“Chemical weapons” remain a favourite meme in Western propaganda circles to depict the Syrian government as inhumane. In late October, Reuters reported that “the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad is to blame for a chemical attack on the opposition-held town of Khan Sheikhoun that killed dozens of people last April, according to a report sent to the United Nations Security Council.”[1] Although blindly copied by numerous mass media outlets worldwide, the findings, made by a Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) set up by the UN and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), were not independently verifiable as the report was for some reason not made public. When it was leaked to alternative media site Moon of Alabama,[2] however, the mainstream press failed to actually analyse the report, let alone point out its many discrepancies. Rather, it just assumed that it was the final word on the Khan Shaykhun incident and instead focused on the political bickering between the US and Russia.

The report in question comes against the backdrop of an even more incriminate report from the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria (IICIS) from September, which tried to blame a total of some two dozen chemical attacks, including the Khan Shaykhun incident and the August 2013 sarin gas attack in the Damascene suburb of Ghouta, on the Syrian army. For 20 of these chemical attacks the IICIS only cited previously published reports from the Human Rights Council and itself. If one actually delves through the documents the commission referred to, it becomes clear that in most of the incidents, UN authorities did either not attribute blame, or relied on eyewitnesses embedded with oppositional jihadi forces to conclude government culpability, often not conclusively but rather with statements such as “with strong suspicion.”[3] Regarding the April assault in Khan Shaykhun and other recent small-scale alleged chlorine gas attacks, the IICIS conducted its own research by interviewing 43 “eyewitnesses, victims, first-responders, medical workers and persons who visited the site after the attack,” in addition to analysing collected satellite imagery, photographs and videos.[4]

IICIS infographic
The chemical attacks and their perpetrators according to the UN’s IICIS © Human Rights Council

This methodology, which resembles that of the recent JIM report, gives all the appearances of a genuinely objective and thorough study. The usage of supposedly objective eyewitnesses and first-responders, the latter often from the infamously al-Qaeda embedded White Helmets, to determine blame, however, has proven problematic throughout the conflict as such testimonies have become a central element in the well-oiled disinformation trail from the rebels to the press.[5] For instance, the very first IICIS report relied on eyewitness testimony to conclude that government forces were probably responsible for the 2012 Houla massacre in which over 100 civilians were massacred. Prof. Tim Anderson, however, has documented at least fifteen witnesses ignored by the commission that contradict this conclusion and instead support the government version of the event that Free Syrian Army-linked rebels were the actual perpetrators.[6] The IICIS has thus already been compromised for its reliance on biased sources and ignorance of testimony and evidence that contradict its conclusions long before these latest accusations at the address of the Syrian government. This lack of objectivity is further reinforced by the fact that the commission never actually visited Syria itself, and that it is co-chaired by Karen Koning AbuZayd, an ostensibly partisan American diplomat.[7]

Although the full truth is hard to establish due to the unreachability of the crime scenes, independent and quasi-conclusive but suppressed evidence that nullifies many of the IICIS’s and JIM’s claims has surfaced over the past few years. This is especially true for the 2013 Ghouta and the 2017 Khan Shaykhun attacks, two key events that engineered worldwide outrage against and disgust of the Syrian army. An understanding of the construction of the lies built around these events is essential to apprehending the inner workings of the propaganda machine, but also exposes the role of the actors involved in manufacturing and carrying out false flag attacks necessary to advance their geopolitical agendas. Additionally, it unveils the bias of UN investigative bodies and the falsehood with which many of their reports are constructed.

Ghouta

On 21 August 2013, the Syrian army won a decisive victory against an organised fighting force of 25.000 Islamist militants, mainly belonging to Jabhat al-Nusrah and the Saudi-backed Islamic Front, in the Damascus area. By the time the battle was over, however, the Islamic Front claimed that rockets from the Syrian army containing chemicals had killed hundreds of civilians in the east Ghouta suburb of Damascus. These accusations were then picked up by the US government as well as the US-based Human Rights Watch, and in no time international media had concluded that Assad had “gassed his own people.”

By mid-2013, the war had turned in favour of the Syrian government. Although parts of Aleppo, east Damascus, and some parts of eastern Syria remained held by militants, most incursions were beaten back by the army. In this context, in the months prior to the Ghouta incident, it were several opposition forces, more so than the government, that were being accused of using chemical weapons. Most notably, the Syrian government complained to the UN that insurgents had used sarin gas in a major battle in the west Aleppean district of Khan al-Assal on 19 March, which left 25 people dead. A day after the attack, Syrian authorities sent a formal request to the UN for a “specialized, impartial and independent mission” to investigate the alleged use of weaponised chemicals, which Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon accepted the following day.[8] In the following months, while the UN mission was preparing to visit Syria, several member states including Syria, France, the UK and the US reported further allegations of chemical attacks.[9] Meanwhile, IICIS co-chair Carla del Ponte “was a little stupefied by the first indications we got” in May, as “they were about the use of nerve gas [sarin] by the opposition.” Del Ponte, who quit the commission in August 2017 due to frustrations concerning the IICIS’s inability to convict the Syrian government and others of war crimes, stated that “there are strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof of the use of sarin gas” by rebel groups, because “according to what we have established so far, it is at the moment opponents of the regime who are using sarin gas.”[10] Strangely enough, the IICIS never seriously further investigated these “strong, concrete suspicions,” let alone indicted non-ISIS rebel groups for the usage of chemical weapons.

After combined pressure from Russia and Syria, the former who delivered a report blaming foreign-backed insurgents for the Khan al-Assal incident and the latter who had seized 208 barrels of lethal chemicals from militants in July, the UN inspectors made their final preparations and eventually arrived in Damascus on 18 August.[11] Then, a mere three days after they arrived in the Syrian capital, the public was told to believe that the Syrian government, who had been reiterating the need for a UN fact-finding mission to Syria for months, in an inexplicable move decided to use sarin gas in a battle close to where the chemical weapons inspectors were residing. Already on 30 August, the White House concluded, citing classified intelligence, that “there is a substantial body of information that implicates the Syrian government’s responsibility in the chemical weapons attack.”[12] A study by former UN weapons inspector Richard Lloyd and Professor Emeritus of Science, Technology and National Security Policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Theodore Postol, released in January 2014, however, showed the rockets to have a much shorter range than was suggested by the White House. Referring to an intelligence map that was published by the White House on the same day that the US government made the above statement, the study concluded that “these munitions could not possibly have been fired at East Ghouta from the ‘Heart’, or from the Eastern Edge, of the Syrian Government controlled area. [This] means that the US Government’s interpretation of the technical intelligence it gathered prior to and after the August 21 attack cannot possibly be correct.” Indeed, the areas under control of the government lay too much to the west of the impact location of the rockets, while “the ring of maximum ranges from where chemical munitions could have been launched” only covers rebel-held territory.[13]

Postol Ghouta (1)
The range of the rockets used if they were launched from the heart or eastern edge of the area controlled by the Syrian government © MIT

The assertion that only the Syrian government was technically able to launch a chemical weapons attack, called into life by Human Rights Watch, turns out to be false as well. In its analysis of the event, the NGO on 10 September claimed that “the evidence concerning the type of rockets and launchers used in these attacks strongly suggests that these are weapon systems known and documented to be only in the possession of, and used by, Syrian government armed forces.”[14] The New York Times, too, maintained that it was not documented that the armed opposition had access to the technology and chemicals needed to launch the attack, thereby backing the American government’s claim that “only Syrian government forces had the ability to carry out such a strike.”[15] In the same month, however, a video emerged in which militants used improvised truck rocket launchers from which rockets containing chemicals could easily be launched.[16] Moreover, rebels not only had the technology, they also had access to sarin gas and other chemicals, as numerous reports from both before and after the August 2013 attack document discovery of chemicals in opposition-controlled areas, insurgents’ seizure of chemical factories and rebel attempts at producing chemicals.[17]

Not only did publicly available information discredit the Human Rights Watch, New York Times and American government claims, the American intelligence community was well aware of the insurgents’ ability at employing weaponised chemicals, including sarin, in battle. According to Seymour Hersh, a famous investigative journalist with many contacts in US intelligence circles:

“In the months before the attack, the American intelligence agencies produced a series of highly classified reports […], citing evidence that the al-Nusra Front, a jihadi group affiliated with al-Qaida, had mastered the mechanics of creating sarin and was capable of manufacturing it in quantity. When the attack occurred al-Nusra should have been a suspect, but the administration cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad.”[18]

Furthermore, one high-level intelligence officer cited by Hersh wrote in an email to a colleague that the attack “was not the result of the current regime,” while another senior intelligence official was reminded by the cooked-up intelligence in the lead up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq and following the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident during the Vietnam war.[19]

Postol Ghouta (2)
The ring of maximum ranges from where chemical munitions could have been launched, which only covers rebel-held territory © MIT

While the MIT study clearly disproved the possibility of Syrian army culpability, the missiles thus could only have been launched from areas under control of the armed opposition, the latter who had both the technology and means to do so. When the UN special mission on chemical weapons returned to Syria, however, it was not assigned to determine responsibility but rather to examine if chemicals had been used. In its final report published in December 2013, it concluded the usage of chemical weapons on five occasions, including in the Ghouta and Khan al-Assal attacks, but more significantly, it acknowledged that in three of the five occasions chemicals were used against soldiers.[20] Logically, this means that the perpetrators must have been oppositional forces rather than the Syrian army. As the Khan al-Assal incident was among these three occasions where soldiers were targeted, and as, according to the Human Rights Council, the chemical agents used in the Khan al-Assal attack bore the same unique hallmarks as those used in Ghouta,[21] the perpetrators of both attacks were most likely either in connection with each other, or were one and the same.

According to someone with close knowledge of the UN’s activity in Syria, whose comments were published in April 2014 in another damning article of Hersh’s hand, “it was clear that rebels used the gas [in the Khan al-Assal assault]. It did not come out in public, [however,] because no one wanted to know.”[22] Regarding the Ghouta attack, Hersh disclosed from his sources that British intelligence had obtained a sample of the sarin used in the incident as well as analysis shortly after the attack which “demonstrated that the gas used didn’t match the batches known to exist in the Syrian army’s chemical weapons arsenal.”[23] After British intelligence passed this information to its American ally, the Obama administration maintained its “Assad did it” line but backtracked on military intervention.

In the second leg of his April 2014 article, Hersh revealed the existence of a back-channel highway for funnelling weapons and ammunition from Libya via Turkey to Syria, drawing from a highly classified annex to the Senate Intelligence Committee report into the September 2012 Benghazi assault on the American consulate in Libya. The establishment of this “rat line,” as Hersh called it, was the result of a deal made between the US, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar in early 2012 in which the CIA, with MI6 support, oversaw the transportation of arms from Gaddafi’s arsenals into Syria.[24] Although Hersh did not say whether these arms included sarin or the components necessary to produce the gas, multiple reports have verified that Gaddafi possessed such stockpiles, and that some of Libya’s chemical agents, including sarin, have ended up in Syrian Islamist territory.[25] Towards the end of his piece, Hersh cited a former intelligence officer who asserted that Turkey engineered the Ghouta attack through its rebel proxies, as the rat line remained in existence after Washington supposedly ended the CIA’s role in it following the 2012 Benghazi attack. This hypothesis is further corroborated by a March 2014 leak of a Turkish government national security meeting, which included discussion of a false flag operation to justify an incursion of the Turkish military into Syria, which proves Turkey’s willingness to sacrifice innocent Syrian civilians for geopolitical aims.[26]

Another lead points to possible Saudi involvement. While mass media around the world were decrying the supposed fact that Assad had gassed his own people, reporter Yahya Ababneh was on the ground in Ghouta in the days following the deadly attack and interviewed numerous doctors, residents, rebel fighters and their families. Many of the interviewees – including the father of a rebel fighter who died in the attack, a female insurgent and a well-known rebel leader, all cited in an article posted on Mintpress News – said that they believed that certain rebels received chemical weapons via Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan, and that these fighters carried out the gas attack.[27] This is very much possible, because the second largest group occupying the Ghouta area at that time that worked in close liaison with Jabhat al-Nusrah, the Islamic Front, was essentially a mercenary brigade created, funded and backed by Saudi Arabia.[28]

As Turkey is a NATO member and Prince Bandar bin Sultan has always enjoyed close ties to the White House and American intelligence circles, one does not have to go on a limb to suspect American supervision, or at least complicity, in this false flag operation. Although this remains unprovable so far, it is pretty convenient that a year after Obama proclaimed that the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government would constitute a “red line” for direct US intervention, the ideal justification to engineer worldwide outrage against Syria came falling out the skies.[29] Fortunately, the Obama administration did not garner enough support for military strikes, let alone boots on the ground, and eventually conceded to Assad’s offer to relinquish his chemical arsenal in a deal brokered by Russia.

Khan Shaykhun

In April 2003, a month into the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq, Syria introduced a resolution at the UN Security Council that would declare the Middle East a region free of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), including of nuclear and biological but of chemical weapons as well. In other words, Syria was willing to give up its chemical weapons program, but only if Israel would acknowledge the existence of its nuclear weapons, follow the rest of the Middle East in signing the Non-Proliferation Treaty and relinquish its WMD arsenal.[30] Logically, this means that the primary if not only goal of Syria’s chemical weapons program was to have a “poor man’s deterrent” to Israel’s nuclear capability.

On 14 September 2013, once the American deep state had realised its faulty intelligence was not going to justify direct military intervention like it had ten years earlier in the lead up to the Iraq invasion, the Obama administration and Russia agreed on a deal to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile. The last segment of this stockpile was shipped out of the country in June 2014 according to the OPCW, which oversaw the process.[31] Although the objectives of acting on Obama’s “red line” had thus not been met, Syria thereby lost its deterrent to Israel in case of future Zionist aggression in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, Lebanon or Syria. One needs only to look at the case of Gaddafi giving up his WMD program and his subsequent removal from power and brutal murder in the NATO-led “humanitarian” war against Libya to understand that this was still a major success for the enemies of the Syrian government.

Nikki Haley UNSC - Rick Bajomas slash UN Polaris
Nikki Haley immediately blamed the Syrian government at a session of the UN Security Council © Rick Bajomas/Polaris

The “chemical weapons” frenzy did not disappear out of the picture, however. Instead of sarin gas, oppositional, Gulf and Western media soon began accusing the Syrian government of employing chlorine gas on multiple battle fronts for no apparent strategic reason, even though the whole Ghouta happening had made it clear how successful the “Assad gasses his own people” narrative had become in discrediting and demonising the Syrian government all the while the latter was desperately trying to be welcomed back into the international community. Of the dozens of chemical attack allegations between April 2014 and August 2015, the OPCW investigated 29 and concluded that in four cases chlorine was allegedly dropped in the form of barrel bombs by helicopter, which of course immediately hinted at Syrian government culpability. The whole narrative, however, was constructed entirely from interviews with eyewitnesses, victims and a range of medical workers whose possible links to al-Qaeda-linked insurgents and membership of the notorious White Helmets were not discussed.[32]

During the 2016 American presidential elections cycle, Donald Trump many times spoke out against attacking the Syrian government as he saw Assad as a mutual enemy of ISIS and feared that a continuation of the Obama administration’s alliance with the “moderate rebels” would lead to a global war with Russia.[33] A couple of months after Trump had ascended into the White House, then, his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced on 30 March 2017 that “the long term status of President Assad will be decided by the Syrian people.”[34] Although this might seem self-evident, it in fact signalled a dramatic U-turn from Washington’s long-held “Assad must go” policy.

