A Call for Proof on Syria-Sarin Attack

One reason why Official Washington continues to insist that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “must go” is that he supposedly “gassed his own people” with sarin on Aug. 21, 2013, but the truth of that allegation has never been established and is in growing doubt, U.S. intelligence veterans point out. [Updated on Dec. 23 with new signers.]

MEMORANDUM FOR: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, and Foreign Minister of Russia Sergey Lavrov

FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)

SUBJECT: Sarin Attack at Ghouta on Aug. 21, 2013

In a Memorandum of Oct. 1, 2013, we asked each of you to make public the intelligence upon which you based your differing conclusions on who was responsible for the sarin chemical attack at Ghouta, outside Damascus on Aug. 21, 2013. On Dec. 10, 2015, Eren Erdem, a member of parliament in Turkey, citing official documents, blamed Turkey for facilitating the delivery of sarin to rebels in Syria.

Mr. Kerry, you had blamed the Syrian government. Mr. Lavrov, you had described the sarin as “homemade” and suggested anti-government rebels were responsible. Each of you claimed to have persuasive evidence to support your conclusion.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Aug. 30, 2013, claims to have proof that the Syrian government was responsible for a chemical weapons attack on Aug. 21, but that evidence failed to materialize or was later discredited. [State Department photo]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Aug. 30, 2013, claims to have proof that the Syrian government was responsible for a chemical weapons attack on Aug. 21, but that evidence failed to materialize or was later discredited. [State Department photo]

Neither of you responded directly to our appeal to make such evidence available to the public, although, Mr. Lavrov, you came close to doing so. In a speech

at the UN on Sept. 26, 2013, you made reference to the views we presented in our VIPS Memorandum, Is Syria a Trap?, sent to President Obama three weeks earlier.

Pointing to strong doubt among chemical weapons experts regarding the evidence adduced to blame the government of Syria for the sarin attack, you also referred to the “open letter sent to President Obama by former operatives of the CIA and the Pentagon,” in which we expressed similar doubt.

Mr. Kerry, on Aug. 30, 2013, you blamed the Syrian government, publicly and repeatedly, for the sarin attack. But you failed to produce the kind of “Intelligence Assessment” customarily used to back up such claims.

We believe that this odd lack of a formal “Intelligence Assessment” is explained by the fact that our former colleagues did not believe the evidence justified your charges and that, accordingly, they resisted pressure to “fix the intelligence around the policy,” as was done to “justify” the attack on Iraq.

Intelligence analysts were telling us privately (and we told the President in our Memorandum of Sept. 6, 2013) that, contrary to what you claimed, “the most reliable intelligence shows that Bashar al-Assad was not responsible for the chemical incident that killed and injured Syrian civilians on August 21.”

This principled dissent from these analysts apparently led the White House to create a new art form, a “Government Assessment,” to convey claims that the government in Damascus was behind the sarin attack. It was equally odd that the newly minted genre of report offered not one item of verifiable evidence.

(We note that you used this new art form “Government (not Intelligence) Assessment” a second time again apparently to circumvent intelligence analysts’ objections. On July 22, 2014, just five days after the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, after the media asked you to come up with evidence supporting the charges you leveled against “pro-Russian separatists” on the July 20 Sunday talk shows, you came up with the second, of only two, “Government Assessment.” Like the one on the chemical attack in Syria, the assessment provided meager fare when it comes to verifiable evidence.)

Claims and Counterclaims

Speaking to the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 24, 2013, President Obama asserted: “It’s an insult to human reason and to the legitimacy of this institution to suggest that anyone other than the [Syrian] regime carried out this attack [at Ghouta].”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Mr. Lavrov, that same day you publicly complained that U.S. officials kept claiming “’the Syrian regime,’ as they call it, is guilty of the use of chemical weapons, without providing comprehensive proof.” Two days later you told the U.N. General Assembly you had given Mr. Kerry “the latest compilation of evidence, which was an analysis of publicly available information.” You also told the Washington Post, “This evidence is not something revolutionary. It’s available on the Internet.”

On the Internet? Mr. Kerry, if your staff avoided calling your attention to Internet reports about Turkish complicity in the sarin attack of Aug. 21, 2013, because they lacked confirmation, we believe you can now consider them largely confirmed.

Documentary Evidence

Addressing fellow members of parliament on Dec. 10, 2015, Turkish MP Eren Erdem from the Republican People’s Party (a reasonably responsible opposition group) confronted the Turkish government on this key issue. Waving a copy of “Criminal Case Number 2013/120,” Erdem referred to official reports and electronic evidence documenting a smuggling operation with Turkish government complicity.

In an interview with RT four days later, Erdem said Turkish authorities had acquired evidence of sarin gas shipments to anti-government rebels in Syria, and did nothing to stop them.

The General Prosecutor in the Turkish city of Adana opened a criminal case, and an indictment stated “chemical weapons components” from Europe “were to be seamlessly shipped via a designated route through Turkey to militant labs in Syria.” Erdem cited evidence implicating the Turkish Minister of Justice and the Turkish Mechanical and Chemical Industry Corporation in the smuggling of sarin.

The Operation

According to Erdem, the 13 suspects arrested in raids carried out against the plotters were released just a week after they were indicted, and the case was closed — shut down by higher authority. Erdem told RT that the sarin attack at Ghouta took place shortly after the criminal case was closed and that the attack probably was carried out by jihadists with sarin gas smuggled through Turkey.

Small wonder President Erdogan has accused Erdem of “treason.” It was not Erdem’s first “offense.” Earlier, he exposed corruption by Erdogan family members, for which a government newspaper branded him an “American puppet, Israeli agent, a supporter of the terrorist PKK and the instigator of a coup.”

In our Sept. 6, 2013 Memorandum for the President, we reported that coordination meetings had taken place just weeks before the sarin attack at a Turkish military garrison in Antakya just 15 miles from the Syrian border with Syria and 55 miles from its largest city, Aleppo.

