By Prem Shankar Jha
September 2, 2013
The US and France are about to unleash an attack upon Syria that will open the way for 10,000 to 20,000 Jihadis who form a ‘floating army of Islam’ to invade Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt.
None of this seems to bother the Obama administration, because its purpose in destroying Syria, if we are to believe him and his Secretary of State, is to uphold a moral principle no matter what its political cost. This is not realpolitik, simply necessary punishment. But shouldn’t punishment follow conviction, and shouldn’t conviction be based on proof beyond reasonable doubt? Even as the US readies for war two other far more plausible explanations have emerged for the alleged gas attack. The first is what the Syrian government and many others are asserting — that the rebels launched it to force NATO into the attack on Assad. The second is that it was an accident — a horrible consequence of a Machiavellian plan that went wrong.
The 1,300 word US intelligence assessment that the White House on August 30 added little to what he had said on the August 26. Its main contribution was to flesh out Assad’s possible motive for such a heinous act. “The regime has failed to clear dozens of Damascus neighbourhoods of opposition elements, including neighbourhoods targeted on August 21, despite employing nearly all of its conventional weapons systems. We assess that the regime's frustration ….may have contributed to its decision. ”
On the surface this is not implausible. Dale Gavlak, an Amman-based correspondent of the Associated Press who speaks fluent Arabic, and is one of the very few western journalists to have visited the site of the atrocity, reported that the rebels told him they had built tunnels in which they hid from bombardments, stored their weapons and moved from one building to another, but would sleep in mosques and peoples’ house at night. So trying to penetrate the tunnels with gas would be a sound military, even though politically suicidal, strategy.
The assessment also describes the attack in greater detail. It “began at 2:30 am local time and within the next four hours there were thousands of social media reports from at least 12 different locations in the Damascus area. Among “multiple streams of intelligence” it specifically noted “the detection of rocket launches from regime controlled territory early in the morning, approximately 90 minutes before the first report of a chemical attack appeared in social media”.
The report does not explain what it means by ‘detection’, or how many launches but the rebels uploaded at least one video which, they claimed, captured the launch of the chemical rocket. Repeated viewings of this video, however, reveal several anomalies:
This video was shot at around 1.00 am. That meant that there was someone on a balcony looking towards the launch site at this unearthly hour with his phone, or a camera in hand. Could this be mere coincidence?
The video starts four seconds before the rocket launch. That suggests the man knew when it would happen and had started shooting at the appointed time.
The video reveals that the man also knew the exact spot from which the rocket would rise, for when it rose, it was only slightly to the left of centre of his screen. By reflex, he corrected the camera angle to get it into the centre of the frame.
The time the sound took to follow the flash was between six and seven seconds. That placed the cameraman almost exactly a mile away from the launch site — an optimum safe distance for filming.
Contrary to the White House claim, the rocket launch does not seem to have been a part of a salvo. The video is 34 seconds long and there is absolute silence the rest of the time.
Foreknowledge, if confirmed, will be conclusive proof that it was the rebels who launched this particular rocket. But there is another possible explanation. In the same article (August 29) Dale Gavlak and a young Jordanian colleague Yahya Ababneh, reported “from numerous interviews with doctors, Ghouta residents, rebel fighters and their families, a different picture emerges. Many believe that certain rebels received chemical weapons via the Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, and were responsible for carrying out the gas attack.”
“My son came to me two weeks ago asking what I thought the weapons were that he had been asked to carry,” said Abu Abdel-Moneim, the father of a rebel fighting to unseat Assad, who lives in Ghouta. Abdel-Moneim said his son and 12 other rebels were killed inside of a tunnel used to store weapons provided by a Saudi militant, known as Abu Ayesha, who was leading a fighting battalion”.
The conspiracy between the Saudi secret service, headed by Prince Bandar bin Sultan, and the CIA has already been thoroughly exposed by the Wall Street Journal (August 25). Gavlak’s story therefore opens up a third possibility: that the intense Syrian bombardment of the area (which began on August 19) penetrated a tunnel that was being used by Saudi backed Jihadis to store chemical weapons supplied by Prince Bandar’s men. This would explain the panic heard in a high Syrian army official’s voice in the allegedly intercepted phone call that is the most concrete evidence that US sources have (unofficially) revealed.
Saudi supply of chemical weapons is not as far-fetched as it sounds, because on December 29 the London Daily Mail had published the hacked emails of a British ‘security contracting’ firm, Brittan defence, which revealed that Qatar had offered it an ‘enormous’ sum of money to obtain a chemical warhead from Russian stock, ‘similar to what Syria has’, to supply to the rebels.
These disclosures show that there are at least two other explanations for the gas attack fatalities that are far more plausible than the one the Americans have chosen to believe.