Friday 4 October 2013

Making Sense Of Russia's Evolving Narrative For The August 21st Sarin Attacks

Since the August 21st attack Russia has made a series of claims about the attacks that have evolved as the weeks have gone by.  The initial Russian reaction was to denounce the "biased regional media's....aggressive information attack, laying all the responsibility on the government", with Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Aleksandr Lukashevich claiming a "homemade rocket with a poisonous substance that has not been identified yet – one similar to the rocket used by terrorists on March 19 in Khan al-Assal - was fired early on August 21 [at Damascus suburbs] from a position occupied by the insurgents."  Clearly at odds with the UN report, which links two different types of munitions to the attacks, including a M14 140mm artillery rocket.

On August 23rd, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Aleksandr Lukashevich made a new claim
More new evidence is starting to emerge that this criminal act was clearly provocative.  On the internet, in particular, reports are circulating that news of the incident carrying accusations against government troops was published several hours before the so-called attack. So, this was a pre-planned action.
This appears to have referred to multiple reports at the time that some of the videos supposedly posted on August 21st appeared with a date of August 20th, as reported by a number of sites, with those claims being republished by sites such as Russia Today, and Voice of Russia.  Below we have a screenshot from Islamic Invitation Turkey Voice of Russia used in their coverage

This obviously seemed like a very significant development, but one that hadn't been very thoroughly investigated by those making the claim.  Investigations by Storyful and others brought to attention that fact that the date displayed on YouTube videos from Syria are in fact the local time where the servers are located, in this case California, which is several hours behind Syria.  This results in videos being uploaded in the early morning in Syria being dated the day before.  It's possible to confirm the actual time a video was uploaded from metadata attached to the video, and all the videos from the August 21st attack were confirmed as being uploaded on August 21st using this data.

On August 25th the Russian foreign ministry urged against "hurried conclusions", stating
We strongly urge those who, in trying to impose their opinion on U.N. experts ahead of the results of an investigation, announce the possibility of military action against Syria, to exercise discretion and not make tragic mistakes
Following that statement Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, held a press conference, and referenced the now discredited claims about YouuTube upload times; "There is information that videos were posted on the internet hours before the purported attack, and other reasons to doubt the rebel narrative", adding "Those involved with the incident wanted to sabotage the upcoming Geneva peace talks. Maybe that was the motivation of those who created this story. The opposition obviously does not want to negotiate peacefully."  It seems the Russian foreign ministry's warning against "hurried conclusions" only went one way.

On August 29th the small independent media organisation Mint Press published a piece, Syrians In Ghouta Claim Saudi-Supplied Rebels Behind Chemical Attack, which the Russian foreign ministry would cite in a number of future statements.  The article claimed that "rebels received chemical weapons via the Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, and were responsible for carrying out the dealing gas attack."

The article has generated a great deal of controversy, not least for it's content.  One of the two claimed authors, Dale Gavlak, has now distanced herself from the article, claiming her contribution to the article was editing non-native speaker Yahya Ababneh's use of English, and helping Yahya pitch it to Mint Press.  She claims she clearly told Mint Press "this should go under Yahya Ababneh's byline. I helped him write up his story but he should get all the credit for this."  As her reputation was used to give the article by the virtually unknown Ababneh credibility, this controversy has brought the content of the article into doubt.

As for the article itself, the claims of rebel involvement in the August 21st attack actually seems quite thin.  There's talk of an accident in tunnels releasing chemicals, killing a number of rebels in the area, but it doesn't claim this event and the August 21st attack are linked. In fact, only the headline (which Dale Gavlak told me was written by Mint Press) and this section makes any reference to the August 21st attack
However, 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 dealing gas attack.
Beyond the headline and that one paragraph, there's no further claims that the rebels were responsible for the August 21st attack, and certainly none of the quotes from locals link the rebels to the August 21st attack.  This didn't stop it becoming part of Russia's ongoing attempts to blame the opposition for the August 21st attack.

On September 16th Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, came out with more claims about the August 21st attack, dropping the earlier claims of YouTube videos being uploaded before the attack took place.
There is lots of evidence delivered by independent experts onsite [a nun from a local convent, other eyewitnesses and Western reporters] and European and U.S. experts, including twelve retired officers of the Pentagon and the CIA who sent an open letter to President Barack Obama to explain how the case had been falsified, unfortunately, a lot had been done before the St. Petersburg meeting by bad people who used poisonous chemical substances largely, in our opinion, to provoke a retaliation strike against the regime and shifted the responsibility for the use of chemical weapons, although that was totally illogical and Russian President Vladimir Putin said so many times.
Putting aside claims about nuns and retired Pentagon and CIA officers for now, you'll note he mentions "other eyewitnesses and Western reporters" as "independent experts onsite".  In a later comments made on September 22nd he's reported as saying
Evidence given by witnesses and journalists showed that rebels acquired “some shells from abroad that they had never seen and had no idea of how to use them, and then finally they used them,” Lavrov said. 
Claims he repeated in a September 25th interview with the Washington Post
Russia is still saying that it was the rebels who fired the chemical weapons on Aug. 21 — not the Assad regime?Yes, we believe there is very good evidence to substantiate this.
Are you willing to present this evidence?Yes, I just presented a compilation of evidence to John Kerry when we met a couple of hours ago. This evidence is not something revolutionary. It’s available on the Internet. They are reports by journalists who visited the sites and talked to the combatants, who said they were given some unusual rockets and ammunition by some foreign country and they didn’t know how to use them. There is also evidence from the nuns living in the monastery nearby who visited the site. You can read the assessments by the chemical weapons experts who say that the images shown do not correspond to a real situation if chemical weapons were used. And we also know about the open letter sent to President Obama by former operatives of the CIA saying the assertion that the [Syrian] government used chemical weapons was fake. So you don’t need to have any spy reports to make your own conclusions, you only need to carefully watch what is available in public.
As far as I'm aware, apart from the Yahya Ababneh's Mint Press article, there's no other journalists who have claimed to have visited the site, and recounted the story of  combatants who were "given some unusual rockets and ammunition by some foreign country and they didn’t know how to use them.".  It seems clear Lavrov has repeatedly referred to the Mint Press article, which has become increasingly controversial by the day.

Lavrov and the Russian foreign ministry also repeatedly refers to "nuns living in the monastery nearby who visited the site".  This seems to refer to the controversial nun, who has made a number of statements in the past supporting the Syrian government, including claiming the Syrian opposition were responsible for the notorious Houla massacre, and has been described as
According to the Swiss newspaper Le Courrier, Agnès-Mariam was “comfortable among [Assad’s] security services,” and she told their reporter it was hoped he could “dismantle the propaganda of Western media.” 
On September 6th she was interviewed by Russia Today ('Footage of chemical attack in Syria is fraud'), and made a number of claims about the attack, which were later repeated in a 50 page report her organisation prepared.  According to a BBC report on her work, her report asked

  • Ghouta, the main area to the east of Damascus which came under attack, was already "deserted", so why were there were so many civilian casualties?
  • Why are so many children seen in the videos without their parents? There is "a flagrant lack of real families"
  • Why are there so few women in the videos and why are so many people unidentified?
  • Why is there so little evidence of burials?
In response, Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director of Human Rights Watch, stated "There's just no basis for the claims advanced by Mother Agnes.  She is not a professional video forensic analyst... we have found no evidence to indicate any of the videos were fabricated.".  In addition to that, he addressed the questions raised by her report

