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Turkish Journalist Ali Ornek's take on the OPCW's "Report" on the Khan Sheikhoun Chemical Attack


Following are Journalist Ali Ornek's consequtive 22 tweets on the subject





I) OPCW haven't sent an investigation team to Khan Sheikhoun to gather first-hand evidences and samples yet.
[https://www.opcw.org/news/article/opcw-director-general-shares-incontrovertible-laboratory-results-concluding-exposure-to-sarin/]





1a) Khan Sheikhoun is at the southern edge of the 'rebel' held teritory in Idlib and it is a two-hour drive from Reyhanlı (Turkey) to KS




1b) AlQaeda affiliated Tahrir al-Sham, that controls KS hasn't called for an OPCW investigation contrary 2 Assad.
http://www.globalresearch.ca/video-president-al-assad-khan-sheikhoun-chemical-weapons-incident-totally-fabricated-the-us-is-not-serious-in-achieving-any-political-solution/5584931



1c) Also, it's Russia that preassures on OPCW to send experts into Syria to probe Idlib chemical incident.
https://www.rt.com/news/384837-lavrov-syria-chemical-investigation/



1.d) If OPCW didn't send an investigation team into Syria, then what is the source of 'samples' for its reporting. Of course Turkey.

II) Turkey has always been the most ardent partner of the international coaliton that seeks regime change in Syria. US ex-VP Biden:




II.a) Initial reports of Turkey on the KS contradicting each other, raising the questions if the reports politically manipulated.

II.b) The initial report of Turkish chemical team (CBRN) experts concludes that what caused the deaths in KS was not SARIN but CHLORINE.




II.c) A day after CBRN report given to OPCW, the watchdog confirmed the initial reports of CBRN team.

[ https://www.opcw.org/news/article/media-brief-reported-use-of-chemical-weapons-southern-idlib-syria-4-april-2017/ ]



II. d) But Turkish Health Min. based on same tests on the same victims ignored CBRN report, said SARIN was used. [https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/06/world/middleeast/chemical-attack-syria.html]





II. e) Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ claimed “autopsies were conducted with WHO while WHO official denided [ http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/autopsy-results-show-chemical-weapons-used-syrian-attack-turkish-minister-242896067 ]



II.f) Previously, Bozdağ was blamed for using his authority 2 close an investigation abt a jihadi cell arrested with SARIN by opposition. [http://www.birgun.net/haber-detay/bekir-bozdag-dan-savci-ya-sarin-gazi-fircasi-islami-orgutlere-haberimiz-olmadan-operasyon-yapmayin-93116.html]





Note: Prime suspect, released from prison thanks to a report saying confiscated chemical isn't sarin -laterly turned out to be 'mistake'-

Note 2: Second expert report stated Ahrar al-Sham cell (that has presence in Khan Sheikhoun) caught up with SARIN.  Syria Feature: 1 Convicted, 5 Acquitted in “Sarin” Case in Turkey



...

II. g) So the latest OPCW report, as well as Lister's accusations mainly based on contradicting Turkish reports +

II g-2) samples given under the authority of a minister accused with the spoliation of evidence abt Syrian rebels operations to obtain CW

III) Lister refers US report blaming Assad which distorts the truth on the most vital part: Motivation of the attack.

III. a) Acc. to White House Syria report, desperate situation of Assad in Hama front leads him to use CW. [ https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/04/11/world/middleeast/document-Syria-Chemical-Weapons-Report-White-House.html ]




III b) But for opposition, 'Assad recaptured 90% of the territory' left jihadists in a desperate situation.
           [http://www.syriahr.com/en/?p=64045 ]




III c) MIT professor Ted Postol -higly regarded expert- challenges White House on the technical parts of the report [ http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2017/04/66712.html ]

IV) And finally Lister, funded by Qatar http://freebeacon.com/national-security/questions-raised-about-ties-between-brookings-institution-qatars-government/ Qatar is claimed to be state-sponsor of ISIS.




Also see: Hillary In Leaked Email: Saudi Arabia And Qatar Are Funding ISIS




END.

20 April 2017

SOURCEhttps://twitter.com/ornekali/status/855058299670102016

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Moon of Alabama published the following article on April 20, 2017 partially based on the work and tweets of Ali Ornek
*
Chlorine, Not Sarin, Was Used In The Khan Sheikhun Incident

Those who blame the Syrian government for the allegedly chemical incident in Khan Sheikhun on April 4 are now playing up the analysis of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). But the results of the OPCW tests are inconsistent with all observed and reported technical and medical facts of the incident.

Yesterday the OPCW Director General Ambassador Üzümcü, a Turkish career diplomat and former NATO ambassador, released the first analytic results of the OPCW investigation into the Khan Sheikhun incident:
The bio-medical samples collected from three victims during their autopsy were analysed at two OPCW designated laboratories. The results of the analysis indicate that the victims were exposed to Sarin or a Sarin-like substance. Bio-medical samples from seven individuals undergoing treatment at hospitals were also analysed in two other OPCW designated laboratories. Similarly, the results of these analyses indicate exposure to Sarin or a Sarin-like substance.
Director-General Üzümcü stated clearly: “The results of these analyses from four OPCW designated laboratories indicate exposure to Sarin or a Sarin-like substance.
"Sarin or Sarin-like substance" is noted three times a row. Sarin is also mentioned in the headline. Someone is pushing that meme - hard.

But the OPCW did not conclude that a chemical attack occurred in Khan Sheikhun. It suggested nothing about the incident itself. It only talked about bio-medical samples of several persons - nothing more, nothing less. It also did not give any hint of how much exposure the persons in question received. Was it a minimal traceable amount that had no effect or did they die from it? The OPCW does not say.

A "Sarin like substances" could be a different chemical weapon than sarin - soman is a possible candidate. It would be more consistent with the "smell" several witnesses described after the incident. Many general insecticides belong to the same class of chemicals as sarin and soman. They are organophosphorus compounds. (Sarin was originally developed as an insecticide). All of such compounds could be a source of the exposure found by the OPCW. These chemicals degrade within hours or days. A forensic analysis will not find the original substance but only decomposition products of some organophosporus compound. That is the reason why the OPCW result is not fixed on sarin but also mentions "sarin like substances".

Another question is where those samples come from. Who "collected" them? And what is the chain of evidence that connects the samples to the incident? The OPCW has not send an investigation team to Khan Sheikhun. No samples were taken in Khan Sheikhun by its own inspectors. While Russia and Syria have asked for OPCW inspections on the ground, Tahrir al-Sham, the renamed al-Qaeda in Syria which controls the Khan Sheikhun area, has not asked for inspectors. Without its agreement any investigation mission is simply too dangerous. None of the OPCW inspectors is interested in literally losing his head to those terrorists.

Al-Qaeda propaganda organizations in Khan Sheikhun were the first to claim that sarin was used on the ground. "Western" media and governments later repeated those claims before any further investigations could have been done. The very first claim I found was made by the former British doctor Shajul Islam who works for the terrorists. This video of him of "doctors "and "patients" in an emergence room in Kgan Sheikhun was pure theater, taken over a longer time period. The main presenter, Shajul Islam, is a well-known criminal Takfiri with links to the British secret service. He talks of sarin even though the "patients" around him show no signs of sarin effects and the emergency personal in the video is unprotected against potent chemical agents.

A White House assessment later claimed that it had evidence that sarin was used. It used the claim to justify the bombing of the Syrian military airport Al Syairat. But the White House assessment contains no evidence. It includes a number of factually false statements. It claims, for example:
]T]he World Health Organization stated on April 5 that its analysis of victims of the attack in Syria showed the had been exposed to nerve agents
The WHO report from April 5 stated no such thing. It only noted:
[S]erious reports of the use of highly toxic chemicals in an attack in Khan Shaykhun

It WHO made no analysis of its own. It only mentions "reports".

