Monday 23 September 2013

The Weekend's Developments In The Mint Press Saga

At the end of last week I published a statement from Dale Gavlak, distancing herself from the the Mint Press article "Syrians In Ghouta Claim Saudi-Supplied Rebels Behind Chemical Attack", published by Mint Press with Dale Gavlak and Yahya Ababneh on the byline.
Mint Press News incorrectly used my byline for an article it published on August 29, 2013 alleging chemical weapons usage by Syrian rebels. Despite my repeated requests, made directly and through legal counsel, they have not been willing to issue a retraction stating that I was not the author. Yahya Ababneh is the sole reporter and author of the Mint Press News piece.   To date, Mint Press News has refused to act professionally or honestly in regards to disclosing the actual authorship and sources for this story.
I did not travel to Syria, have any discussions with Syrian rebels, or do any other reporting on which the article is based.  The article is not based on my personal observations and should not be given credence based on my journalistic reputation. Also, it is false and misleading to attribute comments made in the story as if they were my own statements.
After that statement was issued Sharmine Narwani claimed she had been sent the following email by Dale Gavlak
Basically I helped Yahya Ababneh, who traveled to Gouta, to write what he saw and heard. He mainly met with rebels, of course, the father of one of the rebels killed and doctors treating victims in the area. He has traveled to Syria numerous times. As you know Mint Press News is more of an advocacy journalism site and it seems to be the most likely to publish such a piece.
This, and other queries, resulted in Dale Gavlak publishing another statement based on a statement from her lawyers
Dale Gavlak has sought to make a public statement from the beginning of this incident and now is able to do so.

Email correspondence between Ms. Gavlak and Mint Press News that began on August 29 and ended on September 2 clearly show that from the beginning Ms. Gavlak identified the author of the story as Yahya Ababneh, a Jordanian journalist. She also made clear that only his name should appear on the byline and the story was submitted only in his name. She served as an editor of Ababneh’s material in English as he normally writes in Arabic. She did not travel to Syria and could not corroborate his account.

Dale Gavlak specifically stated in an email dated August 29 "Pls find the Syria story I mentioned uploaded on Google Docs. This should go under Yahya Ababneh's byline. I helped him write up his story but he should get all the credit for this."

Ms. Gavlak supplied the requested bio information on Mr. Ababneh later that day and had further communications with Mint Press News’ Mnar Muhawesh about the author's background. There was no communication by Mint Press News to Ms. Gavlak that it intended to use her byline.  Ms. Muhawesh took this action unilaterally and without Ms. Gavlak's permission.

After seeing that her name was attached to the article, Dale Gavlak demanded her name be removed. However, Ms. Muhawesh stated: "We will not be removing your name from the byline as this is an existential issue for MintPress and an issue of credibility as this will appear as though we are lying."