In Antakya, senior Turkish, Qatari and U.S. intelligence officials were said to be coordinating plans with Western-sponsored rebels, who were told to expect an imminent escalation in the fighting due to “a war-changing development.” This, in turn, would lead to a U.S.-led bombing of Syria, and rebel commanders were ordered to prepare their forces quickly to exploit the bombing, march into Damascus, and remove the Assad government.

A year before, the New York Times reported that the Antakya area had become a “magnet for foreign jihadis, who are flocking into Turkey to fight holy war in Syria.” The Times quoted a Syrian opposition member based in Antakya, saying the Turkish police were patrolling this border area “with their eyes closed.”

And, Mr. Lavrov, while the account given by Eren Erdem before the Turkish Parliament puts his charges on the official record, a simple Google search including “Antakya” shows that you were correct in stating the Internet contains a wealth of contemporaneous detail supporting Erdem’s disclosures.

Mr. Kerry, while in Moscow on Dec. 15, you said to a Russian interviewer that Syrian President Assad “has gassed his people I mean, gas hasn’t been used in warfare formally for years for and gas is outlawed, but Assad used it.”

Three days later The Washington Post dutifully repeated the charge about Assad’s supposed killing “his own people with chemical weapons.” U.S. media have made this the conventional wisdom. The American people are not fully informed. There has been no mainstream media reporting on Turkish MP Erdem’s disclosures.

Renewed Appeal

We ask you again, Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Lavrov, to set the record straight on this important issue. The two of you have demonstrated an ability to work together on important matters the Iran nuclear deal, for example and have acknowledged a shared interest in defeating ISIS, which clearly is not Turkish President Erdogan’s highest priority. Indeed, his aims are at cross-purposes to those wishing to tamp down the violence in Syria.

After the shoot-down of Russia’s bomber on Nov. 24, President Vladimir Putin put Russian forces in position to retaliate the next time, and told top defense officials, “Any targets threatening our [military] group or land infrastructure must be immediately destroyed.” We believe that warning should be taken seriously. What matters, though, is what Erdogan believes.

There is a good chance Erdogan will be dismissive of Putin’s warning, as long as the Turkish president believes he can depend on NATO always to react in the supportive way it did after the shoot-down.

One concrete way to disabuse him of the notion that he has carte blanche to create incidents that could put not only Turkey, but also the U.S., on the verge of armed conflict with Russia, would be for the U.S. Secretary of State and the Russian Foreign Minister to coordinate a statement on what we believe was a classic false-flag chemical attack on Aug. 21, 2013, facilitated by the Turks and aimed at mousetrapping President Obama into a major attack on Syria.

One of our colleagues, a seasoned analyst of Turkish affairs, put it this way: “Erdogan is even more dangerous if he thinks that he now has NATO license to bait Russia, as he did with the shoot-down. I don’t think NATO is willing to give him that broader license, but he is a loose cannon.”

FOR THE STEERING GROUP, VETERAN INTELLIGENCE PROFESSIONALS FOR SANITY

Graham E. Fuller, Vice-Chair, National Intelligence Council (ret.)

Philip Giraldi, CIA, Operations Officer (ret.)

Larry Johnson, CIA & State Department (ret.)

John Kiriakou, Former CIA Counterterrorism Officer

Edward Loomis, NSA, Cryptologic Computer Scientist (ret.)

David MacMichael, National Intelligence Council (ret.)

Ray McGovern, former US Army infantry/intelligence officer & CIA analyst (ret.)

Elizabeth Murray, Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Near East, National Intelligence Council (ret)

Todd E. Pierce, MAJ, US Army Judge Advocate (Ret.)

Scott Ritter, former Maj., USMC, former UN Weapon Inspector, Iraq

Coleen Rowley, FBI Special Agent and former Minneapolis Division Legal Counsel (ret.)

Robert David Steele, former CIA Operations Officer

Peter Van Buren, U.S. Department of State, Foreign Service Officer (ret.) (associate VIPS)

Kirk Wiebe, former Senior Analyst, SIGINT Automation Research Center, NSA

Ann Wright, Col., US Army (ret.); Foreign Service Officer (resigned)

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27 comments for “A Call for Proof on Syria-Sarin Attack

  1. Joe Tedesky
    December 22, 2015 at 2:13 pm

    The U.S. needs to reevaluate it’s values, and priorities, and come clean with the truth. We, as a nation, can no longer go on this way. All, this war, and destruction, has brought us to become a society so afraid of things, that now we are killing each other. I’m not against gun ownership, but I do believe there are way too many resorting to using their weapons to settle their petty grievances. Our police don’t talk, they just shoot, and that by many people standards, is okay. What have we become. Our news media, reports the news through the lens of distortion so good, that I am afraid most people believe their phony reporting. We need to start respecting all human life, and then finally we may see the terrorist disappear.

    • Joe Tedesky
      December 22, 2015 at 11:03 pm

      I’m providing a link to Thierry Meyssan’s latest article, and as usual, it’s packed with some interesting reporting. Maybe it’s a French thing, but often Meyssan comes off with information unlike any other you will read. No spoiler here, but he brings up the names Petraeus and Clinton, and even Donald Trump, but don’t let that stop you from reading this piece…it is different and interesting.

      http://www.voltairenet.org/article189701.html

    • Bill
      December 24, 2015 at 7:58 pm

      Or they will just start asserting that American lives are the only human ones.

  2. Abe
    December 22, 2015 at 2:15 pm

    As Ray McGovern pointed out in “Propaganda, Intelligence and MH-17” on Consortium News (August 17, 2015)

    “The key difference between the traditional “Intelligence Assessment” and this relatively new creation, a “Government Assessment,” is that the latter genre is put together by senior “White House bureaucrats or other political appointees, not senior intelligence analysts. Another significant difference is that an “Intelligence Assessment” often includes alternative views, either in the text or in footnotes, detailing disagreements among intelligence analysts, thus revealing where the case may be weak or in dispute.

    “The absence of an “Intelligence Assessment” suggested that honest intelligence analysts were resisting a knee-jerk indictment of Russia – just as they did after the first time Kerry pulled this “Government Assessment” arrow out of his quiver trying to stick the blame for an Aug. 21, 2013 sarin gas attack outside Damascus on the Syrian government.”

    The primary source in both “Government Assessment” episodes — both the 2013 chemical attack in Syria and the 2014 crash of MH-17 in Ukraine — the one person in common who generated the “pseudo-intelligence product, which contained not a single verifiable fact”, was British blogger and media darling Eliot Higgins.

    In March 2012, using the pseudonym “Brown Moses,” Higgins purportedly began “investigative” blogging on the armed conflict taking place in Syria, claiming this to be a “hobby” in his “spare time”.

    A mainstream media darling, Higgins “arm chair analytics” have been continuously promoted by the UK Guardian and New York Times, as well as corporate sponsors like Google.

    Higgins’ “analyses” of Syrian weapons were frequently cited by mainstream and online media, human rights groups, and Western governments seeking “regime change” in Syria.

    Higgins’ accusations that the Syrian government was responsible for the August 2013 Ghouta chemical attack were proven false, but almost led to war.

    Richard Lloyd and Theodore Postol of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology observed that “although he has been widely quoted as an expert in the American mainstream media, [he] has changed his facts every time new technical information has challenged his conclusion that the Syrian government must have been responsible for the sarin attack. In addition, the claims that Higgins makes that are correct are all derived from our findings, which have been transmitted to him in numerous exchanges.”

    Despite the fact that Higgins’ accusations have repeatedly been disproven, he continues to be frequently cited, often without proper source attribution, by media, organizations and governments.

    Higgins and the Bellingcat site serve as deception “conduits” as defined by the Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms (Joint Publication 1-02), a compendium of approved terminology used by the U.S. military.

    Within military deception, “conduits” are information or intelligence gateways to the “deception target.”

    A “deception target” is defined as the “adversary decision maker with the authority to make the decision that will achieve the deception objective.”

    The primary “deception targets” of MH-17 propaganda are key “policy makers” and the civilian populations of the United States and Europe Union.

    The Internet offers a ubiquitous, inexpensive and anonymous “open source” method for rapid propaganda dissemination.

    This new capacity for “open source” deception was demonstrated in Syria-Sarin attack.

    As noted by journalist Phil Greaves in “Syria: Media Disinformation, War Propaganda and the Corporate Media’s ‘Independent Bloggers’

    “The working relationship between Higgins and the corporate media became almost uniform during the course of the Syrian conflict; an unsubstantiated anti-Assad, or pro-rebel narrative would predictably form in the corporate media (cluster bombs, chemical weapons, unsolved massacres,) at which point Higgins would jump to the fore with his YouTube analysis in order to bolster mainstream discourse whilst offering the air of impartiality and the crucial ‘open source’ faux-legitimacy. It has become blatantly evident that the ‘rebels’ in both Syria and Libya have made a concerted effort in fabricating YouTube videos in order to incriminate and demonize their opponents while glorifying themselves in a sanitized image. Western media invariably lapped-up such fabrications without question and subsequently built narratives around them – regardless of contradictory evidence or opinion. Yet such media, and more importantly, the specific actors propagating it fraudulently to bolster the flimsiest of western narratives has continued unabated – primarily as a result of the aforementioned ‘old media’ organs endlessly promoting it.

    “Following award-winning journalist Seymour Hersh’s groundbreaking essay in the London Review of Books, which exposes the Obama administrations intelligence surrounding the alleged chemical attacks in Ghouta as reminiscent of the Bush administrations outright lies and fabrications leading to the US invasion and occupation of Iraq, Higgins took it upon himself to rush through a rebuttal, published by the establishment media outlet Foreign Policy magazine – a predictable response as Higgins represents the principal source for the ‘Assad did it’ media crowd. Accordingly, the ‘old media’ stenographers that originally promoted Higgins became the vanguard force pushing his speculative Ghouta theories above Hersh’s – to hilarious effect.

    “A particularly revealing example of Higgins’ unwillingness to depart from mainstream discourse came shortly after the alleged Ghouta attacks. The findings of a considerable open-source collaborative effort at the WhoGhouta blog were repeatedly dismissed as ridiculous or unverifiable by Higgins. The bloggers at WhoGhouta drew more or less the same logical, and somewhat scientific conclusions outlined in the Hersh piece, but in much greater detail. Yet Higgins chose to ignore WhoGhouta’s findings and instead rely on his own set of assumptions, dubious videos, and an unqualified ex-US soldier that seems determined to defy both logical and scientific reality. The estimated range of the rockets allegedly used in the attack, with the alleged azimuth that pointed to Syrian army launch points breathlessly promoted by Higgins and his patrons at Human Rights Watch (HRW), and of course corporate media, were convincingly debunked mere weeks after the attack at the WhoGhouta blog, yet Higgins chose to stick to his orchestrated narrative until the bitter end, only revising his wild speculation on rocket range once the obvious became too hard to conceal.

    “As Higgins is a self-declared advocate of ‘open source investigative journalism’, it is perplexing that he attempted to marginalize and dismiss the many findings from independent observers and instead concentrated on bolstering the dubious narratives of the US government and western corporate media. Unless of course, he is tied to a particular narrative and desperate to conceal anything that contradicts it.”

    http://rinf.com/alt-news/breaking-news/syria-media-disinformation-war-propaganda-and-the-corporate-medias-independent-bloggers/

    • Abe
      December 22, 2015 at 6:19 pm

      The WhoGhouta site has a review of the Turkish MP’s allegations concerning the attempted purchase of chemicals for production of sarin by Al-Nusra operatives.

      WhoGhouta is an open collaborative effort to overcome governments’ propaganda and disinformation about the August 2013 chemical attack in Ghouta, Syria.

      All evidence relating to the August 21st chemical attack indicates it was carried out by opposition forces.