Immediately after the incident, bodies of dead and wounded were brought to Turkey where they were taken into hospital. Al-Qaeda or al-Qaeda aligned personal must have transported them. It is a three hour car ride from Khan Sheikhun to the Turkish border.

The incident happened on April 4. First reports by the Turkish government news agency Anadolu mentioned only chlorine:
At least 100 people were killed Tuesday when Assad regime warplanes carried out a chlorine gas attack in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province, according to Syrian opposition Health Minister Firas Jundi.
...
A local civil defense official earlier told Anadolu Agency a regime aircraft carried out a chlorine gas attack on the town early Tuesday.
The first OPCW statement on April 4 referred to chlorine, not sarin or similar:
The OPCW is investigating the incident in southern Idlib under the on-going mandate of the Fact-Finding Mission (FFM), which is “to establish facts surrounding allegations of the use of toxic chemicals, reportedly chlorine, for hostile purposes in the Syrian Arab Republic”.
The first report of the Turkish government also said chlorine. The UN Security Council convened on April 6 to discuss the incident. The Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reported:
Turkey sent a report to the United Nations just before a U.N. Security Council meeting to address accusations that the Syrian government staged a chemical weapons attack on April 4, stating that the gas used in the attack was chlorine gas.Turkey’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear teams (KBRN) prepared an initial report over the possible material of the alleged chemical attack, relying on the symptoms of and tests conducted on the victims and their testimonies.
The report stated that the initial findings of the tests conducted on around 30 victims brought to Turkey for treatment pointed to a chlorine gas attack.
Thirty victims were immediately brought to Turkey after the incident. But the Turkish doctors and CBRN specialist did not consider sarin, but chlorine gas -a much less potent chemical- to be involved. (Chlorine is not designated a chemical weapon under the chemical warfare regulations. This fact is often obfuscated for propaganda reasons. ) The symptoms of chlorine ingestion and the effects of sarin exposure are quite different. It is extremely unlikely that the emergency doctors and chemical weapon specialists misdiagnosed the issue when the patients arrived and were taken care of. The 30 casualties arriving in Turkey were not the casualties of a sarin incident.

But then the Turkish Health Ministry started to tell a different story:
The poison used in the deadly chemical bomb attack in a rebel-held part of northern Syria this week was the banned nerve agent sarin, the Turkish Health Ministry said in a statement on Thursday.
...
“According to the results of preliminary tests,” the statement said, “patients were exposed to chemical material (Sarin).”
...
The Turkish statement did not elaborate on how the sarin had been identified in the assault on Tuesday, but it said some of the telling symptoms seen in the victims included “lung edema, increase in lung weight and bleeding in lungs.”
From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Emergency Response Database:
At high exposure levels, irritation of the upper respiratory tract and accumulation of fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema) contribute to a sensation of choking.

But that is from the CDC entry for chlorine.

The CDC entry for sarin mentions "fluid accumulation in the airways" as one symptom among many more conspicuous ones. It does not mention an edema in the lungs.

Contradicting the first Turkish reports the Turkish Health Ministry claimed "sarin" (in parenthesis?!). But the symptom it described as proof was not of sarin but of chlorine exposure.

The Turkish Justice Minister also made a statement, but did not mention sarin at all:
Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag told reporters that "Autopsies were carried out on three of the bodies after they were brought from Idlib. The results of the autopsy confirms that chemical weapons were used," quoted by state-run Anadolu news agency."This scientific investigation also confirms that Assad used chemical weapons," Bozdag added, without giving further details.
...
Bozdag said autopsies were conducted with the "participation" of officials from the World Health Organization (WHO) in the southern province of Adana together with officials from Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

But WHO immediately countered Bozdag's claims that it was involved in the postmortem, saying the organisation did not conduct autopsies, adding: "It is not our mandate."
...
[It] also stressed that no samples or swabs had been taken by WHO despite claims by the Adana prosecutor that "examples" had been sent to the organisation and the OPCW
.

The Justice Minister claimed that samples had been given to the WHO and OPCW from the very first autopsies. But the WHO clearly denies that. I find no OPCW statement on this. Did it receive any of those first samples or only some that were later produced by Turkish authorities?

In 2013 a Turkish court, under Justice Minister Bozdag, set one suspected Ahrar al Sham member free after he was caught with sarin precursors. The person was later sentenced in absentia as he had fled back to Syria. Ahrar al Sham, while not in charge, has a presence in Khan Sheikhun.

The neuroscientist and neuro-pharmacologist Denis O'Brien, a Ph.D. with a research and teaching career in that field, analyzed the symtoms of the casualties that were depicted in the various videos coming out of Khan Sheikhun. His detailed diagnostics and chemical-biological explanations are humorously titled Top Ten Ways to Tell When You're Being Spoofed by a False-Flag Sarin Attack.

O'Brian notes the total absence of feces, urine, vomit and cyanosis (turning blue) in the videos. Sarin exposure causes, according to the CDC database, "Nausea, vomiting (emesis), diarrhea, abdominal pain, and cramping." Sarin effected patients would spontaneously shit, pee and vomit all over. But the casualties in the videos, even the "dead" ones, have clean undies. The "clinic" in the videos has clean floors. The patients show red skin color, not oxygen deprived blue. The patients in the videos were not effected by sarin.

Medical personal and rescue workers in the videos (example) and pictures also show none of the typical sarin symptoms. Sarin degrades relatively fast. Half of the potency will be gone within five hours after release (depending on environmental factors). But these rescue workers and medical personal were immediately involved with the casualties. They do not wear any reasonable protection. They would have been dead or at least effected if sarin would have been involved in any relevant concentration.

The Turkish doctors and chemical weapon specialists who received the first patients diagnosed chlorine exposure, not sarin. The first news and Turkish reports to the UN speak of chlorine, not sarin. It is only the Turkish Health Minister who mentions sarin - in parentheses, but then lists a symptom of severe chlorine exposure as one of sarin. Neither the casualties nor the unprotected medical personal involved in the incident show any effect of sarin exposure. The only one who claimed "sarin" early on was an al-Qaeda alligend former doctor in a staged propaganda video.

Fifteen days after the incident the OPCW say that samples (it was given?) "indicate exposure to Sarin or a Sarin-like substance".

Turkey has been the supply and support lifeline for Ahrar al Sham as well as for al-Qaeda in Syria. The samples given to the OPCW were taken by Turkish personal in Turkey. The current head of the OPCW is a Turkish civil servant. It is in the interest of Turkey and its terrorist clients in Syria to blame the Syrian government for chemical weapon use.

The medical and technical evidence is not consistent with a sarin attack by the Syrian government. All of the videos and pictures of the incident were taken in al-Qaeda controlled territory. All witnesses were under al-Qaeda control. How much of the incident was staged for videos (see al-Qaeda doctor video linked above) or how many of the witnesses were told to lie is not testable under current circumstance. The Syrian government insist that it had given up all its chemical weapons and keeps no stocks. The Russian government also asserts that no chemical weapon attack took place.

The OPCW analysis may well have found that samples it received indicated some organophosphorus exposure. But the chain of evidence for these samples is very dubious. The amount of exposure was not defined.

The observable facts of the incident do not support the conclusion that sarin was present in the Khan Sheikhun incident.

Note: Part of the above is based on the work and tweets of Ali Ornek

Oliver Stone on the ongoing Syria crisis

by Oliver Stone | 19 April 2017

Verified account 

“So It Goes”

I confess I really had hopes for some conscience from Trump about America’s wars, but I was wrong -- fooled again! -- as I had been by the early Reagan, and less so by Bush 43. Reagan found his mantra with the “evil empire” rhetoric against Russia, which almost kicked off a nuclear war in 1983 -- and Bush found his ‘us against the world’ crusade at 9/11, in which of course we’re still mired.

It seems that Trump really has no ‘there’ there, far less a conscience, as he’s taken off the handcuffs on our war machine and turned it over to his glorified Generals -- and he’s being praised for it by our ‘liberal’ media who continue to play at war so recklessly. What a tortured bind we’re in. There are intelligent people in Washington/New York, but they’ve lost their minds as they’ve been stampeded into a Syrian-Russian groupthink, a consensus without asking -- ‘Who benefits from this latest gas attack?’ Certainly neither Assad nor Putin. The only benefits go to the terrorists who initiated the action to stave off their military defeat. It was a desperate gamble, but it worked because the Western media immediately got behind it with crude propagandizing about murdered babies, etc. No real investigation or time for a UN chemical unit to establish what happened, much less find a motive. Why would Assad do something so stupid when he’s clearly winning the civil war? No, I believe America has decided somewhere, in the crises of the Trump administration, that we will get into this war at any cost, under any circumstances -- to, once again, change the secular regime in Syria, which has been, from the Bush era on, one of the top goals -- next to Iran -- of the neoconservatives. At the very least, we will cut out a chunk of northeastern Syria and call it a State.

Abetted by the Clintonites, they’ve done a wonderful job throwing America into chaos with probes into Russia’s alleged hacking of our election and Trump being their proxy candidate (now clearly disproved by his bombing attack) -- and sadly, worst of all in some ways, admitting no memory of the same false flag incident in 2013, for which again Assad was blamed (see Seymour Hersh’s fascinating deconstruction of this US propaganda, ‘London Review of Books’ December 19, 2013, “Whose sarin?”). No memory, no history, no rules -- or rather ‘American rules.’

No, this isn’t an accident or a one-off affair. This is the State deliberately misinforming the public through its corporate media and leads us to believe, as Mike Whitney points out in his brilliant analyses, “Will Washington Risk WW3” and “Syria: Where the Rubber Meets the Road,” that something far more sinister waits in the background. Mike Whitney, Robert Parry, and former intelligence officer Phil Giraldi all comment below. It’s well worth 30 minutes of your time to read.

Lastly, I enclose Bruce Cumings’s “Nation” analysis of North Korea, as he again reminds us of the purposes of studying history. Can we wake up before it’s too late? I for one feel like the John Wayne veteran (of war) character in “Fort Apache,” riding with the arrogant Custer-like General (Henry Fonda) to his doom. My country, my country, my heart aches for thee.

Mike Whitney, “Will Washington Risk WW3 to Block and Emerging EU-Russia Superstate,” Counterpunch, http://bit.ly/2oJ9Tpn
Mike Whitney, “Where the Rubber Meets the Road,” Counterpunch, http://bit.ly/2p574zT
Phil Giraldi, “A World in Turmoil, Thank You Mr. Trump!” Information Clearing House, http://bit.ly/2oSCGrW
Robert Parry, “Did Al Qaeda Fool the White House Again?” Consortiumnews, http://bit.ly/2nN88c0
Robert Parry, “Neocons Have Trump on His Knees,” Consortiumnews, http://bit.ly/2oZ5GyN
Robert Parry, “Trump’s Wag the Dog Moment,” Consortiumnews, http://bit.ly/2okwZTE
Robert Parry, “Mainstream Media as Arbiters of Truth,” Consortiumnews, http://bit.ly/2oSDo8A
Mike Whitney, “Blood in the Water: the Trump Revolution Ends in a Whimper,” Counterpunch, http://bit.ly/2oSDEo4
Bruce Cumings, “This is What’s Really Behind North Korea’s Nuclear Provocations,” The Nation, http://bit.ly/2nUEroH










If Trump cares so much about Syrian babies, why is he not condemning the rebels who slaughtered children?

by Robert Fisk | 17 April 2017

Dozens of children were killed in Syria this weekend but where is the US president’s lament on how ‘beautiful’ they are, let alone action? Where are the denunciations by the EU and the UK? The West must react with equal outrage when it is Shias that are the victims of terrorism. Or do we just not care?

It was the Mother of all Hypocrisy. Some dead Syrian babies matter, I guess. Other dead Syrian babies don’t matter. One mass murder in Syria two weeks ago killed children and babies and stirred our leaders to righteous indignation. But the slaughter in Syria this weekend killed even more children and babies – yet brought forth nothing but silence from those who claim to guard our moral values. Now why should this be?

When a gas attack in Syria killed more than 70 civilians on 4 April, including babies and children, Donald Trump ordered a missile attack on Syria. America applauded. So did its media. So did much of the world. Trump called Bashar al-Assad “evil” and “an animal”. The EU condemned the Syrian regime. Downing Street called the gas attack “barbaric”. Almost every western leader demanded that Assad should be overthrown.

Yet after this weekend’s suicide bombing of a convoy of civilian refugees outside Aleppo killed 126 Syrians, more than 80 of them children, the White House said nothing. Even though the death toll was far greater, Trump didn’t even Tweet his grief. The US navy launched not even a symbolic bullet towards Syria. The EU went all coy and refused to say a single word. All talk of “barbarism” from Downing Street was smothered.

More than 100 killed in Syria bus blast

Do they feel no sense of shame? What callousness. What disgrace. How outrageous that our compassion should dry up the moment we realised that this latest massacre of the innocents wasn’t quite worth the same amount of tears and fury that the early massacre had produced. It fact it wasn’t worth a single tear. For the 126 Syrians – almost all of them civilians – who have just been killed outside Aleppo, were Shia Muslims being evacuated from two government-held (ie Bashar-held) villages in the north of Syria. And their killer was obviously from al-Nusra (al-Qaeda) or one of the Sunni “rebel” groups we in the West have armed – or quite possibly from Isis itself – and thus didn’t qualify for our sorrow.

The UN, clip-clopping on to the stage-boards as usual, did speak out. The latest attack was “a new horror”. And Pope Francis called it “ignoble” and prayed for “beloved and martyred Syria”. And having been brought up by a pretty anti-Catholic dad, I said what I often say when I think the Pontiff has got it right, especially Francis: Good old Pope! Why, even the virtually non-existent anti-Assad “Free Syrian Army” condemned the attack as “terrorist”.

But that was it. And I recalled all those maudlin stories about how Ivanka Trump, as a mother, had been especially moved by the videotape from Khan Shaykoun, the site of the chemical attack on 4 April, and had urged her father to do something about it. And then it was Federica Mogherini, the EU’s ‘High Representative” for foreign affairs and security policy, who described the attack as “awful” – but insisted that she spoke “first of all as a mother”. Quite right, too. But what happened to all her maternal feelings – and those of Ivanka – when the pictures came in from northern Syria this weekend of exploded babies and children packaged up in black plastic bags? Silence.

There’s no doubting the flagrant, deliberate, vile cruelty of Saturday’s attack. The suicide bomber approached the refugee buses with a cartload of children’s cookies and potato chips – approaching, I might add, a population of fleeing Shia civilians who had been starving under siege by the anti-Assad rebels (some of whom, of course, were armed by us). Yet they didn’t count. Their “beautiful little babies” – I quote Trump on the earlier gas victims – didn’t stir us to anger. Because they were Shias? Because the culprits might have been too closely associated with us in the West? Or because – and here’s the point – they were the victims of the wrong kind of killer.

For what we want right now is to blame the “evil”, “animal”, “brutal”, etc, Bashar al-Assad who was first “suspected” to have carried out the 4 April gas attack (I quote The Wall Street Journal, no less) and then accused by the entire West of total and deliberate responsibility of the gas massacre. No-one should question the brutality of the regime. Nor its torture. Nor its history of massive oppression. Yet there are, in fact, some grave doubts about Bashar’s responsibility for the 4 April attack – which he has predictably denied – even among Arabs who loath his Baathist regime and all it stands for.

Even the leftist but hardly pro-Syrian Israeli writer Uri Avneri – briefly, in his life, a detective – has asked why Assad should commit such a crime when his army and its allies were winning the war in Syria, when such an attack would gravely embarrass the Russian government and military, and when it would change the softening western attitude towards him back towards open support for regime change.

And the regime’s claim that a Syrian air attack set off explosions in al-Nusra weapons store in Khan Shaykoun (an idea which the Russians also adopted) would be easier to dismiss if the Americans had not used precisely the same excuse for the killing of well over a hundred Iraqi civilians in Mosul in March; they suggested that a US air strike on an Isis arms lorry may have killed the civilians.

But this has nothing to do with the weekend’s far more bloody assault on the refugee convoys heading for western Aleppo. They were part of a now-familiar pattern of mass hostage exchanges between the Syrian government and its opponents in which Sunni opponents of the regime in villages surrounded by the Syrian army or its allies have been trucked out to Idlib and other “rebel”-held areas under safe passage in return for the freedom of Shia villagers surrounded by al-Nusra, Isis and “our” rebels who have been allowed to leave their villages for the safety of government-held cities. Such were the victims of Saturday’s suicide bombing; they were Shia villagers of al-Foua and Kafraya en route to what would be – for them – the safety of Aleppo.

Whether or not this constitutes a form of ethnic cleansing – another of Bashar’s sins, according to his enemies – is a moot point. Al-Nusra did not exactly urge the villagers of al-Foua and Kafraya to stay home since they wanted some of their own Sunni fighters back from their own encircled enclaves. Last month, the governor of Homs pleaded with Sunnis to leave the city on “rebel” convoys to Idlib to stay in their houses and remain in the city. But this is a civil war and such terrifying conflicts divide cities and towns for generations. Just look at Lebanon 27 years after its civil war ended.

But what ultimately proves our own participation in this immoral and unjust and frightful civil war is our reaction to those two massacres of the innocents. We cried over and lamented and even went to war for those “beautiful little babies” whom we believed to be Sunni victims of the Assad government. But when Shia babies of equal humanity were blasted to pieces this weekend, Trump could not care less. And the mothering spirit of Ivanka and Federica simply dried up.

Full text of Syria Pres Assad's interview w/ Agence France-Presse (AFP)


'Khan Sheikhoun incident totally fabricated..the US is not serious in achieving any political solution'

13 April، 2017



President Bashar al-Assad gave an interview to AFP in which he said what happened in Khan Shaikhoun is a fabricated story, stressing that Syria does not possess a chemical arsenal and that even if it has such an arsenal, it will not use it.

He made it clear that Syria can only allow any investigation in the Khan Sheikhoun incident when it’s impartial.

Following is the full text of the interview;

Question 1: Mr. President, first I want to thank you very much to receive me for an interview. Mr. President, did you give an order to strike Khan Sheikhoun with chemical weapons last Tuesday?

President Assad: Actually, no-one has investigated what happened that day in Khan Sheikhoun till the moment. As you know, Khan Sheikhoun is under the control of al-Nusra Front, which is a branch of Al Qaeda, so the only information the world have had till this moment is published by Al Qaeda branch. No-one has any other information. We don’t know if the whole pictures or videos that we’ve been seeing are true or fabricated. That’s why we asked for investigation to what happened in Khan Sheikhoun. This is first.

Second, Al Qaeda sources said that the attack happened at 6, 6:30 in the morning, while the Syrian attack in the same area was around noon, between 11:30 to 12. So, they’re talking about two different stories or events. So, there was no order to make any attack, we don’t have any chemical weapons, we gave up our arsenal a few years ago. Even if we have them, we wouldn’t use them, and we have never used our chemical arsenal in our history.

Question 2: So what happened this day?

President Assad: As I said, the only source is Al Qaeda, we cannot take it seriously. But our impression is that the West, mainly the United States, is hand in glove with the terrorists. They fabricated the whole story in order to have a pretext for the attack, It wasn’t an attack because of what happened in khan Sheikhoun. It’s one event, its stage one is the play that we saw on the social networking and on TVs, and the propaganda, and the stage two is the military attack. That’s what we believe is happening because it’s only few days – two days, 48 hours – between the play and the attacks, and no investigations, no concrete evidence about anything, the only thing were allegations and propaganda, and then strike.

Question 3: So, who according to you is responsible about this alleged chemical attack?

President Assad: The allegation itself was by Al Qaeda, al-Nusra Front, so we don’t have to investigate who, they announced it, it’s under their control, no-one else. About the attack, as I said, it’s not clear whether it happened or not, because how can you verify a video? You have a lot of fake videos now, and you have the proof that those videos were fake, like the White Helmets for example, they are Al Qaeda, they are al-Nusra Front who shaved their beards, wore white hats, and appeared as humanitarian heroes, which is not the case. The same people were killing Syrian soldiers, and you have the proof on the internet anyway. So, the same thing for that chemical attack, we don’t know whether those dead children were killed in Khan Sheikhoun? Were they dead at all? Who committed the attack if there was an attack? What’s the material? You have no information at all, nothing at all, no-one investigated.

Question 4: So you think it’s a fabrication?

President Assad: Definitely, a hundred percent for us, it’s fabrication. We don’t have an arsenal, we’re not going to use it. And you have many indications if you don’t have proof, because no-one has concrete information or evidences, but you have indications. For example, less than two weeks, around ten days before that attack, the terrorists were advancing in many fronts, including the suburbs of Damascus and Hama which is not far from Khan Sheikhoun, let’s suppose we have this arsenal, and let’s suppose that we have the will to use it, why didn’t we use it when we were retreating and the terrorists were advancing? Actually, the timing of that attack or alleged attack was when the Syrian Army was advancing very fast, and actually the terrorists were collapsing. So, why to use it, if you have it and if you have the will, why to use it at that timing, not when you were in a difficult situation, logically? This is first.

Second, if you want to use it, if you have it and if you want to use it – again, this is if we suppose – why to use it against civilians, not to use it against the terrorists that we are fighting? Third, in that area, we don’t have army, we don’t have battles, we don’t have any, let’s say, object in Khan Sheikhoun, and it’s not a strategic area. Why to attack it? What’s the reason? Militarily, I’m talking from a military point of view. Of course, the foundation for us, morally, we wouldn’t do it if we have it, we wouldn’t have the will, because morally this is not acceptable. We won’t have the support of the public. So, every indication is against the whole story, so you can say that this play that they staged doesn’t hold together. The story is not convincing by any means.

Question 5: With the US airstrike, Trump seems to have changed his position on you and Syria drastically. Do you have the feeling that you lost what you have called a potential partner?

President Assad: I said “if”. It was conditional. If they are serious in fighting terrorists, we’re going to be partners, and I said not only the United States; whoever wants to fight the terrorists, we are partners. This is basic for us, basic principle, let’s say. Actually, what has been proven recently, as I said earlier, that they are hand in glove with those terrorists, the United States and the West, they’re not serious in fighting the terrorists, and yesterday some of their statesmen were defending ISIS. They were saying that ISIS doesn’t have chemical weapons. They are defending ISIS against the Syrian government and the Syrian Army. So, actually, you cannot talk about partnership between us who work against the terrorists and who fight the terrorism and the others who are supporting explicitly the terrorists.

Question 6: So, can we say that the US strike changed your opinion on Trump?

President Assad: Anyway, I was very cautious in saying any opinion regarding him before he became President and after. I always say let’s see what he’s going to do, we wouldn’t comment on statements. So, actually, this is the first proof that it’s not about the President in the United State; it’s about the regime and the deep state or the deep regime in the United States is still the same, it doesn’t change. The President is only one of the performers on their theatre, if he wants to be a leader, he cannot, because as some say he wanted to be a leader, Trump wanted to be a leader, but every President there, if he wants to be a real leader, later he’s going to eat his words, swallow his pride if he has pride at all, and make a 180 degree U-turn, otherwise he would pay the price politically.

Question 7: But do you think that there will be another attack?

President Assad: As long as the United States is being governed by this complex of military industrial complex, the financial companies, banks, and what you call deep regime, and works for the vested interest of those groups, of course. It could happen anytime, anywhere, not only in Syria.

Question 8: And, your army or the Russians will retaliate if it happens again?

President Assad: Actually, if you want to talk about retaliation, we are talking about missiles coming from hundreds of miles, which is out of our reach, but actually the real war in Syria is not about those missiles; it’s about supporting the terrorists. This is the most dangerous part of this war, and our response is going to be what we started from the very first day: is smashing the terrorists everywhere in Syria. When we get rid of the terrorists, we wouldn’t worry about anything else at that time. So, this is our response. It’s a response, not reaction.

Question 9: So, what you say means that retaliation by the Syrian Army or by the Russians will be very difficult, because the boats are very far?

President Assad: For us, as a small country, yeah, of course it is, everybody knows that. It’s out of reach. I mean, they can have missiles from another continent. We all know that. They are a great power, we’re not a great power. Talking about the Russians, this is another issue.

Question 10: Would you accept the findings of OPCW investigation?

President Assad: Since the very first time, when we had in 2013, I think, the first attacks by the terrorists on the Syrian Army by chemical missiles at that time, we asked for investigation. We were the ones who asked for investigations every time there was chemical attacks or allegations about chemical attacks. We asked. And this time, we were discussing with the Russians yesterday and during the last few days after the strike that we’re going to work with them on international investigation. But it should be impartial. We can only allow any investigation when it’s impartial, when we make sure that unbiased countries will participate in this delegation in order to make sure that they won’t use it for politicized purposes.

Question 11: And, if they accuse the government, would you step down?

President Assad: If they accuse, or if they prove? There’s a big difference. No, they are already accusing the government, and if you mean by “them” the West, no, we don’t care about the West. If you mean the chemical agency, if they can prove that there’s an attack, we have to investigate who gave the order to that attack. But a hundred percent, as Syrian Army, we don’t have, and we cannot – even if we want, we cannot – we don’t have the means to commit such attack, and we don’t have the will.

Question 12: So, you mean that you don’t have chemical weapons?

President Assad: No, no, definitely, a few years ago, in 2013, we gave up all our arsenal, and the chemical agency announced that Syria is free of any chemical materials.

Question 13: Because the Pentagon said that there are chemical weapons in the airbase, you deny it?

President Assad: They attacked that airbase, and they destroyed the depots of different materials, and there was no sarin gas. How? If they said that we launched the sarin attack from that airbase, what happened to the sarin when they attacked the depots? Did we hear about any sarin? Our Chief of Staff was there a few hours later, how could he go there if there was sarin gas? How could you only have six martyrs if you have hundreds of soldiers and officers working there, but there was sarin, and they didn’t die. The same fabricated videos that we’ve been seeing about Khan Sheikhoun, when the rescuers tried to rescue the victims or the supposedly dead people or inflicted people, but actually they weren’t wearing any masks or any gloves. How? Where’s the sarin? They should be affected, right away. So, this is all allegation. I mean, this attack and these allegations is another proof that it was fabricated and there was no sarin anywhere.

Question 14: If you say that you didn’t give any order, it is possible that the chemical attack could have been carried out by a rogue or fringe element from the army?

President Assad: Even if you have a rogue element, the army doesn’t have chemical materials. This is first. Second, a rogue army cannot send an airplane at their will, even if they want. It’s an airplane, it’s not a small car to take it from place to place or a small machinegun to use it. You can talk about somebody who has been using his pistol on his behalf the way he wants and break the law, that could happen anywhere in the world, but not an airplane. This is second.

Third, the Syrian Army is a regular army, it’s not a militia. It’s a regular army, it has hierarchy, it has very clear way of orders, so this kind of “rough personnel tried to do something against the will of the leadership of the army” never happened during the last six years of the war in Syria.

Question 15: Did the Russians warn you before the US attack? And were they present in the airbase?

President Assad: No, they didn’t warn us because they didn’t have the time to warn, because the Americans called them maybe a few minutes before the launching, or some say after the launching, because it takes time to reach the base. But actually, we had indications that there was something that was going to happen, and we took many measures in that regard.

Question 16: Do you confirm that 20% of your air force has been destroyed in this attack as the Americans said?

President Assad: I don’t know what’s the criteria, what’s the reference of 20%, what’s the hundred percent for them? Is it the number of airplanes? Is it the quality? Is it, how to say, the active airplanes and stored airplanes? I don’t know what do they mean by this. No, actually, what we and the Russians announced about a few airplanes being destroyed, most of them are the old ones, some of them were not active anyway. This is the reality, and the proof is that, since the strike, we haven’t stopped attacking terrorists all over Syria. So, we didn’t feel that we are really affected. Our firepower, our ability to attack the terrorists hasn’t been affected by this strike.

Question 17: You know, your government said in the beginning that you hit a chemical weapon depot. Is it true?

President Assad: It was a possibility, because when you attack any target related to the terrorists, you don’t know what’s in it. You know that this a target; it could be a store, it could be warehouse, it could be a depot, it could be a camp, it could be a headquarter, we don’t know. But you know that the terrorists are using this place and you attack it, like any other place, and that’s what we’ve been doing since the beginning of the war on daily bases, on hourly bases sometimes, but you cannot tell what’s within this. So, that was one of the possibilities that the airstrikes attacked a depot of chemical materials, but this is conflicting again with the timing of the announcement, not because only the terrorists announced it in the morning, but because their media, their pages on Twitter and on the internet announced the attack a few hours before the alleged one, which is 4 in the mourning. 4 in the morning, they announced that there’s going to be a chemical attack, we have to be ready. How did they know about it?

Question 18: Don’t you see that Khan Sheikhoun is a huge setback for you? For the first time in six years, the US attack your army and yesterday after a brief honeymoon, yesterday Tillerson said that reign of Assad family is coming to the end, don’t you think that Khan Sheikhoun is a huge setback for you?

President Assad: There is no reign of Assad family anyway in Syria. He’s dreaming, or let’s say, he’s hallucinating, so, we don’t waste our time with his statement. In reality, no. Actually, during the last six years, The US was directly involved in supporting the terrorists everywhere in Syria, including ISIS, including al-Nusra, including all the other like-minded factions in Syria, this is clear, and this is proven in Syria. While if you want to talk about the direct attacks, actually only a few months ago, there was a more dangerous attack than the recent one, just before Obama left, I think a few weeks before he left, it was in Deir Ezzor in the eastern part of Syria when they attacked a very strategic mountain, it was a Syrian base, a regular Syrian Army base, and that helped ISIS to take over that mountain, and if the Syrian Army wasn’t resilient and strong enough to repel ISIS, the city of Deir Ezzor would have been now in the hands of ISIS, means a direct link between Deir Ezzor and Mosul in Iraq, which would have been a very strategic gain to ISIS. So, actually, no, the American government was directly involved. But this time, why did they attack directly? Because, as I said, the terrorists in that area were collapsing. So, the Unites States didn’t have any other choice to support their proxies, the terrorists, but to directly attack the Syrian Army because they sent them all kinds of armaments and it didn’t work.

Question 19: So, for you, it’s not a huge setback?

President Assad: No, no, it’s actually part of the context, the same context for six years; it took different shapes, but the core of the American policy and the Western policy towards what’s happening in Syria, it hasn’t changed at all. Forget about the statements; sometimes we have high-pitch statements, sometimes you have low-pitch statements, but it’s the same policy.

Question 20: You have gradually pushed most of the rebels into Idleb, do you plan to attack it next?

President Assad: We’re going to attack terrorists anywhere in Syria, Idleb or any other place. What’s the timing, what’s the priority, this is a military issue and should be discussed on the military level.

Question 21: You said before that Raqqa is a priority for your government, but the forces advancing on the city are mostly US-backed Kurds, aren’t you afraid of being excluded from the liberation of Raqqa?

President Assad: No, we support whoever wants to liberate any city from the terrorists, but that doesn’t mean to be liberated from terrorists and being occupied by American forces, for example, or by another proxy, or another terrorists. So, it’s not clear who is going to liberate Raqqa. Is it really Syrian forces that are going to hand it over to the Syrian Army? Is it going to be in cooperation with the Syrian Army? It’s not clear yet. But what we hear is only allegations about liberating Raqqa. We’ve been hearing that for nearly a year now, or less than a year, but nothing happened on the ground. So, it’s just, let’s say, a hypothetical question, because there is nothing concrete on the ground.

Question 22: The US and Russia are the co-sponsors of Geneva process. Because of the tension between the two countries, do you think that this process can continue?

President Assad: Look, there’s a big difference between the process being active, which could happen anytime, to reactivate the process and to be effective. Till this moment, its’ not effective. Why? Because the United States is not serious in achieving any political solution. They want to use it as an umbrella for the terrorists, or they want to get in this forum what they didn’t get on the ground in the battlefield. That’s why it wasn’t effective at all. Now, it’s the same situation, we don’t see this administration serious in that regard, because they still support the same terrorists. So, we can say yes, it could be reactivated, but we cannot say we expect it to be effective or productive. No.

Question 23: After six years, Mr. President, aren’t you tired?

President Assad: Actually, the only thing that could make pressure on you is not the political situation, not the military situation; actually the human situation in Syria, the daily blood-letting, the daily blood-shedding, the suffering and the hardship that inflicted every house in Syria, this is the only painful thing that could make you feel tired- if it is accurate to say “tired”- while if you talk about the war, about the politics, about the relation with the West, no, I don’t feel tired at all, because we are defending our country, and we’re not going to get tired at all in that regard.

Question 24: What makes you lose sleep?

President Assad: Again, the suffering of the Syrian people. The humanitarian interaction between me and every Syrian family directly or indirectly, this is the only thing that could deprive me from sleep from time to time, but not the Western statements and not the threat of the support of the terrorists.

Question 25: Today, there are people from Foua’a and Kefraya who will move from their village to Damascus and to Aleppo. You are not afraid that in fact it will be a displacement of population, that the Syria after the war will not be the same Syria as before?

President Assad: The displacement in that context is compulsory. We didn’t choose it. We wish that everyone could stay in his village and his city, but those people like many other civilians in different areas were surrounded and besieged by the terrorists, and they’ve been killed on daily basis, so they had to leave. But of course they’re going to go back to their cities after the liberation; that happened in many other areas where the people are going back to their homes. So, it’s temporary. Talking about demographic changes is not in the sake or in the interest of the Syrian society when it’s permanent. As long as it’s temporary, we wouldn’t worry about it.

Journalist: Mr. President, I want to thank you very much for this interview.

President Assad: Thank you.

Journalist: It was very interesting, and thank you very much for talking with me.

President Assad: Thank you.

SOURCE | http://sana.sy/en/?p=104255

BBC’s lies on ‘chemical attack in Syria’

11 April 2017

BBC failed at principle of objectivity on ‘chemical attack in Syria’





While the most significant contribution to the Western narrative regarding the alleged chemical attack in Idlib has been made by the media, as usual, the media has once again failed at the principle of objectivity. 

The mainstream media fails at the allegations on the chemical incident in Khan Shaykun town within the southern Idlib Governorate of northwestern Syria.

One of the recent examples of this failure is the British public service broadcaster BBC (The British Broadcasting Corporation). The BBC’s news headlined with ‘‘Syria ‘chemical attack’: Trump condemns 'affront to humanity’’ was continuously ‘updated’ after it was released on April 5, 2017.

According to the report of News Sniffer, BBC has removed the views of the United Nations (UN) expert, refuting the US narrative on chemical attack, with the recent ‘updates’.

Jerry Smith, who represented the UN in the operations of chemical weapons’ abolition in Syria in 2013, had emphasised in his statements to Channel 4 that Russia’s narrative on chemical attack in Idlib should not be ignored.

Smith acknowledged the possibility of Russia’s claims on chemical attack in Idlib, and said that gas leakage could affect and poison the surrounding population if a conventional attack on a chemical weapons storage facility of the opposition groups in Khan Shaykun. 

In this version of the news, an argument against Russia’s claims regarding the ‘chemical attack’ in Idlib was given a coverage, but then both ‘punditries’ were removed from the later versions of BBC’s report on ‘Syria chemical attack’. At the very end, BBC only gave the figures of the pro-opposition and anti-Assad Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), and both the chemical incident in Khan Shaykun and previous attacks in Syria were pinned on the Syrian government with a subheading, ‘Has Assad used chemical weapons before?’.

As for the UN expert, his voice was muted by the BBC.

Here are the views of Jerry Smith that the BBC firstly placed in its report and then removed from it on the alleged chemical attack in Idlib:



Here’s the recent version of the BBC’s report:



BBC had previously made falsified news about Syria, such as starvation in Madaya town of Syria in 2016 and Houla Massacre in 2012. The BBC had used a photograph sent by the ‘oppositions’ in Syria to blame the Syrian government for the massacre, but it was revealed that the photograph belonged to a massacre in Iraq in 2003. Similarly, the BBC and the Western media, by concealing the presence of jihadist terrorists and supporting Al-Qaeda components in the town, had used the jihadists’ accusations on the Assad government through spreading fake photos with ‘‘starvation’’ due to the siege of Madaya town by the Assad forces.



Donald Trump, Al Qaeda's Useful Idiot


Wag The Dog — How Al Qaeda Played Donald Trump And The American Media
Responsibility for the chemical event in Khan Sheikhoun is still very much in question.

by Scott Ritter | 9 April 2017



Once upon a time, Donald J. Trump, the New York City businessman-turned-president, berated then-President Barack Obama back in September 2013 about the fallacy of an American military strike against Syria. At that time, the United States was considering the use of force against Syria in response to allegations (since largely disproven) that the regime of President Bashar al-Assad had used chemical weapons against civilians in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta. Trump, via tweet, declared “to our very foolish leader, do not attack Syria – if you do many very bad things will happen & from that fight the U.S. gets nothing!”

President Obama, despite having publicly declaring the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime a “red line” which, if crossed, would demand American military action, ultimately declined to order an attack, largely on the basis of warnings by James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, that the intelligence linking the chemical attack on Ghouta was less than definitive.

President Barack Obama, in a 2016 interview with The Atlantic, observed, “there’s a playbook in Washington that presidents are supposed to follow. It’s a playbook that comes out of the foreign-policy establishment. And the playbook prescribes responses to different events, and these responses tend to be militarized responses.” While the “Washington playbook,” Obama noted, could be useful during times of crisis, it could “also be a trap that can lead to bad decisions.”

His “red line” on chemical weapons usage, combined with heated rhetoric coming from his closest advisors, including Secretary of State John Kerry, hinting at a military response, was such a trap. Ultimately, President Obama opted to back off, observing that “dropping bombs on someone to prove that you’re willing to drop bombs on someone is just about the worst reason to use force.” The media, Republicans and even members of his own party excoriated Obama for this decision.

Yet, in November 2016, as president-elect, Donald Trump doubled down on Obama’s eschewing of the “Washington playbook.” The situation on the ground in Syria had fundamentally changed since 2013; the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) had taken over large swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria, establishing a “capital” in the Syrian city of Raqqa and declaring the creation of an Islamic “Caliphate.” American efforts to remove Syrian President Assad from power had begun to bar fruit, forcing Russia to intervene in September 2015 in order to prop up the beleaguered Syrian president.

Trump, breaking from the mainstream positions held by most American policy makers, Republican and Democrat alike, declared that the United States should focus on fighting and defeating the Islamic State (ISIS) and not pursuing regime change in Syria. “My attitude,” Trump noted, “was you’re fighting Syria, Syria is fighting ISIS, and you have to get rid of ISIS. Russia is now totally aligned with Syria, and now you have Iran, which is becoming powerful, because of us, is aligned with Syria... Now we’re backing rebels against Syria, and we have no idea who these people are.” Moreover, Trump observed, given the robust Russian presence inside Syria, if the United States attacked Assad, “we end up fighting Russia, fighting Syria.”

