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Sunday, August 28

Ghouta Sarin Gas story: I think this is as close to the truth as it can get at this time

"Yet only one day later, Obama had been informed that both these statements were false. It's clear that the UK defence lab scientists and defence intelligence officials were well aware that the JIC was misleading the House of Commons (a crime against the constitution) and that they resorted to passing information via the military chain of command."

This concerns an entry today in the comment section at Moon of Alabama by "pmr9" that disputes the MoA author's ("b") acceptance of a report in a German paper about the sarin gas. The dispute lays out in compressed form key aspects of the controversy surrounding the incident. It is the best summary I've come across, and I believe it's the correct one -- the most correct available in open source. 

I am publishing the entire comment here because it is extremely important that as many people as possible clear up their misconceptions about the attack. But first I want to support b's speculation that the report in a German-language paper he's quoting signals a change in Germany's approach to Bashar al-Assad. (b is a German.):
... the German newspaper analysis is a sign that the tide has turned and that the official "regime change" storm is calming down. The dismantling of a major official propaganda item, like the Sarin attack, points to the introduction of a new narrative. How that will develop further is yet to be seen.
I am weighted to agree, although I also believe pmr9 is right in disputing the German paper's version of the sarin attack controversy. With no further introduction, except to mention that since I've been following Col. Pat Lang's blog Sic Semper Tyrannis (since late last year) I've had no cause to question David Habakkuk's observations, and clearly Col. Lang holds them in high regard.

Comment #13

b,

This is an important story so it's worth examining in some detail. I don't think Abu Ahmad's story about finding "barrels filled with chlorine, sarin and mustard gas" at Regiment 111's base is credible. There's no evidence that the Syrian military has ever stockpiled or used chlorine, and sarin would be stored as binaries. The Syrian government has always maintained that none of its sarin stocks fell into opposition hands, even though this would have been an easy way to blame the opposition for the sarin attacks.

The story in Die Welt appears to be based on Seymour Hersh's article "The red line and the rat line" in the LRB in April 2014. David Habakkuk, a contributor to Pat Lang's blog, has drawn together all available evidence on this story, and his interpretation can be found in the comments to several posts. He infers that UK and US defence intelligence officials were well aware by the summer of 2013 that a sarin false flag was being planned with the collusion of the civilian intelligence agencies, and worked together to block this from being used to launch a war.

There is ample evidence that (1) the Nusra Front was producing sarin, and (2) that the sarin used in Syria in 2013 was kitchen sarin that did not match the synthetic pathway used for Syrian military stocks. Mokhtar Lamani, the UN Special Representative in Damascus, had reported to the UNSG in March 2013 that Nusra was bringing nerve agents into Syria through the border at Azaz. The Russian lab that analysed environmental samples from the Khan-al-Assal attack in March 2013 reported that the sarin had been produced under "cottage industry" conditions. It's likely that Porton Down had obtained similar results from their own analysis of a sarin sample from Uteybah, and were able to compare the Russian findings with their own (very helpful when trying to interpret mass spectrometry results on a complex mixture). This would have helped to establish the credibility of the Russian in this matter.

The phone transcripts of the Nusra team arrested in Turkey in May 2013 showed that they were buying sarin precursors in quantities of hundreds of kilos, including white phosphorus. The OPCW labs reported that the sarin used in Ghouta contained hexafluorophosphate. This indicates that the synthesis started with phosphorus trichloride or elemental phosphorus, and that intermediate reaction products were not purified at each step. The Syrian government's sarin production started with trimethyl phosphite, bought in large quantities from the UK and India during the 1980s. Finally, Seymour Hersh has reported that the US, which fitted out the ship Cape Ray as a sarin disposal facility, obtained samples of the sarin binaries given up by the Syrian government and determined that their chemical profile did not match the Ghouta sarin.

The story in Die Welt misleadingly states that "the British secret service" was in possession of environmental samples from Ghouta. It wasn't MI6 but Porton Down, which is under the UK Ministry of Defence. MI6 was reported to have provided the earlier samples from Uteybah, perhaps without realizing that the profile of impurities in environmental samples (not blood samples) would give the game away. Hersh reported that the Russians provided these samples to Porton Down and that Sir Peter Wall, then the head of the British Army, called General Martin Dempsey with the results. Dempsey then met with Obama, and forced him to call off the attack on Syria by threatening to testify to Congress (and to prime them to ask the questions) that he had told Obama that the sarin used in Ghouta did not come from regime stocks. It was at this point, on the evening of 30 August, that Obama effectively called off the attack by announcing that he would seek Congressional approval (which he knew he was unlikely to get). Up to this point he had been planning to attack without Congressional approval.

On 29 August, just before the House of Commons met to debate the resolution for war on Syria, the UK Joint Intelligence Committee released a report to the Prime Minister stating that there was "no evidence for an opposition CW capability" and therefore "no alternative to a regime attack scenario". Yet only one day later, Obama had been informed that both these statements were false. It's clear that the UK defence lab scientists and defence intelligence officials were well aware that the JIC was misleading the House of Commons (a crime against the constitution) and that they resorted to passing information via the military chain of command.

Posted by: pmr9 | Aug 28, 2016 7:19:36 AM |

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