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Friday, April 07, 2017

Syria

Not sure what to do at a time like this. For months, I've been watching the MSNBC shows, desperate for the anti-Trump latest. Then, last night, Rachel Maddow delivered her version of the Syria situation, when she confidently told viewers that the 2013 chemical attack was conducted by the Assad government....

CLICK.

No it wasn't, Rachel. And I refuse to watch as someone I admire becomes complicit in a Big Lie.

We've talked about the 2013 Ghouta incident in many, many previous posts. I don't know why Maddow could not include at least some wiggle-room for doubt, given the reportage of Sy Hersh, the findings of UN weapons inspector Carla Del Ponte, and the conclusions of this important MIT study. All of these respected sources pointed to the rebels -- not the Assad government -- as the likely culprits.

Simple logic leads to the same conclusion, since the 2013 chemical attack served no military purpose but functioned as a marvelous anti-Assad propaganda tool. Similarly, in 2017, Assad once again had the upper hand is war against ISIS and Al Qaeda/Nusra. Peace negotiations were set to resume mere days from now. Why on earth would he choose this moment to launch a sarin attack on civilians?

Nevertheless, Donald Trump has attacked one of Assad's bases. What is Trump's end game? What solution does he propose? Does he intend to depose Assad and to place ISIS in power? Or maybe Al Qaeda? There are no other players in Syria, American fantasies to the contrary notwithstanding.

Intriguingly, the Russians and the Syrians seemed to have had advanced knowledge of the raid.
ABC News reported early Friday that the Syrian military seemed to know that something might happen. Eyewitnesses claim the military then evacuated personnel and moved equipment before the strike took place.

The United States dropped 59 Tomahawk missiles on the Shayrat airbase at approximately 8:40 p.m. EST. The bombs were aimed at refueling stations and aircraft. The Pentagon explained that the strike was aimed at preventing another chemical attack on Syrian civilians in the future.
Former Newsweek reporter Robert Parry offers what I consider a well-reasoned call for caution:
One possible scenario was that Syrian warplanes bombed a rebel weapons depot where the poison gas was stored, causing the containers to rupture. Another possibility was a staged event by increasingly desperate Al Qaeda jihadists who are known for their disregard for innocent human life.

While it’s hard to know at this early stage what’s true and what’s not, these alternative explanations, I’m told, are being seriously examined by U.S. intelligence. One source cited the possibility that Turkey had supplied the rebels with the poison gas (the exact type still not determined) for potential use against Kurdish forces operating in northern Syria near the Turkish border or for a terror attack in a government-controlled city like the capital of Damascus.
Trump has -- to his credit -- proclaimed the Iraq invasion to be one of the worst decisions ever taken by an American president. But he seems intent on making the same mistake. Some of the same personnel seem to be enacting their familiar roles:
On Tuesday, the Times assigned two of its most committed anti-Syrian-government propagandists to cover the Syrian poison-gas story, Michael B. Gordon and Anne Barnard.

Gordon has been at the front lines of the neocon “regime change” strategies for years. He co-authored the Times’ infamous aluminum tube story of Sept. 8, 2002, which relied on U.S. government sources and Iraqi defectors to frighten Americans with images of “mushroom clouds” if they didn’t support President George W. Bush’s upcoming invasion of Iraq. The timing played perfectly into the administration’s advertising “rollout” for the Iraq War.
Gordon's partner "back in the day" was the infamous Judith Miller. Remember her?
Anne Barnard, Gordon’s co-author on Tuesday’s Syrian poison-gas story, has consistently reported on the Syrian conflict as if she were a press agent for the rebels, playing up their anti-government claims even when there’s no evidence.

For instance, on June 2, 2015, Barnard, who is based in Beirut, Lebanon, authored a front-page story that pushed the rebels’ propaganda theme that the Syrian government was somehow in cahoots with the Islamic State though even the U.S. State Department acknowledged that it had no confirmation of the rebels’ claims.
Here's the most damning bit of all:
Perhaps for the first time, The New York Times cited President Trump as a reliable source because he and his press secretary were saying what the Times wanted to hear – that Assad must be guilty.
Let's see if Trump returns the favor and stops referring to the "failing" New York Times.
Gordon and Barnard also cited the controversial White Helmets, the rebels’ Western-financed civil defense group that has worked in close proximity with Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front and has come under suspicion of staging heroic “rescues” but is nevertheless treated as a fount of truth-telling by the mainstream U.S. news media.
In our current news environment, anyone who casts aspersions on the White Helmets is treated as an Alex Jonesian conspiracy wacko. Well, the Swedish Doctors for Human Rights aren't the kind of nutjobs who get their news from Infowars, and neither are they a Russian propaganda outfit. I suggest that you read the piece at the other end of that link, because it makes a lot of valid points.

As we all try to make sense of what's going on in Syria, I beg you never to lose sight of this revelation from the Washington Post's story on Erik Prince's meeting with a Russian representative in the Seychelles:
The meeting took place around Jan. 11 — nine days before Trump’s inauguration — in the Seychelles islands in the Indian Ocean, officials said. Though the full agenda remains unclear, the UAE agreed to broker the meeting in part to explore whether Russia could be persuaded to curtail its relationship with Iran, including in Syria, a Trump administration objective that would be likely to require major concessions to Moscow on U.S. sanctions.
I've printed those words before and I expect to do so again. I believe that they contain the key to what's now going on in Syria.

On another front: For a while, I toyed with the possibility that the reports of a Bannon/Kushner "war" might be a ploy -- a grand deception. But I am now persuaded that the rift is quite real. Axios says that a major shake-up may push out both Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon.

Speaking of Jared Kushner: How the hell was he able to get a security clearance?
When Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, sought the top-secret security clearance that would give him access to some of the nation’s most closely guarded secrets, he was required to disclose all encounters with foreign government officials over the last seven years.

But Mr. Kushner did not mention dozens of contacts with foreign leaders or officials in recent months. They include a December meeting with the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, and one with the head of a Russian state-owned bank, Vnesheconombank, arranged at Mr. Kislyak’s behest.
Lying about such matters usually results in revocation of clearance, or so I have been given to understand.

Comments:
There's a few good resources available on the 2013 Ghouta attack: here, here, here and here .

It's also worth remembering that US Intelligence refused to put their name to White House claims that Assad did it.
 
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