  • There were tens of thousands of civilians trapped in the Ghouta area of Damascus, according to very regular reports received by Human Rights Watch
  • Children were often sleeping in the basements of buildings in significant concentrations because of the intense shelling and that is why so many died (Sarin gas accumulates at low levels)
  • The dead and those injured in the chemical attack were moved from place to place and room to room both at the clinics and ultimately for burial
  • There were many men and women who were victims of the attacks. But there were separate rooms for the bodies of children, men and women so they could be washed for burial
  • Almost all of the victims have been buried
  • Human rights researchers have spoken to the relatives of Alawite women and children abducted by rebels. None of them said they had recognised their loved ones in the gas attack videos
There's also the third major claim Lavrov was pushing, that former CIA and Pentagon officers "saying the assertion that the [Syrian] government used chemical weapons was fake".  Michael Kelley of Business Insider looked at this claim, stating
Lavrov then cited an open letter sent to President Obama by former operatives of the CIA that cites the Mint Press report and states that they are "unaware of any reliable evidence that a Syrian military rocket capable of carrying a chemical agent was fired into the area." 
The UN chemical inspectors investigation described the size and structure of two rocket delivery systems used and report the direction some of the rockets likely came from. The report doesn't ascribe blame but present evidence that is damning for Assad.
In addition to these claims, on October 1st, Lavrov, referring to an earlier chemical attack in Khan al-Assal the Russians have blamed on the opposition, stated
We have no doubt that sarin gas – which was used on March 19 in Aleppo, is home-made… We also have information to corroborate that in the course of the tragic events of August 21, when chemical weapons were used, sarin gas of a very similar chemical signature to the one on March 19, was used, but of a much higher concentration 
Again, a Khan al-Assal link, but instead of claiming the same type of rocket was used in both attack (which the UN report seems to have disproven), Lavrov is now claiming it was Sarin with a very similar chemical signature.  Not only that, it's home-made Sarin, and following the logic of his earlier claims, this is home-made Sarin made by the Saudi's and provided to the Syrian opposition in Damascus, and therefore must have also been provided to the opposition for the Khan al-Assal attacks.  If true, this would implicate the Saudi's in not only the August 21st attack, but also the earlier Khan al-Assal attack, which would obviously be huge.  On October 4th Interfax reported
A group sent by Saudi Arabia from Jordanian territory is responsible for the August 21 chemical weapons provocation that was staged in the Eastern Ghouta suburb of Damascus, Russian diplomatic sources told Interfax. 
"Having analyzed this information, which was received from a whole range of sources, we are getting the picture confirming that the criminal provocation in Eastern Ghouta was committed by a specialized group that was sent by Saudi Arabia from the territory of Jordan and acted under the cover of the Liwa al-Islam group," one of the sources said.
So now we have a "specialised group" acting under the cover of "Liwa al-Islam" staging "criminal provocation", who traveled to Eastern Ghouta via Jordan.  It's unclear if they brought the barrels of home-made Sarin with them, or they were already there when they arrived.  Despite the claimed linked between the Sarin used in the Khan al-Assal attack and the Eastern Ghouta attack, according to Russia it must have been two different groups responsible, because when they submitted their report on the Khan al-Assal attack to the UN, they stated
It was determined that on March 19 the rebels fired an unguided missile Bashair-3 at the town of Khan al-Assal, which has been under government control. The results of the analysis clearly show that the shell used in Khan al-Assal was not factory made and that it contained sarin
And that
According to Moscow, the manufacture of the ‘Bashair-3’ warheads started in February, and is the work of Bashair al-Nasr, a brigade with close ties to the Free Syrian Army. 
So does this mean the home-made Sarin provided by Saudi Arabic supposedly used in both attacks was in one instance provided to Bashair al-Nasr, while in the Eastern Ghouta attack it was a team of special agents under the guise of Liwa al-Islam who deployed it? Maybe the Khan al-Assal attack was executed by a team of special agents pretending to be Bashair al-Nasr?

Or maybe, as Russia's attempts to blame the opposition for the August 21st attack get more convoluted, they make less and less sense.

You can contact the author on Twitter @brown_moses or by email at


  1. Or maybe their understanding of the events is evolving like everyone else's - as more information comes out. But I guess that would not make for a very interesting post. Or I suppose you prefer the method of the US Government and HRW, which just prefer to remain wrong in their assessments.

  2. OK so now you've shown how some statements of the russians turned out to be based on false or dubious information. Does that make their basic point less relevant?

    I don't think so. The "'biased regional media's....aggressive information attack, laying all the responsibility on the government'" was a reality. All the Russians were trying was to say something against this "evidence"-overkill solely based on mainly unidentified opposition figures.

    Your reference to the "odds with the UN-report" is a joke. I wonder if you've ever read it completely. The results of the environmental samples tested for Sarin in Moadamiya, right next to where the 120mm-Rocked allegedly used for carrying CW impacted were all negative, all 13 off them.

    Look at RT's interview with Angela Kane,UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, from yesterday. At about 10:20 she says that it's "scientifically not possible" for Sarin to evaporate in 5 days. This means that the 120mm rocket didn't contain Sarin.

    Knowing that, I wonder how you still believe in opposition claims rather than russian claims concerning the 21st of August in Ghouta.

    1. Regarding the environmental samples, first of all it was a 140mm rocket, second of all the chemicals Sarin breaks down to were detected. Dan Kaszeta goes into great deal on that subject there

    2. Sorry for naming wrong the ammo type

      To make myself clear: I can't understand why you put Aleksandr Lukashevich talking about DIY rockets at odds with the UN-Report in which is found an unidentified rocket next to 140 mm rockets as possible, not at all proven, carriers.

      And about Dan Kaszeta dealing with the 140 mm as a carrier:
      He suggesting a well-functioning explosion creating 2,2 kg sarin aerosol dispersing all over the place, sinking down on a calm, hot, dry morning followed by 5 calm, hot and dry days, but eventually evaporating to a degree where the inspectors find of 13 samples from the area 0 positive on sarin and only 4 positive on degration products. This to me is wishful thinking

    3. The Moadamiyah scene is full of inconsistent evidence. I would be very careful in claiming there was a chemical attack in that area. Full analysis:

  3. HRW are as partisan and as selective of truth as Russia. The organization's track record on Syria, is factually quite poor. Of course that in itself doesn't mean they are wrong.

    (a) There is no proof, absolutely nothing to prove Syrian President Bashar al-Assad carried out or approved the chemical attacks. (b) There are still questions as to who did it. So, whoever is saying (a) and (b) or something like that, has more credibility.

  4. Dunno why you use these bad examples that aren't the basis of the Russians belief. You don't have to trow bad conspiracy theories in there. They aren't the basis of any mainstream doubt or suspicion.

    It's based on the chemical profile of the Sarin that they actually analyzed including notable traces of Diisopropyl fluorophosphate and that highly suggests that the nerve agents (multiple) produced weren't simply made from mixing DF (Methylphosphonyl difluoride) with isopropyl alcohol and isopropyl amine as with a normal binary agent. It means it was diluted to some degree (traces are in samples from both Khan Al-Assal and Zamalka) with another agent that aren't produced in the exact same way (shouldn't be there by accident) but with the same type of equipment. Plus we only have direct contamination from one site (that is documented openly) and have no idea of how much Sarin was used. Sarin is soluble in water so the idea that you need to fill the entire warhead with Sarin or good quality Sarin, or 50-60 liters of liquid you get from the DF and isopropyl alcohol plus isopropylamine mix is wrong, and you definitely don't need to synthesis and produce hundreds of liters of DF. Plus an UMLACA filled with Sarin landing with tens of liters of Sarin in an evacuated area wouldn't do any damage necessarily. Whoever launched it would obviously want it distributed over an larger area.

    Saddam didn't use Sarin with a high purity, and his program was notably quite bad at producing nerve agents however he used warheads adapted to the task and it's clearly not one of the Syrian Army's strategic (CW) weapons that have been used, neither is it a tactical one from the looks of it. Iraq also used different agents as well as Cyclosarin which we don't have any evidence of in Syria. However the Syrian army stocks should be tested soon enough and at least detailed within the OPCW. Details will be known soon enough and there is no way to cover it up at all the sites. Some might not even had any personal for months as it's in contested areas. In any way it's only Higgins that want to argue that the Sarin would be from Saudi sources to set up a straw man. It's two different arguments one with a bunch of conspiracy theorists and one with an scientific report and diplomatic representatives from Russia. Your logic is non sequitur. You can't mix and set up falsehoods.

  5. I'm full heatedly congrats you on your patient to go through regime and Lavrov shit and tries to make any sense of it. Lavrov will stand as century criminal devil who knows and keep lying and telling stories even small kid can not take it. His primitive narrative is something never heard of in the foreign ministries history of any country.


    1. Lavrov's is not lying about the eradication of Christians by the heroes of the revolution is he?

      What happened at Ras al-Ayn is the equivalent of neo-Nazis destroying the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial.

      "For Doushi, who fled to Lebanon last year from the town of Ras al-Ayn, near the Turkish border, the footage of ISIS’s black flag flying above the Armenian church was confirmation for him that he and his family have no future in his home country."

      The same church at Raqqa was used by the insurgents for a media campaign to propagate that Armenian soldiers had largely deserted the regime. Their Armenian was imported from the USA.

      Same church with black flag. HRW's publicity on Syria ( and Raqqa) has to be seen as confrontational irony.

    2. What heroes? ISIS are for the most part foreigners and paratsites. They invited themselves in form Iraq. Specilized in assasinations and kidnappings.

      Their groups are located near the iraqi and turkish borders as well as in the north eastern oil fields, comfortably far from the frontlines.

      They fight mainly agaisnt the FSA and Kurds. They already killed scores of their commanders and fighters. And they lately threatened to strike against Turkey as well.

      They don't bother the regime and the regime carefully avoids to strike them.

      In Raqqah they killed the local al Nusra Front commander who was in charge before attacking the churches.
      In Azaaz they fought against the local FSA brigade and terorrized the population.
      Voices among the local opposition are strating to raise to fight the ISIS intrudes as they fight the regime.

      Plus the regime has very solid experience in infiltrating and manipulating this kind of extremist groups to serve their purpose (chiefly in iraq where they come from).

    3. Here's a sample of how the ISIS parasites behave against the legitimate local opposition.
      Here in a town near the turkish border.

      They're currently detaining about 2000 prisonners form the real oppositon.

  6. Seems like Brown Moses is having a difficult time,trapped in his own inconsistency, having to follow the original scenario of "Bashar gazed his own people",Despite the fact that so far there is not s single piece of forensic or scientific evidence pointing the finger at the Syrian high command, as responsible for the Ghouta attack.

    I wouldn't want to be in your shoes Brown Moses,you are stuck with the "mysterious weapons" theory & the speculative "evidences" from the UN report.You made the deliberate decision to endorse the "opposition" propaganda over "the Russian propaganda".You may pretend to be neutral,but I am sorry it just doesn't work.

    1. "In response, Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director of Human Rights Watch, stated"

      I wouldn't dream of ever using HRW for any kind of rebuttal, the quality of HRW's work in Syria has been very poor.

      "Human rights researchers have spoken to the relatives of Alawite women and children abducted by rebels. None of them said they had recognised their loved ones in the gas attack videos"

      Has HRW issued a statement about the abduction of the women and children as a thing in itself? My best guess, no they haven't.

      "Or maybe, as Russia's attempts to blame the opposition for the August 21st attack get more convoluted, they make less and less sense."

      Why not simply accuse the Russians of doing the same convoluted guesswork as Mr. Kaszeta?

      "Chemical weapons expert Dan Kaszeta doubts a nerve agent was used ... Mr Kaszeta gave an interview in which he admitted that too little was ..."

      Then of course, Russians are quoted out of context and mashed in the translation just as easily as US experts.

    2. Bashar is not a choir boy,this was the man who decades ago participated in the US special rendition program & he was considered a valuable asset by the same people who are now lining up against him.The hypocrisy is breathtaking. Bashar has Chem-Bio weapons capability & probably the determination to use it (I even go as far as questioning why is it so morally reprehensible to use CW as opposed to the use depleted uranium or agent orange?) but having said that,if the world wants to accuse & prosecute Bashar for gazing his own people,they have to show proper scientific & forensic evidences.I am questioning the narratives,any narrative,especially the so called "researches" from Bloggers who support a "Syrian uprising" financed and supported by democratic havens like Saudi Arabia & Qatar.

    3. President Assad is involved in a proxy-war with Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, and he was running a pluralist state. Which is of course the reason he now has a war.

  7. When are we going to see a blog post

    "Making Sense Of America's Evolving Narrative For The August 21st Sarin Attacks" ?

    You know, all the bullshit they said about how the the alleged CW site would be irretrievably damaged by SAA shelling. Or that 1429 people (precisely) died. Or how their red-lines mutated and snaked when it became clear they had no mandate.

