Skip to comments.Is It Possible The Syrian Rebels (Not Assad) Used Chemical Weapons?
Posted on 08/30/2013 12:13:38 PM PDT by nickcarraway
As it lays the groundwork for a potential military strike against Syria, the Obama administration says it is all but certain that President Bashar Assad used chemical weapons against his own people last week.
Secretary of State John Kerry made the case Monday. "We know that the Syrian regime maintains custody of these chemical weapons," Kerry said. "We know that the Syrian regime has the capacity to do this with rockets. We know that the regime has been determined to clear the opposition from those very places where the attacks took place. And with our own eyes, we have all of us become witnesses." On Tuesday, White House spokesman Jay Carney reiterated the point, saying that "anyone who approaches this logically" would conclude that Assad is responsible.
As you might expect, Russia, which has been an unyielding Assad ally and holds veto power on the U.N. Security Council, rejected those conclusions, and the Assad regime blamed the rebels.
So, is it possible the United States and its allies are wrong? Is it possible that it was the rebels, or another group within Syria, that launched the attack near Damascus that reportedly left hundreds dead and thousands more injured?
"I have been asking myself the same question ever since it happened, because it was difficult to find a rationale [for an Assad-led attack]," says Gwyn Winfield, the editorial director of CBRNe World, a magazine that covers biological and chemical weapons for the industry.
"[A rebel attack] is feasible, but not particularly likely," said Winfield.
What Winfield means is that this seems like a lose-lose situation for Assad. A chemical attack by the regime would seem to bolster the opposition, because it could mean an international intervention. As for the rebels, there are huge questions about whether they could have pulled off such an attack.
Back in 2002, research conducted by George Lopez, a professor of peace studies at the University of Notre Dame, cast doubt on the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. In this situation, Lopez rejects the notion that it was the Syrian rebels who used chemical weapons.
Lopez and Winfield agree that the rebels may have the motivation to use chemical weapons.
"This anarchic, killing stalemate" could motivate anyone, Winfield says, but such a scenario just doesn't make sense.
For one thing, the alleged chemical attack happened in the Ghouta region of Damascus. It is controlled by the rebels, and civilians in the area sympathize with the rebels.
"The smart thing [for the rebels] would be for you to aim for barracks and maime/kill a significant few hundred soldiers as the best chance for reverberations that played to your advantage," said Lopez. "This was not done."
It seems clear, Lopez says,"that some armed unit foot soldiers were sent in by Assad some time after the attack in limited numbers. That achieved the desired effect of making the case that since Assad soldiers were hit, the weapons came from the 'terrorists;' but these were exemplars, too few to make a strategic difference for the rebels."
In making the case against Assad, the U.S. has said it is his forces who have the capabilities to launch such an attack and that the rebels do not.
An August 20 report by the Congressional Research Service (pdf) says that Syria has had a vast stockpile of chemical weapons since the early 1980s and perhaps as far back as 1973. Not only that, but the military was trained by the Soviets and possesses the delivery methods scud missiles and batteries of rocket launchers that could be used to "rapidly achieve lethal doses of non-persistent agents in a concentrated area."
The report goes on to explain that U.S. officials "have unanimously stated that the weapons stockpiles are secure."
Winfield maintains that the Free Syrian Army has the experience and perhaps even the launching systems to perpetrate such an attack. But that would mean that U.S. officials, and Assad himself, were wrong when they said the chemical stockpiles were secure.
"If [the rebels] have overrun an arms dump which had some of the agent, if a defector brought a limited amount with him, then it would explain why some of the signs and symptoms showed less toxicity than we expected," Winfield said. "That is a lot of 'ifs,' though."
Lopez concurs: "Western intelligence has been standing on its head to monitor all intel about those groups hostile to the West and what they have in their weapons access and supply. The amount of gas agents seemingly used was way beyond what a clandestine group could mix and develop without detection. And it is unclear they would have the expertise to mix the agents.
"Is it possible that a rebel group overran a storage facility of the government and captured some shells that were ready to be activated and then did so?" Lopez says. "Yes, but it would have had to have been a very large seizure preceded by a big battle between Assad top teams and rebels. It could not have happened without inside/outside knowledge."
All of that said, note that the U.S. has qualified every statement it has made about the situation. Kerry said it is "undeniable" that chemical weapons had been used in Syria and he set out a case against Assad without directly blaming the regime for the attack.
During his daily press briefing Tuesday, Carney said: "There is also very little doubt, and should be no doubt for anyone who approaches this logically, that the Syrian regime is responsible for the use of chemical weapons on August 21st outside of Damascus."
