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Thursday, September 05, 2013

Strange tales out of Syria

First and foremost, let me republish some information from Corrente on how to pressure Congress on Syria:
Call switchboard to contact Congressperson and Senators:

Call White House switchboard
202-456-1111, 202-456-1444

Send an email via Roots Action to Senators, Representatives and President:

Message from Roots Action: The terrible and widespread killing in Syria will become even more terrible and more widespread if the U.S. military (or a coalition of allies) launches an attack. The choice is not between doing nothing and bombing the Syrian people. Let those who would bomb people in our names know that they have alternatives:

Editable Form Letter from Roots Action at link:

"Dear _________,

As a constituent, I am writing to let you know that I oppose a military attack on Syria. Creative diplomacy is the best way to respond to the alleged use of chemical weapons. I urge you to work for a ceasefire, to pressure Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, and Turkey, to halt the flow of weapons, and to pressure Russia and Iran to do the same.”
Now let's look at some further indications that Assad is not responsible for the chemical attack on Ghouta.

Oddly, nobody in the American media seems to have thought to ask the opinion of the people who live in that area. Some of you may feel inclined to dismiss this article because it comes from a source that will be unfamiliar to most of you. Frankly, I had never heard of Mint Press News before this day. Although I like what I read here, I'd also like to know where the money comes from.

While you should not accept this report uncritically, I do think that these claims deserve further investigation...
However, from numerous interviews with doctors, Ghouta residents, rebel fighters and their families, a different picture emerges. Many believe that certain rebels received chemical weapons via the Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, and were responsible for carrying out the dealing gas attack.

“My son came to me two weeks ago asking what I thought the weapons were that he had been asked to carry,” said Abu Abdel-Moneim, the father of a rebel fighting to unseat Assad, who lives in Ghouta.

Abdel-Moneim said 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, who was leading a fighting battalion. The father described the weapons as having a “tube-like structure” while others were like a “huge gas bottle.”

Ghouta townspeople said the rebels were using mosques and private houses to sleep while storing their weapons in tunnels.
The piece goes on to relate a theory that the Saudis had provided chemical weaponry to the al-Nusra front but had not given adequate instruction on how to operate the things.
“They didn’t tell us what these arms were or how to use them,” complained a female fighter named ‘K.’ “We didn’t know they were chemical weapons. We never imagined they were chemical weapons.”

“When Saudi Prince Bandar gives such weapons to people, he must give them to those who know how to handle and use them,” she warned. She, like other Syrians, do not want to use their full names for fear of retribution.

A well-known rebel leader in Ghouta named ‘J’ agreed. “Jabhat al-Nusra militants do not cooperate with other rebels, except with fighting on the ground. They do not share secret information. They merely used some ordinary rebels to carry and operate this material,” he said.

“We were very curious about these arms. And unfortunately, some of the fighters handled the weapons improperly and set off the explosions,” ‘J’ said.
Call this the "oops" theory. Yes, I'm fully aware that this scenario conflicts with information published in the New York Times, which reported that the rockets came from the Qaboun/Jobar area, which was rebel-held. Still, one reason why the Mint News scenario intrigues me is that it does not offer a "false flag" story. Instead, it gives us a more nuanced scenario in which an accident is used opportunistically by propagandists intent on regime change in Syria.

Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry is now claiming that the rebels, not Assad, were responsible for the previous alleged chemical attack last March.
A statement released by the ministry on Wednesday particularly drew attention to the “massive stove-piping of various information aimed at placing the responsibility for the alleged chemical weapons use in Syria on Damascus, even though the results of the UN investigation have not yet been revealed.”

By such means “the way is being paved for military action” against Damascus, the ministry pointed out.
The Russians have sent a report to the UN. According to UN envoy Vitaly Churkin, Russian scientists have examined a recovered projectile and found indications of sarin.
Churkin added that the contents of the shell “didn’t contain chemical stabilizers in the toxic substance,” and therefore “is not a standard chemical charge.” The RDX - an explosive nitroamine commonly used for industrial and military applications - found in the warhead was not consistent with what the armed forces use.

According to Moscow, the manufacture of the ‘Bashair-3’ warheads started in February, and is the work of Bashair al-Nasr, a brigade with close ties to the Free Syrian Army.
This next bit is also worth noting, in light of the Mint News report listed above:
The Syrian government invited chief UN chemical weapons investigator Ake Sellstrom and UN disarmament chief Angela Kane for talks in Damascus on Monday, announcing that a rebels-linked storage site containing piles of dangerous chemicals had been discovered.

“The Syrian authorities have discovered yesterday in the city of Banias 281 barrels filled with dangerous, hazardous chemical materials,” Syrian UN Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari said, adding that the chemicals were “capable of destroying a whole city, if not the whole country.”

The chemicals, which included monoethylene glycol and polyethylene glycol, were found in a storage site used by “armed terrorist groups,” Ja’afari explained.
The 800-pound gorilla. The NYT indulged in an interesting bit of censorship. (I hate linking to Dylan Beyers' column, but he didn't write this particular post.)
A reference to the pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC was mysteriously cut from a New York Times article published online Monday and in print Tuesday. The first version, published online Monday, quotes an anonymous administration official calling AIPAC the "800-pound gorilla in the room." The original article, which is still available on The Boston Globe's site, had two paragraphs worth of quotes from officials about the powerful lobbying group's position in the Syria debate:
Administration officials said the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee was already at work pressing for military action against the government of Assad, fearing that if Syria escapes American retribution for its use of chemical weapons, Iran might be emboldened in the future to attack Israel. In the House, the majority leader, Eric Cantor of Virginia, the only Jewish Republican in Congress, has long worked to challenge Democrats’ traditional base among Jews.

One administration official, who, like others, declined to be identified discussing White House strategy, called AIPAC “the 800-pound gorilla in the room,” and said its allies in Congress had to be saying, “If the White House is not capable of enforcing this red line” against the catastrophic use of chemical weapons, “we’re in trouble.”
The newer version makes no reference to AIPAC and does not include an editor's note explaining any change, other than a typical note at the end of the story noting that a version of the article appeared in the Tuesday print edition of the Times.
Despite a claim made by the NYT that these paragraphs were excised because they were repetitive, it's pretty obvious that the "gorilla" line irked AIPAC. Some gorillas like to pretend that they're not gorillas.

Strange bedfellows. Stopping Obama's planned war in Syria is imperative. Although the administration assures us that there will be no boots on the ground, a moment's thought will tell you that there is simply no safe way to take out chemical weapon storage facilities from the air. Bombs will surely release toxins into the environment.

Perhaps afterwards we can claim that "We had to poison them in order to save them."

That said, the effort to stop this war is creating some of the strangest bedfellows in political history. Rush Limbaugh, of all people, is now speaking of the Ghouta attack as a "false flag" event. A little more predictably, Ron Paul has expressed a similar view.

You have to admit: The image of Rush Limbaugh marching in step with the Russian Foreign Ministry is pretty amusing.

I can't stand Ron Paul's libertarian ideology -- if he ran the economy, we'd enter a new age of barbarism -- but his words have a certain wisdom:
This can escalate and Russia could get in -- what if there's an accident and a hundred Russians get killed by our bombs? Some type of unintended consequences -- wars always expand because of unintended consequences. They always provide short term wars. Just think of all the promises on Iraq, short term, not much money, we'll get their oil. Don't believe it. We should look at what is best for America and not try to pick sides in an impossible war like this.
It's more likely that the war would expand to include Iran, not Russia. But the consequences of that could be just as disastrous.
The US is expecting cyber attacks from the Syrian Electronic Army which now has more backing from Iran
disclaimer and provenance
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