that US intelligence knew that Syria had begun ‘preparing chemical munitions’ three days before the attack. Later that day, John Kerry provided more details. He said that Syria’s ‘chemical weapons personnel were on the ground, in the area, making preparations’ by 18 August. ‘We know that the Syrian regime elements were told to prepare for the attack by putting on gas masks and taking precautions associated with chemical weapons.’ The government assessment and Kerry’s comments made it seem as if the administration had been tracking the sarin attack as it happened. An unforseen reaction came in the form of complaints from the Free Syrian Army’s leadership and others about the lack of warning. ‘It’s unbelievable they did nothing to warn people or try to stop the regime before the crime,’…‘Intelligence report says US officials knew about nerve-gas attack in Syria three days before it killed over 1400 people – including more than 400 children.’ (Razan Zaitouneh/FSA)
Already by late May (2013) the CIA had briefed the Obama administration on al-Nusra and its work with sarin, and had sent alarming reports that another Sunni fundamentalist group active in Syria, al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI), also understood the science of producing sarin. At the time, al-Nusra was operating in areas close to Damascus, including Eastern Ghouta. An intelligence document issued in mid-summer dealt extensively with Ziyaad Tariq Ahmed, a chemical weapons expert formerly of the Iraqi military, who was said to have moved into Syria and to be operating in Eastern Ghouta.
Independently of these assessments, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, assuming that US troops might be ordered into Syria to seize the government’s stockpile of chemical agents, called for an all-source analysis of the potential threat… All Op Orders contain an intelligence threat component and technical analysts from the Central Intelligence Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, weapons people, and I & W [indications and warnings] people working on the problem … They concluded that the rebel forces were capable of attacking an American force with sarin because they were able to produce the lethal gas. The examination relied on signals and human intelligence, as well as the expressed intention and technical capability of the rebels.
(Source: Whose Sarin?by Seymour M. Hersh, London Review of Books Seymour M. Hersh is writing an alternative history of the war on terror. He has been a regular contributor to The New Yorker since 1993. His journalism and publishing awards include a Pulitzer Prize, five George Polk Awards, two National Magazine Awards, and more than a dozen other prizes for investigative reporting.)
It remains to seen if GCC will succeed in enticing US into their fundrising and if the new Islamic Front will be created as significant opposition force in Syria. I doubt as local warlords are uniting to share in Saudi largesse for which their enthusiasm is probably greater than their willingness to fight. The Saudis are probably making a mistake. The artificial unity of rebel groups with their hands out for Saudi money is not going to last. They will be discredited in the eyes of more fanatical jihadis as well as Syrians in general as pawns of Saudi and other intelligence services.
It might be possible that US did not implemented planned military intervention against Syria as its political leadership knew first that Syrian rebels had chemical weapons, second it knew that Al Assad regime maybe not used CW in Damascus August 2013 and third that Syrian opposition might on the end not be better alternative than Al Assad.
The UN resolution, which was adopted on 27 September by the Security Council, dealt indirectly with the notion that rebel forces such as al-Nusra would also be obliged to disarm: ‘no party in Syria should use, develop, produce, acquire, stockpile, retain or transfer [chemical] weapons.’ The resolution also calls for the immediate notification of the Security Council in the event that any ‘non-state actors’ acquire chemical weapons.
After Syrian CW agreement came Iran nuke deal and both these against the will of the Saudis. It seems that US has been rapidly altering its regional approach shifting weight from Saudi Arabia towards Iran. Maybe US has came conclusion that it needs more Iran to stop the growth of terror groups, networks and activities of Salafi extremists, both in and out of the Middle East – with Iran stabilization of chaotic region might be possible.
Some of my previous articles about Syria:
Syria Chemical Weapons Attack – Whodunnit II
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 InDamascus???
Syria: From War To Dissolution With Help Of Media
One example about rebel activities: In the video below RT talks to eyewitnesses of the latest gruesome actions from those rebels, the slaughter and beheading of children, the oldest of which is said to be 20 years old by the female witness on camera. Heads chopped off and thrown all over the road, whole families executed.
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:
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:
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.
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 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
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As the thread of military intervention by US air-strike now is fading and US-Russian agreement (The Four-stage Plan For Syria ) is going to implementation stage the situation on the ground however has good possibility to escalate. Instead of air-strike US is now more openly supplying weapons to Syrian opposition hoping so to reach her foggy aims. Latest developments show failure also with this strategy.
