Examining the Evidence for Chemical Attack in Syria

By Derrick Broze

With conflicting reports coming from all angles is there any way to make sense of what is taking place in Syria?

The American public (and the world at large) is swimming in a sea of misinformation, disinformation, conjecture, assumptions, and outright lies. This is not only an accurate description of the situation in regards to the conflict in Syria, but also essentially describes the daily reality of living in a world full of corporate shill media, lying politicians, and a distracted and/or propagandized public. This essay is an attempt to cut through the partisan voices, the emotion on all sides of the discussion, and the deceptive corporate broadcasts in hopes of finding some sliver of truth. I advise all readers to follow every link and read all source material.

A brief recap: The so-called Syrian Civil War has been raging since the 2011 “Arab Spring,” when various groups began revolting against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. The conflict is wide-ranging and includes several different factions vying for power or independence. From the Rojava revolution to the Islamic State, aka ISIS, the conflict has been full of resistance, chaos, and confusion. Generally, there are “rebels” fighting under several different names. The United States government has opted to fund these rebels, some of whom have been proven to be ISIS and al-Nusra front. The U.S. and these groups are supported by Israel, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile, the Russian and Iranian governments have backed Syrian President Assad. The U.S. and Russia have used these groups to wage an indirect conflict, or proxy war, against each other. In the last six years Assad has been accused of using chemical weapons against his own people more than a handful of times. These alleged attacks include Aleppo in March 2013, Ghouta in 2013, Khan Sheikhoun in April 2017, Douma in April 2018, and several other alleged attacks.

This essay is not going to explore the full history of the conflicts in Syria preceding the Arab Spring. Rather, we will be examining the conflict with a focus on this alleged use of chemical weapons in 2013, 2017, and 2018.

Conflicting Evidence

In February 2018, the Associated Press reported that Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis stated there was “no evidence” that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons in the 2017 incident in Khan Sheikhoun. “We have other reports from the battlefield from people who claim it’s been used,” Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon. “We do not have evidence of it.” This means, nearly a year after the U.S. launched several dozen Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian air base which they claimed was the source of the alleged chemical weapons, there is still no evidence linking Assad to the weapons. Ian Wilkie, a veteran and former intelligence contractor, noticed the admission by Mattis and described the situation in an article for Newsweek:

This assertion flies in the face of the White House (NSC) Memorandum which was rapidly produced and declassified to justify an American Tomahawk missile strike against the Shayrat airbase in Syria.

Mattis offered no temporal qualifications, which means that both the 2017 event in Khan Sheikhoun and the 2013 tragedy in Ghouta are unsolved cases in the eyes of the Defense Department and Defense Intelligence Agency.

Wilkie goes on to note that, “Serious, experienced chemical weapons experts and investigators such as Hans Blix, Scott Ritter, Gareth Porter and Theodore Postol have all cast doubt on ‘official’ American narratives regarding President Assad employing Sarin.”

In April 2017, Activist Post published an article discussing Theodore Postol’s findings. Postol, a professor emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and former scientist with the U.S Department of Defense, released a 14-page report debunking the White House’s report that concluded Assad was behind the attacks. Postol’s report found that the U.S. and supporting governments have not provided any “concrete” evidence to back up their claims. Postol also says that it increasingly likely that the attack was carried out by rebel forces.

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These inspectors have also found the 2013 attack in Ghouta involved “home-made rockets of the type favored by insurgents.” In addition, the White House Memorandum on Khan Sheikhoun relied heavily on testimony from the Syrian White Helmets, the internationally renowned, award-winning group purported to be made up of regular Syrians who volunteer to rescue and support the rebels. There is reason to believe that this version of the White Helmets is false. I recommend checking out these two reports from James Corbett, including an interview with journalist Vanessa Beeley who made the trip to Syria to see what she could find. The White Helmets have been filmed at the apparent scenes of chemical attacks wearing little to no protection. As Wilkie notes,

these same actors were filmed wearing chemical weapons training suits around the supposed “point of impact” in Khan Sheikhoun, something which makes their testimony (and samples) highly suspect. A training suit offers no protection at all, and these people would all be dead if they had come into contact with real military-grade Sarin.

In 2013, Carla Del Ponte, a war crimes prosecutor and formerly part of the UN Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria, told a Swiss-Italian television show that she had gathered testimony from casualties and medical staff which indicated that sarin gas was used by rebels. “Our investigators have been in neighbouring countries interviewing victims, doctors and field hospitals and, according to their report of last week which I have seen, there are strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof of the use of sarin gas, from the way the victims were treated,” Ms. Del Ponte said. “This was used on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities.” Predictably, the White House responded by downplaying her comments.

However, by September 2017, Del Ponte had changed her tune. She quit the council after alleging that she received little support for holding the Assad regime accountable for using chemical weapons Khan Sheikhoun in April 2017. “Leaving the council, del Ponte told Syria’s ambassador that she had been right to quickly reach the conclusion that Assad’s government had used chemical weapons during an attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun in April,” Reuters reported.

Finally, in November 2017, Edmond Mulet, Head of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism (OPCW-UN JIM), reported the organization had found that both ISIS and the Syrian government were responsible for using chemical weapons at different points. In one case, Mulet and the panel found ISIS guilty. “As for the 15-16 September 2016 incident, two women were found to have been exposed to sulfur mustard at Umm Hawsh, he said. Based on the positioning of ISIL and the forensic assessment that the mortar shell came from the direction of areas held by that group, the panel is confident that ISIL was responsible for the use of the mortar shells containing sulfur mustard.”

Regarding, the April 2017 incident in Khan Sheikhoun, the team examined eight possible scenarios, including the possibility that the event was staged to place responsibility on the Government of Syria. The team acknowledged that the Syrian military was nearby during the event, but could not say “with certainty” that the aircraft which delivered the chemical bomb had taken off from Al Shayrat air base. However, based on the size of the crater and taken with other evidence, the mechanism concluded “Syria was responsible for the use of sarin at Khan Shaykun.”

At this point we have heard from the Secretary of Defense, a former science adviser for the DOD, and chemical weapons investigators working for the U.N. and other international agencies. We have seen that some of the individuals place the blame on the U.S. funded rebels, some of the investigators blame the Assad regime, and some point the finger at all parties. This illustrates the need for a calm, rational, discussion regarding the situation in Syria. The truth is rarely simple and likely not to be found in the 24-hour news corporate news cycle.

Derrick Broze is an investigative journalist and liberty activist. He is the Lead Investigative Reporter for ActivistPost.com and the founder of the TheConsciousResistance.com. Follow him on Twitter. Derrick is the author of three books: The Conscious Resistance: Reflections on Anarchy and Spirituality and Finding Freedom in an Age of Confusion, Vol. 1, Finding Freedom in an Age of Confusion, Vol. 2 and Manifesto of the Free Humans.

Derrick is available for interviews. Please contact [email protected]

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