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“I have seen that there are concrete suspicions if not irrefutable proof that there has been use of sarin gas… This use was made by the opponent rebels and not from the governmental authorities.”
“… has not been possible, on the evidence available, to determine the precise chemical agents used, their delivery systems or the perpetrator.”
“Given that U.N. inspectors with a mandate to investigate chemical weapons use were on the ground when the attack happened, the decision to deploy what appears to have been a nerve agent in a suburb east of Damascus has puzzled many observers. Why would Syria do such a thing when it is fully aware that the mass use of chemical weapons is the one thing that might require the United States to take military action against it? That’s a question U.S. intelligence analysts are puzzling over as well. ‘We don’t know exactly why it happened,’ the intelligence official said. ‘We just know it was pretty fucking stupid.'”
“Other elements that will benefit from U.S. largesse and advice include Iranian Kurdish nationalists, as well the Ahwazi arabs of south west Iran. Further afield, operations against Iran’s Hezbollah allies in Lebanon will be stepped up, along with efforts to destabilize the Syrian regime.”
“I met with top British officials, who confessed to me that they were preparing something in Syria. This was in Britain not in America. Britain was preparing gunmen to invade Syria. They even asked me, although I was no longer minister for foreign affairs, if I would like to participate.”
“After a couple hours of talking, they said without saying that SOF [Special Operations Forces] teams (presumably from U.S., UK, France, Jordan, Turkey) are already on the ground focused on recce [reconnaissance] missions and training opposition forces… I kept pressing on the question of what these SOF teams would be working toward, and whether this would lead to an eventual air campaign to give a Syrian rebel group cover. They pretty quickly distanced themselves from that idea, saying that the idea ‘hypothetically’ is to commit guerrilla attacks, assassination campaigns, try to break the back of the Alawite forces, elicit collapse from within… They don’t believe air intervention would happen unless there was enough media attention on a massacre, like the Gaddafi move against Benghazi. They think the U.S. would have a high tolerance for killings as long as it doesn’t reach that very public stage.”
“… they can help in regime change.”
“… in the aftermath of military-caused regime change in Iraq and Libya… with concerted regime change efforts now underway aimed at Syria and Iran, with active and escalating proxy fighting in Somalia, with a modest military deployment to South Sudan, and the active use of drones in six – count ‘em: six – different Muslim countries, it is worth asking whether the neocon dream as laid out by Clark is dead or is being actively pursued and fulfilled, albeit with means more subtle and multilateral than full-on military invasions.”
“The geographic area of proven oil reserves coincides with the power base of much of the Salafi-jihadist network. This creates a linkage between oil supplies and the long war that is not easily broken or simply characterized… For the foreseeable future, world oil production growth and total output will be dominated by Persian Gulf resources… The region will therefore remain a strategic priority, and this priority will interact strongly with that of prosecuting the long war.”
“Divide and Rule focuses on exploiting fault lines between the various Salafi-jihadist groups to turn them against each other and dissipate their energy on internal conflicts. This strategy relies heavily on covert action, information operations (IO), unconventional warfare, and support to indigenous security forces… the United States and its local allies could use the nationalist jihadists to launch proxy IO campaigns to discredit the transnational jihadists in the eyes of the local populace… U.S. leaders could also choose to capitalize on the ‘Sustained Shia-Sunni Conflict’ trajectory by taking the side of the conservative Sunni regimes against Shiite empowerment movements in the Muslim world…. possibly supporting authoritative Sunni governments against a continuingly hostile Iran.”
“One of the oddities of this long war trajectory is that it may actually reduce the al-Qaeda threat to U.S. interests in the short term. The upsurge in Shia identity and confidence seen here would certainly cause serious concern in the Salafi-jihadist community in the Muslim world, including the senior leadership of al-Qaeda. As a result, it is very likely that al-Qaeda might focus its efforts on targeting Iranian interests throughout the Middle East and Persian Gulf while simultaneously cutting back on anti-American and anti-Western operations.”