Following the recapturing of east Aleppo in late 2016, the Syrian army was rapidly advancing towards military victory over the armed insurgency. Simultaneously, it gradually gained the upper hand on the diplomatic level as the Astana peace talks initiated by Russia, Iran and Turkey, which contrary to many previous Western- and Gulf-led peace efforts did recognise a role for Assad in Syria’s future, were quickly gaining international momentum. Then, suddenly, much like in August 2013, the public was led to believe that Assad, finally on the verge of military victory and consolidation of his political future, decided to use that one kind of weapon that had the potential to lead to his political suicide. On 4 April in the southern Idlib town of Khan Shaykhun, opposition-linked media, drawing on footage from the White Helmets and the Idlib Health Directorate, accused the Syrian army of killing at least 50 people during an air strike with “a chemical agent.”[35] In the developing narrative that chemical agent was gradually identified as sarin gas, that same substance which according to the OPCW was no longer in the possession of the Syrian government. At the time, the town was under control of the al-Qaeda-linked Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, formerly Jabhat al-Nusrah, a terrorist group who, as we have seen, possessed sarin gas and likely used it before.[36]

Reminiscent of Washington’s presupposed conclusion that only Assad could have been the perpetrator in the days following the 2013 Ghouta attack, American Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley during a Security Council meeting on 5 April showed pictures of suffering and dead babies, decried Russia and the “illegitimate” and “barbaric” Syrian “regime” led by “a man with no conscious” and threatened that the US would take action on its own if the UN failed to act upon the tragedy.[37] Without a shred of evidence, then, but after seeing tragic pictures of suffering and dying “beautiful babies,” Trump concluded that “there can be no dispute that Syria used banned chemical weapons” and ordered the launch of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles on 7 April against al-Shayrat Airfield, the location from where the Syrian aircraft supposedly took off three days earlier to drop sarin on Khan Shaykhun.[38]

Crater images from Postol article
Some scenes around the crater © Washington’s Blog

Only four days later, the White House released a four-page report that detailed the intelligence upon which it justified the missile strike, which had killed several Syrian soldiers as well as civilians. According to the intelligence assessment, “the United States is confident that the Syrian regime conducted a chemical weapons attack, using the nerve agent sarin, against its own people in the town of Khan Shaykhun in southern Idlib Province on April 4, 2017.”[39] Soon after its release, however, the same MIT professor that exposed Washington’s faulty technical intelligence in the wake of the Ghouta attack in 2013, Theodore Postol, pointed out that “the document does not provide any evidence whatsoever that the US government has concrete knowledge that the government of Syria was the source of the chemical attack,” because “the report contains absolutely no evidence that this attack was the result of a munition being dropped from an aircraft.” Even more mind-boggling, the evidence put forward in the report actually refutes its own conclusion according to Postol:

“The only source the document cites as evidence that the attack was by the Syrian government is the crater it claims to have identified on a road in the North of Khan Shaykhun. […] The data cited by the White House, [however,] is more consistent with the possibility that the munition was placed on the ground rather than dropped from a plane. This conclusion [that of the White House report] assumes that the crater was not tampered with prior to the photographs. […] Analysis of the debris as shown in the photographs cited by the White House clearly indicates that the munition was almost certainly placed on the ground with an external detonating explosive on top of it that crushed the container so as to disperse the alleged load of sarin. […] No competent analyst would assume that the crater cited as the source of the sarin gas attack was unambiguously an indication that the munition came from an aircraft.”[40]

In subsequent reports released in the weeks following the incident, Postol put forward more evidence that the crater site analysed by the White House report could not have been the location where sarin was allegedly released. Most importantly, the wind on the morning of 4 April at said location blew directly at a residential area where severe sarin exposure should have taken place. Yet, the numerous opposition-embedded television journalists present, who produced a significant amount of footage in the vicinity of the crater, did not even once mention or show human casualties in the proximity of the alleged sarin release site. They only reported on a dead goat found in the opposite wind direction and a few dead birds that cannot be independently linked to the location. Moreover, footage and imagery of first responders near and in the crater showed them to be inadequately dressed to sarin exposure, which according to Postol “either suggests a complete ignorance of the basic measures to protect an individual from sarin poisoning, or that they knew the site was not seriously contaminated.” Still, Postol analysed a collection of 18 horrific videos from an area where mass casualties were piled on the ground haphazardly dead or dying, but this seems to be filmed at a different location. Indeed, the site in question is located at a more remote area a few metres below the surface carved out of rock, clearly not in the vicinity of the crater. It is thus possible that sarin gas or another chemical was released somewhere else in the city resulting in a large amount of casualties, but there is abundant evidence that the crater could not have been the source of the sarin release.[41] The fact that the White Helmet first responders and opposition-linked journalists reported the contrary does not only proof deception on the side of US intelligence, but also exposes the role of sympathisers of the al-Qaeda-linked insurgents on the ground in entirely staging a key part of the mainstream narrative.

Possible area of severe sarin exposure
Location where area of severe Sarin exposure should have taken place near the crater © Washington’s Blog

Additional oddities blow even more holes in the official story. Al-Masdar News was quick to point out a series of strange tweets regarding the chemical attack on 4 April. A UK-trained doctor that once stood trial on terror offences in Britain[42] was working in a hospital nearby the alleged incident on 4 April and found the time to tweet all the while he maintained that sarin gas victims “are still flooding in.” In an earlier tweet, he claimed that “our hospital [is] getting full from the sarin attack today. [If] anyone wants evidence, I will video call you.” Apparently, for some, coverage of the event was equally if not more important than treating the alleged victims. And indeed, an Orient TV reporter in Idlib declared one day before the attack that “tomorrow we launch a media campaign to cover airstrikes on Rif Hama and the use of chlorine gas against civilians.”[43] It is plausible that he was talking about the staged event at the crater site, where indeed a large amount of television crew members were present.