For more than two months, the new Trump administration seemed to breathe life into the notion that Donald Trump had, like his predecessor before him, thrown the “Washington playbook” out the window when it came to Syrian policy. After ordering a series of new military deployments into Syria and Iraq specifically designed to confront ISIS, the Trump administration began to give public voice to a major shift in policy vis-à-vis the Syrian President.

For the first time since President Obama, in August 2011, articulated regime change in Damascus as a precondition for the cessation of the civil conflict that had been raging since April 2011, American government officials articulated that this was no longer the case. “You pick and choose your battles,” the American Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, told reporters on March 30, 2017. “And when we’re looking at this, it’s about changing up priorities and our priority is no longer to sit and focus on getting Assad out.” Haley’s words were echoed by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who observed that same day, while on an official visit to Turkey, “I think the… longer-term status of President Assad will be decided by the Syrian people.”

This new policy direction lasted barely five days. Sometime in the early afternoon of April 4, 2017, troubling images and video clips began to be transmitted out of the Syrian province of Idlib by anti-government activists, including members of the so-called “White Helmets,” a volunteer rescue team whose work was captured in an eponymously-named Academy Award-winning documentary film. These images showed victims in various stages of symptomatic distress, including death, from what the activists said was exposure to chemical weapons dropped by the Syrian air force on the town of Khan Sheikhoun that very morning.

Images of these tragic deaths were immediately broadcast on American media outlets, with pundits decrying the horrific and heinous nature of the chemical attack, which was nearly unanimously attributed to the Syrian government, even though the only evidence provided was the imagery and testimony of the anti-Assad activists who, just days before, were decrying the shift in American policy regarding regime change in Syria. President Trump viewed these images, and was deeply troubled by what he saw, especially the depictions of dead and suffering children.

The images were used as exhibits in a passionate speech by Haley during a speech at the Security Council on April 5, 2017, where she confronted Russia and threatened unilateral American military action if the Council failed to respond to the alleged Syrian chemical attack. “Yesterday morning, we awoke to pictures, to children foaming at the mouth, suffering convulsions, being carried in the arms of desperate parents,” Haley said, holding up two examples of the images provided by the anti-Assad activists. “We saw rows of lifeless bodies, some still in diapers…we cannot close our eyes to those pictures. We cannot close our minds of the responsibility to act.” If the Security Council refused to take action against the Syrian government, Haley said, then “there are times in the life of states that we are compelled to take our own action.”

In 2013, President Barack Obama was confronted with images of dead and injured civilians, including numerous small children, from Syria that were every bit as heartbreaking as the ones displayed by Ambassador Haley. His Secretary of State, John Kerry, had made an impassioned speech that all but called for military force against Syria. President Obama asked for, and received, a wide-range of military options from his national security team targeting the regime of President Assad; only the intervention of James Clapper, and the doubts that existed about the veracity of the intelligence linking the Ghouta chemical attack to the Syrian government, held Obama back from giving the green light for the bombing to begin. 

Like President Obama before him, President Trump asked for his national security team to prepare options for military action. Unlike his predecessor, Donald Trump did not seek a pause in his decision making process to let his intelligence services investigate what had actually occurred in Khan Sheikhoun. Like Nikki Haley, Donald Trump was driven by his visceral reaction to the imagery being disseminated by anti-Assad activists. In the afternoon of April 6, as he prepared to depart the White House for a summit meeting with a delegation led by the Chinese President Xi Jinping, Trump’s own cryptic words in response to a reporter’s question about any American response seem to hint that his mind was already made up. “You’ll see,” he said, before walking away.

Within hours, a pair of U.S. Navy destroyers launched 59 advanced Block IV Tomahawk cruise missiles (at a cost of some $1.41 million each), targeting aircraft, hardened shelters, fuel storage, munitions supply, air defense and communications facilities at the Al Shayrat air base, located in central Syria. Al Shayrat was home to two squadrons of Russian-made SU-22 fighter-bombers operated by the Syrian air force, one of which was tracked by American radar as taking off from Al Sharyat on the morning of April 4, 2017, and was overhead Khan Sheikhoun around the time the alleged chemical attack occurred. 

The purpose of the American strike was two-fold; first, to send a message to the Syrian government and its allies that, according to Secretary of State Tillerson, “the president is willing to take decisive action when called for,” and in particular when confronted with evidence of a chemical attack from which the United States could not “turn away, turn a blind eye.” The other purpose, according to a U.S. military spokesperson, to “reduce the Syrian government’s ability to deliver chemical weapons.” 

Moreover, the policy honeymoon the Trump administration had only recently announced about regime change in Syria was over. “It’s very, very possible, and, I will tell you, it’s already happened, that my attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much,” President Trump told reporters before the missile strikes had commenced. Secretary Tillerson went further: “It would seem there would be no role for him [Assad] to govern the Syrian people.”

Such a reversal in policy fundamentals and direction in such a short period of time is stunning; Donald Trump didn’t simply deviate slightly off course, but rather did a complete 180-degree turn. The previous policy of avoiding entanglement in the internal affairs of Syria in favor of defeating ISIS and improving relations with Russia had been replaced by a fervent embrace of regime change, direct military engagement with the Syrian armed forces, and a confrontational stance vis-à-vis the Russian military presence in Syria.

Normally, such major policy change could only be explained by a new reality driven by verifiable facts. The alleged chemical weapons attack against Khan Sheikhoun was not a new reality; chemical attacks had been occurring inside Syria on a regular basis, despite the international effort to disarm Syria’s chemical weapons capability undertaken in 2013 that played a central role in forestalling American military action at that time. International investigations of these attacks produced mixed results, with some being attributed to the Syrian government (something the Syrian government vehemently denies), and the majority being attributed to anti-regime fighters, in particular those affiliated with Al Nusra Front, an Al Qaeda affiliate.

Moreover, there exists a mixed provenance when it comes to chemical weapons usage inside Syria that would seem to foreclose any knee-jerk reaction that placed the blame for what happened at Khan Sheikhoun solely on the Syrian government void of any official investigation. Yet this is precisely what occurred. Some sort of chemical event took place in Khan Sheikhoun; what is very much in question is who is responsible for the release of the chemicals that caused the deaths of so many civilians.

No one disputes the fact that a Syrian air force SU-22 fighter-bomber conducted a bombing mission against a target in Khan Sheikhoun on the morning of April 4, 2017. The anti-regime activists in Khan Sheikhoun, however, have painted a narrative that has the Syrian air force dropping chemical bombs on a sleeping civilian population.

A critical piece of information that has largely escaped the reporting in the mainstream media is that Khan Sheikhoun is ground zero for the Islamic jihadists who have been at the center of the anti-Assad movement in Syria since 2011. Up until February 2017, Khan Sheikhoun was occupied by a pro-ISIS group known as Liwa al-Aqsa that was engaged in an oftentimes-violent struggle with its competitor organization, Al Nusra Front (which later morphed into Tahrir al-Sham, but under any name functioning as Al Qaeda’s arm in Syria) for resources and political influence among the local population.

The Russian Ministry of Defense has claimed that Liwa al-Aqsa was using facilities in and around Khan Sheikhoun to manufacture crude chemical shells and landmines intended for ISIS forces fighting in Iraq. According to the Russians the Khan Sheikhoun chemical weapons facility was mirrored on similar sites uncovered by Russian and Syrian forces following the reoccupation of rebel-controlled areas of Aleppo. 

In Aleppo, the Russians discovered crude weapons production laboratories that filled mortar shells and landmines with a mix of chlorine gas and white phosphorus; after a thorough forensic investigation was conducted by military specialists, the Russians turned over samples of these weapons, together with soil samples from areas struck by weapons produced in these laboratories, to investigators from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons for further evaluation.

