12 Sep 2017

Echoes Of Iraq-WMD Fraud In Syria

Just as the our Western governments feigned ignorance to signs in 2002-03 that anti-government Iraqis were fabricating WMD claims, evidence is being brushed aside that Jewish state Israel backed foreign insurgents in Syria have ginned up chemical attacks 
By Robert Parry: The New York Times and other Western media have learned few lessons from the Iraq War, including how the combination of a demonized foreign leader and well-funded “activists” committed to flooding the process with fake data can lead to dangerously false conclusions that perpetuate war.
What we have seen in Syria over the past six years parallels what occurred in Iraq in the run-up to the U.S.-led invasion in 2002-03. In both cases, there was evidence that the “system” was being gamed – by the Iraqi National Congress (INC) in pushing for the Iraq War and by pro-rebel “activists” promoting “regime change” in Syria – but those warnings were ignored. Instead, the flood of propagandistic claims overwhelmed what little skepticism there was in the West.
Regarding Iraq, the INC generated a surge of “defectors” who claimed to know where Saddam Hussein was concealing his WMD stockpiles and where his nuclear program was hidden. In Syria, we have seen something similar with dubious claims about chemical weapons attacks.
The Iraqi “defectors,” of course, were lying, and a little-noticed congressional study revealed that the CIA had correctly debunked some of the fakers but – because of the pro-invasion political pressure from George W. Bush’s White House and the U.S. mainstream media’s contempt for Saddam Hussein – other bogus claims were accepted as true. The result was catastrophic.
But the telltale signs of an INC disinformation campaign were there before the war. For instance, by early February 2003, as the final invasion plans were underway, the parade of Iraqi “walk-ins” was continuing. U.S. intelligence agencies had progressed up to “Source Eighteen,” one fellow who came to epitomize what some CIA analysts suspected was systematic INC coaching of sources.
As the CIA planned a debriefing of Source Eighteen, another Iraqi exile passed on word to the agency that an INC representative had told Source Eighteen to “deliver the act of a lifetime.” CIA analysts weren’t sure what to make of that piece of news since Iraqi exiles frequently badmouthed each other but the value of the warning soon became clear.
U.S. intelligence officers debriefed Source Eighteen the next day and discovered that “Source Eighteen was supposed to have a nuclear engineering background, but was unable to discuss advanced mathematics or physics and described types of ‘nuclear’ reactors that do not exist,” according to a Senate Intelligence Committee report on the Iraq War’s intelligence failures.
“Source Eighteen used the bathroom frequently, particularly when he appeared to be flustered by a line of questioning, suddenly remembering a new piece of information upon his return. During one such incident, Source Eighteen appeared to be reviewing notes,” the report said.
Not surprisingly, U.S. intelligence officers concluded that Source Eighteen was a fabricator. But the sludge of INC-connected disinformation kept oozing through the U.S. intelligence community, fouling the American intelligence product in part because there was little pressure from above demanding strict quality controls. Indeed, the opposite was true.
A more famous fake Iraqi defector earned the code name “Curve Ball” and provided German intelligence agencies details about Iraq’s alleged mobile facilities for producing agents for biological warfare.
Tyler Drumheller, then chief of the CIA’s European Division, said his office had issued repeated warnings about Curve Ball’s accounts. “Everyone in the chain of command knew exactly what was happening,” Drumheller said. [Los Angeles Times, April 2, 2005]
Despite those objections and the lack of direct U.S. contact with Curve Ball, he earned a rating as “credible” or “very credible,” and his information became a core element of the Bush administration’s case for invading Iraq. Drawings of Curve Ball’s imaginary bio-weapons labs were a central feature of Secretary of State Colin Powell’s presentation to the U.N. on Feb. 5, 2003.
The Syrian Parallel
Regarding Syria, a similar mix of factors exists. The Obama administration’s advocacy for Syrian “regime change” and the hostility from many Western interest groups toward President Bashar al-Assad lowered the bar of skepticism enabling propaganda arms of Al Qaeda and its jihadist allies to have enormous success in selling dubious accusations about chemical attacks and other atrocities.
As with the CIA analysts who tripped up a few of the Iraqi liars, some United Nations investigators have seen evidence of the trickery. For instance, they learned from townspeople of Al-Tamanah about how the rebels and allied “activists” staged a chlorine gas attack on the night of April 29-30, 2014, and then sold the false story to a credulous Western media and, initially, to the U.N. investigative team.
“Seven witnesses stated that frequent alerts [about an imminent chlorine weapons attack by the government] had been issued, but in fact no incidents with chemicals took place,” the U.N. report stated. “While people sought safety after the warnings, their homes were looted and rumours spread that the events were being staged. … [T]hey [these witnesses] had come forward to contest the wide-spread false media reports.”
Accounts from other people, who did allege that there had been a government chemical attack on Al-Tamanah, provided suspect evidence, including data from questionable sources, according to the U.N. report.
The report said, “Three witnesses, who did not give any description of the incident on 29-30 April 2014, provided material of unknown source. One witness had second-hand knowledge of two of the five incidents in Al-Tamanah, but did not remember the exact dates. Later that witness provided a USB-stick with information of unknown origin, which was saved in separate folders according to the dates of all the five incidents mentioned by the FFM (the U.N.’s Fact-Finding Mission).
“Another witness provided the dates of all five incidents reading it from a piece of paper, but did not provide any testimony on the incident on 29-30 April 2014. The latter also provided a video titled ‘site where second barrel containing toxic chlorine gas was dropped tamanaa 30 April 14’”
Some other witnesses alleging a Syrian government attack offered curious claims about detecting the chlorine-infused “barrel bombs” based on how the device sounded in its descent.
The U.N. report said, “The eyewitness, who stated to have been on the roof, said to have heard a helicopter and the ‘very loud’ sound of a falling barrel. Some interviewees had referred to a distinct whistling sound of barrels that contain chlorine as they fall. The witness statement could not be corroborated with any further information.”
However, the claim itself is absurd since it is inconceivable that anyone could detect a chlorine canister inside a “barrel bomb” by “a distinct whistling sound.”
The larger point, however, is that the jihadist rebels in Al-Tamanah and their propaganda teams, including relief workers and activists, appear to have organized a coordinated effort at deception complete with a fake video supplied to U.N. investigators and Western media outlets.
For instance, the Telegraph in London reported that “Videos allegedly taken in Al-Tamanah … purport to show the impact sites of two chemical bombs. Activists said that one person had been killed and another 70 injured.”
The Telegraph also quoted supposed weapons expert Eliot Higgins, the founder of Bellingcat, as endorsing the report. “Witnesses have consistently reported the use of helicopters to drop the chemical barrel bombs used,” said Higgins. “As it stands, around a dozen chemical barrel bomb attacks have been alleged in that region in the last three weeks.”
To finish up pointing the finger of guilt at the government, the Telegraph added that “The regime is the only party in the civil war that possesses helicopters” – a claim that also has been in dispute since the rebels had captured government air assets and had received substantial military assistance from Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United States, Israel, Jordan and other countries.
The Al-Tamanah debunking received no mainstream media attention when the U.N. findings were issued in September 2016 because the U.N. report relied on rebel information to blame two other alleged chlorine attacks on the government and that got all the coverage. But the case should have raised red flags given the extent of the apparent deception.
If the seven townspeople were telling the truth, that would mean that the rebels and their allies issued fake attack warnings, produced propaganda videos to fool the West, and prepped “witnesses” with “evidence” to deceive investigators. Yet, no alarms went off about other rebel claims.
The Ghouta Incident
A more famous attack – with sarin gas on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta on Aug. 21, 2013, killing hundreds – was also eagerly blamed on the Assad regime, as The New York Times, Human Rights Watch, Higgins’s Bellingcat and many other Western outlets jumped to that conclusion despite the unlikely circumstances. Assad had just welcomed U.N. investigators to Damascus to examine chemical attacks that he was blaming on the rebels.
Assad also was facing a “red line” threat from President Obama warning him of possible U.S. military intervention if the Syrian government deployed chemical weapons. Why Assad and his military would choose such a moment to launch a deadly sarin attack, killing mostly civilians, made little sense.
But this became another rush to judgment in the West that brought the Obama administration to the verge of launching a devastating air attack on the Syrian military that might have helped Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate and/or the Islamic State win the war.
Eventually, however, the case blaming Assad for the 2013 sarin attack collapsed. An analysis by genuine weapons experts – Theodore A. Postol, a professor of science, technology and national security policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Richard M. Lloyd, an analyst at the military contractor Tesla Laboratories – found that the missile that delivered the sarin had a very short range placing its likely firing position in rebel territory.
Later, reporting by journalist Seymour Hersh implicated Turkish intelligence working with jihadist rebels as the likely source of the sarin.
We also learned in 2016 that a message from the U.S. intelligence community had warned Obama how weak the evidence against Assad was. There was no “slam-dunk” proof, said Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. And Obama cited his rejection of the Washington militaristic “playbook” to bomb Syria as one of his proudest moments as President.
With this background, there should have been extreme skepticism when jihadists and their allies made new claims about the Syrian government engaging in chemical weapons attacks, just like the CIA should have recognized that the Iraqi National Congress’s production of some obviously phony “walk-ins” justified doubts about all of them.
After the invasion of Iraq and the U.S. failure to find the promised WMD caches, INC leader Ahmed Chalabi congratulated his organization as “heroes in error” for its success in using falsehoods to help get the United States to invade.
But the West appears to have learned next to nothing from the Iraq deceptions – or arguably the lessons are being ignored out of a desire to continue the neoconservative “regime change” project for the Middle East.
Pressure to Confirm
U.N. investigators, who have been under intense pressure to confirm accusations against the Syrian government, continue to brush aside contrary evidence, such as testimony regarding the April 4 “sarin incident” at Khan Sheikhoun, that suggested a replay of the Al-Tamanah operation.
In a new U.N. report, testimony from two people, who were apparently considered reliable by investigators from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, asserted that anti-government aircraft spotters issued no early-morning warning of a flight leaving the Syrian military airbase of Shayrat, contradicting claims from Al Qaeda’s allies inside Khan Sheikhoun who insisted that there had been such a warning.
If no warplanes left Shayrat airbase around dawn on April 4, then President Trump’s case for retaliating with 59 Tomahawk missiles launched against the base two days later would collapse. The U.S. strike reportedly killed several soldiers at the base and nine civilians, including four children, in nearby neighborhoods. It also risked inflicting death on Russians stationed at the base.
But the U.N. report accepts the version from the activists and rebels inside the Al Qaeda-controlled town and then goes on to endorse other rebel claims regarding alleged Syrian military chemical attacks on at least 20 other occasions.
The New York Times was mightily impressed with the U.N. report’s “unequivocal condemnation” of Assad’s regime and cited it as justification for Israeli warplanes bombing a Syrian military facility on Thursday. Rather than criticize Israel for attacking a neighboring country, the Times framed the action in a positive light as having “brought renewed attention to Syria’s chemical weapons.”
But the journalistic (and intelligence) point should have been that the West was fooled in Iraq by self-interested “activists” flooding the Times, the CIA and the world with fake information — so many bogus walk-ins that they overwhelmed whatever half-hearted process there was to weed out lies from truth. The Syrian “opposition” appears to have adopted a similar strategy in Syria with similar success.
Given the history, skepticism should be the rule in Syria, not credulity. Or, as President George W. Bush once said in a different context, “fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.”

Source





5 comments:

  1. What do you mean they’ve learned few lessons? Don’t you mean that they show themselves to be CIA infiltrated shills just as Dr Udo Ulfkotte confessed, the same man who’s book in English has somehow conveniently finally disappeared from UK Amazon for sure after peculiarly being set for publication many months after it’s publicity so as never to reach an English speaking audience? A clear ruse all along the line to cover up the truth.

    Here you try and suggest that CIA analysts did what, that you think isn’t part of the dust cloud intended to obscure the real core of what’s happening?

    Is this some sort of controlled opposition piece? Or will you include these facts in an update, because it simply slipped your mind?

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  2. With the September 6 release of the report by the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria, Eliot Higgins of Bellingcat has produced an article reviewing “multiple allegations related to the use of Sarin as a chemical weapon”.

    https://www.bellingcat.com/news/mena/2017/09/06/history-sarin-use-syrian-conflict/

    Higgins insists that the incidents have been “under-covered” when in fact the claims about alleged attacks have been debunked in most instances.

    Both the improvisational nature and specific timing of the alleged chemical incidents indicates that the Al Qaeda affiliate terrorist forces in Syria have used staged incidents and chemical use allegations to gain tactical advantage in the conflict.

    Higgins predictably ignores this, and treats every terrorist allegation as flat fact.

    The 4 April 2017 Khan Shaykhun incident in an Al Qaeda controlled area of Idlib was obviously perpetrated for maximum propaganda effect to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the Chemical Weapons Convention, that entered into force and becoming binding international law on 29 April 1997.

    Disinformation produced by fake “chemical weapons expert” Dan Kaszeta and fake “citizen investigative journalist” Eliot Higgins of the UK-based Bellingcat blog made its way into the 11 April 2017 Trump White House’s “assessment” of the Khan Shakhun incident.

    Kaszeta is now backing evidence free “Israeli intelligence” claims about Syria.

    A 19 April 2017 Israeli “assessment” presented by anonymous military officials included evidence free claims that Syrian military commanders has ordered the Khan Shaukun attack with President Assad’s knowledge and “estimates” that Syria still has “between one and three tons” of chemical weapons.

    The Associated Press report on the Israeli military briefing included an interview with Kaszeta, who said the Israeli estimate appeared to be “conservative”. Kaszeta claimed that “One ton of sarin could easily be used to perpetrate an attack on the scale of the 2013 attack. It could also be used for roughly 10 attacks of a similar size to the recent Khan Sheikhoun attack”.

    Back in 2013, Kaszeta backed similar evidence free claims by Israeli defense officials.

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  3. Continued:

    The U.S. Intelligence Community is responsible for gathering and analyzing the intelligence necessary to conduct foreign relations and national security activities.

    The ability of the President and the Secretary of Defense to understand and respond to specific threats as quickly as possible is severely compromised by the production of “Government Assessment” documents based on inaccurate information.

    Of urgent concern is the body of information used to manufacture “Government Assessment” documents. The United States Government’s assessment of the Khan Shaykhun chemical incident relied heavily on “videos”, “social media reports” and “journalist accounts” from Bellingcat.

    Open-source intelligence (OSINT) is defined by both the U.S. Director of National Intelligence and the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), as “produced from publicly available information that is collected, exploited, and disseminated in a timely manner to an appropriate audience for the purpose of addressing a specific intelligence requirement.”

    OSINT is intelligence collected from publicly available sources. In the Intelligence Community, the term “open” refers to overt, publicly available sources (as opposed to covert or clandestine sources).

    The US Intelligence Community’s open-source activities (known as the National Open Source Enterprise) are dictated by Intelligence Community Directive 301 promulgated by the Director of National Intelligence.

    The “Government Assessment” political documents employed by the White House in August 2013 and July 2014 appear to have relied on an extra-governmental species of “open source intelligence” largely supplied by bloggers based in the United Kingdom.

    Assessments of chemical use in Syria in 2013 (Brown Moses blog) and the downing of Flight MH17 and its aftermath in 2014 (Bellingcat blog) were supplied by UK citizen Higgins of Leicester.

    Higgins’ collaborator Kaszeta, a US-UK dual national based in London, provided additional claims of “chemical attacks” in Syria for both the Brown Moses and Bellingcat blogs.

    Since 2013, Kaszeta and Higgins have continued to make ever more dramatic claims about “chemical attacks” in Syria.

    Following the the 4 April 2017 chemical incident at Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib, Kaszeta was cited as a go-to “expert” by the BBC, UK Guardian, CNN, Time magazine, Washngton Post. NPR, Germany’s Die Welt and Deutsche Welle, Business Insider, Popular Science, Asia Times and the Associated Press.

    Not content with merely quoting Kaszeta, BBC News online went so far as to publish an essay authored by Kaszeta titled “Syria ‘chemical attack’: What can forensics tell us?” At the end of his BBC News essay, in a furtive effort to quickly “tie the whole narrative together”, Kaszata mentioned that “In 2013, the chemical hexamine, used as an additive, was a critical piece of information linking the Ghouta attack to the government of President Assad.” This intriguing tidbit linked to a December 2013 New York Times article quoting Kaszeta’s own claims about the “very damning evidence” of hexamine.

    However, Kaszeta’s claims about hexamine were already debunked in 2014. Kaszeta continues to claim that Hexamine was used in the 2013 Ghouta attack, despite evidence that Hexamine is not soluble in alcohols, making it ineffective for this purpose.

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    Replies
    1. Continued:

      Analysis of all primary and secondary evidence relating to the 21 August 2013 chemical incident at Ghouta indicates it was carried out by Al Qaeda terrorist forces (Al Nusra Front or Jabhat al Nusra, also known as the Jabhat Fateh al Sham).

      Analysis of evidence relating to the 4 April 2017 chemical incident at Khan Shaykhun indicates it was carried out by Al Qaeda terrorist forces (Hay’at Tahrir al Sham, the latest rebranding of Al Nusra).

      Higgins and Kaszeta have vigorously backed the narrative of an air-dropped chemical bomb in Idlib. However, none of Kaszeta’s articles on Bellingcat, nor any of the numerous citations of Kaszeta by mainstream media, address the complete absence of evidence of an aerial bomb.