Jean Pascal Zanders, who worked for the European Union Institute for Security Studies from 2008 to 2013 and concentrated on the non-proliferation of chemical weapons says until the U.N. investigative team presents its report, "we need to keep our minds open that the events of last Wednesday could in whole or partially have alternative explanations."
"In fact, we the public know very little beyond the observation of outward symptoms of asphyxiation and possible exposure to neurotoxicants, despite the mass of images and film footage," Zanders added. "For the West's credibility, I think that governments should await the results of the U.N. investigation."
Is it possible that German Nazis dressed up as Polish troops and invaded Germany?
At this point, WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE?
When Hitler and his army chiefs asked for a pretext for the invasion of Poland in 1939, Himmler, Heydrich, and Heinrich Müller masterminded and carried out a false flag project code-named Operation Himmler. German soldiers dressed in Polish uniforms undertook border skirmishes that deceptively suggested Polish aggression against Germany. The incidents were then used in Nazi propaganda to justify the invasion of Poland, the opening event of World War II.
The rebels are al quaeda terrorists. Is it possible that these terrorists used weapons of terror? Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. I guess it’s possible.
Probably not but in the end what difference does it make who did it? Assad or the rebels, why is it our moral responsibility to do something about it?
Yes, it’s possible. In fact, it’s the most probable
answer. Assad gains nothing by the use of CW weapons.
I can’t help but feel that all this is somehow connected
to the fiasco in Benghazi. A year later and we still
know nothing about what was involved there.
Yet a week after the supposed use of a chemical agent,
we know for a certainty who used it, who launched it?
Enought to bring our war technology to bear on one side
or the other???
I love it, liberals trying to logic themselves out of the obvious. ‘Why, they would have naturally attacked troops rather than defenseless civilians...’
Like, oh, I donno, flying planes into the twin towers? Obviously a military target.
But they targeted their own people.. Right, defenseless civilians who aren’t fighting with them and are extra mouths to feed. Trade that for a military bombing campaign that can devastate the government? Heck, most of the civilians probably would have volunteered if given the option.
Sure, if you just wanted to kill a few hundred soldiers. If, on the other hand, you wanted to fool a superpower into serving as your air force and overthrowing the government then you could martyr a thousand of your own people.
It looks like NPR is using checkers thinking in a three dimensional chess world.
Chemical weapons attack in Syria occurs AFTER U.S. Congress goes into recess, giving 0bama unilateral powers to attack Assad, geeeee wow what a coincidence!!!
Ask yourself one question: assuming reasonably intelligent players, who would most benefit from launching a WMD attack? Answer that and then you’ve probably got your answer as to who did what.
Which chemical weapons are we talking about? Maybe the ones that were being held in Benghazi that were given to the MB in Syria by the US? That’s what this desperation to blame Assad is all about. Maybe a preemptive strike against what will be revealed?
It is not only possible, but most likely Rebels are responsible.
This is one scenario where Hillary’s scream “at this point what difference does it make” could have actually won her some votes.
Centuries of clan wars will not be solved by the Prophet Obunghole no matter what he does short of total annihilation. Leave any alive and they will still fight.
And short of total annihilation, no matter what he does we will be hated.
Therefore if he just joins the rest of the unwilling and lets the circular firing squads continue he will be doing the world a favor eliminating a few more terrorists or terrorists in the making. A win, win IMO.
Wow even NPR now?
Assad is damned sure what the demarcation is for the international community to obtain imprimatur for acting.
He and his Generals did not do this.
The Moslem Bruthuh-hood did thisl
Sure it is possible. Anything is. But it changes nothing. America has no National Security interest in bombing anyone in Syria. Both sides are Terrorists. Both hate America and would willing kill us.
Stay out if you do not intend to destroy the country and start over.
RE: Is It Possible The Syrian Rebels (Not Assad) Used Chemical Weapons?
But what do we make of this counter-claim:
“Proof” Assad Used Chemical Weapons Is One Hundred YouTube Clips: Full Report Attached
WHO IS TELLING THE TRUTH and WHO CAN BE TRUSTED?
* Get your hands on something nasty
* Wait for the regime to fire a rocket
* Wait for blast and release nasty agent
* Show videos of the dead
= it must have been the regime right?
= USA falls for it
They have no proof of who did what, just a hypothesis. It’s exactly how circumstantial evidence can be wrong. Now let’s look at our support in taking action:
* Britain, no.
* U.N., no.
* Congress, not asked.
Can you imagine if this were Bush?
Did the White House Help Plan the Syrian Chemical Attack?
