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Saturday, September 11, 2021

Punishing Syria with Deception and Economic Trickery:  Part II

Douma False-Flag Attack and Coverup

By Dwain Deets & Kim Baxter

In April 2018, 50-plus civilians died in an alleged chemical weapon attack in Douma, Syria—a city located six miles northeast of Damascus. The US, UK, and France (the West) bombed in retaliation seven days later, alleging the Syrian government had carried out the attack. The West alleged that the Syrian air force had dropped two gas cylinders and, at the time, alleged that they likely contained Sarin nerve agent.

 

A group called the White Helmets—ostensibly a volunteer organization that provides medical evacuation and urban search & rescue in response to bombings-- was a deceptive operation that became a key propaganda weapon in the dirty war on Damascus.   Max Blumenthal reported in 2018 that,

 

“since the White Helmets were founded in Turkey by a former British MI5 officer named James Le Mesurier, the group has received at least $55 million from the British Foreign Office, $23 million or more from the United States Agency for International Development’s Office of Transition Initiatives — the State Department’s de facto regime change arm — and untold millions from the Kingdom of Qatar, which has also backed an assortment of extremist groups in Syria including Al Qaeda. 

“White Helmets are routinely relied upon by the governments that fund them as a primary source on alleged chemical attacks, including the most recent incident in Douma. When Defense Secretary James Mattis cited ‘social media’ in place of scientific evidence of a chemical attack in Douma, he was referring to video shot by members of the White Helmets.”

 

Since the Douma incident, a crude smear campaign against researchers, journalists, academics, and even OPCW (Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) scientists has sought to discredit anyone asking questions as "conspiracy theorists," "war-crime deniers," or "Russian/Syrian agents."

Despite these campaigns to bury the truth about Douma, whistleblowers, facts, and detailed documentation continue to enter the public domain. Many now state that there are "major" concerns regarding the official narrative.

 

To bolster the official position, as recently as early June 2021, OPCW chief, Director-General H. E. Mr. Fernando Arias, went before the United Nations in an attempt to squash the criticism. He claimed the Scientific Advisory Board for his organization did not have the authority to examine the official Douma findings.  He even made the dubious claim that even he, himself, lacked the power to question the Fact-Finding Mission's official findings.

 

Aaron Mate, in an article [1] examines the founding documents of the OPCW, and shows that both the Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) and the Director-General very definitely do have the authority to question fact-finding missions.[1] Dr. Piers Robinson, the convenor of the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media, suggests Arias's interpretation in this instance means he has no confidence the official findings can stand up to the scrutiny of the SAB.

 

Sanctions for Punishing Syria's Public

 

The US imposed draconian sanctions against Syria in June 2020, the “Caesar Civilian Protection Act,” named after the alleged whistleblower discussed in Part One of this article—with the hidden purpose to prevent Syria's reconstruction works. After ten years of the conflict, many buildings, including social infrastructure, like hospitals, or schools, or housing, are completely destroyed, and people have no place in which to live. Many people in Syria live in poverty. These sanctions are preventing Syria’s financial system from resuming normal functioning, causing the population to become very dependent on humanitarian aid delivery.  Alena Douhan, UN Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of the unilateral coercive measures, stated to the Grayzone that organizations that deliver humanitarian aid to Syria must undergo a costly, complicated process to obtain a license from the sanctioning country.  Douhan explained in a 2020 report some of the ways these sanctions restricted Syrian medical professionals’ ability to provide care during the COVID-19 pandemic.  For example, they could not import technology needed for CT scanners and ventilators; they could not use Zoom and other online platforms for telemedicine, research, etc.; and they had difficulties buying various needed medicines and medical devices.

 

Fighting Forces Shrouded in Trickery

 

Congress has not authorized fighting forces from the U.S.  Nor have Western counterparts. Yet, warriors are very much on the scene.  

 

Defectors from the Syrian military formed the Free Syrian Army (FSA), an armed opposition organization, in 2011.  The FSA is an umbrella group comprising small, uncoordinated militias operating at local levels.  The FSA’s headquarters was originally based in Turkey but moved to Idlib province in northern Syria in 2012.  Fighters from various countries have reportedly been active fighting with the FSA.[2]

 

In August 2011, Obama called for Bashar al-Assad to resign.[3]  Then, in August 2012, Obama stated, “We cannot have a situation where chemical or biological weapons are falling into the hands of the wrong people. We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus.”[4]   This statement incentivized the insurgents—who wanted assistance in the form of U.S. military intervention against Assad—to carry out such an attack. As stated by a former US ambassador to the Middle East, “‘The 'red line' was an open invitation to a false-flag operation.’”[5] 

 

A CIA-run classified weapons supply and training program, code named Timber Sycamore, began funding, arming and training rebels fighting against President al-Assad in 2013.  Researcher Max Blumenthal stated that weapons were flowing to Syria from Libya even before the official start of Timber Sycamore but believes the September 2012 Benghazi consulate attack likely ended that.[6]  Obama insisted publicly in May 2012 that the U.S. was neither supplying nor funding weapons for the FSA. 

 

In May 2013, Senator John McCain traveled to Syria in an effort to generate American support for the “moderate rebels”. He met and posed for a photograph with members the Northern Storm Brigade, a faction of the FSA responsible for kidnapping and murdering several Shi’ite pilgrims in 2012.  In 2013 this group sold American-Israeli journalist Steven Sotloff to ISIS, who beheaded him in 2014 at age 31.[7]  Sotloff had been a talented reporter who covered the post-Gaddafi unraveling of Libya, lived in Benghazi and reported on the 2012 consulate attack for Time magazine, CNN and others.[8]  Scott Horton, author of two books about U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, provides evidence in this video that none of the factions of the FSA are “moderate.” 

 

On 13 June 2013, the United States government announced its conclusion that the Assad government had used limited amounts of chemical weapons on multiple occasions against rebel forces, killing 100 to 150 people.[9]  Then on August 21, 2013, two alleged chemical weapons attacks occurred 10 miles apart Damascus suburb of Ghouta.  An Obama Administration press release stated, “We assess with high confidence that the Syrian government carried out the chemical weapons attack against opposition elements in the Damascus suburbs on August 21.”[10]  Obama stated, “This attack is an assault on human dignity.  It also presents a serious danger to our national security.”[11]  British lawmakers rejected PM David Cameron’s proposal to participate in U.S.-led military strikes against Syria on August 29, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel also told Obama her country would not participate. Obama’s attempt to secure Congressional approval for the strikes was unsuccessful.  But in classified parts of defense appropriations legislation, Congress secretly approved funding for U.S. weapons deliveries to the Syrian rebels for fiscal year 2014.[12]

 

In October 2014 Congress authorized the $500 million plan, first announced by Obama in June, to train and arm Syrian rebels to confront Islamic State militants—5400 rebels per year for the next three years, according to the Pentagon.[13]  But Obama told the New York Times’s Thomas Friedman in August 2014 that the notion that arming the secular rebels would have made a difference has “always been a fantasy.  This idea that we could provide some light arms or even more sophisticated arms to what was essentially an opposition made up of former doctors, farmers, pharmacists and so forth, and that they were going to be able to battle not only a well-armed state but also a well-armed state backed by Russia, backed by Iran, a battle-hardened Hezbollah, that was never in the cards.”[14]  And one year after Congress authorized its funding, the Obama administration acknowledged —amidst revelations that the program had only produced four or five graduates fighting in Syria-- the training program’s failure and announced its plan to instead use the funds to provide weapons and ammunition to existing groups.[15]

 

Fast forward to 2021:  An open-source study published in June concludes that Syrian insurgents carried out the August 2013 Ghouta sarin chemical attack -- not the Syrian government, as the White House, U.S. intelligence, and other Western sources publicly alleged.  Read a summary of the study here.

 

The makeup of forces changed throughout the ten years of war against Assad's government forces, involving the Nusra Front-- al-Qaeda's affiliate in Syria. Funding for military equipment to FSA came from the CIA, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar—but frequently came into the possession of the al-Qaeda branch in Syria. It was CIA funding making its way to these fighters that led Rep. Tulsi Gabbard to introduce the "Stop Funding Terrorists" bill to Congress in 2017, after her 7-day fact-finding trip to the region with former Ohio congressman Dennis Kucinich. 

 

On April 7, 2017, the United States launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles from the Mediterranean into Syria in response to an alleged April 4 chemical weapons attack by the Syrian government on Khan Shaykhun, a town in Idlib province.  But in July 2017, Trump reportedly decided to halt the CIA’s support program for Syrian moderate opposition—a move viewed by many as a concession to Russia.

 

In April of 2018, with John Bolton as his National Security Advisor, Trump launched strikes on Syria in conjunction with France and the United Kingdom.  These strikes occurred in response to another alleged chemical attack—the aforementioned April 7 Douma event.  Many analysts and diplomats questioned the veracity of the U.S.’s claims about this incident.  The U.S. and its allies attacked Syria before international observers from the OPCW had even arrived in Syria to investigate.  One of the targets their strikes destroyed was the Barzeh Scientific Research Center in Damascus, which had passed OPCW inspection several times.  The Damascus site in fact contained a space allocated for the OPCW to collect and package samples taken from sites they were inspecting.

Russia is a natural ally of Syria, because of the warm-water naval base Tartus, along Syria's Mediterranean coast. The Soviets have operated the port, then Russia, for 40 years when military threats against Syria escalated in 2011 and sent Russia’s only aircraft carrier in 2016 to fly sorties against the enemies of Assad.

Reports suggest that at the height of the conflict in 2017, some 40% of the overall number of outsiders joining the war were militants from former Soviet areas.

 

Israel, on the other hand, is a natural adversary. As it is, the Israeli-Syrian interface along the Golan Border has been a source of irritation. An increase in the number of flareups built each year, 2012, 2013, and continuing to this day. Israelis also provided medical treatment to insurgents close to the Golan Heights-Syrian border in Israeli hospitals and then sent them back into battle against government-controlled areas. Additionally, there is an Israeli-backed opposition faction in rebel-held southern Syria.