The most recent report accusing the Syrian government of using sarin at Khan Shaykhun, jointly compiled by the UN and the OPCW, too, noted “certain irregularities.” Buried all the way at the end of the report in the annex section, it observed:

“The admission of times of records range between 0600 and 1600 hours. Analysis of the aforementioned medical records [of 247 registered patients] revealed that in 57 cases, patients were admitted in five hospitals before the incident in Khan Shaykhun (at 0600, 0620 and 0640 hours). In 10 such cases, patients appear to have been admitted to a hospital 125 km away from Khan Shaykhun at 0700 hours while another 42 patients appear to have been admitted to a hospital 30 km away at 0700 hours.”[44] (emphasis added)

As the Mechanism in the same report “determined that sarin was released from the location of a crater [sic] in the northern part of Khan Shaykhun between 0630 and 0700 hours,”[45] this makes absolutely no sense if the official story is to be upheld. Still, the JIM report dryly went on to say that “the Mechanism did not investigate these discrepancies and cannot determine whether they are linked to any possible staging scenario.”[46] Another issue left unexplained in the same annex section, is that witnesses reported that the White Helmets, through what the Mechanism described as an “early warning system” comprised of “spotters,” advised residents to be careful prior to the alleged incident “as the aircraft [underway from al-Sharyat airbase] was likely carrying toxic chemicals.”[47] The report did not elaborate on how they knew that a ruthless chemical attack by the Syrian Air Force was supposedly on the way.

As an observer far removed from the crime scene, one is left wondering what exactly transpired on 4 April in Khan Shaykhun. But one thing is for certain, the simplistic narrative put forward by the opposition and the West is wrong on every fundamental level. In fact, we can even not be certain that sarin was actually used. Even though the OPCW determined that “a large number of people, some of whom died, were exposed to sarin or a sarin-like substance,”[48] former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter has pointed out that the samples upon which the OPCW made this conclusion were supplied by the ostensibly partisan White Helmets, which is in violation of anything that would resemble a reliable chain of custody. This lead him to conclude that “in short, there is no sample.”[49] Moreover, the first reports of the usage of a chemical agent in the aftermath of the incident, including from Turkish media as well as the OPCW itself, made no mention of sarin, but instead defined the chemical used as chlorine.[50]

Video frames by Postol of mass casualty site
Some scenes at the mass casualty side © Washington’s Blog

This is all not to say that a Syrian war plane did not target Khan Shaykun on 4 April. A day after the incident, spokesman of the Russian Defence Ministry Igor Konashenkov confirmed that Syrian aircraft had conducted an airstrike near the town of Khan Shaykhun on a warehouse where ammunition, including chemical weapons, were reportedly stored.[51] Although the Russian explanation that this strike might have sparked the release of one or more chemical agents was at the time dismissed by the West, Seymour Hersh in June confirmed from his intelligence sources that the US was well aware of Syria’s target on the morning of 4 April. As part of the joint deconfliction agreement, Russia had given details of a planned attack of the Syrian Air Force on a jihadist meeting between senior officials of Ahrar al-Sham and Jabhat al-Nusrah on 4 April in Khan Shaykhun to the Americans days before the assault. Using a Russian-supplied guided bomb and employing their best pilot, the Syrian Air Force at 06h55, as was planned and known by the Americans, struck the target, a two-story building in the northern part of the town. The basement of the building, according to a senior advisor with the Department of Defense and the CIA, “was used as storage for rockets, weapons and ammunition” as well as “chlorine-based decontaminants for cleansing the bodies of the dead before burial.” The same senior advisor told Hersh that Washington’s official story is a “fairy tale” and that “this was not a [deliberate] chemical weapons strike.”[52] Additionally, in a conversation between an active American soldier on duty on a key operational base about the events in Khan Shaykhun and a security advisor in the US in the wake of the incident, the former disclosed that “we KNOW that there was no chemical attack. The Syrians struck a weapons cache (a legitimate military target) and there was collateral damage. That’s it. They did not conduct any sort of chemical attack.”[53]

There you have it. American intelligence and military knew that the Syrian Air Force was going to strike a building where a high-level terrorist meeting was being held and where chemicals in the possession of the insurgents were stored. Taking this in mind, the most plausible explanation for the orchestrated “media campaign” at the site of the crater also in the north of Khan Shaykhun is that the Americans passed at least some of this prior knowledge to the foreign-backed militants. Indeed, the fact that the fake crater footage was being filmed almost exactly at the time the Syrians bombed the jihadist meeting can only mean that the al-Qaeda-linked militants were informed as well. The Americans therefore either disclosed everything they knew about the attack to the insurgents, after which the latter decided to orchestrate yet another false flag operation, or elements of the American deep state were directly involved. As four jihadist leaders were killed in the attack according to the senior advisor cited by Hersh, the first possibility seems less likely, because surely if the Islamist officials knew about the time and location of an airstrike that would likely result in their deaths, they would cancel the meeting. Hence, certain elements inside the American government are in all probability guilty of coordinating this false flag operation that indeed only benefitted the militants and interventionist elements in Washington.

Conclusion

To summarise, there is no real credible and independently verifiable evidence that the Syrian army in the course of the conflict ever used weaponised chemicals against its own people, even though the mainstream press, alongside UN investigative bodies, to this day report the contrary. This does not mean that the possibility should be ruled out, of course, but the Syrian government clearly has no motive to use chemical weapons. Their usage is of no strategic interest, nor are they superior to the Syrian army’s conventional arsenal. Moreover, there is no evidence that Assad wants to commit political suicide, even though this seems to be the only scenario in which his government would benefit from using chemical weapons. The foreign-backed Salafi-jihadi’s and the governments that over the last few years have conspired to destabilise Syria, on the other hand, do have a motive. Although opposition-linked activists, media and NGOs as well as said governments are at the forefront of denouncing Assad for “gassing his own people,” the armed opposition and the interventionist governments that support them are the only ones that have benefitted tremendously from the disgrace bestowed on their enemies in Damascus following the Ghouta and Khan Shaykhun incidents. And indeed, while the evidence seems to vindicate the possibility of government culpability in these hyped-up mediatised events, the armed insurgents and their foreign backers not only have the means to carry out these attacks, the evidence suggest that they orchestrated these false flag plots in order to legitimise their shared efforts of demonising and overthrowing the Syrian government.