There is a growing volume of new evidence from numerous sources in the Middle East mostly affiliated with the Syrian opposition and its sponsors and supporters which makes a very strong case, based on solid circumstantial evidence, that the August 21, 2013, chemical strike in the Damascus suburbs was indeed a pre-meditated provocation by the Syrian opposition.
The extent of US foreknowledge of this provocation needs further investigation because available data puts the horror of the Barack Obama White House in a different and disturbing light.
On August 13-14, 2013, Western-sponsored opposition forces in Turkey started advance preparations for a major and irregular military surge. Initial meetings between senior opposition military commanders and representatives of Qatari, Turkish, and US Intelligence [Mukhabarat Amriki] took place at the converted Turkish military garrison in Antakya, Hatay Province, used as the command center and headquarters of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and their foreign sponsors. Very senior opposition commanders who had arrived from Istanbul briefed the regional commanders of an imminent escalation in the fighting due to a war-changing development which would, in turn, lead to a US-led bombing of Syria.
The opposition forces had to quickly prepare their forces for exploiting the US-led bombing in order to march on Damascus and topple the Bashar al-Assad Government, the senior commanders explained. The Qatari and Turkish intelligence officials assured the Syrian regional commanders that they would be provided with plenty of weapons for the coming offensive.
Indeed, unprecedented weapons distribution started in all opposition camps in Hatay Province on August 21-23, 2013. In the Reyhanli area alone, opposition forces received well in excess of 400 tons of weapons, mainly anti-aircraft weaponry from shoulder-fired missiles to ammunition for light-guns and machineguns. The weapons were distributed from store-houses controlled by Qatari and Turkish Intelligence under the tight supervision of US Intelligence.
These weapons were loaded on more than 20 trailer-trucks which crossed into northern Syria and distributed the weapons to several depots. Follow-up weapon shipments, also several hundred tons, took place over the weekend of August 24-25, 2013, and included mainly sophisticated anti-tank guided missiles and rockets. Opposition officials in Hatay said that these weapon shipments were the biggest they had received since the beginning of the turmoil more than two years ago. The deliveries from Hatay went to all the rebel forces operating in the Idlib-to-Aleppo area, including the al-Qaida affiliated jihadists (who constitute the largest rebel forces in the area).
Several senior officials from both the Syrian opposition and sponsoring Arab states stressed that these weapon deliveries were specifically in anticipation for exploiting the impact of imminent bombing of Syria by the US and the Western allies. The latest strategy formulation and coordination meetings took place on August 26, 2013. The political coordination meeting took place in Istanbul and was attended by US Amb. Robert Ford.
More important were the military and operational coordination meetings at the Antakya garrison. Senior Turkish, Qatari, and US Intelligence officials attended in addition to the Syrian senior (opposition) commanders. The Syrians were informed that bombing would start in a few days.
The opposition was told in clear terms that action to deter further use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime could come as early as in the next few days, a Syrian participant in the meeting said. Another Syrian participant said that he was convinced US bombing was scheduled to begin on Thursday, August 29, 2013. Several participants both Syrian and Arab stressed that the assurances of forthcoming bombing were most explicit even as formally Obama is still undecided.
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The descriptions of these meetings raise the question of the extent of foreknowledge of US Intelligence, and therefore, the Obama White House. All the sources consulted both Syrian and Arab stressed that officials of the Mukhabarat Amriki actively participated in the meetings and briefings in Turkey. Therefore, at the very least, they should have known that the opposition leaders were anticipating a war-changing development: that is, a dramatic event which would provoke a US-led military intervention.
The mere fact that weapon storage sites under the tight supervision of US Intelligence were opened up and about a thousand tons of high-quality weapons were distributed to the opposition indicates that US Intelligence anticipated such a provocation and the opportunity for the Syrian opposition to exploit the impact of the ensuing US and allied bombing. Hence, even if the Obama White House did not know in advance of the chemical provocation, they should have concluded, or at the very least suspected, that the chemical attack was most likely the war-changing development anticipated by the opposition leaders as provocation of US-led bombing. Under such circumstances, the Obama White House should have refrained from rushing head-on to accuse Assads Damascus and threaten retaliation, thus making the Obama White House at the very least complicit after the act.
Meanwhile, additional data from Damascus about the actual chemical attack increases the doubts about Washingtons version of events. Immediately after the attack, three hospitals of Doctors Without Borders (MSF: médecins sans frontières) in the greater Damascus area treated more than 3,600 Syrians affected by the chemical attack, and 355 of them died. MSF performed tests on the vast majority of those treated.
