Thursday, August 22, 2013

Another False Flag "Chemical Weapon" Attack?

This has just come in from Conflicts Forum:

Reports and commentaries on Syrian developments beginning with a comment on the recently claimed "chemical weapons" attack — we strongly advise readers to read these interviews carried out by the Brown Moses blogger with international scientific experts on chemical weapons (from May 2013) which cast serious doubt on all previous claims by the Syrian opposition – see here:

Syria: Another False Flag "Chemical Weapon" Attack

Moon of Alabama blog, 21 August 2013

Whenever there is some international action with regards to Syria, a United Nations security council meeting or a G8 conference, the Syrian insurgents create and/or propagandize some "massacre" that they allege to have been perpetrated by the Syrian government. On Monday UN chemical weapon inspectors arrived in Damascus to investigate some older claims of chemical weapon use. Just in time a new incident happens with the insurgents alleging use of "chemical weapons" by the Syrian government just some 10 miles away from the inspectors hotel:
Syrian regime forces fired intense artillery and rocket barrages Wednesday on the eastern suburbs Damascus amid a fierce government offensive in what two pro-opposition groups claimed was a “poisonous gas” attack that killed dozens of people. The claims came as a 20-member U.N. chemical weapons team was in Syria to investigate three sites where chemical weapons attacks had allegedly occurred in the past. The timing raises questions on why would the regime employ chemical agents during a visit by the U.N. experts.
The government promptly denied the reports of Wednesday’s chemical weapons’ attack as “absolutely baseless.”
Videos of the incident show many people, including children, with respiratory problems. But non of the first responders and medical personal in those videos wear any protection against chemical weapons. Real chemical weapons, like Sarin, are persistent agents. They stick to the cloth of the victims and any contact with those victims would practically guarantee to kill the people who try to help them unless those people take serious precautions. Whatever happened in Syria today is therefore unlikely to be the consequence of military grade chemical weapons. Many other chemical agents, like insecticides based on organophospate or some industrial process chemicals, could induce the observed symptoms.
It would of course be totally irrational for the Syrian government to use chemical weapons just the moment that chemical weapon inspectors arrive in the country. But it makes a lot of sense for the insurgents and their foreign supporters to create such an incident, as the did previously, and to use it to renew their propaganda campaign against the Syrian government. It is therefore no surprise that the British government immediately jumped all over the case.
Simply answer "cui bono?" and you will know who is responsible for this incident.

Washington Deliberates Whether To Embrace Geneva II

Mohammad Ballout Translated from As-Safir (Lebanese independent 'leftist' newspaper), 14 August 2013

The international Arab mediation team in Syria is set to resume work for the Geneva II conference. According to diplomatic sources, the UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi arrived in Geneva on Aug. 19, 2013 after the Egyptian authorities requested that he vacate the guest residency allocated for the work of the UN team in Cairo.
The team will work over the next three days to prepare for the Geneva II conference since a new tentative date was set for mid-October of this year. This information is according to preliminary communiqués carried out by UN diplomats overseeing preparations for the conference to inform them of the preliminary date decided upon after American-Russian deliberations.
The French capital last week hosted a series of intensified meetings held by the American Ambassador Robert Ford to look over the circumstances of the Syrian opposition abroad. He presented a new “road map” for the conference including the formation of a delegation, the issues that will be looked into, the alternatives suggested by the opposition members to go to Geneva and the potential of arriving at some sort of acceptable balance of power from all sides to sit around the negotiating table.

Syrian opposition sources stated that the American ambassador had presented a new perspective that may be able to break through the prevailing pessimism that caused the Geneva II conference to be postponed until the end of the year at least. He said that the Americans who granted Saudi Arabia and its intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, six months [to achieve] brief victory and to shift the balance of military power on the ground, have come to the conviction that the upheaval of the balance of power in the opposing direction will twist the regime’s arm into going to Geneva.
A prominent opposition member said that the Americans had deduced that it would be best to try to gather the opposition in Geneva as soon as possible. In reality, Geneva II has become an acceptable option in light of the threat posed by the escalation of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which carries out most of the military operations in northern Syria. This latter is also the foremost beneficiary of the balance of power with the Syrian army, as can be clearly seen on the fronts of Latakia, Aleppo, and the Ming military airport.

Another element is prominent in the likelihood of Geneva’s choice and re-mobilizing Brahimi’s team. The Western diplomatic source stated that the Americans’ confidence disappeared once again because of the weakness of information shared by the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the inability to rely on it. Ford quoted the head of the Syrian National Coalition Ahmed al-Jarba as saying that they must wait for one additional month before launching the Geneva process, while Gen. Salim Idriss speaks of six additional months necessary to help the Syrian army and shift the balance.
The Americans feel that it is jihadists who are progressing on all fronts, in Raqqah, Latakia, Aleppo and Deir ez-Zor. The new internal crisis toward which the coalition is headed is worrying, as it faces demands for a re-election of its political body. This has made setting up the opposition’s internal structure difficult once again, and made it preferable to aim for a transitional government in Geneva.
It would appear that disputes have to do with the formation of a plurality delegation for the opposition that includes its three main groups to help in moving toward Geneva II. It has become apparent that all sides, if a delegation was to be formed from the coalition, the coordination authority and the Supreme Kurdish Authority, with varying percentages, negotiations would proceed accordingly without excluding anyone.

A prominent Syrian opposition figure stated that there is a trend toward holding a meeting that aims to specify the common ground shared with national Syrian opposition based on the necessity of forming a single delegation that follows a shared political platform as follows:
1. The international conference shall be regarded as the commencement of the civil democratic transitional period, not a period for continued authoritarianism or dictatorship in the country and its institutions.
2. The binding and executive nature of the conference’s decisions is of upmost importance, including the means of direct UN participation in the field.
3. The agreement upon a national shared Syrian charter that forms the basis of building the new Syria and authorizing founding texts consecrated during the Helion conference, the National Assembly documents, the coalition and the national agreement at the conference in Cairo.
4. The preparation of a shared draft of the constitutional principles for the transitional period and the priorities of transitional justice according to the circumstances in Syria.
5. Specifying the traits of the ruling authority as not only a government in the traditional sense (with executive power) but a transitional authority with powers that go beyond executive to legislative and judicial during the transitional period.
6. The agreement upon applicable mechanisms related to the role of formations and the role of the security apparatuses in the country, as well as the reformation and building of the military institution.
7. The division of work between political components in a way that is comprehensive and not competitive, allowing them to take advantage of energies and relationships built by the opposition over the past two years of political and diplomatic struggle regionally and internationally.
8. Setting out a national salvation plan that relies upon international mobilization that accompanies the political process wherein the central tasks of relief and reconstruction can be merged into a project that resembles reconstruction projects in bloody conflict areas such as Europe following World War II and the countries that made up the former Yugoslavia.
9. The formation of a chamber for joint operations for the Syrian opposition participated in by competent and experienced figures to draw out a shared media policy, to sow the fabric of powerful relations during the conference and to form lobby groups that back the shared platform.
10. The National Coalition, the coordinating authority, the Supreme Kurdish Authority and the sides not included in these three components shall be invited; military sides may participate in the meeting to contribute their two cents and offer counsel for everything having to do with security and the military. It is assumed that the number of invitees shall not exceed 25 individuals, and decisions are made by consensus.

Syria rebels move HQ from Egypt to Turkey

Barçın Yinanç

, Hurriyet Daily News, 17 August 2013

The headquarters of the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) is being transferred from Egypt to Turkey, as the new administration that toppled President Mohamed Morsi has limited the movements of the Syrian opposition, according to the coalition’s Turkey representative. 
Many Syrian dissidents are leaving the country, and the main headquarters of the SNC is being moved to Turkey, Khaled Khoja told the Hürriyet Daily News. “Many Syrian opposition figures are leaving Egypt, Mouaz al-Khatib, the former head of the Syrian National Coalition, has plans to settle in Turkey.” 
Al-Khatib had resigned in recent months protest at the world’s “inaction” over violence in Syria.

The coup has had a negative effect on the Syrian opposition according to Khoja, who said some of the pro-opposition decisions which were taken during Morsi’s presidency were overturned under the new administration.
“Just a few days before the coup, a meeting on Syria took place in Cairo. Morsi had said they would freeze diplomatic relations with the Bashar al-Assad regime. Right after the coup, this decision was overturned and the new regime said they would upgrade relations with Syria,” Khoja said.
Egyptian Interim Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy said last month that the country continued to support the Syrian uprising but that Cairo had no intention of “waging jihad” in Syria. Fahmy said Morsi’s decision to cut diplomatic ties with war-torn Syria would be “re-examined,” while stressing that did not mean they would “resume or not resume.”
He said Egypt’s new military rulers had re-imposed a visa regime on Syrians, who used to enjoy visa-free travel even during the times of Hosni Mubarak, who ruled the country for decades before being toppled by a popular uprising two years ago.
Khoja also said a lynch campaign was being conducted against Syrians in Egypt.