Hence, the emotional and tragic load with which the whole chemical weapons story has been and is being handled in the West must be seen as hardly anything more than a ploy in which innocent Syrians are killed in order to pull at the heartstrings of the public abroad to continue or intensify the proxy war against Syria. If the public buys into this narrative and supports further intervention into Syria’s internal affairs, however, it will not help or save the Syrian people. To the contrary, it will result in further bloodshed, the very kind the propaganda claims to be seeking to put a stop to. The cynicism of this needs to be recognised, and the “humanitarian” facades of Western politicians and media need to be confronted, because you never know when the next accusation, chemical weapons or otherwise, will pop up in the news cycle, whether it pertains to the Syrian conflict or a future war elsewhere.

Notes

[1] Rodrigo Campos, “Syrian government to blame for April sarin attack: U.N. report,” Reuters, 26.10.2017, http://reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-un/syrian-government-to-blame-for-april-sarin-attack-u-n-report-idUSKBN1CV3GP.

[2] “UN on Khan Sheikhoun – victims hospitalized before claimed incident happened,” Moon of Alabama, 29.10.2017, http://moonofalabama.org/2017/10/un-report-on-khan-sheikhoun-23-of-victims-hospitalized-before-the-incident-happened.html.

[3] Human Rights Council, Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic (United Nations, A/HRC/36/55, September 2017), 17, available at http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/G1723418.pdf.

[4] Human Rights Council, Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, 22.

[5] Bas Spliet, “The proxy war on Syria – part 4: the export of disinformation,” Scrutinised Minds, 20.12.2016, https://scrutinisedminds.com/2016/12/20/the-proxy-war-on-syria-part-4-the-export-of-disinformation/.

[6] Tim Anderson, “The Houla massacre revisited: ‘official truth” in the dirty war on Syria,” Global Research, 24.03.2015, http://globalresearch.ca/houla-revisited-official-truth-in-the-dirty-war-on-syria/5438441.

[7] Tim Anderson, “The AbuZyad-Pinheiro committee: systematic misinformation on Syria,” American Herald Tribune, 10.09.2017, http://ahtribune.com/world/north-africa-south-west-asia/syria-crisis/1887-abuzayd-pinheiro-committee.html.

[8] “UN chief announces independent probe into allegations of chemical attack in Syria,” UN News Centre, 21.03.2013, http://org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44450#.WfWYgVvWzIU.

[9] UN Mission to Investigate Allegations of the Use of Chemical Weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic, Final report (United Nations, A/68/663 – S/2013/735, December 2013), 5-9, available at http://undocs.org/A/68/663.

[10] “UN’s Del Ponte says evidence Syria rebels ‘used sarin’,” BBC, 06.05.2013, http://bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-22424188; Damien McElroy, “UN accuses Syrian rebels of chemical weapons use,” Telegraph, 06.05.2013, http://telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/10039672/UN-accuses-Syrian-rebels-of-chemical-weapons-use.html; “Syria investigator del Ponte quits, blaming U.N. Security Council,” Reuters, 06.09.2017, http://reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-investigator/syria-investigator-del-ponte-quits-blaming-u-n-security-council-idUSKBN1AM0P4.

[11] Christof Lehmann, “UN inspectors accept Syrian invitation after Russian pressure and seizure of massive chemical depot from opposition,” NSNBC International, 11.07.2013, http://nsnbc.me/2013/07/11/un-inspectors-accept-syrian-invitation-after-russian-pressure-and-seizure-of-massive-chemical-depot-from-opposition/.

[12] The White House Office of the Press Secretary, Government assessment of the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons on August 21, 2013 (White House, Washington, DC, 2013), http://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2013/08/30/government-assessment-syrian-government-s-use-chemical-weapons-august-21.

[13] Richard Lloyd and Theodore Postol, Possible implications of faulty US technical intelligence in the Damascus nerve agent attack of August 21, 2013 (Washington, DC: MIT – Science, Technology and Global Security Working Group, January 2014), available at http://voltairenet.org/IMG/pdf/possible-implications-of-bad-intelligence.pdf.

[14] “Attacks on Ghouta: analysis of alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria,” Human Rights Watch, 10.09.2013, http://hrw.org/report/2013/09/10/attacks-ghouta/analysis-alleged-use-chemical-weapons-syria.

[15] Rick Gladstone and C.J. Chivers, “Forensic details in U.N. report point to Assad’s use of gas,” New York Times, 16.09.2013, http://nytimes.com/2013/09/17/world/europe/syria-united-nations.html.

[16] Tony Cartalucci, “Video: rockets in Damascus CW attack fired from makeshift flatbeds, not military vehicles,” Land Destroyer Report, 26.09.2013, http://landdestroyer.blogspot.be/2013/09/video-rockets-used-in-damacus-cw-attack.html.