    There must be hundreds of sound-bites you could dig up showing a totally confused and contradictory American approach along with a total disregard for facts and evidence.

    1. When are we going to see a blog post

      "Making Sense Of America's Evolving Narrative For The August 21st Sarin Attacks" ?

      Presumably, when you, or your handler, write one.

    2. Good point Charles, even though I feel the Russian approach is actually a mess. The U.S. response re-mix would I guess seem more consistent - consistently vague and morally outraged. We know because we do and everyone does, the worst version reported or worse is the true one, and this is unacceptable, made to pay, yadda yadda

  8. Russia is saying, the regime, President Assad, and his political executive, did not do it. Nor did they have a hand in soliciting it, or allowing the attack to happen.

    I think that is a very safe bet. Difficult to fault.

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  10. We do need a way of reporting and getting rid of automated spam around here.

  11. I see:
    Everything which is not sanctioned by Russia and the Syrian regime, even if the Russian line changes by the day, is deeply biased.

    "Bias" has just become an orchestrated chant to try and drown out unwelcome news. As Ralph Milliband once said "freedom of speech is not the only criterion" and that's certainly the view of those who seem to be employed on a 24-hour watch to shout down any news about Syria.

    1. "A Russian analysis will typically be superior."

      The beer hit the keyboard - i love the internet for moments like that :-)

    2. Well, I think that settles the question of who pays Greig's wages.

  12. Seems that the lameness and idiocy of ruskies has no limits.
    Now it's offical, russia is very terrible at diplomacy and politics. The last of African countries can do better.

    Since August they 're just producing piles of lies that contradict other piles of their own lies or statements.
    They even contradict their protégé regime when they claimed that the opposition is in control of local CW while the regime said it controls the whole arsenal.

    russia's diplomacy and politics are determined by the paycheck, period.

    Plus why Assad regime, with a russian blessing, is ready to hand over ALL of its CW quicker thant it's own shadow? Isn't that an additionnal proof of their guiltiness?
    The regime wants to buy forgiveness to continue massacring with the other wepons it has at hand.
    The US are happy with the deal that ended their embarassment, the ruskies are happy with the deal that could earn them some additional Iranian $ and the regime is delighted.

    The assadist regime dare to call the CW "The Military Honor", over tax the poor syrians for dacades fot it, trials for high treason and executes any militaryman that surrender his weapon to the enemey and yet procede to the biggest weapon surrendering of all the history of mankind by selling the so called "military honor".
    More deceitful and phony than this bloody regime and its allies you won't find.

    1. I'll respect your strong opinion on Russia, yfren yfren, but I understood their particular claims about Assad's CWs a little different than your suggesting. Maybe I'm wrong.

      I believe Assad claimed to have all CW munitions and stockpiles ('the arsenal' if those were his words) under regime control. The only Russian comment about opposition-controlled 'local' CWs were in relation to (what the Russians suggest) home-made or Qutari- or Saudi-sourced Sarin. They're speaking from their standpoint that the opposition had/used CWs (and I understand that you do not agree with them here).

      The last reported info from the OPCW was that forty-some CW-related sites total have been identified in the inventory, and nine of them were actually under opposition control. The numbers have varied between media sources (one link below).

      Media reports from the OPCW were not specific as to the type of sites the opposition controlled. I would guess (unless anyone has other info) that the opposition-controlled sites are either research, production or destroyed sites, i.e., not the regime's stockpiled munitions.

      From the CS Monitor:

      "...It has an estimated four production facilities – one near Homs, another on the northern coast near Latakia, one just south of Hama, and the largest, the As-Safira facility, southeast of Aleppo. (See map on opposite page.) The number of storage facilities containing chemical agents and munitions is estimated at 45."

      I assume all parties are spinning their own version of 'the truth' for a myriad of reasons. I'll defer to anyone else's opinion on that matter.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. eah I heard that too: 'The saudi and qatari Sarin."
      Now the Arab Gulf states develop CWs as well? Since when? How could nobody noticed or suggested that until August 2013 by the ruskies??
      As I said they just try to burry their lies with other lies and this is getting more an more ridiculous!

      Above all that, it's impossible for non trained military personnel to handle CW. So how could they accuse militias and amateurs?
      CW are far more dangerous than explosives or regular munitions.

      The clues displayed in this blog point toward the regime as well as the sole responsible.

      With that being said we are not going to reduce the syrian tragedy to the case of CW only.
      As if the almost 150 000 killed so far by bullets shells and scuds count for nothing.

    4. You're assuming the question of 'use' is limited to a universe of two improbable armies: either the regime or the opposition. Neither one has any tactical use for the limited, ineffective use of chemical weapons and certainly nothing worth the political consequences.

      Both the regime and the opposition have morphed into little more than muppets with the hands of dozens of foreign interests up their butt. I'm sure they both think they're in control, but neither one really has much of a say in matters today - they're simply meat suppliers to larger powers. Any support I had in spirit for the original opposition disappeared when the rivers of Syrian blood started flowing and a million people fled the country. The Syrian people never voted on rebellion at the cost of annihilation. I'm sure the dead non-combatants and million refugees would say that they could tolerate a few more years of Assad's oppression. It's their call, but nobody bothered asking them.

      None of those foreign interests give a damn about the growing piles of Syrian bodies, nor do they care which side is right or wrong. They're all looking for their own little piece of imperial, religious or financial domination and they're backing whatever side (or both) that serves their self-interests.

      It doesn't matter which side 'wins' now. When all this is over, Syria will either end up another Iraq or another Libya: a bombed-out hell-hole of a wasteland strewn with corpses and miserable, impoverished citizens living under the boot of another psychopath and their cronies. And, of course, the residual chronic internal conflicts between well-armed groups with their own agendas.

      Some peripheral foreign power or two will claim their spoils and the rest will whine that they didn't 'win' fairly and the UN should do something about it.

      Then they'll all forget about Syria and move on to the next engineered war hoping to get a bigger slice of the pie this time around.

      Who is ultimately responsible for gassing Syrians? The usual suspects, none of which are Syrian.

  13. Syria was a pluralist state, the price for that was repression, nobody fights wars for democracy in the middle-east.

    The initial public demonstrations were not innocuous, they were calling for the dictatorship of the minorities to end.

    And at this point, the flag of al Qaeda is flying over many of the destroyed Christian churches. What it says on the tin, is exactly what they are doing. If they win, it will be a complete eradication.

    The Russian public know all of this, it is the western media that has struggled.

    1. Any images of Al Qaeda flags flying over the ruins of churches? Is that more rhetoric from the fourth Romers in Moscow?

      History suggests that Russian leaders from all parts of the political spectrum take a very, very narrow view of what constitutes "Christian", hence organised persecution of baptists and so forth.

  14. "Our experts are predicting that foreign mercenaries in Syria, who have been structured into paramilitary groups competing with each other, will be out of the running in the near future and will swarm toward the Caucasus,"

    Russia is very serious about defending the south Caucasus, no general will ever lose his job for firing first and asking Moscow's permission afterwards.

    A significant number of Russians think a traditional war on the southern front is actually being fought by an ally (think of Syria as 'Serbia').

    1. Does this mean that we're going to see Syrian Government forces mortaring bakery queues and initiating organised rape campaigns?

    2. Who did the UN find guilty of bombing the bread queue is the infamous Bosnia case (plus carrying out many sniper attacks and assassinations)? Yep, Bosniacs themselves, to make Serbia look bad (not saying they needed the help, they just got it). Bread queues in Syria, mainly Aleppo, have been shelled several times, by the regime rebels say. Coincidentally, Islamist rebels have imposed a total food embargo on all parts of Aleppo outside their jurisdiction. It's the lines there getting hit.

      So in a way, yes of course we will. The rape part, I'll leave you to look at the more religious rebels and what their guides in the Persian Gulf say they can and can't do while inside Syria.

  15. Russians are the joke, people should stop wasting time on them.

  16. @Greig

    "Syria was a pluralist state, the price for that was repression,"

    English: Pluralism
    Newspeak: Brutal dictatorship

  17. I wouldn't say brutal, President Assad is not a dictator, he was hiding behind a curtain when the Praetorians were looking for a princeps.

    Most of the complained about political prisoners turned up in Paris, and the individuals I saw, were in better condition than the other hotel guests, speaking of which, a hotel lobby is as much as they will ever preside over.

    Syria is about repressive alternatives, there are people who will kill for the caliphate and others who will fight for pluralism, nobody in Syria is fighting for western democracy.

  18. There is a lesson here, never use propaganda to counter propaganda.

    "This seems to refer to the controversial nun, who has made a number of statements in the past supporting the Syrian government, including claiming the Syrian opposition were responsible for the notorious Houla massacre, and has been described as"

    The article cited has itself been discredited by events.

    "A subsequent McClatchy article corroborated our refutation."

    Also discredited. So, a pass the parcel of error. Therefore the nun in question in summary has the advantage of being right as often as wrong. Particularly when it comes to massacres.

    ' According to the Swiss newspaper Le Courrier, Agnès-Mariam was “comfortable among [Assad’s] security services,” and she told their reporter it was hoped he could “dismantle the propaganda of Western media.” '

    Yes indeed, because despite the western propaganda I've referred to, every Christian in the town referred, who stayed to is probaly now dead.

    that one is closer to the truth.

  19. Russia's trouble with the claim that it supports Serbia and the Assad regime for the sake of protecting Christianity, is that the Serbs murdered tens of thousands of Croatian Catholics, at the same time as they were killing tens of thousands of Bosnian muslims, and that the Bosnia which Russia sponsored Serbia to erase, was precisely the kind of tolerant multi-ethnic community which we're now being told that the Assad regime nurtures and protects in Syria.

    I understand completely that the Russians THINK they were saving Christianity by supporting the Serbs, but that is only because they do not see non-orthodox Christians, as Christians, and are content to see Catholics slaughtered in very great numbers, not to mention Protestants. Russian oppression in the Baltic states was mainly expressed as a hatred and intolerance for the Catholic and Lutheran Churches there.

    And the Ba'ath party vision for the Arab world, is not a multi-religious entity, but a socialist one. Religious tolerance under socialist regimes tends to be precarious, because the ultimate goal tends to be enforced atheism. I've always wondered how the Iranians managed to ally themselves to the Assads' Ba'ath party regime, because none of the three major religions practised in Iran are actually wanted by the Ba'ath in the long term.

    1. In the Balkans everybody kills everybody else, it is like Syria.

      I was referring to Serbia prior to the Great War, the historical trend of Turkish horrors is the other tapestry.

      The other point being that the insurgents's sponsors, have a track record of entirely eliminating ethic and religious groups. That is trying to kill every single last one of them, with considerable success.

      The Syrian civil war is an echo of the Armenian genocide, and Syria is a graveyard of the Armenian nation.

      What happens in Saudi Arabia when they find an ancient Christian church?

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  21. Thanks for this assemblage, it catches me up a bit. Russia's performance has been shoddy. They clearly don't have satellite security-camera video of rebel rockets flying, or they wouldn't be latching onto each bogus claim that gets prominent, as if buying time 'til they can find something like that. I'm not running a country here and I have way better (maybe hyperactive) BS detectors. I almost wonder if there's some deal where they fall on their swords here, let the West technically win the argument, in exchange for not following through (?). They should be smarter than this.

    The nun mother Agnes too .... maybe it's just that religious training is ill-suited to investigative work. Her claims are interesting, some valid points made and it could be overall true, but clearly not as supported as she suggests. Lots of leaps and reasoning errors.

    Nonetheless, I think the rebels did (whatever actually happened to those however many dead people), and I'm disgusted that they once again can profit from something like that. It's just sad to see those with reason to find the proof or best evidence, and capabilities to do so, grasping at straws like this, as if that's all one can do. I feel like I/we (at A Closer Look on Syria) have got a better grip than that, but I was hoping to get some better grips yet passed down... Some of us think we do have a few (opinions differ on most points), but to me it looks like it will remain up to the ACLOS team to find the best arguments that are actually founded on something solid.

    Self-promo, sorry. But not outright spam like a few of those above. :)

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