      According to the most likely scenario, the opposition forces used looted incendiary rockets, refilled them with sarin they manufactured themselves, and launched them from a rebel-held territory 2 km north of Zamalka.

      http://whoghouta.blogspot.com/2013/11/the-conclusion.html

  3. alexander
    December 22, 2015 at 2:45 pm

    Thank you, folks, for an excellent presentation of the facts.

    But even without them, one is hard put to make a case for Mr Assad to initiate the use of chemical weapons against the plethora of western backed terrorist groups seeking” regime change”.

    Why ?
    Two reasons.
    First, at the time the gas attacks were launched the Syrian army was” winning”….the terror groups were being crushed.
    Second, President Obama’s clearly marked “red line” that their use by the Assad regime would initiate US forces entry into the conflict.

    Why, if you are Assad and you are winning the conflict with conventional weapons, risk stepping over the line to incur the wrath of the greatest military power on the planet ?

    Was Mr Assad just “jonesing” to have 50,000 tons of ordnance dropped on his head ?

    Whatever Mr Assad’s flaws as a leader, I just cannot accept that he is “that ” stupid.

    Can you ?

    • Peter Loeb
      December 23, 2015 at 6:28 am

      A VERY IMPORTANT DETAIL

      Without sensible dissent and questioning such
      as in “A Call for Proof on Syria-Sarin Attack” (above)
      the rhetorical claims of the Obama Administration
      such as President Obama’s claim of “an insult” cannot
      be answered. This is probably by design. But more
      important that motive here is the fact that facts are
      kept from public knowledge.

      Many things happen in wars and people die.

      Even correspondent Patrick Cockburn in his
      2014 book THE JIHADIS RETURN…” accepts as
      fact that the Syrian government bears responsibility
      for the sarin gas attacks basing the indictment
      and conviction of the Syria on the “compelling”
      testimony of an activist human rights lawyer.
      (See op cit Chapter 3, p.64ff in paperback).
      The human rights activist is “contemptuous” of the Syrian
      government but evidently (?) willing to accept the virtue of
      “the rebels”.(Note: This book does, however, provide other
      informationof interest. )

      Even correspondents often reliable are sucked into the
      government- MSM (probable) fabrication.

      The reasons that the US refuses to confront as you already
      suspect by instinct are .political.

      This underlines (if it were necessary) the importance
      of the article above.

      —Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

  4. Michael Knight
    December 22, 2015 at 2:54 pm

    Further proof of duplicity is a YouTube Video of “sarin attack” August 2013 in which a dead man blinks at 15:01
    It’s titled “Using Chemical Weapons by the Syrian President Forces against Civilians in Damascus”
    https://youtu.be/unjE_yoCWr0

    Very Staged throughout – wish I could upload freeze frames I have of “dead” guy eyes closed then blinking as camera walks past. All in a split second – but I have been involved with film since the 60s…and analyzed this whole incident very thoroughly at the time. Have more detail available if requested. Could be very useful to the VIPS – and kudos to all of you for standing up.
    And BTW, there’s evidence that the video was uploaded to the US 20 minutes after the “attack.” Go figure…

  5. F. G. Sanford
    December 22, 2015 at 3:04 pm

    I stopped by Walgreen’s Pharmacy this morning and asked where I could by some chemical components in quantities suitable for producing a “false flag” scenario. They suggested I check the “CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, 88th Edition”. They mentioned the handbook’s slogan, “Every chemist has one”. All of the sources indicated referred to multinational western corporations like Dow, Dupont, 3M, Bayer, Merck, Novartis, Union Carbide and some European I.G. Farben spin-offs. I called them up, and they said they don’t sell to private individuals. Their sales representatives suggested I contact an appropriate government body, such as the Central Intelligence Agency or the research laboratories at Fort Dietrich, Maryland. They were sure those agencies could point me in the right direction. This article suggests that “full disclosure” would probably point in the same direction.

    • Joe Tedesky
      December 22, 2015 at 11:09 pm

      F.G., please cut it out, I don’t want you to spend Christmas in Gitmo.

      • F. G. Sanford
        December 23, 2015 at 12:58 am

        Obviously, I’m being sarcastically facetious with this satirical, made up account. But seriously, it takes some kind of assets beyond what any desert rat in Syria would have available in order to come up with the ingredients. This whole thing has “third party state sponsorship” written all over it.

        • Joe Tedesky
          December 23, 2015 at 10:09 am

          I know you are being sarcastic, and now it’s documented.

  6. Bob Van Noy
    December 22, 2015 at 3:51 pm

    Thank you VIPS for your critical contributions at this unique period in our democracy. Consortium News has provided us with an invaluable public interface between our government and its citizens, that is unique for our era..It reminds me of an essay I read years ago about the importance of public notices during the American Revolution. The fourth estate is not currently performing its duty and we are deeply in need of an accurate, objective media.
    Further, by communicating accurately about the various interests involved in the Syrian crisis, you allow all parties to see and judge as they will. An invaluable service…

  7. Abe
    December 22, 2015 at 4:56 pm

    The purpose of using fake “citizen investigative journalist” deception operatives like Eliot Higgins and the Bellingcat website is to provide a channel for Western “Government Assessment” claims to more effectively reach the public and be perceived as truthful.

    It was the New York Times that elevated Higgins to prominence in 2013 with the claim that he had offered a key tip that helped the newspaper prove that Saudi Arabia had funneled arms to opposition fighters in Syria. Never mind that this was already well known.

    After a couple of well-gnawed bones of truth “verified” by the somehow ingenious Higgins, the MSM and social media was flooded by a tsunami of “investigations” by Higgins.

    Here’s how it works. Higgins provides “investigation reports” that “confirm” the Western government narrative. Higgins then “fact checks” the Western “Government Assessment” and rubber stamps it with the Bellingcat “digital forensics” seal of approval, further advancing the dubious Western narrative.

    Higgins promoted this deception strategy in his article, “Social media and conflict zones: the new evidence base for policymaking” https://blogs.kcl.ac.uk/policywonkers/social-media-and-conflict-zones-the-new-evidence-base-for-policymaking/

    Citing “Bellingcat’s MH17 investigation”, Higgins declared that “a relatively small team of analysts is able to derive a rich picture of a conflict zone” using online information and social media.

    Higgins extolled the virtues of this “new evidence base” of “open source” information — side-stepping the obvious opportunities for deceptive information being planted in these media from not-so-open sources.

    The “overarching point” concludes Higgins, is that “there is a real opportunity for open source intelligence analysis to provide the kind of evidence base that can underpin effective and successful foreign and security policymaking. It is an opportunity that policymakers should seize.”

    Western governments have enthusiastically seized the opportunity to use deception operatives like Higgins to disseminate propaganda.

    Higgins has consistently jumped to the fore to “confirm” Western reports of:

    1) unproven accusations against Syrian president Bashir Assad that the Syrian government used “barrel bombs” against opposition forces and claims that Assad “gassed his own people”.

    2) unproven accusations against Russian president Vladimir Putin of a “Russian invasion” of Ukraine, and claims that a Russian Buk-1 missile launcher (allegedly operated by a Russian crew or pro-Russian separatists) caused the destruction of Malaysian Air flight MH-17 over eastern Ukraine

    Mainstream and online media have been lapping it up.

    Most recently, Huffington Post published “The Citizen Journalists Challenging Assad And Putin’s Story Of War”, a puff piece interview with Higgins. Higgins echoed the recent Western government narrative that Russian airstrikes in Syria are not targeting ISIS: “The hidden part of this is Russia lying about what it’s doing. You can clearly tell they aren’t bombing ISIS”.

  8. Abe
    December 22, 2015 at 10:44 pm

    Al Arabiya is a Saudi-owned pan-Arab television news channel based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Al Arabiya aired American president Barack Obama’s first formal interview as president back in January 2009.

    The Saudis are very concerned about allegations of Assad’s ability to ““gas his own people”. And they aren’t the only ones.

    In a November 2015 Al Arabiya article with the ominous title, “Is a new Syria chemical weapons massacre looming?” columnist Brooklyn Middleton raises alarm about what she terms “the continued consequences of failing to adequately address the Assad regime’s usage of chemical weapons”.

    According to Middleton, “In May of last year, the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism published a paper exploring what it referred to as ‘The Strategic Significance of Syrian Regime’s Chemical Attacks.’ The piece provides an overview of regime chlorine attacks from January-April 2014 (citing Eliot Higgins’ peerless work) and also makes the critical point that the Assad regime has set a new standard for chemical attacks in the Middle East.”
    http://english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2015/11/08/Is-a-new-chemical-weapons-massacre-in-Syria-looming-.html

    Middleton’s citation is noteworthy, and not only for its lavish praise of Eliot Higgins. She cites a May 2014 Times of Israel article and paper written by Ely Karmon, a representative of a major Israeli national security think tank and an associate of a key U.S. pro-Israel lobby organization.

    Karmon, the Times of Israel article’s author, is a fellow at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) and the Institute for Policy and Strategy (IPS) at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya, Israel, all located on the grounds of a former Israeli Air Force base.

    The ICT describes itself as “an independent think tank providing expertise in terrorism, counter-terrorism, homeland security, threat vulnerability and risk assessment, intelligence analysis and national security and defense policy.” The IPS is a Israeli military and strategic affairs think tank. The IPC hosts Israel’s premier global policy gathering, the annual Herzliya Conference on the Balance of Israel’s National Security.

    Karmon also is a former advisor to the Israeli Ministry of Defense and visiting fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP). In their book The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy, professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt identify WINEP as “part of the core” of the pro-Israeli lobby in the United States: “Although WINEP plays down its links to Israel and claims that it provides a ‘balanced and realistic’ perspective on Middle East issues, this is not the case. In fact, WINEP is funded and run by individuals who are deeply committed to advancing Israel’s agenda … Many of its personnel are genuine scholars or experienced former officials, but they are hardly neutral observers on most Middle East issues and there is little diversity of views within WINEP’s ranks.”

    In the Times of Israel article cited by Middleton, Karmon accuses the Syrian government of “using chemical terror to advance its strategic military goals, becoming the first regime since Saddam Hussein gassed the Iraqi Kurdish town of Halabja in 1988 that can be defined as a non-conventional terrorist state.”

    Karmon’s report presented as evidence “a list of videos collected by blogger and reporter Elliott [sic] Higgins, alias Brown Moses, of alleged chemical attacks in Syria” from Higgins’ Brown Moses blog.”

    Middleton has published 49 columns on Al-Arabiya since January 2014, and is described as “an American Political and Security Risk Analyst currently based in New York City”.

    If Middleton seems unduly impressed by the “authors” of the Israeli report and the “peerless work” of Higgins, a closer examination of her credentials may be informative.

    Al-Arabiya somehow neglects to mention that Middleton was based in Tel Aviv, received her MA degree from Tel Aviv University, and has written extensively for The Times of Israel, Ynet, Hurriyet Daily, and the Jerusalem Post.

  9. Abe
    December 23, 2015 at 12:37 pm

    the Turkish government has decided to urgently reconsider the relations with Israel that were almost completely severed 5 years ago, and revive the old idea of ​​placing a gas pipeline through Turkey to export Israeli gas to Europe, as recently reported by The Jerusalem Post. According to this publication, the “crisis of the downed Russian plane is, no doubt, a key impetus to the rapprochement between Turkey and Israel.” Ankara is clearly hoping that Israel has a lot to offer: its gas fields may become a new source of energy, its clout with Washington could partially mitigate the criticism that Erdogan is exposed to for his extravagance in relations with Russia; Israel could become a powerful regional counterweight to the resurgent Iran – a phenomenon feared by all the other Sunni powers. In addition, Turkey is clearly interested in balancing the axis “Russia-Cyprus-Egypt” in the Mediterranean.