“Even the Supreme Military Council, the umbrella rebel organization whose formation the West had hoped would sideline radical groups, is stocked with commanders who want to infuse Islamic law into a future Syrian government. Nowhere in rebel-controlled Syria is there a secular fighting force to speak of.”
“Syria today is not about choosing between two sides but rather about choosing one among many sides. It is my belief that the side we choose must be ready to promote their interests and ours when the balance shifts in their favor.”
Will Congress Now Save Obama’s Face By Selling Out Democracy and the Syrian People?
As I observed in previous columns, Obama was pushed out onto the end of the limb by Israel and the neoconservatives. The UN, NATO, the British Parliament, and the rest of the world left the White House Fool there, out on the limb where Israel put him, to make war on Syria all alone.
This proved to be beyond the Fool’s ability, but instead of crawling back off the limb and finding an excuse to get down, Obama decided to buy the Congress and to tell more lies.
The White House and its presstitute media are telling Congress that it is too humiliating for the President of “the world’s only superpower” to have to crawl back along the limb and get down just because he told a lie. Congress must ”save face” for the liar who is “America’s first black president,” or the prestige and credibility of the US will be lost.
What this really means, of course, is that the credibility of the Israel Lobby and the neoconservatives will be lost unless America again commits a war crime and destroys the life and prospects of many more people in the Middle East.
Heaven forbid that Washington lose prestige! So money, lots of it, is speaking in Washington and in European capitals. We know that the despicable Cameron will do all in his power to prostitute the British government for Washington.
What has the “socialist” Hollande been promised that makes him so willing to demonstrate that France is Obama’s whore?
What larger share of NATO’s military budget is Washington promising to underwrite in exchange for NATO’s support for another American war crime?
Will bags of money enable Washington to gather support for its latest crime against humanity?
But first Congress has to be brought around.
Congress will be pressured “to show a common front” with the White House in order to maintain America’s credibility. Members of the House and Senate will be told that now that America has been abandoned by its allies, Congress cannot leave the President of the United States hanging out to dry. Congress must rush to the rescue of America’s prestige or Washington will lose its clout and Congress will lose its campaign contributions from the Israel Lobby and the military/security complex.
This argument can even be effective with the strongest opponents to the attack on Syria. Americans have a long tradition of jingoism, and the prospect of lost prestige rankles. But before Congress is pushed into wrapping itself in the flag and giving its OK to another war crime, Congress needs to consider whether endorsing Obama’s attack on Syria helps US prestige or hurts it.
It is clear that the American people overwhelming oppose an attack on Syria. Whether Americans have caught on over the years to Washington’s endless war lies or whether they simply see no point to the wars and no gain to America from 12 years of costly war, I cannot say. At a time when a large percentage of Americans are having difficulty paying their mortgages, car payments, and putting food on the table, Washington’s wars seem an expensive luxury.
It is not only the civilian populations of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Syria who have suffered. Tens of thousands of America’s young have either been killed, maimed for life, or are suffering permanent post-traumatic stress.
Washington’s wars have caused thousands of divorces, alcoholism, drug addiction, and homelessness for veterans who were deceived and had their humanity abused by the criminals that rule in Washington.
For Congress, allegedly the representatives of the American people, not the backstop for the executive branch’s undeclared agenda, to ignore the people’s will and to endorse a war that the American people do not support would be another decisive blow against democracy. If Congress endorses Obama’s war, it will prove that American democracy is a hoax.
If the White House were to succeed in using Congress’ OK to a military attack on Syria to convince the British Parliament and NATO to go along, despite the strong opposition of the British and European peoples, Western Democracy would everywhere be discredited. Where is the democracy when a few elites at the top can do whatever they want, commit any crime, despite the majority opposition of citizens?
If Congress endorses Obama’s transparent lies, American democracy will never recover. If Congress makes itself the handmaiden of the executive branch, Congress will never again have an independent voice. Congress might as well close down. It will have rendered itself superfluous and powerless.
If European governments endorse Obama’s lies, it means the end of the West’s democratic prestige and will strip away the cloak behind which the West has hidden its crimes against humanity. The voice of the West will never again carry any moral authority.
The loss of Western credibility is a huge price to pay in order to rescue a discredited president whom no one believes, not even his supporters. Essentially Obama is a cipher whose term of office is complete. The obama regime epitomizes the degeneration of the American state.
Instead of voting on whether to allow Obama to attack Syria, Congress should be voting to impeach Obama and Kerry. Their blatant lies, dictatorial claims, and arrogant inhumanity are powerful arguments for removing them from office.
The lies told by the Obama regime are so transparent that it makes one wonder just how stupid the regime thinks the American people are. Little doubt the white house is relying on its Ministry of Propaganda, a.k.a., the presstitute media, to undermine Americans’ confidence in their common sense and to make them accept the latest fiction. The tactic is to use the peer pressure of the prostitute media to silence Americans’ conscience.
Media insouciance is everywhere. Yesterday NPR calmly reported the lies about Assad that the Obama regime has concocted to cover another act of naked aggression. In the same breath, NPR voiced “the world’s outrage” over the rape and murder of one woman in India.
I, of course, do not agree with the raping and killing of anyone, but just imagine the raping and killing that will occur when Obama unleashes the dogs of war on Syria.
NPR is no longer an alternative voice. Yesterday NPR was beating the drums for war. NPR provided a forum for the head of one of the main neoconservative lobbies for war, and in the next hour had Democratic and Republican House and Senate leaders repeating all of Obama and Kerry’s lies about how America’s prestige cannot tolerate allowing Assad to use “chemical weapons against his own people.” No one listening to NPR heard the voice of those demanding peace and truth. NPR was too busy lying for Obama to care about truth and certainly gave truth no voice on the program.
The presstitute media and the House and Senate “leaders” who report to the military/security complex and to the Israel Lobby keep talking about Assad’s “own people,” but Assad’s own people support him. Polls of Syrians show that Assad has more support from the Syrian people than every head of every Western country has from their citizens. Cameron’s, Hollande’s, Merkel’s and Obama’s poll numbers are dismal compared to the Syrian peoples’ support for Assad.
Just as there was no evidence that Saddam Hussein had “weapons of mass destruction,” but the facts did not stop the Bush regime from telling its lies that resulted in massive deaths and destruction of Iraqis, deaths and destruction that continue as I write, Assad has not used chemical weapons “against his own people.” All of the evidence points to a false flag event that Obama could seize upon to launch America’s 7th war in 12 years.
Moreover, al-Nusra fighters are not Assad’s “own people.” The al-Nusra front are Islamist extremists recruited from outside Syria and sent in by Washington and Saudi Arabia to overthrow an elected Syrian government, just as Washington used the Egyptian military to overthrow the first elected Egyptian government in history and to shoot down in the streets hundreds of Egyptians who were protesting the military’s overthrow of the government that they had elected.
Whether or not Assad used chemical weapons against Washington-supported al-Nusra jihadists, and US Intelligence says that there is “no conclusive evidence,” it is nevertheless a war crime for Washington to attack a country that has not attacked, or threatened to attack, the US. Under the Nuremberg standard established by the United States, naked aggression is a war crime regardless of the character of the country attacked or the weapons it uses against forces that attack it.
If Washington succeeds in enabling the al-Nusra terrorists to overthrow the secular Syrian government, how will Washington get Syria away from al-Nusra? In Iraq the death and destruction continues today at the same pace as under the attempted US military occupation. The criminal Bush regime did not bring “freedom and democracy” to Iraq. The Bush regime brought death and destruction that continues long after Washington’s exit. In Iraq today, as many people are blown apart and murdered as during the height of Bush’s war of aggression.
The chaos in which Washington left Iraq is a far cry from “freedom and democracy.” The Obama war criminal did the same to Libya. In Afghanistan Washington added 12 years of war on top of the 10 years of war that Afghans fought with the Red Army. The purpose of Washington’s war in Afghanistan has never been stated. No one knows what the war is about or why it continues.
According to the Bush regime, Afghanistan was attacked because the Taliban would not hand over Osama bin Laden without proof that he was responsible for 911. So why does the war continue after his death?
The lies being told by Obama and Kerry are so transparent that it makes one wonder if their strategy is to make such a poor case for war that the control Israel and the neocons have over US foreign policy will be broken. What else is one to make of such absurd statements as John Kerry’s claim that “this is our Munich moment!” There is no comparison between Assad’s defensive effort to prevent the overthrow of the Syrian government by foreign jihadists supported by Washington and Hitler’s aggressive stance toward Czechoslovakia.
The Syrian government has initiated no war and has threatened no one.
America as my generation knew it no longer exists. Criminals have taken over and now rule. Financial policy is in the hands of a small handful of banksters who control the US Treasury, the Federal Reserve, the financial regulatory agencies and who run the world for their own greed and profit. Foreign policy is the preserve of the Israel Lobby and the neoconservatives, every one of which is tightly tied to Israel. Americans have no voice, and no representation. Whatever America is, the government is not influenced by the voices of the American people.
Whatever America is, it most certainly is not a democracy in which government is accountable to the people.
America is a country where a tiny elite has all power and does as it wishes.
If Congress rallies to obama’s war, Congress will have pushed the world closer to nuclear war. Russia and China see that the UN is powerless to prevent aggression and that Washington’s aggression is aimed at them. As Russia and China build their nuclear forces, they will draw a starker line at Iran. Iran is Russia’s underbelly, and Iran is 20 percent of China’s oil supply.
From what I have been able to discern, both the Russian and Chinese governments have lost all confidence in Washington. Neither government believes any of Washington’s lies and both countries are aware of Washington’s attempt to isolate them diplomatically and to surround them with military bases. Both countries know that they can expect the same demonization from the presstitute western media as Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, and Assad have received. They understand that western demonization is the prelude to destabilization and to military attack.
With the hubris, arrogance, and insanity of Washington an established fact, Russia and China perceive an enemy that intends their destruction. As neither country is going to accept their demise, Congress’ acquiescence to obama’s lies in order to save “America’s prestige” sets the stage for nuclear war.
However, if Congress refuses to be committed to a war crime based on a lie, rejects Obama’s bribes and intimidation, and vetoes the war criminal’s attack on Syria, it means, the end of the influence of the Israeli Lobby, the bloodthirsty neoconservatives, and war mongers John McCain and Lindsay Graham.
Without Washington’s neoconservative belligerence, the governments of the world might, despite powerful and selfish private interests, be able to come together to sustain life on earth by protecting an increasingly vulnerable ecology from the predations of private capitalism.
If Congress fails to restrain the war that Obama seeks, the world doesn’t have long to exist before the life-destroying bombs drop.
Paul Craig Roberts is a former Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury and Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal. His latest book The Failure of Laissez-Faire Capitalism. Roberts’ How the Economy Was Lost is now available from CounterPunch in electronic format.
Obama’s Impeachment Trap
The irony of the Obama presidency may hinge on whether he attacks Syria. He began his presidency prematurely winning the Nobel Peace Prize and could end it being impeached for starting an illegal war without congressional or UN approval – violating both domestic and international law.
Yesterday 163 Members of Congress sent letters to President Obama telling him that under the US Constitution he is required to get congressional approval before beginning a military attack. Theletter drafted by Rep. Scott Rigel (R-VA) had 140 signatures, 119 Republicans and 21 Dems. Rep. Barbara Lee also circulated a letter that had 53 signers, that calls on the president to seek congressional approval.
The Rigel letter warned Obama that engaging in military action “would violate the Separation of Powers Clause that is clearly delineated in the Constitution.” They also note that the justification for war in Libya also violated the Constitution. The Lee letter warns that “we all swore to uphold and defend” the Constitution; and that we should not engage in an “unwise war – especially without adhering to our own Constitutional requirements.” In their concluding paragraph they warn “Before weighing the use of military force, Congress must fully debate and consider the facts and every alternative . . .”
President Obama knows the limits of his powers. In fact, if there is an impeachment proceeding his own words will be quoted. When he was running for president, Obama told the Boston Globe: “The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.”
Vice President Biden, in a 2007 campaign event in Iowa, went further, not only stating clearly that the president does not have unilateral power to conduct military attacks but threatening impeachment of President Bush if he did so.
The Green Shadow Cabinet of the United States was explicit calling on President Obama to seek congressional approval before going to war, noted that under Article 1, Section 8, Clause 11 of the US Constitution, it is the Congress that determines whether the United States goes to war. They also highlight the potential of impeachment writing: “If President Obama launches an attack without prior explicit authorization by Congress, he will have committed an offense worthy of impeachment.” [Disclosure, I serve as Attorney General in the alternative cabinet.]
If impeachment proceedings are held all of the doubts about the war will come out. People in the military have protected themselves by telling President Obama that they have serious doubts about a military attack. The have warned Obama about potential blowback, misusing the military to send a message with no clear strategy, drawing the US into a vexing war when they are already burdened by a complicated withdrawal from Afghanistan. Some have used words like “potentially devastating consequences” Reportedly, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Martin Dempsey, has warned in great detail about the risks and pitfalls of U.S. military intervention in Syria, warning “deeper involvement is hard to avoid.”
If the war goes wrong, and wars almost always go wrong, President Obama will see the memorandums of various members of the military who warned him. And, they will be called to testify and tell the world that President Obama was warned but went ahead anyway – without congressional approval in violation of the Constitution.
What could go wrong? Syria has the ability to defend itself and attack US military vessels. Iran and Russia have already indicated they will be drawn into the conflict. Threats of retaliation are already being made and troop movements are occurring. Russia is moving two additional naval ships, a missile cruiser and a large anti-submarine vessel, into the Mediterranean to strengthen its presence in case of a US attack. Russia and Saudi Arabia have exchanged threats over Syria. Russia threatening an attack on Saudi Arabia if the US attacks Syria with President Putin ordering a “massive military strike” against Saudi Arabia in the event that the West attacks Syria. Saudi Arabia is threatening Chechen terrorist attacks on Russia at the Olympics.
Iran, Syria and Hezbollah have threatened to retaliate against Israel and other US allies in the Middle East in the event of a US attack on Syria. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, chief of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, told the Tasnim news website, that an attack on Syria “means the immediate destruction of Israel.”
Obama could be starting a much larger war than he realizes and doing so without congressional or UN approval. Why would Obama take this tremendous risk?
The military attack does not seem to be based on reliable intelligence. The intelligence community is also protecting itself. Yesterday, the Associated Press reported there are lots of gaps in U.S. intelligence including who ordered the use of chemical weapons and where those chemical weapons are now. President Obama himself has provided no evidence to support the administration’s claim that the chemical weapons came from Assad. In addition, people who turn off the corporate media and think about the situation realize that the claim that Assad used chemical weapons makes no sense from Assad’s point of view. He has been defeating the rebel forces. Why would he take an action that would give the US an excuse to enter the war?
And, the Guardian is reporting that the United States is acting based on Israeli intelligence that supposedly intercepted communications in Syria. Does President Obama want to risk the unpredictable consequences of war and impeachment based on reports from the government of Binyamin Netanyahu; a political leader he has had a stormy relationship with and who would like nothing more than to see the Democrats replaced by the neocon Republicans. Does he want to trust a government that has its own conflicts with Syria over the Golan Heights and that has wanted Assad replaced for a long time? Israeli has its own agenda, should they be trusted here?