Demolition of CW stockpiles of Al-Assad regime or even neutralization of CW in a rebel’s possessionis only contributory factor in the Syria war.
According to the British newspaper The Telegraph the study showed that the number of insurgents fighting against the Syrian army is estimated at about 100 thousand gunmen distributed to about a thousand armed band, who came from 83 countries, including all Arab countries except Djibouti. Estimates by IHP Jane’s’ experts revealed that ten thousand of these gunmen fight to the side of Al-Qaeda affiliated groups, and 30,000 to 35,000 other insurgents are fighting within other hard-line armed groups.
“There are also at least a further 30,000 moderates belonging to groups that have an Islamic character, meaning only a small minority of the rebels are linked to secular or purely nationalist groups,” the daily noted. The stark assessment, accords with the view of Western diplomats estimate that less than one-third of the opposition forces are “palatable” to Britain, while American envoys put the figure even lower. (Source: The Telegraph )
Few days ago a statement was released in the name of a number of Syrian rebel factions announcing the severing of all ties with Brigadier General Salim Idris’s Free Syrian Army (FSA), the Supreme Military Council (SMC), the Syrian National Council (SNC), and its parent organization, the Supreme National Coalition (the other SNC).
The document is entitled “On the Coalition and the Provisional Government” and lists out four major points.
Included among the eleven groups that have signed on to this Islamic Alliance are those moderate Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood persuasion with the closest ties to the SNC, such as Liwa al-Tawhid or the Brigade of Unity, the Suqour al-Sham Brigades, and Liwa al-Islam; three groups that had formed a coalition back in September of last year called the Syrian Islamic Liberation Front (SILF). Also joining the alliance are such hardline Salafi Islamists as Ahrar al-Sham and the Fajr Islamic Movement, who had formed a coalition of their own called the Syrian Islamic Front. The leading force in the alliance are the Salafi-Jihadist, Al-Qaeda branchAl-Nusra Frontwhich is considered the most extreme and the most militarily capable of opposition groups, comprised mainly of Syrians who fought in the Iraqi insurgency. (Source: SyriaReport) Conclusion: the Western-backed moderate/secular camp and the Islamist camp have now firmly ensconced themselves in the latter.
Fighters of Kurdish Popular Committees in Syria have killed at least 83 foreign terrorists affiliated to the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front in northern province of al-Raqqa. The clashes broke out in Tal Abyad village on Monday Sept. 23th 2013 when the al-Nusra terrorists were attempting to infiltrate into the area that is under control of the Kurdish fighters. Militants from Libya and Tunisia were among the dead, our correspondent says. (Source: Al-Alam )
The Al-Nusra Front (Jabhat al-Nusra) seeks to overthrow the Assad regime and set up an Islamic Caliphate ruled by religious Islamic law (the Shari’ah) in Greater Syriaincluding Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority. During the Syrian civil war two branches of Al-Qaeda established themselves among the rebel organizations fighting to overthrow the regime of Bashar Assad. The most prominent is the Al-Nusra Front (Jabhat al-Nusra), directly subordinate to Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. The other is The Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria, subordinate to Al-Qaeda in Iraq. In addition, other Salafist-jihadi military organizations not necessarily affiliated with Al-Qaeda operate in Syria. The two Al-Qaeda branches have an estimated 6,000-7,000 operatives, and in our assessment the number is growing.
Related to chemical weapons of the opposition side 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.
A thorough analysis about Al-Nusra Front can be found from here (Analysis: The Al-Nusra Front, 167 p also in my document library).
Russia has proposed a four-stage plan to avert a US attack on Syria. The key component of plan is placing Damascus’ chemical weapons under international control. The original initiative was presented to President Obama in Stockholm by Nordic leaders before G-20 in St Petersburg. Russia’s proposal was announced on August 9th, 2013, hours after US Secretary of State John Kerry said Syria could avoid a US strike by surrendering all his chemical weapons within a week, but immediately made clear he was not making a serious offer. However Russia took the case seriously and made a workable, clear and concrete plan.
The hastily organized talks started in Geneva on August 12th, 2013. The top Russian diplomat Lavrov and US counterpart John Kerry have both team of experts on chemical weapons with them to the talks. After two days in Geneva the discussions are described to been constructive.
With Russia’s plan there is opening a window of opportunity for peaceful solution to Syrian war, however the final deal will not be the easy one and lot of challenges are waiting ahead. From my perspective at least following questions will be crucial ones:
(More eg: Whodunnit in Syria and
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The one side of story: