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Adra | Syria | Al-Nusra and the Islamic Front mowed civilians with machine guns

Al-Nusra and the Islamic Front mowed with machine guns a column of civilians fleeing from the city of Adra, Syria. After 1:30 of the Anna News documentary:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dd319J5R0N0


Syrian officials meet Australian solidarity delegation


Meeting with Speaker of the People’s Assembly Mohammad Jihad al-Laham

During the meeting with an Australian solidarity delegation, Speaker of the People’s Assembly Mohammad Jihad al-Laham stressed the need for a real international will to fight terrorism and expose its funders, foremost Saudi Arabia. al-Laham also highlighted the important role the academics, intellectuals and men of media and politics could play in raising awareness of the dangers of terrorism.

He warned that terrorism does not stop at the border of one country but goes beyond to cross into other countries, noting that Syria is facing an organized international terrorism carried out by terrorist groups backed by the US and the West and funded by some Arab regimes, on top being Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

The Speaker also referred to the blocking of the Syrian media channels by some countries, which he said aims to cover up the terrorists’ crimes in a bid to block shaping a public opinion that is opposed to the terrorism-backing policies of those countries.

He also cited the unfair economic blockade that the conspiring countries have imposed on Syria outside the UN Security Council targeting the most basic necessities of citizens’ lives, mainly food and medicine.

Al-Laham affirmed that the Syrian state insists on the need for a peaceful political solution to the crisis and going for the ballot boxes with rejection of any foreign interferences.

While also asserting Syria’s rejection of imposition of conditions and dictations, the Speaker underlined that the decisions of those who call themselves “opposition abroad” are subject to the conspiring countries and that this opposition has no popular basis to build on in any coming election.

For his part, Tim Anderson, head of the Australian delegation that comprises activists from the "Hands Off Syria" movement and academic, media and political figures, said the delegation’s visit aims to closely inspect the reality of the situation on the ground away from the misleading practiced by some foreign media channels.

He added that the delegation also aims to investigate into Australian citizens’ engaging in the fighting along the armed groups in Syria so as to know the sides and countries which have offered them financial, military and logistic support.

In this context, Chairman of the Executive Committee for the Australian WikiLeaks Party John Shipton said his party has many files and documents that condemn a number of Western states which have been backing terrorism in Syria.



Health Minister voices commitment to providing health services despite challenges


During the meeting with the Australian delegation, Health Minister Dr. Saad al-Nayef called on international organizations and civil societies to mobilize to lift the economic embargo imposed on Syria and force the countries that support armed groups to stop them from targeting health establishments, ambulances and medical convoys.

Al-Nayef asserted that the health sector is stable and that the ministry is committed to providing its free services without discrimination, despite the unprecedented challenges and pressure it has been facing for three years.

He said that the Ministry is working to restore hospitals damaged by terrorism, asking the delegation to inspect the state of the health sector to relay the truth about it to the Australian public opinion.

For his part, Anderson noted that the fact that the health sector continues to provide free services to citizens despite the difficult circumstances is a big achievement.



Endowments Minister: Syria has been a model of religious coexistence for thousands of year


In a similar meeting, Minister of Religious Endowments (Awqaf) Mohammad Abdelsattar al-Sayyed affirmed to the Australian delegation that Syria is the cradle of Christianity and has been a model of Muslim-Christian coexistence of thousands of years.

Al-Sayyed stressed that the true message of Islam is one of compassion and moderation which is embodied by Syria, which is why takfiri Wahabi groups have been targeting it for three years and committing unimaginable atrocities against its people, including attacks on Islamic and Christian sites and figures and abduction of bishops and nuns.

For their part, members of the delegation said that they will relay the truth about coexistence in Syria which they witnessed firsthand.

They also asked to send Syrian religious figures to Australia to present the true moderate face of Islam to Australians and counteract the preaching of extremists who visit it.

Grand Mufti: Syria will always be the home of civilization and meeting point for cultures


Similarly, Grand Mufti of the Republic Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun affirmed to the delegation that Syria was and always will be the home of civilization and a meeting point for cultures.

He said that Syria, the land of peace, is facing a conspiracy which targets its cultural and civilized diversity and its moderate Islam which rejects extremism.

Damascus University Rector: Education proceeding normally despite terrorism

In yet another meeting, Rector of Damascus University Mohammad Amer al-Mardini affirmed to the delegation that education in Syria is proceeding normally despite the persistent attempts of terrorists to stop it.

He also voiced readiness to expand cooperation between Damascus University and Australian universities.

Members of the Australian delegation visited the memorial dedicated to the martyrs from Syrian universities and the site of the terrorist attack which claimed several students' lives in the Architectural Engineering Faculty.

Syria: Media Disinformation, War Propaganda and the Corporate Media’s “Independent Bloggers”

By Phil Greaves | Global Research, December 13, 2013

A glaring example of one of the major pitfalls emerging in supposed “new media” has arisen during the conflict in Syria. Most notably in the form of YouTube blogger, and self-proclaimed weapons expert Eliot Higgins, aka “Brown Moses”. The clique of highly ideological analysts, think-tankers and journalists Higgins’ regularly works with and consults – alongside the dubiously funded western NGO’s he receives payment from – provide a stark indication as to the factions within the corporate media circus this supposedly independent blogger is operating in unison with.

Higgins has provided the western corporate media apparatus the opportunity to present its war-propaganda as having a “new media” facade of impartial legitimacy. Yet it is the same capitalistic “old media” apparatus endlessly promoting his work – consisting of scouring Jihadist war-porn and agitprop on YouTube for tidbits that may bolster corporate media narratives – as an invaluable tool in tracking human rights abuses, arms trafficking, and risk-free coverage of fast evolving conflicts. Yet contrary to the innocuous portrayal of an unemployed YouTube addict in Leicester becoming a credible analyst of a conflict in the Middle East; Higgins’ blog has been thrust into the foreground not through the benefit of impartiality or public appraisals, but through corporate“benefactors” with vested interest operating alongside the same “old media” organisations and stenographers.

Bloggers such as Higgins promoting themselves as working from an impartial standpoint are actually nothing of the sort and work in complete unison with mainstream journalists and western NGO’s – both in a practical capacity, and an ideological one. As noted at the Land Destroyer blog and others; Higgins was initially pushed into the limelight by the Guardians’ former Middle East editor Brian Whitaker, a “journalist” with the honour of being a lead proponent of almost everysmear campaign and piece of western propaganda directed at the Syrian government, while wholeheartedly promoting the Bin Ladenite “rebels” as secular feminist freedom fighters and repeatedly spouting the liberal opportunist mantra of western military “action”, which realistically means Imperialist military intervention. Whitaker and Higgins played a lead role in bolstering corporate media’s fantasy narratives throughout the joint NATO-Al Qaeda insurgency in Libya during 2011, with many of the anti-Gaddafi claims they propagated subsequently proven to bespeculative at best, outright propaganda at worst.

Furthermore, Whitaker’s promotion of “The Gay Girl in Damascus” is but one embarrassing anecdote within the litany of completely fabricated narratives both he and the Guardian have made efforts to advance, while making equal effort to marginalize and discredit journalism and opinion that contradict western-desired narratives. It was during Whitaker’s period of running the Guardian’s “Middle East Live blog” – providing daily scripted coverage of the “Arab Spring” in a pseudo-liberal “new media” format – that he and other Guardian journalists first began to promote Higgins’ YouTube findings as credible evidence. Regular readers commenting on the Guardian blog quickly recognised the duplicity and close relationship between Higgins and the Guardian staff, resulting in his propagandistic comments being scrutinised, debunked, and ridiculed on an almost daily basis. Curiously, Whitaker has since left the Guardian and the “MELive” blog has been cancelled due to “staffing shortages” and the ridiculous excuse of a lull in worthwhile coverage. Yet the Guardians skewed standpoint on Syria, along with Whitaker and Higgins relationship, have remained steadfast.

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.

Predictably, Higgins now claims the Syrian army are indeed capable of firing the alleged rockets from anywhere in the region of Ghouta, no longer is the alleged launch-zone exclusive to the Syrian army’s Republican Guards base; effectively nullifying the original fabrications he relied on to build his earlier accusation alongside HRW.

It is no longer necessary to address the ins and outs of the Ghouta debate, as a comprehensive review by others has already highlighted the strawman nature of Higgins’ feeble refutation of Hersh, (see here,) not to mention the plethora of literature that has effectively demolished the US governments “intelligence” summary and the much-politicised UN report that Higgins originally built his fantasies from. Rather, the focus of this article is the pernicious nature of the “new media” model currently being promoted by Higgins et al, as a credible alternative to the corporate “old media” model. If the corrupt acolytes of “old media” are promoting their own versions of “new media” to the public, then the public aren’t really getting anything “new” apart from a YouTube generation of ill-informed and gullible recruits to the same old systems.

Prominent members of “new media” have invariably been pushed to the foreground of mainstream coverage by the very same corporate media institutions and establishment journalists that the public has rightly become exceedingly sceptical of. It is becoming an accepted normality for the lackeys of “old media” to determine what now represent the figureheads and platforms of “new media”, with large corporate organisations and their Jurassic minions making concerted efforts to raise the profile of, and offer incentives to bloggers who invariably say or write exactly whats required to bolster the “old media’s” still-dominant narratives.

The complete lack of historical materialism, geopolitical insight, critical distance, logical reasoning and dialectics, and crucially, an open political position, afforded by simplistically narrow-framed blogs such as Higgins’ gives the corporate media class a malleable tool it can easily manipulate to bolster its propaganda.

The Ghouta debate again provides an example of the way in which narrow frames of reference are manipulated by corporate media to subvert logical reasoning and the lack of solid evidence. Higgins’ simplistic narrative conveniently dismisses the fundamental argument that the Syrian government – winning its fight against an internationally orchestrated and funded terrorist insurgency – had nothing to gain from using chemical weapons, and everything to lose, while the rebels in Ghouta found themselves in the exact opposite conundrum. Motive generally tends to be a sticking point in a court of law, but not even an afterthought in the puerile “courts” of the corporate media and its underlings. Higgins’ argument also dismisses the fact that prior to the August 21st attack, it was the Syrian government that invited the UN inspection team to investigate the use of chemical weapons, and then supposedly launched a massive chemical weapons attack a mere 15 miles from the UN teams base. Such logical reasoning is afforded no space in the conspiracy theories of Higgins and the corporate media, instead the discourse is filled with obfuscation, misleading tangents and speculation.

The dynamic of young, supposedly independent minded bloggers and writers being co-opted by corporate media is by no means a new dynamic, as the self-proclaimed “leftist” Owen Jones can happily attest to. Since Jones’ rise to fame and employment with the corporate-owned establishment newspaper the Independent, he has become the archetypal Fabian opportunist, preaching a reform-based bourgeois social democracy, while duplicitously portraying himself as some sort of socialist Marxist. Jones now deems it reasonable, no doubt civilised, that he should “no-platform” speakers at western anti-War events in order to marginalize anyone accused of having an unacceptable opinion to that of the dominant media class of corporate vultures. Jones has become a caricature of himself, more eager to spend his time promoting the UK Labour party on war-mongering podiums of the BBC (for a fee of course) and appease the corporate stenographers and celebrities he is surrounded by, than to hear – or, heaven forbid, sit beside – a nun from a war-zone in the Middle East that disagrees with western prescriptions and corporate propaganda.

To avoid the pitfalls outlined above, a totally new model of journalism is required, a model that is not designed, or even accepted, by the current dominant corporate media class. A model in which writers and journalists have the space and freedom to express their opinions in an open and forthright manner – discarding the charade of objectivity. A model in which publicly oriented media is free from the chains of corporate power, advertising, celebrity subversions, and, more importantly, monetary incentive.

Thus, the question remains: in a capitalist incentive-driven world, is journalistic freedom and honesty even attainable? Or is the omnipotent corporate-media-system and its inherent corruption an inevitable side-effect of the sickness that is Capitalism?
Phil Greaves is a UK based writer/analyst, focusing on UK/US Foreign Policy and conflict analysis in the Middle East post WWII. http://notthemsmdotcom.wordpress.com/

ADRA MASSACRE: OBAMA-BACKED JIHADISTS DISPLAY PHOTOS OF THOSE THEY BEHEADED

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

*GRAPHIC* ADRA MASSACRE: OBAMA-BACKED JIHADISTS DISPLAY PHOTOS OF THOSE THEY BEHEADED

Last week I ran a post: beheadings and spies help al Qaeda gain ground in Syria. Obama-backed jihadists beheaded a victim and then displayed his head in the main square.

Last weekend, Obama-backed Syrian jihadists executed 90 hostages in Adra. Now they have released photos from that massacre last weekend.

Obama-backed jihadists began their siege targeting Druze, Alawite and Christian residents early on in the siege of the city, kidnapping them en masse. Obama officials are negotiating with these barbarians:

New details of atrocities carried out by Islamist rebel fighters in the town of Adra, 20 kilometers north of Damascus, continue to pour in from survivors of the massacre there, in which reportedly at least 80 people lost their lives.

"The decapitators" is how the Adra residents, who managed to flee the violence there, now call the people who currently have the town under their control. Adra, a town with a population of 20,000, was captured by Islamist rebels from the Al-Nusra front and the Army of Islam last week, following fierce fighting with the government forces. The town’s seizure was accompanied by mass executions of civilians.(source: RT)

Unimaginable savagery. Your taxpayer dollars at work.

"Adra massacre: Militants show photos of those they beheaded" By Alalam, December 17, 2013



Extremist militants have posted photos of people they have beheaded in Syria’s Adra, located near capital Damascus.

Survivors have been describing unprecedented levels of atrocities committed by the extremist militants who attacked their town to kill. According to Arabic language al-Haghigha website, horrified people have been running away from Adra after witnessing militants attacking homes and executing people family by family.
A witness estimated number of militants was between 1,000 to 1,500, who entered the town on Wednesday, December 11th.

Another one described, “We woke up at (Wednesday) dawn with the sound of bullets... we saw men carrying black flags of Jaish al-Islam and al-Nusra Front. Some of them were singing ‘Alawites we have come to cut off your head’s song and this was the song they first sang at the start of the war in Idlib.”


According to reports, slaughtering people continued until Wednesday night, while hundreds were wounded and many were kidnapped and held by the militants to prevent the army of bombing the places they were hiding.

Another eyewitness said some of the Sunni residents tried to hide Alawites in their homes to save them from getting killed by Wahhabi extremists. The Wahabbis even started issuing warning to Alawites through mosque speakers telling them to surrender themselves.

The events in Adra are a further example of the shift that has taken place within the Syrian rebel forces which has lately been dominated by extremists.

The unrest, which took in terrorist groups from across Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, has transpired as one of the bloodiest conflicts in recent history.





SOURCE |  http://en.alalam.ir/news/1545605#sthash.Bl0Midtb.dpuf

SOURCE | http://atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com/atlas_shrugs/2013/12/graphic-adra-massacre-obama-backed-jihadists-display-photos-of-those-they-beheaded.html

==
Also see:

1) Syrian official: Turkey responsible for Adra massacre-
http://en.alalam.ir/news/1545530

2) Adra massacre: Rebels toasted people in bakery ovens -
http://en.alalam.ir/news/1544981

3) Survivors unveil horrible details of Adra massacre in Syria

4) Syria rebels attack Adra homes, make piles of bodies -


Syria - There is something fishy about Dr Khan's death

Photo: Abbas Khan
by Robert Fisk

I first met Fatima Khan in the Syrian embassy in Beirut early this year. She was pleading for a visa so that she and her daughter Sara could visit Damascus and seek news of her missing son. I knew nothing of Abbas Khan, but – aware that I had a visa waiting for me – I promised to find out anything I could once I reached the Syrian capital. Sara told me the story of her brother Abbas, his birth in London, his marriage and children, and of how – moved by compassion for the suffering of civilians in rebel-held areas of Syria – he had crossed the frontier from Turkey to take medical equipment to Aleppo last year.

There had perhaps been an argument with others there, as to whether the equipment should be sold or given away. Abbas was donating the medicines free. He was taking a walk down a road he thought safe when he was seized by Syrian government forces. Did they know he was coming? How was he captured? The family had no news – but they were sure he was alive.

I made my way to Damascus and raised the disappearance of Abbas Khan with several Syrian government officials. They were sympathetic. They wanted to help. I said that if we could establish that he was alive and in a security prison, I would like to see him – so that I could at least confirm to his family that he had not been killed. But after several weeks, I was informed that ‘state security’ was handling the matter, that Abbas Khan’s case was in the hands of higher officials in Syria, and that – and this was only an assumption on my part – the Syrian government might be trying to deal directly with the British authorities.

I decided to step back. Not least when I heard that Fatima Khan had herself been offered a visa to Damascus and was able not only to visit Syria but to see her son and ensure that he was transferred to a more lenient prison and to hire a lawyer for his appearance in a Damascus court. Mrs Khan visited various ministries and the Czech and Russian embassies, asking all the time for their help in releasing her son. As she obtained further visas, it seemed that Abbas Khan was safe. However long it took, he would be returned home.

And it became increasingly evident that President Bashar al-Assad himself was involved in the case. Mrs Khan would never have obtained access to her son without presidential permission. And it was not difficult to see how, after the West abandoned its military options against Syria under Russian duress – and after the British and American people expressed their refusal to embark upon another Middle East war – Syria’s international status was, to some extent, redeemed.

There were no more calls from Barack Obama for Assad to “step aside” or “step down”. There were no more claims by John Kerry that Bashar was Hitler or worse than Hitler. French foreign minister Laurent Fabius no longer announced – as he did more than a year ago – that Bashar no longer deserved “to live on this planet”. Assad’s enemies were increasingly identified with al-Qaeda – an enemy of the West infinitely more frightening than the Syrian regime. Assad was in a perfect position to release a British citizen – to George Galloway whom he knew personally – and obtain the gratitude, however churlishly given, of the British government.

And then it all went wrong. Abbas Khan was dead. And Faisal Mokdad, the Syrian foreign minister – a decent and intelligent man – was forced to explain a suicide which I frankly do not accept that he himself believed. What happened?

Back in 2005, when former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri was assassinated in Beirut, the world blamed Bashar al-Assad. Bashar denied this – and an American journalist who was with him when he heard the news of Hariri’s death described Bashar’s surprise. Then word got around that Syrian state security had their own reasons for wanting Hariri dead – they believed he was plotting with the French to destroy Syrian power in Lebanon and thus decided to kill him – even if this provoked an outcry which would force Syrian troops to leave their satrapy in Beirut. Treachery is a more powerful emotion than realpolitik.

But if this is true, then the implications are now made manifest in the death of the young and brave Abbas Khan. A man whose life last week was more valuable to Assad than any other foreigner’s in Syria was suddenly ‘found’ dead in a state security prison, on the very eve of his release to a British MP who is a trusted figure in the Assad household. Was someone trying to destroy the Syrian president’s steadily improving if still frozen relations with Britain and the US? Who would want to prevent such an improvement? Saudi Arabia? Of course. Qatar? Absolutely. Israel? Why not? But to suggest than any of these three could engineer the killing of a young Englishman in a Damascus prison is surely preposterous.

In the coming days, we shall assuredly find out more. Assad will be among the keenest to know what happened in the cell in the Kfar Soussa prison where Abbas Khan – so happily awaiting his release and to be reunited with his family in London – ended up hanging from his pyjamas on the very eve of his freedom. How did he die? is one question. Who killed him? is quite another."

(Robert Fisk - 17 Dec 2013)

SOURCE |
 http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/the-sad-and-puzzling-story-of-abbas-khan-the-british-doctor-found-dead-in-syrian-jail-9010993.html

UN's Syria "Aid" Appeal is Bid to Relieve Trapped Terrorists

Tony Cartalucci - 17 Dec 2013


Syrian "rebels" with part of their received "aid"

In August 2011, the Telegraph reported in an article titled, "Libya crisis: Rebel leaders hoping to starve Gaddafi stronghold of Sirte into submission," that:
Rebel leaders hope to starve Colonel Gaddafi's home town of Sirte into submission, laying siege to his last remaining stronghold in an attempt to avoid mass bloodshed, according to the man spearheading efforts for a peaceful takeover.
Assisting them in the starvation of the 100,000 civilians who populated the coastal city of Sirte was NATO who rained bombs down upon the besieged city relentlessly while terrorists on the ground cut off electricity, water, gas, food, and other essential supplies.

AP would also report on the starvation of Sirte in its article, "U.N. Warns Libya Is Short of Water, Fuel, Medicine:" 

Rebel commanders have been negotiating with tribal leaders in Qaddafi's hometown of Sirte, hoping to avoid further bloodshed. They announced Thursday that they had extended the negotiations' deadline for another week, from this coming Saturday. 

"We want to save our fighters and not lose a single one in battles with Qaddafi's forces," said Mohammed al-Rajali, a spokesman for the rebel leadership in the eastern city of Benghazi.
"In the end, we will get Sirte, even if we have to cut water and electricity" and let NATO pound it with airstrikes, he said.

And despite the title of the report, the UN made no mention of the tactics of the terrorists and their NATO backers. Instead, the UN was more concerned with aiding areas of the nation already taken by NATO's proxy army.

In 2011, the general consensus appeared to be that cutting off an entire city surrounded on all sides by desert and sea, constituted a "humane" and "peaceful" means of taking the remaining strongholds of the overthrown Libyan government. How times and the sensibilities of the West have changed...

The Syrian Arab Army Surrounds Al Qaeda

It is now the end of 2013, with the conflict in Syria having dragged on for three years. The Syrian government has decisively turned the tide against waves of NATO-backed foreign terrorists and their extremist collaborators within the country, having restored order in many parts of the country and having surrounded the terrorist proxies in a dwindling number of districts across the Syria.


Image: "Humanitarian aid - Qatari Red Crescent-style." As the UN prepares to flood the Syrian conflict with another 6.5 billion dollars, tales of how "aid money" is ending up facilitating the activities of terrorists inside and along Syria's borders suggest the UN is not trying to provide mercy for the Syrian people, but perpetuate the tragedy further still. Were it truly interested in relieving Syrians, it would expose the true genesis of the conflict to the world and hold those responsible accountable.
....
In some areas, the terrorists have been completely surrounded, cut off from reinforcements and supplies. Just as in Libya, the Syrian Arab Army is waiting for the terrorists to be starved out rather than attempt a bloody assault - the difference being that civilians - women and children - most certainly are allowed (at least by the Syrian government) to leave the besieged areas, leaving the terrorists alone.

Reuters attempts to frame the Syrian government as obstructing aid and intentionally leaving women and children to starve and freeze to death. In its article titled, "Syria uses red tape, threats to control UN aid agencies," it states:
Syrian government is accused of using hunger as a weapon of war against its people and preventing U.N. aid staff in delivering food and medicines to rebel-held suburbs.
Reuters continues (emphasis added):
As the United Nations launched an annual appeal on Monday to help 16 million people affected Syria's civil war, divisions among world powers that have crippled peacemaking are also denying UN staff the power to defy President Bashar al-Assad's officials and push into neighbourhoods now under siege. 
"In government-controlled parts of Syria, what, where and to whom to distribute aid, and even staff recruitment, have to be negotiated and are sometimes dictated," said Ben Parker, who ran the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Syria for a year until last February. 
"According to the Syrian government's official position, humanitarian agencies and supplies are allowed to go anywhere, even across any frontline," he wrote last month in the journal Humanitarian Exchange. "But every action requires time-consuming permissions, which effectively provide multiple veto opportunities." Fighting and rebel groups are also obstacles.
The United Nations appealed for $6.5 billion on Monday to help 16 million people affected by the Syrian civil war, including millions made hungry and homeless by the conflict soon entering its fourth year. The world body estimates about a quarter of a million Syrians are living under siege as winter bites, most of them encircled by government forces, but also including 45,000 in two towns in the north that are besieged by anti-Assad rebels. 
A binding Security Council resolution could formally oblige the authorities to let aid agencies into areas like the Damascus suburbs and the old city of Homs, where local doctors say children are dying of malnutrition. But divisions between Western powers, backing the rebels, and Russia, have paralysed the world body over Syria since the conflict began in 2011.
Of course, Reuters excuses itself once again from having to qualify any of its claims - particularly those regarding the intentional starving and freezing of women and children. It does so by stating:
Lack of access for independent agencies makes it hard to verify food and medical supplies in many areas. 
But opposition activists have posted video of the bodies of several skeletal children who local doctors say died of malnutrition.Once again, accusations of the Syrian government's "crimes against humanity" are solely based on the "activists say" school of journalism, where "rebel" propagandists renowned as serial liars, have posted videos of unverified footage then reported as fact by their Western collaborators - with disclaimers later buried deep within reports.

What the West is Using the UN for this Time

The gambit is two-fold. First, to portray the Syrian government as guilty of yet more "crimes against humanity," which then justifies the second - passing a binding UN Security Council resolution that would give the West direct access to their terrorist proxies inside of Syria under the guise of providing "humanitarian aid."
This is being done in conjunction with plans to drop the pretense of "moderate rebels," and fully back Al Qaeda and other extremist fronts through a network of proxies including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, and Jordan.

In a recent e-mail leak released by the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA), correspondences between US contractor Matthew Van Dyke and Western journalists revealed that in addition to intentionally deceiving the public regarding the nature of the conflict, aid shipments were being used to smuggle in equipment, fighters, and weapons.





Van Dyke being an armed militant himself, along with those in his company, riding freely back and forth between Libya and Syria on aid ships should raise suspicions at the very least regarding "aid" the UN plans to provide entrapped terrorists.

Stories like Alakhbar English's "Qatar Red Crescent Funds Syrian Rebel Arms," also raises immense concern about so-called aid flowing into Syria specifically to help those fighting the government. The article reports:
Sources in the investigation team said that Mahmoud confessed to receiving around $2.2 million from Khaled Diab, a Qatar Red Crescent official. He was then to hand the money over to a Lebanese cleric identified as O.O., born in 1983 and affiliated with Muslims Without Borders, in the Bekaa village of Bar Elias.
“Through the cleric, Mahmoud was able to acquire 30 RPG launchers for $900,000 and 300 shells for $300,000, which were then transferred to Syria by a smuggler known as Anwar or his nom de guerre Abu Salah.” The smuggler then handed over the weapons to the Syrian national known as Abu Abdullah in the Damascus countryside.
Mahmoud also bought 100 Kalashnikovs and an ammunitions cache for $40,000 from the Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp in southern Lebanon. The source added that Mahmoud entered the refugee camp with the Syrian national Mohammad Abdullah, known as Abu Hamza, under the guise of distributing humanitarian aid to refugees from Syria.
One can only imagine what will be bought and done with the $6.5 billion the UN has called for to assist those in terrorist-held territory. It will most likely be fed directly into the terror networks the NATO and its regional allies have been preparing to expand.

Should the UN decide to truly care about ending the ongoing catastrophe that is the proxy invasion of Syria by foreign-backed terrorists, it could always point out the true nature of the conflict and hold those responsible for it, NATO and its regional axis, fully accountable. Anything less is but a criminal rouse meant to intentionally perpetuate the conflict and give the West yet another chance to end it on terms they find favorable.

December 17, 2013 | by Tony Cartalucci

'They shoved people in baking ovens': Syrian rebels execute over 80 civilians in Adra


‘Whole families murdered’: Foreign backed militia ("rebels") execute over 80 civilians in Adra, Syria.

Witness in Adra:'They shoved people into the baking ovens'

Over 80 civilians in a town northwest of the Syrian capital of Damascus have been executed by Islamist rebels, sources within the Syrian military told RT. Many others were kidnapped to be used as human shields.

Government forces are continuing a large-scale operation against Jabhat al-Nusra and Liwa Al-Islam fighters, who captured the town earlier this week. The area is located some 20 kilometers away from Damascus.

According to SANA news agency, around 1,000 militants were in the town when it was enveloped by the army on Friday.

The military sources said the “armed groups have performed an execution of civilians” in Adra, RT Arabic correspondent Abutaleb Albohaya reported from Syria.

“For now it’s established that over 80 people were killed in the areas now taken over by the army. Often whole families were murdered,” he said.

The number of executed civilians is expected to rise after government troops manage to recover the rest of the town - which has a population of around 20,000 - from the Islamists, the military source added.

“Some families were kidnapped in order to be used as human shields in areas where the Syrian army is now trying to free the civilians,” Albohaya stressed. Iraqi Al-Ahd television says this is the reason the Syrian army is abstaining from using artillery on Sunday.

“The military sources also said that the other kidnapped families were moved to the area south of Adra in the direction of the town of Douma, which has been the opposition’s strategic backland since the start of the Syrian crisis [in March, 2011]. It’s also where the most important rebel fortifications are situated,” Albohaya said.

The rebel presence remains strong in Adra, with “snipers entrenched in high-rise buildings,” he added. “Many opposition militant groups are still acting in areas outside and within the town.”

The army’s special forces have performed several successful operations against those groups, which have resulted in the deaths of dozens of militants, the military source said.

The military is storming every house and has already freed dozens of Alawite, Druze, and Christian families from the rebels, Al-Ahd reported.

The government troops have cornered a highway leading to the international airport in Damascus, which is situated four kilometers away from Adra.

The military does not exclude the possibility that militants will break through the blockade in this direction, putting the nearby town of Dahiyat al Asad in danger, according to Al-Ahd.

‘People thrown in bakery ovens’

What the Islamist rebels did when they entered Adra on Wednesday morning was a “massacre,” one a local resident told RT.

“The situation was terrible - with killing, atrocities, and fear as the background. Unidentified armed men came into town, but it was obvious that they were Jabhat al-Nusra militants,” Muhammad Al-Said said.

“The worst crime they committed was that they toasted people in ovens used to bake bread when those people came to buy it. They kidnapped and beat up many,” he added.

According to Al-Said, the rebels committed the atrocities so they could place blame on government forces.

But the resident said that Adra citizens are “waiting for Syrian troops to save us from the terrorists, who came from other countries.”

“Those, who could, fled to Damascus. Some hid in the basement, with infants, the elderly, women, and sick people among them. The situation was really terrible,” Al-Said said.

Geopolitical analyst Patrick Henningsen sees foreign encouragement of rebel forces as one of the reasons behind the Adra tragedy.

“What it does indicate… is that there is involvement by the western intelligence agencies that have links to some of those radical jihadist groups,” Henningsen told RT. “And that has been proven throughout history and is also the case today. The first thing that needs to happen for any peace talks to succeed is that Western governments cannot be involved in any way, shape or form, either through proxies or through the intelligence agencies or third parties in arming, financing, giving aid of any kind to the Syrian opposition.”

16 Dec 2013 - RT

(Link to the Article) http://rt.com/news/syria-adra-civilian-execution-289/

(Video Link) http://youtu.be/zjNW4o1gnsg


Syria: Recent Victories Bring Islamists One Step Closer to Goal

The Islamic Front in Syria, as well as other jihadi groups, are working towards establishing an emirate in Syria and the Levant.

BY CLARE LOPEZ | December 8, 2013
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Turkish soldiers take security measures at the gate opposite of the Syrian crossing point of Bab al-Hawa. 
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During the night of December 5-6, 2013, the Islamic Front (IF), a newly-formed alliance of some 45,000 or so fighters in Syria, overran the moderate, U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army forces of the FSA’s Supreme Military Command under General Selim Idriss.

The IF fighters took control of the Bab al-Hawa border crossing from Syria into Turkey as well as a large stockpile of weapons stored in warehouses there.

The victory marked an important step in the stated direction of the IF, which, according to its charter published in late November, is committed to the formation of an Islamic emirate in the land of Al-Sham (Syria and the Levant) ruled by Islamic (sharia) law.

Many may not remember, or perhaps overlooked, a revealing interview that took place in 2005. Somehow, the Jordanian journalist Fouad Hussein was able to score that interview with Al-Qaeda’s military commander in Iran, the Egyptian Seif al-Adl.

Hussein was writing a book about the Jordanian Al-Qaeda (AQ) operative, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, killed by U.S. forces in Iraq in 2006. His discussions with Al-Adl, however, formed what must be one of the most fascinating sections of the book, Al-Zarqawi - Al-Qaeda's Second Generation.

From his discussions with Al-Adl and other interviews, Hussein was able to construct a timeline of events that forms Al-Qaeda’s strategic blueprint. The timeline spans the 20 years between 2000 and 2020 and describes the “Seven Phases” that Hussein’s Al-Qaeda interview subjects are following en route to the eventual restoration of the Islamic Caliphate, their key objective.

Without going through each one, suffice here to highlight Phases Three through Five, because something just happened that moves Al-Qaeda and Islam one more step closer to establishment of an emirate in the land of Al-Sham (Syria and the Levant).

The Third Phase, which spanned the years from 2007-2010, was described as the “Arising and Standing Up” time. During these years, Syria, Jordan, Iraq and Israel were to be the focus of attacks by the forces of Islam.

The Fourth Phase, from 2010-2013, was identified as the time when “hated Arab governments” would be brought down. Given the strong correlation of this timeline with actual events as they unfolded in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region, it is useful to correlate AQ activity with another series of key pronouncements that were closely aligned with these events.

In July 2010, Al-Qaeda published the first issue of its slick English-language online magazine called “Inspire.” This is the one that exhorted, “O Muslims rise up in defense of your Messenger.” TheMuslim Brotherhood’s Supreme Guide, Muhammad Badi’ responded just months later, in late September 2010, with a call to action for the “Muslim nation” and a declaration of jihad against the U.S., Israel and “Arab and Muslim regimes” that “are disregarding Allah's commandment to wage jihad for His sake…”

Two of the elements that were needed for the Islamic uprising of 2011 were now on board. The third element fell into place in January 2011 with a fatwa from Al-Azhar that declared “Offensive Jihad is Permissible.”

Thus, the fighting vanguard of Islam (Al-Qaeda), the Da’wa jihadis that subvert from within (i.e., the Muslim Brotherhood) and the Sunni theological authority (Al-Azhar) were in complete alignment by January 2011. The Islamic Uprising, aka The Fourth Phase, was underway.

Syria has posed a tougher challenge to the Saudi-backed jihadis seeking to topple President Bashar al-Assad’s regime than first expected. That is why last week’s victory by the Islamic Front alliance is significant.

The control of the Bab al-Hawa border crossing from Syria into Turkey as well as a large stockpile of weapons stored in warehouses there bring the IF one step closer to their goal of the formation of an Islamic state in Syria and the Levant.

The victory must also be viewed in conjunction with the fact that the other two major Al-Qaeda-linked militia groups in Syria -- Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) -- while not formally a part of the IF command, nevertheless consider themselves brothers in jihad -- also control large swaths of Syrian territory.

On to the Fifth Phase. According to the Hussein interview with Seif al-Adl, the period between 2013 and 2016 marks the point at which an Islamic state can be declared. The Al-Qaeda operatives with whom Hussein spoke expected that Western, and particularly, U.S. influence in the Islamic world would have been so diminished by this time, and Israel placed under so much pressure, that resistance to the declaration of an Islamic state would be minimal to non-existent.

According to the timeline, the years from 2016 onwards will see the final, all-out confrontation between the forces of Islam and whatever remains of Israel and the West. 

The time when the U.S. and the West might have supported Syrian rebel forces not associated with Al-Qaeda is long gone. The Qatar- and Saudi-backed fighters from the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood showed themselves every bit as dedicated to a Caliphate and sharia as the Al-Qaeda fighters, but there were elements of the FSA dedicated to more democratic outcomes who pleaded in vain for U.S. and Western assistance while denouncing the Al-Qaeda jihadis who eventually turned on them.

U.S. leadership steadfastly refused to even speak with these FSA fighters, clearly because they were not aligned with either the Brotherhood or Al-Qaeda, the groups favored and supplied by Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, who boasts close ties among Washington, D.C. power players dating to his long years as Saudi ambassador to the U.S., is fighting for his life, the Saudi throne and the future of his Sudeiri Seven clan—high stakes he cannot afford to lose. The battle for Bab al-Hawa was a critical one that brought him just a bit closer to his objectives.

Meanwhile, top U.S. negotiators head to more talks in Vienna next week over the Iranian nuclear weapons program. Maybe they think an Iranian bomb will balance out the emerging Sunni Islamic emirate gradually taking shape in the heart of the Muslim world.
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Clare Lopez is a strategic policy and intelligence expert with a focus on the Middle East, national defense and counterterrorism. Lopez served for 20 years as an operations officer with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
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Syria: Whose Sarin? By Seymour M. Hersh

December 08, 2013 

Barack Obama did not tell the whole story this autumn when he tried to make the case that Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the chemical weapons attack near Damascus on 21 August. In some instances, he omitted important intelligence, and in others he presented assumptions as facts. Most significant, he failed to acknowledge something known to the US intelligence community: that the Syrian army is not the only party in the country’s civil war with access to sarin, the nerve agent that a UN study concluded – without assessing responsibility – had been used in the rocket attack. In the months before the attack, the American intelligence agencies produced a series of highly classified reports, culminating in a formal Operations Order – a planning document that precedes a ground invasion – 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.

In his nationally televised speech about Syria on 10 September, Obama laid the blame for the nerve gas attack on the rebel-held suburb of Eastern Ghouta firmly on Assad’s government, and made it clear he was prepared to back up his earlier public warnings that any use of chemical weapons would cross a ‘red line’: ‘Assad’s government gassed to death over a thousand people,’ he said. ‘We know the Assad regime was responsible … And that is why, after careful deliberation, I determined that it is in the national security interests of the United States to respond to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons through a targeted military strike.’ Obama was going to war to back up a public threat, but he was doing so without knowing for sure who did what in the early morning of 21 August.

He cited a list of what appeared to be hard-won evidence of Assad’s culpability: ‘In the days leading up to August 21st, we know that Assad’s chemical weapons personnel prepared for an attack near an area where they mix sarin gas. They distributed gas masks to their troops. Then they fired rockets from a regime-controlled area into 11 neighbourhoods that the regime has been trying to wipe clear of opposition forces.’ Obama’s certainty was echoed at the time by Denis McDonough, his chief of staff, who told the New York Times: ‘No one with whom I’ve spoken doubts the intelligence’ directly linking Assad and his regime to the sarin attacks.