      The alleged “Sarin bomb” hole in the road in Idlib has been photographed numerous times from multiple angles. The size, depth and shape of the hole are clear evidence that it was not produced by a falling object such as an air-dropped bomb.

      MIT physicist Theodore A. Postol reviewed the White House report on the alleged chemical weapons attack in Idlib, Syria. He noted that the only source the cited as evidence of Syrian government responsibility for the attack was the crater on a road in Khan Shaykhun.

      Postol concluded that the US government failed to provide evidence that it had any concrete knowledge that the Syrian government was the source of the chemical attack in Khan Shaykhun on April 4, 2017.

      Postol accurately identified the amateurish nature of the White House report:

      “No competent analyst would assume that the crater cited as the source of the sarin attack was unambiguously an indication that the munition came from an aircraft. No competent analyst would assume that the photograph of the carcass of the sarin canister was in fact a sarin canister. Any competent analyst would have had questions about whether the debris in the crater was staged or real. No competent analyst would miss the fact that the alleged sarin canister was forcefully crushed from above, rather than exploded by a munition within it. All of these highly amateurish mistakes indicate that this White House report… was not properly vetted by the intelligence community as claimed.’

      Postol concluded:

      “I have worked with the intelligence community in the past, and I have grave concerns about the politicization of intelligence that seems to be occurring with more frequency in recent times – but I know that the intelligence community has highly capable analysts in it. And if those analysts were properly consulted about the claims in the White House document they would have not approved the document going forward.

      “We again have a situation where the White House has issued an obviously false, misleading and amateurish intelligence report.”

      Postol recently told The Nation, “What I think is now crystal clear is that the White House report was fabricated and it certainly did not follow the procedures it claimed to employ.” He added, “My best guess at the moment is that this was an extremely clumsy and ill-conceived attempt to cover up the fact that Trump attacked Syria without any intelligence evidence that Syria was in fact the perpetrator of the attack”.

      Israel has a de facto alliance with Saudi Arabia and GCC backers of the Al Qaeda terrorists who have conducted numerous Chemical Weapons (CW) attacks in Syria.

      Israel possesses the means, the motive, and abundant opportunity to supply Sarin nerve agents and other chemical weapons to the Al Qaeda forces in Syria for the purpose of staging false flag chemical attacks.

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  4. Continued:

    The Israel Institute for Biological Research (IIBR), an Israeli government defense research facility near Tel Aviv, develops offensive chemical and biological weapons including Sarin.The IIBR facility was involved in an extensive effort to identify practical methods of synthesis for nerve gases (such as Tabun, Sarin, and VX) and other chemical weapons compounds.

    The 26 April 2017 French “National Evaluation” included evidence free claims of a “Clandestine Syrian chemical weapons programme” based on “allegations” of Syrian “chemical use” laundered by Higgins and Kaszeta. The French purportedly based their conclusions on “analysis” of the 29 April 2013 chemical incident at Saraqeb, also in Al Qaeda controlled Idlib.

    BBC News video report of the Saraqeb incident described the smell at the scene as being very strong. The strong odor of alleged aerial “grenades” was described in a statement from the BBC video: “These are smelly, and a lot of them were used.”

    Another lengthy statement from the BBC report on the 2013 Saraqeb incident: “I was not present then, but the FSA members came here and said that those chemicals were dropped on the southwestern side of the town. The injuries varies from bad to minor. The symptoms include constriction of the pupil, forth around the mouth, complete loss of consciousness as result of (inhaling) the smoke. The smoke was smelly, and the guy who rushed to help the victims lost consciousness when he got to the site.”

    Based on 3 confirmed incidents of Al Qaeda controlled “eyewitness” tales of “strong smells” during alleged “air attacks” we can debunk any claims that Sarin is being described by these individuals.

    When pure, Sarin is odorless. When impure or contaminated, Sarin may have a slightly fruity odor, similar to a weak ethyl acetate solution.

    Neither pure nor impure Sarin produce a “horrible, suffocating smell”. Sarin is not capable of “producing strong smells”. Impure Sarin does not smell “like rotten eggs”, “overpowering”, “like cooking gas”, or “like rotten food” as claimed by purported “eyewitnesses”.

    Possible collusion between fake “citizen journalist” bloggers like Higgins and Kaszeta at Bellingcat, and senior officials in the American, French and Israeli governments, and terrorist organizations obviously represents a grave national security concern for the United States.

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