Al Nusra has a long history of manufacturing and employing crude chemical weapons; the 2013 chemical attack on Ghouta made use of low-grade Sarin nerve agent locally synthesized, while attacks in and around Aleppo in 2016 made use of a chlorine/white phosphorous blend. If the Russians are correct, and the building bombed in Khan Sheikhoun on the morning of April 4, 2017 was producing and/or storing chemical weapons, the probability that viable agent and other toxic contaminants were dispersed into the surrounding neighborhood, and further disseminated by the prevailing wind, is high.

The counter-narrative offered by the Russians and Syrians, however, has been minimized, mocked and ignored by both the American media and the Trump administration. So, too, has the very illogic of the premise being put forward to answer the question of why President Assad would risk everything by using chemical weapons against a target of zero military value, at a time when the strategic balance of power had shifted strongly in his favor. Likewise, why would Russia, which had invested considerable political capital in the disarmament of Syria’s chemical weapons capability after 2013, stand by idly while the Syrian air force carried out such an attack, especially when their was such a heavy Russian military presence at the base in question at the time of the attack?

Such analysis seems beyond the scope and comprehension of the American fourth estate. Instead, media outlets like CNN embrace at face value anything they are told by official American sources, including a particularly preposterous insinuation that Russia actually colluded in the chemical weapons attack; the aforementioned presence of Russian officers at Al Shayrat air base has been cited as evidence that Russia had to have known about Syria’s chemical warfare capability, and yet did nothing to prevent the attack.

To sustain this illogic, the American public and decision-makers make use of a sophisticated propaganda campaign involving video images and narratives provided by forces opposed to the regime of Bashar al-Assad, including organizations like the “White Helmets,” the Syrian-American Medical Society, the Aleppo Media Center, which have a history of providing slanted information designed to promote an anti-Assad message (Donald Trump has all but acknowledged that these images played a major role in his decision to reevaluate his opinion of Bashar al-Assad and order the cruise missile attack on Al Shayrat airbase.) 

Many of the fighters affiliated with Tahrir al-Sham are veterans of the battle for Aleppo, and as such are intimately familiar with the tools and trade of the extensive propaganda battle that was waged simultaneously with the actual fighting in an effort to sway western public opinion toward adopting a more aggressive stance in opposition to the Syrian government of Assad. These tools were brought to bear in promoting a counter-narrative about the Khan Sheikhoun chemical incident (ironically, many of the activists in question, including the “White Helmets,” were trained and equipped in social media manipulation tactics using money provided by the United States; that these techniques would end up being used to manipulate an American President into carrying out an act of war most likely never factored into the thinking of the State Department personnel who conceived and implemented the program).

Even slick media training, however, cannot gloss over basic factual inconsistencies. Early on, the anti-Assad opposition media outlets were labeling the Khan Sheikhoun incident as a “Sarin nerve agent” attack; one doctor affiliated with Al Qaeda sent out images and commentary via social media that documented symptoms, such as dilated pupils, that he diagnosed as stemming from exposure to Sarin nerve agent. Sarin, however, is an odorless, colorless material, dispersed as either a liquid or vapor; eyewitnesses speak of a “pungent odor” and “blue-yellow” clouds, more indicative of chlorine gas.

And while American media outlets, such as CNN, have spoken of munitions “filled to the brim” with Sarin nerve agent being used at Khan Sheikhoun, there is simply no evidence cited by any source that can sustain such an account. Heartbreaking images of victims being treated by “White Helmet” rescuers have been cited as proof of Sarin-like symptoms, the medical viability of these images is in question; there are no images taken of victims at the scene of the attack. Instead, the video provided by the “White Helmets” is of decontamination and treatment carried out at a “White Helmet” base after the victims, either dead or injured, were transported there. 

The lack of viable protective clothing worn by the “White Helmet” personnel while handling victims is another indication that the chemical in question was not military grade Sarin; if it were, the rescuers would themselves have become victims (some accounts speak of just this phenomena, but this occurred at the site of the attack, where the rescuers were overcome by a “pungent smelling” chemical – again, Sarin is odorless.)

More than 20 victims of the Khan Sheikhoun incident were transported to Turkish hospitals for care; three subsequently died. According to the Turkish Justice Minister, autopsies conducted on the bodies confirm that the cause of death was exposure to chemical agents. The World Health Organization has indicated that the symptoms of the Khan Sheikhoun victims are consistent with both Sarin and Chlorine exposure. American media outlets have latched onto the Turkish and WHO statements as “proof” of Syrian government involvement; however, any exposure to the chlorine/white phosphorous blend associated with Al Nusra chemical weapons would produce similar symptoms. 

Moreover, if Al Nusra was replicating the type of low-grade Sarin it employed at Ghouta in 2013 at Khan Sheikhoun, it is highly likely that some of the victims in question would exhibit Sarin-like symptoms. Blood samples taken from the victims could provide a more precise readout of the specific chemical exposure involved; such samples have allegedly been collected by Al Nusra-affiliated personnel, and turned over to international investigators (the notion that any serious investigatory body would allow Al Nusra to provide forensic evidence in support of an investigation where it is one of only two potential culprits is mindboggling, but that is precisely what has happened). But the Trump administration chose to act before these samples could be processed, perhaps afraid that their results would not sustain the underlying allegation of the employment of Sarin by the Syrian air force.

Mainstream American media outlets have willingly and openly embraced a narrative provided by Al Qaeda affiliates whose record of using chemical weapons in Syria and distorting and manufacturing “evidence” to promote anti-Assad policies in the west, including regime change, is well documented. These outlets have made a deliberate decision to endorse the view of Al Qaeda over a narrative provided by Russian and Syrian government authorities without any effort to fact check either position. These actions, however, do not seem to shock the conscience of the American public; when it comes to Syria, the mainstream American media and its audience has long ago ceded the narrative to Al Qaeda and other Islamist anti-regime elements.

The real culprits here are the Trump administration, and President Trump himself. The president’s record of placing more weight on what he sees on television than the intelligence briefings he may or may not be getting, and his lack of intellectual curiosity and unfamiliarity with the nuances and complexities of both foreign and national security policy, created the conditions where the imagery of the Khan Sheikhoun victims that had been disseminated by pro-Al Nusra (i.e., Al Qaeda) outlets could influence critical life-or-death decisions.

That President Trump could be susceptible to such obvious manipulation is not surprising, given his predilection for counter-punching on Twitter for any perceived slight; that his national security team allowed him to be manipulated thus, and did nothing to sway Trump’s opinion or forestall action pending a thorough review of the facts, is scandalous. History will show that Donald Trump, his advisors and the American media were little more than willing dupes for Al Qaeda and its affiliates, whose manipulation of the Syrian narrative resulted in a major policy shift that furthers their objectives. 

The other winner in this sorry story is ISIS, which took advantage of the American strike against Al Shayrat to launch a major offensive against Syrian government forces around the city of Palmyra (Al Shayrat had served as the principal air base for operations in the Palmyra region). The breakdown in relations between Russia and the United States means that, for the foreseeable future at least, the kind of coordination that had been taking place in the fight against ISIS is a thing of the past, a fact that can only bode well for the fighters of ISIS. For a man who placed so much emphasis on defeating ISIS, President Trump’s actions can only be viewed as a self-inflicted wound, a kind of circular firing squad that marks the actions of a Keystone Cop, and not the Commander in Chief of the most powerful nation in the world. 

But the person who might get the last laugh is President Assad himself. While the Pentagon has claimed that it significantly degraded the Al Shayrat air base, with 58 of 59 cruise missile hitting their targets, Russia has stated that only 23 cruise missiles impacted the facility, and these did only limited damage. The runway was undamaged; indeed, in the afternoon of April 7, 2017, a Syrian air force fighter-bomber took off from Al Shayrat, flew to Idlib Province, where it attacked Al Nusra positions near Khan Sheikhoun.

by Scott Ritter

Scott Ritter is a former intelligence officer and weapons inspector. He is the author of Deal of the Century: How Iran Blocked the West’s Road to War, forthcoming from Clarity Press, Inc.