    And against this background, on December 16, in an atmosphere of utmost secrecy, negotiations were held in Zurich (Switzerland), which were attended by the Under Secretary of the Turkish Foreign Ministry, Feridun Sinirlioğlu, as well as the recently appointed new head of “Mossad” – Yossi Cohen, and Joseph Ciechanover – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s special envoy in relations with Turkey. During the meeting, Turkey and Israel reached a tentative agreement and are expected to fully restore diplomatic relations after five years of the “Ice Age”.

    […]

    The negotiations concerning supply of gas by Israel to Turkey, as well as the construction of a gas pipeline are soon to commence. It is also remarkable, that on December 16, the Israeli government finally approved a long-awaited deal, which will enable the US-Israeli partnership to develop a large marine gas field. This allows Turkey to hope for the possibility to receive gas from Israel in the nearest future.

    Of course, the deal between Turkey and Israel in Zurich will help the United States not only to maintain security in the region, but also to deter Iran and Saudi Arabia. That’s why the White House has already hastened to express approval of the preliminary agreement reached by the two countries.

    Turkey and Israel: Could There Be an Alliance?
    By Vladimir Odintsov
    http://journal-neo.org/2015/12/23/turkey-and-israel-could-there-be-an-alliance/

  10. Abe
    December 23, 2015 at 3:33 pm

    Israel Out Front on Claiming “Proof” of Syria-Sarin Attack

    The government of Israel was the first to accuse the government of Syria of responsibility for the 21 August 2013 Ghouta chemical attack.

    On 22 August 2013, Yuval Steinitz, the Minister of Intelligence and Atomic Energy (שר המופקד על שירותי המודיעין והוועדה לאנרגיה אטומית‎), the political head of the Israeli Intelligence community, said that Israel’s intelligence assessment was that the Syrian government used chemical weapons in the Damascus area.

    Steinitz told Israel Radio that its intelligence assessments indicated that “chemical weapons were used, and they were not used for the first time.” He accused the international community of “paying lip service” when it comes to Syria. “Nothing practical, significant, has been done in the last two years in order to stop the continuing massacre of civilians carried out by the Assad regime,” Steinitz said. “I think that the investigation of the United Nations is a joke.”

    On August 24, 2013 in the German weekly, Focus, an unnamed former Mossad official said that Unit 8200 of the Israeli Defense Forces intercepted a conversation between Syrian officials regarding the use of chemical weapons. The content of the conversation was relayed to the US, the ex-official said.

    On August 26 2013, Fox News reported that IDF Unit 8200 provided intelligence to the United States, Israel’s closest international ally, implicating the Syrian government in the attacks.

    Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) is being quite demure.

    The most important question for Secretary of State Kerry is:

    Was the US “Government Assessment” based on anything other than an Israeli “Intelligence Assessment”?

    You may also want to ask Kerry how he feels about Erdogan cuddling up to Netanyahu, or Israel’s generous support for al-Nusra forces in the Golan. Turkish MP’s have alleged that Al-Nusra operatives had attempted purchase of chemicals for production of sarin.

    • Abe
      December 23, 2015 at 6:16 pm

      Of the original eight Steering Group signatories of the October 1, 2013 Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity Memorandum to Kerry and Lavrov (W. Patrick Lang parted company with VIPS thereafter), seven are signed on for the December 22, 2015 Memorandum.

      The Steering Committee apparently has expanded to fifteen signatories.

      Conspicuous on the list is Graham E. Fuller, proof that more is less. Someone’s intelligence has been intercepted.

  11. Abe
    December 23, 2015 at 4:11 pm

    A war against terrorists is different than a war between nation-states or a civil war. A group like Jabhat al-Nusra, for example, can’t be treated the same way as armed members of the political opposition. These are religious fanatics determined to use any means possible to achieve their goal of a fascist Islamic Caliphate. Reasoned discourse doesn’t work with people like this, they have to be killed or captured. And this is exactly what the Russian-led coalition is doing, they’re progressively mopping up the terrorist threat in Syria at great risk to themselves and their fellow-collation members Iran, Hezbollah, and the Syrian Arab Army. Kerry’s job is to throw a wrench in the anti-terror campaign to impede the coalition’s progress. And he’s willing to lie to do it. Case in point: Here’s a quote from Kerry in Moscow just last Tuesday:

    “As I emphasized today, the United States and our partners are not seeking so-called “regime change,” as it is known in Syria.

    Later in the day, Kerry underscored the administration’s dramatic about-face saying: “We are not trying to do a regime change. We are not engaged in a color revolution. We’re not engaged in trying to interfere in another country … We’re trying to make peace.”

    Okay, so the US has given up on regime change?

    Not at all. Kerry was just lying through his teeth as usual. Here’s what he said less than 24 hours later:

    “Russia can’t stop the war with Assad there because Assad attracts the foreign fighters. Assad is a magnet for terrorists, because they’re coming to fight Assad. So if you want to stop the war in Syria, and we do, if you want to fight Daesh and stop the growth of terrorism, you have to deal with the problem of Assad. Now, that doesn’t mean we want to change every aspect of the government; we don’t.” (‘US not after regime change in Syria, but Assad must go’ – Kerry to Russian TV”, RT)

    Got that? So the US doesn’t support regime change, but Assad’s still got to go.

    How’s that for hypocrisy? The truth is the Obama administration is just as committed to toppling Assad as ever. Kerry was just misleading Putin to get his approval for his ridiculous resolution at the UN.

    Putin’s Progress in Syria Sends Kerry Scampering to the United Nations
    By Mike Whitney
    http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/12/23/putins-progress-in-syria-sends-kerry-scampering-to-the-united-nations/

  12. Lusion
    December 23, 2015 at 6:34 pm

    Reading Michael Knight’s comment brought back the memory of Mother Agnes Mariam of the Cross. The Catholic nun has been casting doubt on video material supposedly showing the victims of the Ghouta event. I searched out the material back when I came across her first, but then I put it off, and off…

    It would be great to get a professional assessment of the case she makes and her video-analysis from you above-signed Sane and Intelligent Heroes!