[17] “Rebels could resort to chemical weapons, Syria warns,” France 24, 08.12.2012, http://france24.com/en/20121208-syria-warns-rebels-may-resort-chemical-weapons-assad-united-nations-islamists/; “Syrian militants have access to chlorine gas,” Nuclear Threat Initiative, 01.04.2013, http://nti.org/gsn/article/syrian-militants-have-access-chlorine-gas-plant-owner/; “Turkey finds sarin gas in homes of suspected Syrian Islamists – reports,” RT, 30.05.2013, http://rt.com/news/sarin-gas-turkey-al-nusra-021/; Christof Lehmann, “Syrian army seizes massive chemical stockpile from insurgents. Enough to wipe out entire country,” NSNMC International, 10.07.2013, http://nsnbc.me/2013/07/10/syrian-army-seizes-massive-chemical-stockpile-from-insurgents-enough/; “Syria rebels made own sarin gas, says Russia,” al-Jazeera, 10.07.2013, http://aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2013/07/20137920448105510.html; Michelle Nichols, “Two ‘abandoned’ cylinders seized in Syria contained sarin – U.N.,” Reuters, 07.07.2014, http://reuters.com/article/us-syria-crisis-chemicalweapons/two-abandoned-cylinders-seized-in-syria-contained-sarin-u-n-idUSKBN0FC1U420140707.

[18] Seymour Hersh, “Whose sarin?”, London Review of Books 35, no. 24 (December 2013), 9-12, available at http://lrb.co.uk/v35/n24/seymour-m-hersh/whose-sarin

[19] Hersh, “Whose sarin?”

[20] UN Mission to Investigate Allegations of the Use of Chemical Weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic, Final report (United Nations, A/68/663 – S/2013/735, December 2013), 21-3, available at http://undocs.org/A/68/663.

[21] Human Rights Council, Report of the independent international commission of inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic (United Nations, A/HRC/25/65, February 2014), 19, available at http://securitycouncilreport.org/atf/cf/%7B65BFCF9B-6D27-4E9C-8CD3-CF6E4FF96FF9%7D/a_hrc_25_65.pdf.

[22] Seymour Hersh, “The red line and the rat line,” London Review of Books 36, no. 8 (April 2014), 21-4, available at http://lrb.co.uk/v36/n08/seymour-m-hersh/the-red-line-and-the-rat-line.

[23] Hersh, “The red line and the rat line.”

[24] Hersh, “The red line and the rat line.”

[25] Eric Zuesse, “Seymour Hersh says Hillary approved sending Libya’s sarin to Syrian rebels,” Strategic Culture Foundation, 28.04.2016, http://strategic-culture.org/news/2016/04/28/seymour-hersh-hillary-approved-sending-libya-sarin-syrian-rebels.html.

[26] Hersh, “The red line and the rat line;” Nick Tattersall, “Turkey calls Syria security leak ‘villainous,’ blocks YouTube,” Reuters, 27.03.2014, http://reuters.com/article/us-syria-crisis-turkey/turkey-calls-syria-security-leak-villainous-blocks-youtube-idUSBREA2Q17420140327.

[27] Dale Gavlak and Yahya Ababneh, “Syrians in Ghouta claim Saudi-supplied rebels behind chemical attack,” Mintpress News, 29.09.2013, http://mintpressnews.com/witnesses-of-gas-attack-say-saudis-supplied-rebels-with-chemical-weapons/168135/.

[28] Edward Dark, “Syrian FSA fades in shadow of Saudi-backed opposition front,” al-Monitor, 11.12.2013, http://al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/12/syria-fsa-islamic-front-geneva-ii-jarba.html.

[29] James Ball, “Obama issues Syria a ‘red line’ warning on chemical weapons,” Washington Post, 20.08.2012, http://washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/obama-issues-syria-red-line-warning-on-chemical-weapons/2012/08/20/ba5d26ec-eaf7-11e1-b811-09036bcb182b_story.html?utm_term=.c525f45ac5f1.

[30] “Syria proposes Mideast free of WMD,” CNN, 17.04.2003, http://edition.cnn.com/2003/WORLD/meast/04/16/sprj.irq.un.syria/.

[31] “Last of Syria’s chemical weapons shipped out,” BBC, 23.06.2014, http://bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-27974379.

[32] OPCW, Third report of the OPCW fact-finding mission in Syria (Office of the Director-General, S/1230/2014, 18.12.2014), 10-33, http://photos.state.gov/libraries/netherlands/328666/pdfs/THIRDREPORTOFTHEOPCWFACTFINDINGMISSIONINSYRIA.pdf; Edith M. Lederer, “Experts identify cases of Syria chemical attacks to probe,” Washington Post, 12.02.2016, reposted on Wayback Machine, http://web.archive.org/web/20160214085254/https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/experts-identify-cases-of-syria-chemical-attacks-to-probe/2016/02/12/917f6666-d1e6-11e5-90d3-34c2c42653ac_story.html.

[33] Tom McKay, “Here are 45 times Trump said attacking Syria was a bad idea and might start World War III,” Mic, 07.04.2017, http://mic.com/articles/173471/trump-world-war-iii-attacking-syria-wwiii-ww3#.qLyRr9Kh9.

[34] Tyler Durden, “McCain furious at Rex Tillerson of saying Assad can stay,” Zero Hedge, 31.03.2017, http://zerohedge.com/news/2017-03-31/mccain-furious-rex-tillerson-saying-assad-can-stay.

[35] Syria Civil Defence, A joint statement by the Syria Civil Defence and the Health Directorate in Idlib, available on website of Syria Civil Defence, 04.04.2017, http://syriacivildefense.org/press-release/joint-statement-syria-civil-defence-and-health-directorate-idlib.