MSF director of operations Bart Janssens summed up the findings: MSF can neither scientifically confirm the cause of these symptoms nor establish who is responsible for the attack. However, the reported symptoms of the patients, in addition to the epidemiological pattern of the events characterized by the massive influx of patients in a short period of time, the origin of the patients, and the contamination of medical and first aid workers strongly indicate mass exposure to a neurotoxic agent. Simply put, even after testing some 3,600 patients, MSF failed to confirm that sarin was the cause of the injuries. According to MSF, the cause could have been nerve agents like sarin, concentrated riot control gas, or even high-concentration pesticides. Moreover, opposition reports that there was distinct stench during the attack suggest that it could have come from the kitchen sarin used by jihadist groups (as distinct from the odorless military-type sarin) or improvised agents like pesticides.
Some of the evidence touted by the Obama White House is questionable at best.
A small incident in Beirut raises big questions. A day after the chemical attack, Lebanese fixers working for the Mukhabarat Amriki succeeded to convince a Syrian male who claimed to have been injured in the chemical attack to seek medical aid in Beirut in return for a hefty sum that would effectively settle him for life. The man was put into an ambulance and transferred overnight to the Farhat Hospital in Jib Janine, Beirut. The Obama White House immediately leaked friendly media that the Lebanese Red Cross announced that test results found traces of sarin gas in his blood. However, this was news to Lebanese intelligence and Red Cross officials.
According to senior intelligence officials, Red Cross Operations Director George Kettaneh told [them] that the injured Syrian fled the hospital before doctors were able to test for traces of toxic gas in his blood. Apparently, the patient declared that he had recovered from his nausea and no longer needed medical treatment. The Lebanese security forces are still searching for the Syrian patient and his honorarium.
Related article: Let the War Begin!
On August 24, 2013, Syrian Commando forces acted on intelligence about the possible perpetrators of the chemical attack and raided a cluster of rebel tunnels in the Damascus suburb of Jobar. Canisters of toxic material were hit in the fierce fire-fight as several Syrian soldiers suffered from suffocation and some of the injured are in a critical condition.
The Commando eventually seized an opposition warehouse containing barrels full of chemicals required for mixing kitchen sarin, laboratory equipment, as well as a large number of protective masks. The Syrian Commando also captured several improvised explosive devices, RPG rounds, and mortar shells. The same day, at least four HizbAllah fighters operating in Damascus near Ghouta were hit by chemical agents at the very same time the Syrian Commando unit was hit while searching a group of rebel tunnels in Jobar. Both the Syrian and the HizbAllah forces were acting on intelligence information about the real perpetrators of the chemical attack. Damascus told Moscow the Syrian troops were hit by some form of a nerve agent and sent samples (blood, tissues, and soil) and captured equipment to Russia.
Several Syrian leaders, many of whom are not Bashar al-Assad supporters and are even his sworn enemies, are now convinced that the Syrian opposition is responsible for the August 21, 2013, chemical attack in the Damascus area in order to provoke the US and the allies into bombing Assads Syria. Most explicit and eloquent is Saleh Muslim, the head of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) which has been fighting the Syrian Government. Muslim doubts Assad would have used chemical weapons when he was winning the civil war.
The regime in Syria ... has chemical weapons, but they wouldnt use them around Damascus, five km from the [UN] committee which is investigating chemical weapons. Of course they are not so stupid as to do so, Muslim told Reuters on August 27, 2013. He believes the attack was aimed at framing Assad and provoking an international reaction. Muslim is convinced that some other sides who want to blame the Syrian regime, who want to show them as guilty and then see action is responsible for the chemical attack. The US was exploiting the attack to further its own anti-Assad policies and should the UN inspectors find evidence that the rebels were behind the attack, then everybody would forget it, Muslim shrugged. Who is the side who would be punished? Are they are going to punish the Emir of Qatar or the King of Saudi Arabia, or Mr Erdo?an of Turkey?
And there remain the questions: Given the extent of the involvement of the Mukhabarat Amriki in opposition activities, how is that US Intelligence did not know in advance about the oppositions planned use of chemical weapons in Damascus?
It is a colossal failure.
And if they did know and warned the Obama White House, why then the sanctimonious rush to blame the Assad Administration? Moreover, how can the Obama Administration continue to support and seek to empower the opposition which had just intentionally killed some 1,300 innocent civilians in order to provoke a US military intervention?
By. Yossef Bodansky, Senior Editor, GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs
Yeah, that Professor Lopez ain’t no Einstein. He can’t imagine why the rebels would want to bring in the world’s super power to fight on their side, when they could have killed a few of Assad’s foot soldiers instead.
Sheesh. But he is an expert on “peace studies”
If it is proven the rebels were the ones that used chemical weapons, will obamma launch cruise missiles against them?
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U.N. has testimony that Syrian rebels used sarin gas: investigator
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