What is the Obama administration doing to investigate the reports that in fact it was Saudi Arabia that provided the chemical weapons that was used to the rebels? Multiple witnesses are making these claims. Is Obama going to go to war without investigating this possibility? Maybe he has the wrong target and it was not Assad who is responsible?
If the war goes badly after Obama attacks without congressional approval, you can be sure that the fact that the closest ally of the United States, Great Britain, voted against intervention will be used against him. On the coalition front, President Obama will be standing very alone. Not only has Britain backed out but Egypt has said the Suez Canal can’t be used, and Jordan has said their land can’t be used. The solo-cowboy approach would make the phony Bush “coalition of the willing” that joined in the mistaken attack on Iraq look like brilliant diplomacy.
And, then there is international law. Great Britain has asked the Security Council to consider a resolution on Syria. The UN inspectors are returning with their initial investigation on Saturday. Reports are President Obama may attack Syria as soon as they leave. With the report and Security Council resolution pending an attack would look reckless and show incredible hubris. He will have blatantly violated international law and committed “the supreme international crime.”
This all adds up to a major blunder in the making if President Obama does not find a way to back track from his war threats. While I believe that an attack on Syria would be a mistake no matter what Congress does, those who believe a military strike is necessary should at a minimum bring the matter to Congress and wait for the UN inspectors report and a decision from the Security Council.
The risk of impeachment needs to be part of the balance in Obama’s thinking. The Republicans have been out to destroy him since he was elected. Attacking Syria without congressional approval will give them a weapon. And, you can be sure they will use it, and with their majority control of the House, a vote for impeachment in that Chamber is not unlikely.
If Obama proceeds to war without going to Congress for approval, the irony of an impeachment conviction for an illegal war by the president who won a Nobel Peace Prize may indeed come to pass. President Obama’s legacy will be that of a president who started an illegal war.
Russia gave UN 100-page report in July blaming Syrian rebels for Aleppo sarin attack
By Matthew Schofield | McClatchy Foreign Staff
last updated: September 05, 2013 06:37:13 PM
BERLIN — ]
Russia says a deadly March sarin attack in an Aleppo suburb was carried out by Syrian rebels, not forces loyal to President Bashar Assad, and it has delivered a 100-page report laying out its evidence to the United Nations.
A statement posted on the Russian Foreign Ministry website late Wednesday said the report included detailed scientific analysis of samples that Russian technicians collected at the site of the alleged attack, Khan al Asal in northern Syria. The attack killed 26 people.
A U.N. spokesman, Farhan Haq, confirmed that Russia delivered the report in July.
The report itself was not released. But the statement drew a pointed comparison between what it said was the scientific detail of the report and the far shorter intelligence summaries that the United States, Britain and France have released to justify their assertion that the Syrian government launched chemical weapons against Damascus suburbs on Aug. 21. The longest of those summaries, by the French, ran nine pages. Each relies primarily on circumstantial evidence to make its case, and they disagree with one another on some details, including the number of people who died in the attack.
The Russian statement warned the United States and its allies not to conduct a military strike against Syria until the United Nations had completed a similarly detailed scientific study into the Aug. 21 attack. It charged that what it called the current “hysteria” about a possible military strike in the West was similar to the false claims and poor intelligence that preceded the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Russia said its investigation of the March 19 incident was conducted under strict protocols established by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the international agency that governs adherence to treaties prohibiting the use of chemical weapons. It said samples that Russian technicians had collected had been sent to OPCW-certified laboratories in Russia.
“The Russian report is specific,” the ministry statement said. “It is a scientific and technical document.”
The Russian statement said Russian officials had broken the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons’ code of silence on such probes only because Western nations appear to be “preparing the ground for military action” in retaliation for the Aug. 21 incident.
A U.N. team spent four days late last month investigating the Aug. 21 incident. The samples it collected from the site and alleged victims of the attack are currently being examined at the chemical weapons organization’s labs in Europe. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged the United States to delay any strike until after the results of that investigation are known. But U.S. officials have dismissed the U.N. probe, saying it won’t tell them anything they don’t already know.