[36] In the midst of a series of infighting conflicts between rival militia’s, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham – formerly Jabhat al-Nusrah, Syria’s then official branch of al-Qaeda – had in late February managed to subjugate the ISIS-backed Liwa al-Aqsa and take control of Khan Shaykhun: Izat Charkatli, “Over 2,000 radical rebels defect of ISIS following intra-rebel deal,” al-Masdar News, 23.02.2017, http://almasdarnews.com/article/2000-radical-rebels-defect-isis-following-intra-rebel-deal/.

[37] Alana Abramson, “Read Nikki Haley’s remarks about Syria at the U.N.,” Time, 05.04.2017, http://time.com/4727499/nikki-haley-unsc-transcript-syria/.

[38] Luke Harding, “’It had a big impact on me’ – the story behind Trump’s whirlwind missile response,” Guardian, 07.04.2017, http://theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/07/how-pictures-of-syrias-dead-babies-made-trump-do-unthinkable; Barbara Starr and Jeremy Diamond, “Trump launches military strike against Syria,” CNN, 07.04.2017, http://edition.cnn.com/2017/04/06/politics/donald-trump-syria-military/.

[39] “Declassified U.S. report on chemical weapons attack,” New York Times, 11.04.2017, http://nytimes.com/interactive/2017/04/11/world/middleeast/document-Syria-Chemical-Weapons-Report-White-House.html.

[40] Theodore A. Postol, “A quick turnaround assessment of the White House intelligence report issued on April 11, 2017 about the nerve agent attack in Khan Shaykhun, Syria,” Scribd, http://scribd.com/document/344995943/Report-by-White-House-Alleging-Proof-of-Syria-as-the-Perpetrator-of-the-Nerve-Agent-Attack-in-Khan-Shaykhun-on-April-4-2017#from_embed.

[41] The first two follow-up reports mainly dealt with the way the Idlib Health Directorate and White Helmets first responders handled the situation, and how they should all be exposed to severe intoxication if indeed sarin would have been released out of the crater around and in which they were operating without adequate safety gear: Robert Barsocchini, “Addenum to Dr. Theodore Postol’s assessment of the White House report on Syria chemical attack,” Washington’s Blog, 13.04.2017, http://washingtonsblog.com/2017/04/addendum-dr-theodore-postols-assessment-white-house-report-syria-chemical-attack.html; Theodore Postol, “Video evidence of false claims made in the White House intelligence report of April 11, 2017,” Washington’s Blog, 14.04.2017, http://washingtonsblog.com/2017/04/video-evidence-false-claims-made-white-house-intelligence-report-april-11-2017.html. It should be mentioned that in his third report, Postol erroneously interprets his own wind direction data, but it still contains important information with regard to analysis of the footage at the mass casualty location: Theodore Postol, “The nerve agent attack that did not occur: analysis of the times and locations of critical events in the alleged nerve agent attack at 7 am on April 4,2017 in Khan Sheikhoun, Syria,” Washington’s Blog, 18.04.2017, http://washingtonsblog.com/2017/04/67102.html. In the last relevant report, Postol corrected this error and pointed out that journalist adjacent to the crater were not reporting on human casualties on the alleged location where sarin should have caused mass casualties if indeed the crater was the source of the sarin release: Theodore Postol, “Important correction to the nerve agent attack that did not occur,” Washington’s Blog, 23.04.2017, http://washingtonsblog.com/2017/04/67182.html.

[42] Anthony Joseph and Robert Verkaik, “UK-trained doctor hailed a hero for treating gas attack victims in Syria stood trial on terror offences ‘and belonged to the group that kidnapped British reporter John Cantlie’,” Daily Mail, 07.04.2017, http://dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4388780/Doctor-Syria-stood-trial-terror-offences.html.

[43] Paul Antonopoulos, “Juming to conclusion; something is not adding up in Idlib chemical weapons attack,” al-Masdar News, 04.04.2017, http://almasdarnews.com/article/jumping-conclusions-something-not-adding-idlib-chemical-weapons-attack/.

[44] UN and OPCW, Seventh report of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons-United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism (United Nation, S/2017/xxx, October 2017), 36, available for download at http://moonofalabama.org/2017/10/un-report-on-khan-sheikhoun-23-of-victims-hospitalized-before-the-incident-happened.html.

[45] UN and OPCW, Seventh report, 10.

[46] UN and OPCW, Seventh report, 36.

[47] UN and OPCW, Seventh report, 25-6.

[48] Anthony Deutsch, “Chemical weapons watchdog says sarin used in April attack in Syria,” Reuters, 29.06.2017, http://reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-chemicalweapons/chemical-weapons-watchdog-says-sarin-used-in-april-attack-in-syria-idUSKBN19K302.

[49] Scott Ritter, “Trump’s sarin claims built on a lie,” American Conservative, 29.06.2017, http://theamericanconservative.com/articles/ex-weapons-inspector-trumps-sarin-claims-built-on-lie/.

[50] “Chlorine, not sarin, was used in the Khan Sheikhoun incident,” Moon of Alabama, 20.04.2017, http://moonofalabama.org/2017/04/only-chlorine-not-sarin-involved-in-the-khan-sheikhun-incident.html.

[51] “Syria strikes warehouse storing chemical weapons being delivered to Iraq,” Spuntik, 05.04.2017, http://sputniknews.com/middleeast/201704051052301312-syria-strikes-chemical-weapons-warehouse/.

[52] Seymour Hersh, “Trump’s red line,” Welt, 25.06.2017, http://welt.de/politik/ausland/article165905578/Trump-s-Red-Line.html.

[53] Quoted in Seymour Hersh, “’We got a fuckin’ problem’,” Welt, 25.06.2017, http://welt.de/politik/ausland/article165905618/We-got-a-fuckin-problem.html.