Monday, May 06, 2013

Did the Syrian REBELS use chemical weapons?

From the start, I mistrusted the allegations that Assad had used chemical weapons against the U.S.-backed, Al Qaeda-linked rebels hoping to unseat him. Now the redoubtable Brad Friedman directs our attention to this important story from Reuters:
U.N. human rights investigators have gathered testimony from casualties of Syria's civil war and medical staff indicating that rebel forces have used the nerve agent sarin, one of the lead investigators said on Sunday.

The United Nations independent commission of inquiry on Syria has not yet seen evidence of government forces having used chemical weapons, which are banned under international law, said commission member Carla Del Ponte.

"Our investigators have been in neighboring countries interviewing victims, doctors and field hospitals and, according to their report of last week which I have seen, there are strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof of the use of sarin gas, from the way the victims were treated," Del Ponte said in an interview with Swiss-Italian television.

"This was use on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities," she added, speaking in Italian.
(Why would the rebels do this? See the important "added note" at the end of this story.)

It seems likely that the Obama administration has had this same information for a while now. Brad Friedman helpfully reminds us of Barack Obama's statement:
"What we now have is evidence that chemical weapons have been used inside of Syria, but we don't know how they were used, when they were used, who used them. We don't have a chain of custody that establishes what exactly happened," the President said, seemingly responsibly.
Brad also has a few choice words about the Israeli airstrikes against Syria, allegedly to take out missiles to be used by Hezbollah against Israel:
From the various anonymous U.S. and Israeli officials cited by news agencies, Israel was striking "a shipment of missiles destined for Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement ... a consignment of advanced, long-range, ground-to-ground missiles destined for Hezbollah"

"The shipment did not contain chemical weapons, but the missiles were potentially 'game-changing,' one official told the Associated Press," Washington Post is reporting.

(Without citing evidence, the fully-discredited-yet-still-well-paid [Ari] Fleischer described the missiles as "delivery systems for chemical weapons".)
Do you smell the toxic stink of disinformation in the air? I do.

In the first place -- as I noted in an earlier post -- Assad is in the midst of the fight of his life. Why would he be so fixated on Hezbollah now? Why invite Israel to the party?

Second, why would Ari Fleischer and others be so quick to link those missiles -- or whatever it was that the Israelis had targeted -- to chemical weapons? Nobody has cited any verifiable evidence to justify that particular conclusion-hop.

Like it or not, the Angry Arab asks a valid question:
I really wonder: is all this noise about chemical weapons in the Western media intended to conceal another story (which is still unreported): that the Syrian armed groups are retreating on all fronts?
Someone somewhere has written a narrative. A fiction. The purpose of this fiction is to goad America into giving the Syrian rebels an unlimited supply of truly serious (as in serious) aid, now that the tide of battle has started to turn against them. I'm reminded of the Afghan/Soviet conflict: Just when the Russians had come close to victory, America decided to give Stinger missiles to the jihadis.

What is Obama's role in all this? Although I remain pissed off at the guy for any number of reasons (drones, Gitmo, surveillance, Wall Street, free trade), I honestly don't think that he is the author of this exercise in disinformation. If he were, he would not have sounded a cautious note -- he'd be standing with John McCain and screeching for blood, milking the moment for all of its pseudo-historical worth.

No. Barack Obama is the target of this disinformation bomb. The neo-neocons created this "chemical weapons" scenario because they had hoped to manipulate the President into involving this country in yet another unwinnable war.

Incidentally: In the coming days, you may be seeing more journalistic puff pieces focusing on a Syrian Army defector named Colonel Abdul-Jabbar Mohammed Aqidi, who heads up an anti-Assad umbrella group called the Military Revolutionary Council in Aleppo. The media will try to convince you that he's the Charles de Gaulle of this war. We're supposed to think of him as a moderate leader, not at all connected to those awful, awful radical jihadis.

Israel seems to be backing Aqidi and his group.

I advise caution. This LAT story from last year indicates that Aqidi resembles Ahmed Chelabi a lot more than he resembles de Gaulle. The U.S. may consider Aqidi a future leader of Syria -- but how many people in Syria feel that way?

Added note: If you are wondering why the jihadis used chemical weapons, Lew Rockwell makes an excellent argument:
Of course anyone whose brain fired on more than one cylinder should have questioned why in the hell the Syrian government would use in such a limited and militarily insignificant way the one weapon it knew would likely bring on a US and NATO Libya-style intervention. It made no sense at all for the Syrian government to use "just a little" sarin -- not enough to do more than kill a few people, nothing to alter the course of the war -- knowing about "red lines" and a US/Saudi/Qatari/Israeli/Turk bloodlust to invade.

On the other hand, it made all the sense in the world for the insurgents to release some sarin here and there, make some videos of the victims, and email the links to some very willing Israeli generals and McCainian rabid warhawks in the US and their absurd poodles in the UK and France.
(Emphasis added.) In other words, it's a frame. Rockwell suspects that the sarin came from Libya, which had lots of the stuff floating around.
I'm on your skepticism vibe, Joe. I think this whole scenario is highly questionable and reminds me way too much of the propaganda wave leading up to the Iraqi war. Even the words being used are weasel-like: the evidence of chemical weapons usage has 'some degree of varying confidence.'

What the hell does that mean? The head at NATO said on Friday that the world community could not rule out the possibility that the rebel forces had used the chemicals themselves, hoping to drag the US into the fight.

Like you, I have major duty problems with Obama for a whole lot of reasons. But in this case, I favor caution and slowing any decision down until we have the facts. The world is flush with neocons right now just itching for another fight. Mainly with Iran but if Syria will get them there, who's going to quibble?

After Iraq, we should all be leery of so-called 'intelligence' reports, be it from US or Israeli sources, particularly when they have 'some degree of varying confidence.' I don't know how Hagel got those words out of his mouth without choking.

This could get very ugly, very fast. With an ending we may not like at all.

Please find the old plans of Oded Yinon that were translated by the late Israel Shahaak titled Zionist Plans for the Middle East it. It explains everything that is happening there and in parts of Africa. We won't be scatching our heads trying to figure out another thing Israel does.
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