So apparently the U.S. government believes that chemical false flag attacks in Syria are possible.
On Friday the State Dept. issued an official statement claiming "credible information" that refutes prior Syrian government and Russian claims of an opposition chemical weapons attack in Aleppo on Nov. 24.
The event was the first time throughout the seven-year long war that international headlines pointed to anti-Assad rebels using chemical weapons, in this case chlorine, against government areas. So of course for U.S. officials it must be a false flag attack staged by Assad.
On Nov. 24, the Assad regime & #Russia falsely accused the opposition & extremist groups of conducting a chlorine attack in northwestern Aleppo. U.S. strongly refutes this narrative & has credible info. pro-regime forces likely used teargas against civilians in Aleppo on Nov. 24. pic.twitter.com/ssFm7ZYEUd— U.S. Embassy Syria (@USEmbassySyria) December 7, 2018
That's precisely what the US is now claiming, saying in a statement that "the Assad regime and Russia falsely accused the opposition and extremist groups of conducting a chlorine attack in northwestern Aleppo." The statement, issued by Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino, claims the Syrian government carried out a tear gas attack on Aleppo civilians and promptly blamed a fabricated chlorine attack on anti-Assad fighters.
The US further claims the Syrian government will seek to manipulate the site of the attack to make it look like pro-government civilians were victims of chemical weapons ahead of an investigation by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). The US says the Assad government will "fabricate samples and contaminate the site before a proper investigation".
This section of the official State Dept. press release reads as follows:
The United States is deeply concerned that pro-regime officials have maintained control of the attack site in its immediate aftermath, allowing them to potentially fabricate samples and contaminate the site before a proper investigation of it by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. We caution Russia and the regime against tampering with the suspected attack site and urge them to secure the safety of impartial, independent inspectors so that those responsible can be held accountable.
During the late November attack over 100 civilians had been reported hospitalized, including dozens of women and children, after the anti-Assad militants unleashed a wave of mortars filled with poison gas on government on Aleppo neighborhoods.
Syrian state-run SANA published multiple photos and video of victims in the city's hospitals at the time being treated for what was reported to be chlorine gas exposure. Though it wasn't the first time that 'rebels' seeking to topple the Assad government conducted a chemical attack on pro-government areas according to United Nations findings, it was the first time that mainstream American outlets like CNN and Reuters featured coverage of such events.
This is the dumbest thing I've read all day. There has literally been a chlorine attack in Aleppo city before, and that was when Jaish Islam struck the YPG at Sheikh Masqoud with shells. They even admitted to doing this and apologized for it. https://t.co/H780zRJKUn— TØM CΛT (@TomtheBasedCat) December 7, 2018
Apparently such headlines were too much for Washington officials, who are now belatedly shouting "false flag" while failing to produce any level of smoking gun evidence — ironically something western pundits and officials have long accused and mocked Syrian pro-government and Russian media of doing in the past.
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Below is a report produced by The Libertarian Institute providing a partial list of incidents wherein the United Nations and mainstream media quietly admitted the anti-Assad insurgency possesses and has used chemical weapons.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) says the Nov. 24 armed opposition/Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) mortar attack on three districts in government-held Aleppo did involve chemical gas. Over 100 people were hospitalized by what was widely reported to be a chlorine attack.
According to SOHR, as reported by Reuters: “In Aleppo city which the government controls, the shells had spread a strong stench and caused breathing problems, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also said.”
It’s significant that SOHR should confirm this as western media have long relied upon the UK-based opposition source as a go-to outlet for reporting Syria. It is tantamount to the “mainstream” Syrian opposition media essentially agreeing that the Damascus-Russia interpretation of events in this case is true, despite Turkey-backed FSA groups denying the charge.
The broader public which is unfamiliar with the history of chemical weapons reporting and investigation inside Syria might be scratching their heads at this one, perhaps thinking: “wait I thought only Assad possessed and has used chemical weapons!?!”
Well, at least that’s the basic assumption of pretty much all past mainstream media reporting. Anytime the "rebel" side claimed a chemical attack going back to at least 2013, journalists have uncritically parroted and amplified rebel claims without investigation or what would pass for evidence by OPCW/U.N. standards (OPCW officials have in the past stated that social media videos produced by the rebels and White Helmets organization can never be taken as stand alone evidence).
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Below is a partial list of both United Nations and mainstream media admissions which have been largely buried and forgotten, but which are crucial evidence highlighting that the armed opposition has from the beginning utilized chemical munitions against the Syrian Army and Syrian civilians.
“The final U.N. investigation into alleged chemical weapons use in Syria has found that chemical weapons were conclusively used in one incident and were likely used in four other alleged attacks, including three in which government troops were the victims of sarin gas. It was the first time the U.N. has reported that Syrian military personnel may have been the target of a chemical-weapon attack in the course of the 33-month-old conflict…”
“The fact that the report names government soldiers as victims raised the possibility that rebel groups may have had access to sarin gas, which the Syrian government, and its allies Iran and Russia, have long maintained.”
“Chemical weapons were used repeatedly in the Syria conflict this year, not only in a well-documented Aug. 21 attack near Damascus but also in four other instances, including two subsequent attacks that targeted soldiers, the United Nations said in a report released Thursday…”
“The report said the panel had corroborated “credible allegations” that chemical weapons were used in the first reported attack — a March 19 episode involving soldiers and civilians [as victims] in Khan al-Assal in the country’s north.”
“The United Nations Mission remains deeply concerned that chemical weapons were used in the ongoing conflict between the parties in the Syrian Arabic Republic, which has added yet another dimension to the continued suffering of the Syrian people.”
[For context, see the following report from 2013: The report states that chemical weapons were “probably used” at five sites in Syria during the two-and-a-half year long conflict. Most significant is that at two sites, the victims were Syrian government soldiers, and at another, the victims were regime soldiers and civilians (for initial BBC reporting go here). While the purpose of the investigation was not to establish the culprit in each attack, the report identifies the victims in three out of the five incidents as regime soldiers. This is a tacit UN admission that the rebels possess and have used chemical weapons.]
“Tactics of ISIS, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, and other violent extremist groups include the use of suicide bombers, kidnapping, small and heavy arms, improvised explosive devices, and chemical weapons.”
“They have targeted major city centers, road checkpoints, border crossings, government buildings, shopping areas, and open spaces, in Damascus, Aleppo, Hamah, Dara, Homs, Idlib, and Dayr al-Zawr provinces.”
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But even prior to the UN’s December 2013 findings, credible allegations of rebel chemical weapons were nothing new. In May of 2013, Carla Del Ponte, a top UN human rights investigator and former UN Chief Prosecutor and veteran International Criminal Court attorney – was the first to accuse the rebels of using Sarin gas against government forces and civilians (also see here, here, and here).
This is what a top U.N. investigator had to say the very first time she weighed in publicly on CW usage in Syria…
Top former UN human rights investigator and UN Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte.