Syria Gas Attack Story Has Whiff Of Saudi War Propaganda

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Syria Gas Attack Story Has Whiff Of Saudi War Propaganda Powered By Docstoc
					Syria Gas Attack Story Has Whiff Of Saudi
War Propaganda
William Engdahl
August 21, 2013

A man, affected by what activists say is nerve gas, breathes through an oxygen mask in the
Damascus suburbs of Jesreen August 21, 2013. (Reuters / Ammar Dar)
The reports of massive chemical attacks in Syria might become the “red line” for the US for active
military intervention. But even rudimentary analysis of the story shows it is too early to believe its
credibility. The Middle Eastern newspaper, Al Arabiya, reports that “At least 1,300 people have been
killed in a nerve gas attack on Syria’s Ghouta region, leading opposition figure George Sabra said on
Wednesday…” The paper went on to claim that the Government of President Bashar al Assad was
responsible for the attacks. If confirmed it could be the “red line” that US President Obama previously
stated would tip the US into active military intervention in Syria, using No Fly Zones and active
military steps to depose Assad.
That in turn could erupt into a conflagration across the Middle East and a Super Power confrontation
with Russia and China and Iran on one side, and the USA, UK, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar on the
opposite side. Not a happy prospect for world peace at all.
Therefore the story is worth analyzing carefully. When we do, several things jump out as suspicious.
First the newspaper breaking the story was Al Arabiya, initially saying that at least 500 people have
been killed, according to activists. From there it got picked up by major international media. Making
the story more fishy by the minute were reports from different media of the alleged number of dead that
changed by the minute – 635 then to 800 by USA Today and 1,300 by Rupert Murdoch’s SkyNews.
A handout image released by the Syrian opposition’s Shaam News Network shows bodies of children
and adults laying on the ground as Syrian rebels claim they were killed in a toxic gas attack by pro-
government forces in eastern Ghouta, on the outskirts of Damascus on August 21, 2013. (AFP Photo)
Al Arabiya, the origin of the story, is not a neutral in the Syrian conflict. It was set up in 2002 by the
Saudi Royal Family in Dubai. It is majority-owned by the Saudi broadcaster, Middle East Broadcasting
Center (MBC). Saudi Arabia is a major financial backer of the attempt to topple Syria’s government.
That is a matter of record. So on first glance Saudi-owned media reporting such an inflammatory anti-
Assad allegation might be taken with a dose of salt.
When we examine the printed content of their story, it gets more suspicious still. First they cite
“activists at the Syrian Revolutionary Command Council said regime fighter planes were flying over
the area after the bombardment, accusing the forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad of using
chemical agents.” This is doubtful on many levels. First we can imagine that anti-government
(unnamed) “activists” fighting Assad’s forces would not be exactly neutral.
The story gets even murkier. Further in the text of the article we read that the “Syrian Observatory for
Human Rights said dozens of people were killed, including children, in fierce bombardment.” Now the
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) has been the source of every news report negative
against the Syrian Assad government since the war began in 2011. More curious about the
humanitarian-sounding SOHR is the fact, as uncovered by investigative journalists, that it consists of a
sole Syrian refugee who has lived in London for the past 13 years named Rami Abdul Rahman, a
Syrian Sunni muslim who owns a clothing shop and is running a Twitter page from his home. Partly
owing to a very friendly profile story on the BBC, he gained mainstream media credibility. He is
anything but unbiased.
The other aspect of the suspicious reports is the “convenient” fact they coincide with the arrival two
days earlier of an official UN weapons inspection team, allowed by the government, to investigate
allegations of chemical weapons use in the Syrian war. It begs the most obvious question: What
conceivably would Bashar al Assad stand to gain from using banned chemical weapons just at the time
he has agreed to let a UN chemical weapons team into Syria?
An image grab taken from a video uploaded on YouTube by the Local Committee of Arbeen on August
21, 2013 allegedly shows Syrians covering a mass grave containing bodies of victims that Syrian rebels
claim were killed in a toxic gas attack by pro-government forces in eastern Ghouta and Zamalka, on
the outskirts of Damascus. (AFP Photo)
They initially were called to investigate evidence of any chemical weapons used in a March 19 attack
in Khan al-Assad and in two other locations. In May, Carla Del Ponte, a member of the UN
Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria, said that testimony gathered from casualties and medical
staff in Syria indicated that the nerve agent sarin was used by rebel fighters. They found no evidence of
use by Government forces. That proved highly embarrassing to the faction of war hawks in the
Pentagon and State Department, agitating for Obama to escalate direct military intervention including a
no-fly zone, de facto an act of war against Assad’s regime. In 2012 Obama declared that the use of
chemical weapons by the Syrian President would cross a “red line” and change US calculations on
whether or not it should intervene in the conflict.
Finally, the region reported to be the site of the poison gas attack by Assad forces, Eastern Ghouta, was
re-secured from the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra jihadist terrorists, by Government troops in
May as part of a major series of rollback victories against the insurgent forces and is not currently a
scene of any major resistance to Assad forces.
Pending confirmation by genuinely independent judges of the latest allegations of Al Arabiya, we are
well-advised to leave the reports in the category of war propaganda, in league with others such as the
Gulf of Tonkin in 1964. That incident, we might recall, was faked by the Pentagon to railroad Congress
into giving President Lyndon B. Johnson authority to “assist any Southeast Asian country whose
government was considered to be jeopardized by communist aggression.” The resolution became
Johnson’s legal justification for deploying US forces and the onset of open war against North Vietnam.
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This testimony, later revealed to be complete fiction, is wartime propaganda used to justify the
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                    Why Assad Will Win
Michael Hirsh
August 22, 2013
Bashar al-Assad is, finally, having a very good week.