    Lavrov mentioned her indirectly according to Reuters:

    “Lavrov said the U.N. report should be examined not in isolation but along with evidence from sources such as the Internet and other media, including accounts from “nuns at a nearby convent” and a journalist who had spoken to rebels.”

    And maybe somebody could find out who this journalist is!

    RT has among others:
    https://www.rt.com/op-edge/mother-chemical-attack-footage-fraud-509/

    She has been maligned by Jeremy Scahill, author of ‘Dirty Wars’ which I found very informative, but he completely lost me now. Not only did I find the manner lacking in class, but I was especially disappointed with the total lack of justification or explanation of any sort.
    As far as I know, he still hasn’t given his rationale despite numerous queries, he just keeps demonizing her.

    Owen Jones as well – both of them threatened to step down from a speaking gig at a peace conference on Syria, calling her a shill for Assad, I believe, and in the end she stepped down voluntarily.

    What I can’t believe is Russia giving credence to her findings, if there was nothing to it.

    PLEASE DEAR AUTHORS LET US KNOW YOUR TREASURED ANALYSIS!!

    • Abe
      December 23, 2015 at 8:29 pm

      http://www.globalresearch.ca/STUDY_THE_VIDEOS_THAT_SPEAKS_ABOUT_CHEMICALS_BETA_VERSION.pdf

      Mother Agnès-Mariam de la Croix, one of the main representatives of the ‘Mussalaha’ Reconciliation inter-faith Initiative, has the support of all Syria’s religious communities. She has been a fearless and indefatigable proponent for Syria’s persecuted. She personally brokered a ceasefire between ‘rebels’ and Syrian troops in Moadamiya, and thereby helped save the lives of over 2000 civilians.

      Mother Agnès-Mariam exposed the egregious stage-management of public opinion when President Obama, David Cameron and François Hollande were trying to justify punitive action against President Assad and his forces for the alleged use of chemical weapons in the Ghouta attack.

      Mother Agnès-Mariam demolished the credibility of the videos of the Ghouta chemical gas story. Her evidence on the veracity of the rebels’ videos was used by the Russian government in its successful efforts to forestall the USA’s planned missile strikes on Damascus.

      The questions Mother Agnès-Mariam raised in the report have still not been satisfactorily answered.

    • Abe
      December 23, 2015 at 11:28 pm

      In the wake of the August 21, 2013 chemical weapons attack in Ghouta, Syria, shocking footage of the victims of that attack were widely circulated in an effort to raise the ire of the public and spur support for military intervention.

      Human Rights Watch, pro-US regime NGO, had repeated the lie that the UN inspectors’ report on the August 21 incident “points clearly to Syrian government responsibility for the attack.” In fact, the UN had no mandate to determine responsibility for the incident.

      On September 1, 2013, a day after the Human Rights Watch report was published, the International Support Team for Mussalaha in Syria (ISTEAMS) published its preliminary report concluding that there had been gross media manipulation.

      Having analyzed the data, including a number of images also published in the Human Rights Watch report report, ISTEAMS found troubling inconsistencies and manipulation with the video footage that called the official narrative of the attack and its victims into question.

      The ISTEAMS report painstakingly refuted much of the photographic evidence presented of the attack. The report raises serious questions about whether the YouTube videos presented by the US government as the main US evidence of Syria government responsibility for the attack was manipulated or even entirely faked.

      ISTEAMS discovered not only widespread manipulation of evidence, but in the tradition of BBC reporting in Syria, they also discovered that photographs of victims in Cairo had been described as victims of a chemical attack in Syria.

      Mother Agnès-Mariam de la Croix has called for a truly independent and unbiased International Commission to identify the children who were killed and try to find the truth of the case.

      In a October 1, 2013 BBC article by Richard Galpin, Human Rights Watch “emergencies director” Peter Bouckaert was dismissive of Mother Agnès-Mariam. “She is not a professional video forensic analyst” said Bouckaert, who is not a professional video forensic analyst.

      Human Rights Watch reports and media coverage on the Ghouta incident have relied extensively on Eliot Higgins, aka ‘Brown Moses’, who also is not a professional video forensic analyst.

      Nonetheless, media attacks on Mother Agnès-Mariam have been relentless.

      Staging the Chemical Weapons Attack in Syria
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EzLVfdrQRsY

      • Lusion
        December 24, 2015 at 7:24 am

        Thank you!
        The worst part of this story is Mother Agnes’ allegation that some of the children in the videos have been abducted from their parents a while prior to the attack, and nobody seems to know what came of them.

        Another scandal in this context is the probably staged BBC video-report supposedly showing chemical-weapons-victims being brought to a hospital, just when the BBC was there to film it. They had to admit at least that they edited the words of a physician. From the Off-Guardian:

        “On August 29 2013, as the UK Parliament was about to vote on possible military action against the Assad government in Syria, the BBC’s 10 o’clock news aired a segment titled Syria crisis: Incendiary bomb victims ‘like the walking dead’ in which it was claimed a Syrian fighter jet had dropped an incendiary bomb containing a “napalm-type” substance on the playground of an Aleppo school. The BBC claimed its own team “inside Syria filming for [the documentary series] Panorama” had been witnesses to the victims arriving at a nearby hospital, and it aired a segment of footage showing an unnamed female alleged to be a doctor surveying incoming casualties. At this time the alleged doctor could be heard saying:

        “I need a pause because it’s just absolute chaos and carnage here…umm… we’ve had a massive influx of what look like serious burns… Er… it seems like it must be some sort of napalm, something similar to that, but obviously within the chaos of the situation it’s very difficult to know exactly what’s going on…”.”