"Chemical attack" kills scores near Damascus, Syrian opposition claims

Al-Akhbar English, 21 August 2013

Updated at 2:40pm: An apparent chemical attack in rebel-held districts near the Syrian capital of Damascus killed scores of people on Wednesday, wire services reported.
In videos posted on YouTube, the Syrian Revolution General Commission, an activist group, showed what it called "a terrible massacre committed by regime forces with toxic gas, leaving dozens of martyrs and wounded."
The veracity of the videos could not be verified by Al-Akhbar. Casualty numbers are also hard to confirm in the war-torn country.
The intensive bombing on the outskirts of the capital could be heard by residents of Damascus, where a grey cloud capped the sky, an AFP correspondent reported.
Bayan Baker, a nurse at Douma Emergency Collection facility, said the death toll from the attack, collated from medical centers in the region, was 213.
"Many of the casualties are women and children. They arrived with their pupil dilated, cold limbs and foam in their mouths. The doctors say these are typical symptoms of nerve gas victims," she said.
"People working in the field hospital are overwhelmed and unable to do anything for the wounded. There is a severe lack of medicines. The wounded are being treated using just water and onions," Abu Jihad, an activist in Irbin, told AFP via the Internet.
One photo purportedly taken by activists in Douma showed the bodies of at least 16 children and three adults, one wearing combat fatigues, laid at the floor of a room in a medical facility where the bodies were collected.
Syrian opposition activists claimed rockets with chemical agents hit the suburbs of Ain Tarma, Zamalka and Jobar in the Ghouta region.
The opposition Syrian National Coalition said on social media that several hundred had been killed.
"Over 650 confirmed dead result of deadly chemical weapon attack in Syria," it wrote on Twitter.
The Local Coordination Committees (LCC), a network of activists reported hundreds of casualties in the "brutal use of toxic gas by the criminal regime in parts of Eastern Ghouta".
The attack "led to suffocation of the children and overcrowding field hospitals with hundreds of casualties amid extreme shortage of medical supplies to rescue the victims, particularly Atropine," the LCC said in an English-language statement.
Eastern Ghouta "was also shelled by warplanes following the chemical attack that is still ongoing which led to hundreds of casualties and victims, among them entire families," it claimed.
Syrian authorities denied charges that the army used chemical weapons.
"Reports on the use of chemical weapons in (the suburbs of) Ghouta are totally false," state news agency SANA said.
It dismissed as "unfounded" the reports from opposition activists carried by al-Jazeera, Sky and other satellite news channels "which are implicated in the shedding of Syrian blood and support terrorism."
State television quoted a source as saying there was "no truth whatsover" to the reports, which it said were aimed at distracting a visiting team of United Nations chemical weapons experts from their mission.

The incident took place during the visit to Damascus of a UN chemical weapons team investigating the possible use of chemical agents in Syria.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon insisted Monday that the inspectors be granted unrestricted access to Syrian sites where chemical weapons have allegedly been used in the country's 29-month-old conflict.
The inspectors, expected to visit three sites including Khan al-Assal near Aleppo in the north, are due to be in Syria for 14 days, with the possibility for an extension of the mission.
"In order to credibly establish the facts, the mission must have full access to the sites of the alleged incidents," the secretary general told reporters.
Al-Watan newspaper said the Syrian government had "pledged to cooperate and facilitate the work" of the inspectors who launched a mission in the country on Tuesday.
The Arab League, as well as several Western countries, called on the UN inspectors to immediately visit the site of the alleged chemical weapons attack in Ghouta.
Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi urged the inspectors in a statement to "go immediately to Eastern Ghouta to see the reality of the situation and investigate the circumstances of this crime."
The head of the United Nations chemical weapons inspectors in Syria said the case should be investigated.
Swedish scientist Ake Sellstrom told news agency TT that while he had only seen TV footage, the high number of casualties reported sounded suspicious.
"It sounds like something that should be looked into," he told TT by phone from Damascus. "It will depend on whether any UN member state goes to the secretary general and says we should look at this event. We are in place."
The United States and European countries say they believe President Bashar al-Assad's government has used poison gas including the nerve agent Sarin in the past, which Washington called a "red line" that justified international military aid to the rebels.
However, previous reports of chemical weapon usage have not been confirmed.
Khaled Omar of the opposition local council in Ain Tarma said he saw at least 80 bodies at the Hajjah Hospital in Ain Tarma and at a makeshift clinic at Tatbiqiya School in the nearby district of Saqba.
"The attack took place at around 3:00am. Most of those killed were in their homes," Omar said.
(Reuters, AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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