Mint Press News rejected further demands by Dale Gavlak and her legal counsel to have her name removed. Her public statement explains her position. 
Mint Press responded by publishing the following statement
By Mnar Muhawesh, executive director and editor at large for MintPress News 
Thank you for reaching out to me in regards to statements made by Dale Gavlak alleging MintPress for incorrectly attributing our exclusive report titled: “Syrians in Goutha claim Saudi-supplied rebels behind chemical attacks.”Gavlak pitched this story to MintPress on August 28th and informed her editors and myself that her colleague Yahya Ababneh was on the ground in Syria. She said Ababneh conducted interviews with rebels, their family members, Ghouta residents and doctors that informed him through various interviews that the Saudis had supplied the rebels with chemical weapons and that rebel fighters handled the weapons improperly setting off the explosions.   
When Yahya had returned and shared the information with her, she stated that she confirmed with several colleagues and Jordanian government officials that the Saudis have been supplying rebels with chemical weapons, but as her email states, she says they refused to go on the record. 
Gavlak wrote the article in it’s entirety as well as conducted the research. She filed her article on August 29th and was published on the same day. 
Dale is under mounting pressure for writing this article by third parties. She notified MintPress editors and myself on August 30th and 31st via email and phone call, that third parties were placing immense amounts of pressure on her over the article and were threatening to end her career over it. She went on to tell us that she believes this third party was under pressure from the head of the Saudi Intelligence Prince Bandar himself, who is alleged in the article of supplying the rebels with chemical weapons. 
On August 30th, Dale asked MintPress to remove her name completely from the byline because she stated that her career and reputation was at risk. She continued to say that these third parties were demanding her to disassociate herself from the article or these parties would end her career. 
On August 31st, I notified Dale through email that I would add a clarification that she was the writer and researcher for the article and that Yahya was the reporter on the ground, but did let Gavlak know that we would not remove her name as this would violate the ethics of journalism.
We are aware of the tremendous pressure that Dale and some of our other journalists are facing as a result of this story, and we are under the same pressure as a result to discredit the story. We are unwilling to succumb to those pressures for MintPress holds itself to the highest journalistic ethics and reporting standards. 
Yahya has recently notified me that the Saudi embassy contacted him and threatened to end his career if he did a follow up story on who carried out the most recent chemical weapons attack and demanded that he stop doing media interviews in regards to the subject. 
We hold Dale Gavlak in the highest esteem and sympathize with her for the pressure she is receiving, but removing her name from the story would not be honest journalism and therefore, as stated before, we are not willing to remove her name from the article. 
We are prepared and may release all emails and communications made between MintPress and Dale Gavlak, and even Yahya to provide further evidence of what was provided to you in this statement.
Elsewhere, Brian Whitaker published the article, Yahya Ababneh exposed, where he identified another name Yahya Ababneh was posting online with, Yan Barakat, and a very interesting comment posted by him on a Peter Hitchens column before the Mint Press article was submitted, highlighting one key passage about Yahya's/Yan's trip that was left out of the Mint Press article
The war is coming soon. Jordan was threatened by the Syrian government this time. 
Who used the chemical weapons?  
The answer is neither the Syrian regime, nor the rebels. This is the game of Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi intelligence chief. He gave these weapons to the rebels via tunnels but they did not have enough information about them. Almost all of the rebels handling the weapons were killed because they used them incorrectly. 
Many people inside the village were really angry with Jabhat Al Nazrah (an Al Qaeda associate in Syria). 
The Assad regime so far has not let anyone from the UN visit the village to investigate. I will not be surprised if the Assad regime will use this case to support its situation in the eyes of Russia and Iran. The first country who suggested to fight Assad was France and Saudi Arabia were ready to pay for the weapons. 
The Assad regime will get his army ready with many Iranian soldiers. Some old men arrived in Damascus from Russia and one of them became friends with me. He told me that they have evidence that it was the rebels who used the weapons. 
The US people will pay the price again. 
No one cares about the children who were killed in this way. The people are really concerned about who used the chemical weapons in Syria. If in these days it is believed that Assad used chemical weapons, then there will be a devastating war including the USA, France, Britain and Arab countries. After some years when they have paid the price to kill the Syrian people, they will say that they are sorry but it was actually Al Qaeda who deployed the weapons. Already they know that this is the game of Bandar bin Sultan.
 Laura Rozen spoke to Dale Gavlak about this

Yahya Ababneh Linkedin profile was also deleted over the weekend, with a copy in Google Cache showing a list of organisations he claims to have worked for
2007 – Present (6 years)
Includes assignments in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Libya for clients such as Al-Jazeera, Al-Quds Al-Arabi, Amman Net, and other publications
Before Yahya Ababneh pseudonym of Yan Barakat was known, Al Jazeera English journalists Anita McNaught Tweeted that


  1. Cui bono?
    Who Benefits From A War Between The West, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Turkey And Syria?

    1. Nobody much, except perhaps Russia, China and North Korea -and possibly Belarus, which has a grudge against both America and Mr Putin's government, if not Russia as motherland (Rodinia).

      Remember the "East European" experts in the the rocket launch video, some posts below. If not Russian, they almost have to be from Belarus.

      Interestingly, at least one commentator on this blog says the UCMLA rockets were reverse-engineered from the American M130 by the North Koreans, and are being made by the Syrians to their blue prints. (The tooling is probably quite simple.)

      It is also possible that North Korea could help Syria make pure Sarin, which seems to have been used. North Korea needs money, but also needs feedback on how its weapons work in practical conditions. There does not seem to be any moral dimension with the third generation leader there at all. ("Clogs to clogs in three generations" as they say in Northern England.)

    2. (1) "Rodina" not "Rodinia"

      (2) Why are Russia and China trying desperately to avoid any possibility that UNSC Resolutions would open a backdoor to the use of force then? Would it not have been simpler to sit back and watch the show?

      (3) Are you suggesting Russian, Chinese or Belarussians are using Syria and the use of CW to goad US into a military conflict in Syria and the wider Middle East? Is there any logic to what you are saying?

      (4) UMLACA are such poorly-designed munitions specimens, that it is highly unlikely there ever was a blueprint for their production. No aerodynamic quality, no center of gravity balancing, shoddy design and structure. Garbage. Here is a link to FL2-A, used in the Falagh-2 Iranian weapons system, which is often cited on these pages as being a somehow related or linked to the UMLACA:
      Quite a difference, don't you think? This is a well-made missile in comparison to the UMLACA.

      (5) Why in the world would North Korea need to help Syria make sarin, or why would Syria pay NK for making sarin? Syria is well equipped on its own to make its own sarin.

      Let us stop this silliness.

    3. Who benefits from creating a massive disaster in rebel held territory at the time when rebels were cutting off more supply lines, risking encirclement of Damascus, *immediately* before Assad's forces mounted a massive rocket attack on the same area.

      Who could that be? Let's all put our thinking caps on. Who?

    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    5. This is certainly the real question, isn't it? Who has moved, armed, trained, and supplied with provisions to heart-eaters from Chechnya and Libya terrorizing the Syrian masses?

    6. Snake Oil:

      How soon we forget the historical timeline. The Ghouta attack came as your heart-gobblers were getting slaughtered!

    7. The same ones who have been benefiting from these endless wars since 9/11; Wall Street and Israel.

    8. Snake Oil Baron@ Saudi Arabia,Qatar and Turkey?
      They are fueling the war from the beginning, they benefit from the war.

  2. Can't trust anything written somebody using pseudonyms, can you. What do you think Brown Moses or is it Elliot Higgins? Hmmm

    1. After reading your post I'm now inclined to agree Don85, or is it Bilbo Baggins?

  3. Brown Moses,
    I wrote a review of your evidence linking the regime to the 21-Aug attack.
    Would love to get your response.

  4. Very little effort has been invested into looking at what the pro-regime groups are doing.

    An analogy for Syria could be Nagorno-Karabakh, in that conflict one side was told to do their vindictive best, the other side was told that to lose is to invite extermination of the entire nation. The latter ethnic group are fighting in Syria .

    Some of the other groups think the Assad dynasty is too soft. One of which, despite being predominantly or patriotically Arab, also has a range of Slavic, Levantine, French and Caucasian supporters and has generally viewed itself as being at war with Turkey since its creation.

    Charging a chemical weapon is difficult. However there are people outside of the ranks of the Syrian army with the experience. The weapon systems alleged to have been used are themselves relatively straightforward to make, even the 140mm system is not that much of a challenge.

    There are probably chemical weapon specialists in Syria, who may not actually be working directly for the regime. The number of Russians and kindred nations with close relatives in Syria would be maybe a quarter of a million. They have always had genocide style wars as a primary study.

  5. Greig, you say: "The weapon systems alleged to have been used are themselves relatively straightforward to make, even the 140mm system is not that much of a challenge." Except that is just silly.

    - The 140mm unguided munitions is an M-14 shell, specifically designed for BM-14 multiple rocket launcher weapons platform. There is very little doubt about that.

    - The markings on the M-14 shell discovered by the UN are "4-67-179" - Russian experts have explained what this means, and, specifically, "4th batch", "production year: 1967", "factory 179". Shell produced in Russia. Warhead never found. Russia never sold CW warheads abroad.

    - Syria did not have a chemical weapons program until the earliest mid-1980s, but more likely 1990. In 1989, Israelis are on the record stating Syria had zero CW capability.

    - by 1990, Syria completes a conversion to BM-21 "Grad" weapons platforms. BM-14s and M-14s are decommissioned, dismantled, etc.

    - judging by the timing of the CW program, Syria probably does not start weaponizing CW until into the 1990s - i.e. some time after all M-14s are gone from active use and are either decommissioned and utilized or stored. All logic suggests that Syria never had a reason nor made any CW warhead for M-14 munitions. Any CW warheads for unguided mass-attack munitions were probably made for the BM-21 "Grad" 122mm rockets - very different from M-14s.

    - the rocket body found by the UN was produced in 1967. In 2013 it is 46 years old. Expected life expectancy of an M-14 rocket (and its 122mm successor) is about 40 years, possibly more in a dry Syrian climate. Chances are, however, that the rocket UN found could have been entirely inoperable.

    - in any event, this chronology clearly suggests that Syria never was in possession of CW warheads for M-14 munitions.

    = what did they do? Make an improvised CW warhead? Why M-14 munitions? Where did they even get them? In the darkest part of al Assad's deepest dungeon. In a museum?

    - Syria has no means, on active duty, of delivering the M-14 munitions. All BM-14s are either in storage or long scrapped. The only times Russia sold BM-14s to Syria (along with M-14 rockets) was 200 of them in 1967-69. All these vehicles and rockets are 44-46 years old by now! They DON'T WORK!

    - you can try and do whatever you want to such old equipment, but how do you make it fly? And what do you shoot it from? Can't shoot it from a BM-21 "Grad", can you? Different caliber altogether.

    - this M-14 red herring is an unmitigated embarrassment and disaster for this who circus. It just simply makes no sense.

    - and all this information is just public data. Perhaps Mr. Higgins has a comment?

  6. I do not know who is responsible, there are no shortage of possibles. There may be another force in Syria, people who are desperate.

    One of the problems of the NATO narrative is to reduce other important actors to spectators, they are not sitting idly by on the sidelines.

    The stakes are high enough for many people not to care too much about how they go about not losing.

    There are a number of actors in Syria who want the regime to survive and who are in the final analysis looking out for themselves.

    I know more about church paintings than the ballistics of one thing or another, I have just read this.

    'They were apparently manufactured in the Soviet Union in 1967 and sold by Moscow to three Arab countries, Yemen, Egypt and Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's Libya.' Robert Fisk, The Independent, Sunday 22 September 2013

    1. Old stock Libya > CIA Benghazi > with the ship Al Entisar to Turkey > Syria.

    2. Greig, correct, BM-14 multiple rocket launcher weapon platforms were manufactured in 1950s-1960s (possibly in early 1970s, but I would doubt that), along with M-14 rocket munitions. M-14-S, the chemical warhead variant on M-14s was never sold outside the Soviet Union.

      Soviet Union sold 200 BM-14s with M-14 munitions (but not the M-14-S chemical variants - Syria did not have a CW program at that time in any event) to Syria in 1967-1969. Syria decommissioned those and switched to BM-21 "Grad" by 1990.

    3. From a 1997 report by Wisconsin Project
      "Syria's chemical weapon effort has relied heavily on foreign help. Former CIA Director William Webster testified in 1989 that "West European firms were instrumental in supplying the required precursor chemicals and equipment. Without the provision of these key elements, Damascus would not have been able to produce chemical weapons." In the mid 1980s, the German firm Schott Glasswerke sold corrosion-resistant glass laboratory equipment to a Damascus research institute/production plant. While Schott officials insisted they did not know the purpose of the equipment, U.S. officials believe that it was destined to be used in the production of sarin nerve gas."
      And "In 1990, the DIA reported that Syria had developed the nerve agent Sarin for use in 500kg aerial bombs and Scud B missile warheads. And in 1993, the DIA reported that Syria had developed aerial bombs and missile warheads for chemical agents and that there were two known chemical weapon depots."

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  8. I think this is "Yahya Ababneh" youtube channel, he uploaded video of himself in Russia.

    And his VK page says "Hometown: ST Petersburg"