        A month later, on September 30, the BBC aired the same footage again, this time as part of a Panorama documentary entitled “Saving Syria’s Children“, but this time the female doctor, now identified semi-pseudonymously as “Dr Rola”, can be heard saying…

        “It’s just absolute chaos and carnage here…umm… we’ve had a massive influx of what look like serious burns… Er… it seems like it must be some sort of chemical weapon, I’m not really sure…”

        As a justification for the differing versions the BBC brought forth:

        “”the phrase “chemical weapon” was taken out of the news piece because by the time it was broadcast it was known that this was an incendiary bomb that had been used in the attack. Ian Pannell mentions this on two occasions in his script prior to the clip of Dr. Rola. To have included her speculation that this could have been a “chemical weapon” ran a considerable risk of being incredibly misleading and confusing to the audience, not least because the incident happened within days of an alleged chemical attack in Damascus….””

        The Off-Guardian has this – and more – to say to that:

        “This is reasonable up to a point no doubt. But it raises the obvious question of why, a month later, these “incredibly misleading and confusing” words were back in the clip and being aired in a flagship BBC documentary series. Surely if the words “chemical weapon” were “incredibly misleading” in August, they were “incredibly misleading” in September? So, what could possibly justify the BBC re-editing its footage to re-include them?”

        http://off-guardian.org/2015/09/22/in-the-age-of-media-manipulation-how-much-can-we-afford-to-take-on-trust/

        RT has been criticising these reports as well, OfCom was involved, but didn’t investigate properly…

  13. Abe
    December 24, 2015 at 12:14 pm

    In 2012, the New York Times confirmed that the CIA was sending weapons and other military materiel into the hands of anti-Assad forces from the Turkish side of the border […] However, it has also come to light that Turkish intelligence has been front and center in the ongoing campaign to arm and resupply the terror groups such as the al-Nusra Front and others. This fact was exposed by Can Dündar, the editor-in-chief of the Cumhuriyet, who now faces a potential life sentence at the behest of President Erdogan, who himself called for Dündar to receive multiple life sentences. […]

    It has become clear that Turkey is now unmistakably a major supporter of international terrorism, with Syria being merely the proving ground for a stable of terror groups directly or indirectly working with Erdogan’s government. This is further evidenced by the now documented and verified fact that the Erdogan government was directly involved in the transfer of chemical weapons into the hands of ISIS.

    As Turkish MP Eren Erdem explained before the Turkish parliament and to international media, “There is data in this indictment. Chemical weapon materials are being brought to Turkey and being put together in Syria in camps of ISIS which was known as Iraqi Al Qaeda during that time.” Erdem noted that according to an investigation launched (and abruptly closed) by the General Prosecutor’s Office in Adana, Turkish citizens with ties to the intelligence community took part in negotiations with ISIS-linked and Al-Qaeda-linked militants to sell sarin gas for use in Syria. The evidence of these allegations came in the form of wiretapped phone conversations similar to those published earlier this year by Cumhuriyet. […]

    The famous words of the International Military Tribunal at Nuremburg succinctly and matter-of-factly state that the waging of aggressive war is “essentially an evil thing…to initiate a war of aggression…is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” This is undeniably true. But what happens when one is engaged in an international campaign to destroy a neighboring country through war? What happens when one country enables and participates in the destruction of another? What happens when one country will stop at nothing to come out victorious in a war it is not officially involved in, but covertly manages, and from which it directly benefits? Are these not simply different forms of the same crime, the supreme crime, as it were?

    Let’s face it, Turkey is now a mafia state ruled by a criminal regime. It is also a NATO member state. Perhaps now the pernicious illusion of NATO as military alliance defending justice, human rights, and the rule of law can finally be put to rest. While the propagandists will continue the charade, Turkey has permanently exposed the US-NATO-GCC-Israel for the warmongers they are in Syria and around the world. Let’s just hope the world notices.

    Turkey: A Criminal State, a NATO State
    By Eric Draitser
    http://journal-neo.org/2015/12/24/turkey-a-criminal-state-a-nato-state/

  14. Abe
    December 24, 2015 at 6:43 pm

    Whatever happens in the so-called Syrian peace process […] the proxy war between Washington and Moscow will continue. Hubristic US Think-Tank Land can’t see it any other way.

    For Exceptionalist neocons and neoliberalcons alike, the only digestible endgame is a partition of Syria. The Erdogan system would gobble up the north. Israel would gobble up the oil-rich Golan Heights. And House of Saud proxies would gobble up the eastern desert.

    Russia literally bombed all these elaborate plans to ashes because the next step after partition would feature Ankara, Riyadh – and a “leading from behind” Washington – pushing a Jihadi Highway all the way north to the Caucasus as well as Central Asia and Xinjiang (there are already at least 300 Uyghurs fighting for ISIS/ISIL/Daesh.) When all else fails, nothing like a Jihadi Highway plunged as a dagger in the body of Eurasia integration […]

    From Ukraine to Syria, and all across MENA (Middle East and North Africa), the proxy war between Washington and Moscow, with higher and higher stakes, won’t abate. Imperial despair over the irreversible Chinese ascent also won’t abate. As the New Great Game picks up speed, and Russia supplies Eurasian powers Iran, China and India with missile defense systems beyond anything the West has, get used to the new normal; Cold War 2.0 between Washington and Beijing-Moscow.

    I leave you with Joseph Conrad, writing in Heart of Darkness: “There is a taint of death, a flavor of mortality in lies….To tear treasure out of the bowels of the land was their desire, with no more moral purpose at the back of it than there is in burglars breaking into a safe….We could not understand because we were too far and could not remember, because we were traveling in the night of first ages, of those ages that are gone, leaving hardly a sign – and no memories…”

    Empire of Chaos preparing for more fireworks in 2016
    By Pepe Escobar
    https://www.rt.com/op-edge/326965-2016-us-syria-turkey/

  15. Geoffrey de Galles
    December 27, 2015 at 4:22 pm

    Dear Abe, I just want you to know how very much I — for one, at any rate — appreciate all your erudition and dedication and many criticisms and comments here above. Very truly yours, G de G

    • January 1, 2016 at 10:12 am

      Abe, I too thank you for filling in a host of details on Ghouta, many of which I had been unaware. Ray

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