But in recent interviews with intelligence and military officers and consultants past and present, I found intense concern, and on occasion anger, over what was repeatedly seen as the deliberate manipulation of intelligence. One high-level intelligence officer, in an email to a colleague, called the administration’s assurances of Assad’s responsibility a ‘ruse’. The attack ‘was not the result of the current regime’, he wrote. A former senior intelligence official told me that the Obama administration had altered the available information – in terms of its timing and sequence – to enable the president and his advisers to make intelligence retrieved days after the attack look as if it had been picked up and analysed in real time, as the attack was happening. The distortion, he said, reminded him of the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident, when the Johnson administration reversed the sequence of National Security Agency intercepts to justify one of the early bombings of North Vietnam. The same official said there was immense frustration inside the military and intelligence bureaucracy: ‘The guys are throwing their hands in the air and saying, “How can we help this guy” – Obama – “when he and his cronies in the White House make up the intelligence as they go along?”’

The complaints focus on what Washington did not have: any advance warning from the assumed source of the attack. The military intelligence community has for years produced a highly classified early morning intelligence summary, known as the Morning Report, for the secretary of defence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; a copy also goes to the national security adviser and the director of national intelligence. The Morning Report includes no political or economic information, but provides a summary of important military events around the world, with all available intelligence about them. A senior intelligence consultant told me that some time after the attack he reviewed the reports for 20 August through 23 August. For two days – 20 and 21 August – there was no mention of Syria. On 22 August the lead item in the Morning Report dealt with Egypt; a subsequent item discussed an internal change in the command structure of one of the rebel groups in Syria. Nothing was noted about the use of nerve gas in Damascus that day. It was not until 23 August that the use of sarin became a dominant issue, although hundreds of photographs and videos of the massacre had gone viral within hours on YouTube, Facebook and other social media sites. At this point, the administration knew no more than the public.

Obama left Washington early on 21 August for a hectic two-day speaking tour in New York and Pennsylvania; according to the White House press office, he was briefed later that day on the attack, and the growing public and media furore. The lack of any immediate inside intelligence was made clear on 22 August, when Jen Psaki, a spokesperson for the State Department, told reporters: ‘We are unable to conclusively determine [chemical weapons] use. But we are focused every minute of every day since these events happened … on doing everything possible within our power to nail down the facts.’ The administration’s tone had hardened by 27 August, when Jay Carney, Obama’s press secretary, told reporters – without providing any specific information – that any suggestions that the Syrian government was not responsible ‘are as preposterous as suggestions that the attack itself didn’t occur’.

The absence of immediate alarm inside the American intelligence community demonstrates that there was no intelligence about Syrian intentions in the days before the attack. And there are at least two ways the US could have known about it in advance: both were touched on in one of the top secret American intelligence documents that have been made public in recent months by Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor.

On 29 August, the Washington Post published excerpts from the annual budget for all national intelligence programmes, agency by agency, provided by Snowden. In consultation with the Obama administration, the newspaper chose to publish only a slim portion of the 178-page document, which has a classification higher than top secret, but it summarised and published a section dealing with problem areas. One problem area was the gap in coverage targeting Assad’s office. The document said that the NSA’s worldwide electronic eavesdropping facilities had been ‘able to monitor unencrypted communications among senior military officials at the outset of the civil war there’. But it was ‘a vulnerability that President Bashar al-Assad’s forces apparently later recognised’. In other words, the NSA no longer had access to the conversations of the top military leadership in Syria, which would have included crucial communications from Assad, such as orders for a nerve gas attack. (In its public statements since 21 August, the Obama administration has never claimed to have specific information connecting Assad himself to the attack.)

The Post report also provided the first indication of a secret sensor system inside Syria, designed to provide early warning of any change in status of the regime’s chemical weapons arsenal. The sensors are monitored by the National Reconnaissance Office, the agency that controls all US intelligence satellites in orbit. According to the Post summary, the NRO is also assigned ‘to extract data from sensors placed on the ground’ inside Syria. The former senior intelligence official, who had direct knowledge of the programme, told me that NRO sensors have been implanted near all known chemical warfare sites in Syria. They are designed to provide constant monitoring of the movement of chemical warheads stored by the military. But far more important, in terms of early warning, is the sensors’ ability to alert US and Israeli intelligence when warheads are being loaded with sarin. (As a neighbouring country, Israel has always been on the alert for changes in the Syrian chemical arsenal, and works closely with American intelligence on early warnings.) A chemical warhead, once loaded with sarin, has a shelf life of a few days or less – the nerve agent begins eroding the rocket almost immediately: it’s a use-it-or-lose-it mass killer. ‘The Syrian army doesn’t have three days to prepare for a chemical attack,’ the former senior intelligence official told me. ‘We created the sensor system for immediate reaction, like an air raid warning or a fire alarm. You can’t have a warning over three days because everyone involved would be dead. It is either right now or you’re history. You do not spend three days getting ready to fire nerve gas.’ The sensors detected no movement in the months and days before 21 August, the former official said. It is of course possible that sarin had been supplied to the Syrian army by other means, but the lack of warning meant that Washington was unable to monitor the events in Eastern Ghouta as they unfolded.

The sensors had worked in the past, as the Syrian leadership knew all too well. Last December the sensor system picked up signs of what seemed to be sarin production at a chemical weapons depot. It was not immediately clear whether the Syrian army was simulating sarin production as part of an exercise (all militaries constantly carry out such exercises) or actually preparing an attack. At the time, Obama publicly warned Syria that using sarin was ‘totally unacceptable’; a similar message was also passed by diplomatic means. The event was later determined to be part of a series of exercises, according to the former senior intelligence official: ‘If what the sensors saw last December was so important that the president had to call and say, “Knock it off,” why didn’t the president issue the same warning three days before the gas attack in August?’

The NSA would of course monitor Assad’s office around the clock if it could, the former official said. Other communications – from various army units in combat throughout Syria – would be far less important, and not analysed in real time. ‘There are literally thousands of tactical radio frequencies used by field units in Syria for mundane routine communications,’ he said, ‘and it would take a huge number of NSA cryptological technicians to listen in – and the useful return would be zilch.’ But the ‘chatter’ is routinely stored on computers. Once the scale of events on 21 August was understood, the NSA mounted a comprehensive effort to search for any links to the attack, sorting through the full archive of stored communications. A keyword or two would be selected and a filter would be employed to find relevant conversations. ‘What happened here is that the NSA intelligence weenies started with an event – the use of sarin – and reached to find chatter that might relate,’ the former official said. ‘This does not lead to a high confidence assessment, unless you start with high confidence that Bashar Assad ordered it, and began looking for anything that supports that belief.’ The cherry-picking was similar to the process used to justify the Iraq war.

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The White House needed nine days to assemble its case against the Syrian government. On 30 August it invited a select group of Washington journalists (at least one often critical reporter, Jonathan Landay, the national security correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers, was not invited), and handed them a document carefully labelled as a ‘government assessment’, rather than as an assessment by the intelligence community. The document laid out what was essentially a political argument to bolster the administration’s case against the Assad government. It was, however, more specific than Obama would be later, in his speech on 10 September: American intelligence, it stated, knew that Syria had begun ‘preparing chemical munitions’ three days before the attack. In an aggressive speech later that day, John Kerry provided more details. He said that Syria’s ‘chemical weapons personnel were on the ground, in the area, making preparations’ by 18 August. ‘We know that the Syrian regime elements were told to prepare for the attack by putting on gas masks and taking precautions associated with chemical weapons.’ The government assessment and Kerry’s comments made it seem as if the administration had been tracking the sarin attack as it happened. It is this version of events, untrue but unchallenged, that was widely reported at the time.

An unforseen reaction came in the form of complaints from the Free Syrian Army’s leadership and others about the lack of warning. ‘It’s unbelievable they did nothing to warn people or try to stop the regime before the crime,’ Razan Zaitouneh, an opposition member who lived in one of the towns struck by sarin, told Foreign Policy. The Daily Mail was more blunt: ‘Intelligence report says US officials knew about nerve-gas attack in Syria three days before it killed over 1400 people – including more than 400 children.’ (The number of deaths attributable to the attack varied widely, from at least 1429, as initially claimed by the Obama administration, to many fewer. A Syrian human rights group reported 502 deaths; Médicins sans Frontières put it at 355; and a French report listed 281 known fatalities. The strikingly precise US total was later reported by the Wall Street Journal to have been based not on an actual body count, but on an extrapolation by CIA analysts, who scanned more than a hundred YouTube videos from Eastern Ghouta into a computer system and looked for images of the dead. In other words, it was little more than a guess.)

Five days later, a spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence responded to the complaints. A statement to the Associated Press said that the intelligence behind the earlier administration assertions was not known at the time of the attack, but recovered only subsequently: ‘Let’s be clear, the United States did not watch, in real time, as this horrible attack took place. The intelligence community was able to gather and analyse information after the fact and determine that elements of the Assad regime had in fact taken steps to prepare prior to using chemical weapons.’ But since the American press corps had their story, the retraction received scant attention. On 31 August theWashington Post, relying on the government assessment, had vividly reported on its front page that American intelligence was able to record ‘each step’ of the Syrian army attack in real time, ‘from the extensive preparations to the launching of rockets to the after-action assessments by Syrian officials’. It did not publish the AP corrective, and the White House maintained control of the narrative.

So when Obama said on 10 September that his administration knew Assad’s chemical weapons personnel had prepared the attack in advance, he was basing the statement not on an intercept caught as it happened, but on communications analysed days after 21 August. The former senior intelligence official explained that the hunt for relevant chatter went back to the exercise detected the previous December, in which, as Obama later said to the public, the Syrian army mobilised chemical weapons personnel and distributed gas masks to its troops. The White House’s government assessment and Obama’s speech were not descriptions of the specific events leading up to the 21 August attack, but an account of the sequence the Syrian military would have followed for any chemical attack. ‘They put together a back story,’ the former official said, ‘and there are lots of different pieces and parts. The template they used was the template that goes back to December.’ It is possible, of course, that Obama was unaware that this account was obtained from an analysis of Syrian army protocol for conducting a gas attack, rather than from direct evidence. Either way he had come to a hasty judgment.

The press would follow suit. The UN report on 16 September confirming the use of sarin was careful to note that its investigators’ access to the attack sites, which came five days after the gassing, had been controlled by rebel forces. ‘As with other sites,’ the report warned, ‘the locations have been well travelled by other individuals prior to the arrival of the mission … During the time spent at these locations, individuals arrived carrying other suspected munitions indicating that such potential evidence is being moved and possibly manipulated.’ Still, the New York Times seized on the report, as did American and British officials, and claimed that it provided crucial evidence backing up the administration’s assertions. An annex to the UN report reproduced YouTube photographs of some recovered munitions, including a rocket that ‘indicatively matches’ the specifics of a 330mm calibre artillery rocket. The New York Times wrote that the existence of the rockets essentially proved that the Syrian government was responsible for the attack ‘because the weapons in question had not been previously documented or reported to be in possession of the insurgency’.

Theodore Postol, a professor of technology and national security at MIT, reviewed the UN photos with a group of his colleagues and concluded that the large calibre rocket was an improvised munition that was very likely manufactured locally. He told me that it was ‘something you could produce in a modestly capable machine shop’. The rocket in the photos, he added, fails to match the specifications of a similar but smaller rocket known to be in the Syrian arsenal. The New York Times, again relying on data in the UN report, also analysed the flight path of two of the spent rockets that were believed to have carried sarin, and concluded that the angle of descent ‘pointed directly’ to their being fired from a Syrian army base more than nine kilometres from the landing zone. Postol, who has served as the scientific adviser to the chief of naval operations in the Pentagon, said that the assertions in the Times and elsewhere ‘were not based on actual observations’. He concluded that the flight path analyses in particular were, as he put it in an email, ‘totally nuts’ because a thorough study demonstrated that the range of the improvised rockets was ‘unlikely’ to be more than two kilometres. Postol and a colleague, Richard M. Lloyd, published an analysis two weeks after 21 August in which they correctly assessed that the rockets involved carried a far greater payload of sarin than previously estimated. TheTimes reported on that analysis at length, describing Postol and Lloyd as ‘leading weapons experts’. The pair’s later study about the rockets’ flight paths and range, which contradicted previous Times reporting, was emailed to the newspaper last week; it has so far gone unreported.

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The White House’s misrepresentation of what it knew about the attack, and when, was matched by its readiness to ignore intelligence that could undermine the narrative. That information concerned al-Nusra, the Islamist rebel group designated by the US and the UN as a terrorist organisation. Al-Nusra is known to have carried out scores of suicide bombings against Christians and other non-Sunni Muslim sects inside Syria, and to have attacked its nominal ally in the civil war, the secular Free Syrian Army (FSA). Its stated goal is to overthrow the Assad regime and establish sharia law. (On 25 September al-Nusra joined several other Islamist rebel groups in repudiating the FSA and another secular faction, the Syrian National Coalition.)

The flurry of American interest in al-Nusra and sarin stemmed from a series of small-scale chemical weapons attacks in March and April; at the time, the Syrian government and the rebels each insisted the other was responsible. The UN eventually concluded that four chemical attacks had been carried out, but did not assign responsibility. A White House official told the press in late April that the intelligence community had assessed ‘with varying degrees of confidence’ that the Syrian government was responsible for the attacks. Assad had crossed Obama’s ‘red line’. The April assessment made headlines, but some significant caveats were lost in translation. The unnamed official conducting the briefing acknowledged that intelligence community assessments ‘are not alone sufficient’. ‘We want,’ he said, ‘to investigate above and beyond those intelligence assessments to gather facts so that we can establish a credible and corroborated set of information that can then inform our decision-making.’ In other words, the White House had no direct evidence of Syrian army or government involvement, a fact that was only occasionally noted in the press coverage. Obama’s tough talk played well with the public and Congress, who view Assad as a ruthless murderer.

Two months later, a White House statement announced a change in the assessment of Syrian culpability and declared that the intelligence community now had ‘high confidence’ that the Assad government was responsible for as many as 150 deaths from attacks with sarin. More headlines were generated and the press was told that Obama, in response to the new intelligence, had ordered an increase in non-lethal aid to the Syrian opposition. But once again there were significant caveats. The new intelligence included a report that Syrian officials had planned and executed the attacks. No specifics were provided, nor were those who provided the reports identified. The White House statement said that laboratory analysis had confirmed the use of sarin, but also that a positive finding of the nerve agent ‘does not tell us how or where the individuals were exposed or who was responsible for the dissemination’. The White House further declared: ‘We have no reliable corroborated reporting to indicate that the opposition in Syria has acquired or used chemical weapons.’ The statement contradicted evidence that at the time was streaming into US intelligence agencies.

Already by late May, the senior intelligence consultant told me, the CIA had briefed the Obama administration on al-Nusra and its work with sarin, and had sent alarming reports that another Sunni fundamentalist group active in Syria, al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI), also understood the science of producing sarin. At the time, al-Nusra was operating in areas close to Damascus, including Eastern Ghouta. An intelligence document issued in mid-summer dealt extensively with Ziyaad Tariq Ahmed, a chemical weapons expert formerly of the Iraqi military, who was said to have moved into Syria and to be operating in Eastern Ghouta. The consultant told me that Tariq had been identified ‘as an al-Nusra guy with a track record of making mustard gas in Iraq and someone who is implicated in making and using sarin’. He is regarded as a high-profile target by the American military.

On 20 June a four-page top secret cable summarising what had been learned about al-Nusra’s nerve gas capabilities was forwarded to David R. Shedd, deputy director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. ‘What Shedd was briefed on was extensive and comprehensive,’ the consultant said. ‘It was not a bunch of “we believes”.’ He told me that the cable made no assessment as to whether the rebels or the Syrian army had initiated the attacks in March and April, but it did confirm previous reports that al-Nusra had the ability to acquire and use sarin. A sample of the sarin that had been used was also recovered – with the help of an Israeli agent – but, according to the consultant, no further reporting about the sample showed up in cable traffic.

Independently of these assessments, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, assuming that US troops might be ordered into Syria to seize the government’s stockpile of chemical agents, called for an all-source analysis of the potential threat. ‘The Op Order provides the basis of execution of a military mission, if so ordered,’ the former senior intelligence official explained. ‘This includes the possible need to send American soldiers to a Syrian chemical site to defend it against rebel seizure. If the jihadist rebels were going to overrun the site, the assumption is that Assad would not fight us because we were protecting the chemical from the rebels. All Op Orders contain an intelligence threat component. We had technical analysts from the Central Intelligence Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, weapons people, and I & W [indications and warnings] people working on the problem … They concluded that the rebel forces were capable of attacking an American force with sarin because they were able to produce the lethal gas. The examination relied on signals and human intelligence, as well as the expressed intention and technical capability of the rebels.’

There is evidence that during the summer some members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were troubled by the prospect of a ground invasion of Syria as well as by Obama’s professed desire to give rebel factions non-lethal support. In July, General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, provided a gloomy assessment, telling the Senate Armed Services Committee in public testimony that ‘thousands of special operations forces and other ground forces’ would be needed to seize Syria’s widely dispersed chemical warfare arsenal, along with ‘hundreds of aircraft, ships, submarines and other enablers’. Pentagon estimates put the number of troops at seventy thousand, in part because US forces would also have to guard the Syrian rocket fleet: accessing large volumes of the chemicals that create sarin without the means to deliver it would be of little value to a rebel force. In a letter to Senator Carl Levin, Dempsey cautioned that a decision to grab the Syrian arsenal could have unintended consequences: ‘We have learned from the past ten years, however, that it is not enough to simply alter the balance of military power without careful consideration of what is necessary in order to preserve a functioning state … Should the regime’s institutions collapse in the absence of a viable opposition, we could inadvertently empower extremists or unleash the very chemical weapons we seek to control.’

The CIA declined to comment for this article. Spokesmen for the DIA and Office of the Director of National Intelligence said they were not aware of the report to Shedd and, when provided with specific cable markings for the document, said they were unable to find it. Shawn Turner, head of public affairs for the ODNI, said that no American intelligence agency, including the DIA, ‘assesses that the al-Nusra Front has succeeded in developing a capacity to manufacture sarin’.

The administration’s public affairs officials are not as concerned about al-Nusra’s military potential as Shedd has been in his public statements. In late July, he gave an alarming account of al-Nusra’s strength at the annual Aspen Security Forum in Colorado. ‘I count no less than 1200 disparate groups in the opposition,’ Shedd said, according to a recording of his presentation. ‘And within the opposition, the al-Nusra Front is … most effective and is gaining in strength.’ This, he said, ‘is of serious concern to us. If left unchecked, I am very concerned that the most radical elements’ – he also cited al-Qaida in Iraq – ‘will take over.’ The civil war, he went on, ‘will only grow worse over time … Unfathomable violence is yet to come.’ Shedd made no mention of chemical weapons in his talk, but he was not allowed to: the reports his office received were highly classified.

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A series of secret dispatches from Syria over the summer reported that members of the FSA were complaining to American intelligence operatives about repeated attacks on their forces by al-Nusra and al-Qaida fighters. The reports, according to the senior intelligence consultant who read them, provided evidence that the FSA is ‘more worried about the crazies than it is about Assad’. The FSA is largely composed of defectors from the Syrian army. The Obama administration, committed to the end of the Assad regime and continued support for the rebels, has sought in its public statements since the attack to downplay the influence of Salafist and Wahhabist factions. In early September, John Kerry dumbfounded a Congressional hearing with a sudden claim that al-Nusra and other Islamist groups were minority players in the Syrian opposition. He later withdrew the claim.

In both its public and private briefings after 21 August, the administration disregarded the available intelligence about al-Nusra’s potential access to sarin and continued to claim that the Assad government was in sole possession of chemical weapons. This was the message conveyed in the various secret briefings that members of Congress received in the days after the attack, when Obama was seeking support for his planned missile offensive against Syrian military installations. One legislator with more than two decades of experience in military affairs told me that he came away from one such briefing persuaded that ‘only the Assad government had sarin and the rebels did not.’ Similarly, following the release of the UN report on 16 September confirming that sarin was used on 21 August, Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the UN, told a press conference: ‘It’s very important to note that only the [Assad] regime possesses sarin, and we have no evidence that the opposition possesses sarin.’

It is not known whether the highly classified reporting on al-Nusra was made available to Power’s office, but her comment was a reflection of the attitude that swept through the administration. ‘The immediate assumption was that Assad had done it,’ the former senior intelligence official told me. ‘The new director of the CIA, [John] Brennan, jumped to that conclusion … drives to the White House and says: “Look at what I’ve got!” It was all verbal; they just waved the bloody shirt. There was a lot of political pressure to bring Obama to the table to help the rebels, and there was wishful thinking that this [tying Assad to the sarin attack] would force Obama’s hand: “This is the Zimmermann telegram of the Syrian rebellion and now Obama can react.” Wishful thinking by the Samantha Power wing within the administration. Unfortunately, some members of the Joint Chiefs who were alerted that he was going to attack weren’t so sure it was a good thing.’

The proposed American missile attack on Syria never won public support and Obama turned quickly to the UN and the Russian proposal for dismantling the Syrian chemical warfare complex. Any possibility of military action was definitively averted on 26 September when the administration joined Russia in approving a draft UN resolution calling on the Assad government to get rid of its chemical arsenal. Obama’s retreat brought relief to many senior military officers. (One high-level special operations adviser told me that the ill-conceived American missile attack on Syrian military airfields and missile emplacements, as initially envisaged by the White House, would have been ‘like providing close air support for al-Nusra’.)

The administration’s distortion of the facts surrounding the sarin attack raises an unavoidable question: do we have the whole story of Obama’s willingness to walk away from his ‘red line’ threat to bomb Syria? He had claimed to have an iron-clad case but suddenly agreed to take the issue to Congress, and later to accept Assad’s offer to relinquish his chemical weapons. It appears possible that at some point he was directly confronted with contradictory information: evidence strong enough to persuade him to cancel his attack plan, and take the criticism sure to come from Republicans.

The UN resolution, which was adopted on 27 September by the Security Council, dealt indirectly with the notion that rebel forces such as al-Nusra would also be obliged to disarm: ‘no party in Syria should use, develop, produce, acquire, stockpile, retain or transfer [chemical] weapons.’ The resolution also calls for the immediate notification of the Security Council in the event that any ‘non-state actors’ acquire chemical weapons. No group was cited by name. While the Syrian regime continues the process of eliminating its chemical arsenal, the irony is that, after Assad’s stockpile of precursor agents is destroyed, al-Nusra and its Islamist allies could end up as the only faction inside Syria with access to the ingredients that can create sarin, a strategic weapon that would be unlike any other in the war zone. There may be more to negotiate.

Seymour M. Hersh is writing an alternative history of the war on terror. He lives in Washington DC.

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