The latest allegations of chemical-weapons use against
the Syrian dictator don't matter nearly as much as other
dramatic developments—in particular, the United States'
willingness to stand aside while Assad's autocratic
brethren in the Egyptian junta cold-bloodedly killed some one thousand protesters, supported by the
Saudis and Gulf states.
And this week, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, finally said plainly
what Obama administration officials have been thinking privately since June, the last time Washington
said its "red line" had been crossed and pledged military aid to the Syrian rebels—then did nothing. In
a letter to Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., Dempsey said flatly that U.S. aid to the rebels know would just end
up arming radical, possibly al-Qaida-linked groups. And Obama wasn't going to allow that to happen.
What it all means is that we may now be at a historic turning point in the Arab Spring—what is
effectively the end of it, at least for now. Assad, says Syria expert Joshua Landis, is surely taking on
board the lessons of the last few weeks: If the United States wasn't going to intervene or even protest
very loudly over the killing of mildly radical Muslim Brotherhood supporters, it's certainly not going to
take a firmer hand against Assad's slaughter of even more radical anti-U.S. groups. "With a thousand
people dead or close to it, and America still debating whether to cut off aid, and how and when, that's
got to give comfort to Assad," says Landis, a professor at the University of Oklahoma. "The Egyptians
brushed off the United States and said…. Well, we don't want to end up like Syria. And America
blinked. And Israel and the Gulf states were in there telling them to hit the protesters hard."
What began, in the U.S. interpretation, as an inspiring drive for democracy and freedom from dictators
and public corruption has now become, for Washington, a coldly realpolitik calculation. As the Obama
administration sees it, the military in Egypt is doing the dirty work of confronting radical political
Islam, if harshly. In Syria, the main antagonists are both declared enemies of the United States, with
Bashar al-Assad and Iran-supported Hezbollah aligning against al-Qaida-linked Islamist militias. Why
shouldn't Washington's policy be to allow them to engage each other, thinning the ranks of each?
And by all accounts, the administration and the Pentagon simply don't want to risk the "blowback" that
could occur if the Assad regime collapses and serious weapons fall into the hands of al-Qaida. As one
Washington-based military expert points out, Assad is just not enough of a threat to U.S. interests.
"Look at how long it took us to decide to back the mujahedeen in the 1980s against the Soviet Union.
Syria is not the Soviet Union," the expert says.
Dempsey, in his letter, said that deciding what to do about Syria "is not about choosing between two
sides but rather about choosing one among many sides." He added that "the side we choose must be
ready to promote their interests and ours when the balance shifts in their favor. Today, they are not."
On Wednesday, in a replay of what happened a year ago, the administration appeared to push for more
time in ascertaining whether Assad had used chemical weapons. White House spokesman Josh Earnest
said the administration was "deeply concerned by reports that hundreds of Syrian civilians have been
killed in an attack by Syrian government forces, including by the use of chemical weapons," but was
working "to gather additional information."
This is familiar ground. Back in June, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said in a
statement that the administration would start supplying the Syrian rebels' "Supreme Military Council"
and "consulting with Congress on these matters in the coming weeks." But there is little evidence that
any military aid has reached the rebels.
President Obama's biggest problem in terms of his credibility is that he's wedded to a "narrative" that
won't stand up to scrutiny any longer, says Landis. "We started this off saying it was about democracy
and freedom. We've stuck to that interpretation. We didn't say this is about economic mismanagement
and poverty," which is what the protests were largely about. But now "nobody believes they're
democrats anymore. That's the problem. What we saw in Egypt signals that America has changed its
mind and has backed away from the Muslim Brotherhood and all these Islamic groups. And the Syrian
rebel groups are to the right of the Muslim Brotherhood."
Advantage, Assad.
Read more
Why Assad Will Win VIDEO BELOW


Description: A man, affected by what activists say is nerve gas, breathes through an oxygen mask in the Damascus suburbs of Jesreen August 21, 2013. (Reuters / Ammar Dar)