White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said U.S. officials were unmoved by the Russian report and held the Assad government responsible for both the Khan al Asal attack in March and the Aug. 21 attack outside Damascus.
“We have studied the Russian report but have found no reason to change our assessment,” she said.
Independent chemical weapons experts contacted by McClatchy said they were not familiar with the report and had not read the Russian statement, which was posted as Secretary of State John Kerry was appearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee to make the Obama administration’s case for a retaliatory strike on Syria as punishment for the August attack. But they were cautious about the details made public in the Russian statement.
Richard Guthrie, formerly project leader of the Chemical and Biological Warfare Project of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, said the Russian statement on the makeup of the sarin found at Khan al Asal, which the Russians indicated was not military grade, might reflect only that “there are a lot of different ways to make sarin.”
He added: “The messy mix described by the Russians might also be the result of an old sarin stock being used. Sarin degrades (the molecules break up) over time and this would explain a dirty mix.”
He also said there could be doubts about the Russian conclusion that the rockets that delivered the sarin in the March 19 incident were not likely to have come from Syrian military stocks because of their use of RDX, an explosive that is also known as hexogen and T4.
“Militaries don’t tend to use it because it’s too expensive,” Guthrie said. He added in a later email, however, that it’s not inconceivable that the Syrian military would use RDX “if the government side was developing a semi-improvised short-range rocket” and “if there happened to be a stock available.”
“While I would agree that it would be unlikely for a traditional, well-planned short-range rocket development program to use RDX in that role, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that, as the Syrian government did not seem to have an earlier short-range rocket program, it may have been developing rockets with some haste and so using materials that are at hand,” he wrote.
Jean Pascal Zanders, a leading expert on chemical weapons who until recently was a senior research fellow at the European Union’s Institute for Security Studies, questioned a Russian assertion that the sarin mix appeared to be a Western World War II vintage.
“The Western Allies were not aware of the nerve agents until after the occupation of Germany,” he wrote in an email. “The USA, for example, struggled with the sarin (despite having some of the German scientists) until the 1950s, when the CW program expanded considerably.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry posted the statement shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin had asked a Russian interviewer what the American reaction would be if evidence showed that Syrian rebels, not the Assad regime, had been behind a chemical weapons attack.
The report dealt with an incident that occurred March 19 in Khan al Asal, outside Aleppo, in which 26 people died and 86 were sickened. It was that incident that the U.N. team now probing the Aug. 21 attack was originally assigned to investigate, and the Russian statement noted that the investigation had been sidetracked by the sudden focus on the later incident.
Haq, the U.N. spokesman, acknowledged that the most recent attack “has pushed the investigation of the Aleppo incident to the back burner for now.” But he said that “the inspectors will get back to it as soon as is possible.”
The statement’s summary of the report said that neither the munitions nor the poison gas in the Khan al Asal attack appeared to fit what is possessed by the Syrian government. The statement said Russian investigators studied the site, sent the materials they found to study to the Russian laboratories of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, and followed agreed-upon United Nations investigation standards.
According to the statement, the report said the shell “was not regular Syrian army ammunition but was an artisan-type similar to unguided rocket projectiles produced in the north of Syria by the so-called gang ‘Bashair An-Nasr.’”
The Russian analysis found soil and shell samples contained a sarin gas “not synthesized in an industrial environment,” the statement said. The report said the chemical mix did not appear to be a modern version of the deadly agent but was closer to those “used by Western states for producing chemical weapons during World War II.”
The statement said the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons team had examined Syrian soldiers injured in the March attack and said that no reaction to the more recent alleged chemical account should be considered without also considering that the rebels, too, have used chemical weapons.
“It is obvious that any objective investigation of the incident on Aug. 21 in East Ghouta is impossible without considering the circumstances of the March attack,” the statement said. Ghouta is the area near Damascus where the Aug. 21 attack took place.
(Lesley Clark contributed to this report from St. Petersburg, Russia.)
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