 

It is an open secret that the Israelis have been providing armed air support to the FSA.

 

Conclusion

 

The Defense Secretary’s memo, which General Wesley Clark heard about from a Pentagon official on or about September 20, 2001, revealed plans to “take out” seven countries in the next five years.  Clark stated that according to the memo, Syria would be second--next after Iraq--and Libya would be fourth, right after Lebanon.  If there had been any truth to this prediction when Clark made it, the assassination of Muammar Gaddafi on October 20, 2011, changed the planned sequence of regime change projects.  Many theories as to why the U.S. prioritized removing Gaddafi proliferate.  One alleged link between the two countries seems worth remembering.

 

The September 11-12, 2012, Benghazi, Libya consulate attack killed four Americans including Ambassador Christopher J. Stevens and two former Navy SEALs.  Beginning at 10:30pm the night of the attack Secretary of State Hillary Clinton blamed the attack on a spontaneous uprising in response to “inflammatory material on the internet”.  Then, after the White House spent $70,000 on videos to apologize for the inflammatory film, admitted 10 days after the attack what emails prove she had known for over a week:  that this was a coordinated terrorist attack.

 

In a now obscure August 1, 2013, blog post, CNN reported,

“Sources now tell CNN dozens of people working for the CIA were on the ground that night, and that the agency is going to great lengths to make sure whatever it was doing, remains a secret.

CNN has learned the CIA is involved in what one source calls an unprecedented attempt to keep the spy agency's Benghazi secrets from ever leaking out. Since January, some CIA operatives involved in the agency's missions in Libya, have been subjected to frequent, even monthly polygraph examinations, according to a source with deep inside knowledge of the agency's workings.

The goal of the questioning, according to sources, is to find out if anyone is talking to the media or Congress.

It is being described as pure intimidation, with the threat that any unauthorized CIA employee who leaks information could face the end of his or her career….

‘Agency employees typically are polygraphed every three to four years. Never more than that,’ said former CIA operative and CNN analyst Robert Baer….

Among the many secrets still yet to be told about the Benghazi mission, is just how many Americans were there the night of the attack.

A source now tells CNN that number was 35, with as many as seven wounded, some seriously.

While it is still not known how many of them were CIA, a source tells CNN that 21 Americans were working in the building known as the annex, believed to be run by the agency….

Speculation on Capitol Hill has included the possibility the U.S. agencies operating in Benghazi were secretly helping to move surface-to-air missiles out of Libya, through Turkey, and into the hands of Syrian rebels.[16]

 

Perhaps we should view the Syria killing of journalist Steven Sotloff –who spent months in Benghazi after the 2012 attack--in a new light, given these alleged unprecedented efforts by the CIA to suppress information about the Benghazi attack.  Sotloff’s family blamed the Obama administration for his death and accused it of making inaccurate statements—such as the claim that the administration had consistently and regularly informed the family as to Steven’s whereabouts after his abduction.  Sotloff was kidnapped August 4, 2013, and brutally murdered the following year.

 

[1] https://thegrayzone.com/2021/07/02/pressed-for-answers-on-syria-cover-up-opcw-chief-offers-new-lies-and-excuses/

[2] https://www.start.umd.edu/baad/narratives/free-syrian-army

[3] https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/assad-must-go-obama-says/2011/08/18/gIQAelheOJ_story.html

[4] https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2012/08/20/remarks-president-white-house-press-corps

[5] Quoted in:  Glass, Charles.  “Tell Me How This Ends,” Harper's Magazine, New York: Vol. 338, Iss. 2025, (Feb 2019): pp. 51-61.

[6] https://moderaterebels.com/transcript-cia-syria-al-qaeda/

[7] https://www.thedailybeast.com/obama-administration-and-sotloff-family-battle-over-blame-for-journalists-kidnapping

[8] https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/09/steven-sotloff-isis-war-journalist-syria-libia/

[9] https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887324049504578545772906542466

[10] https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2013/08/30/government-assessment-syrian-government-s-use-chemical-weapons-august-21

[11] https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2013/08/31/statement-president-syria

[12] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-syria-rebels-idUSBREA0Q1S320140127

[13] Hennigan, W. J., & McDonnell, P. J. (2015, May 04). “Friction grows over Syria force; $500-million program to train fighters to battle Islamic State appears stalled.” Los Angeles Times.

[14] Quoted in:  Friedman, Thomas L. "Obama on the World." New York Times (1923-Current file), Aug 09 2014, p. 1. ProQuest. Web. 2 Aug. 2021.

[15] https://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/10/world/middleeast/pentagon-program-islamic-state-syria.html

[16] http://web.archive.org/web/20210107063431/https://thelead.blogs.cnn.com/2013/08/01/exclusive-dozens-of-cia-operatives-on-the-ground-during-benghazi-attack/

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