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27 April 2017

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Keith Harbaugh

PT, let me point out something that should be clear:
There are many people who believe what the New York Times says.
With that in mind,
since you claim to know so much about what happened in Syria on April 4,
could you take some time and provide a critique of what is right and what is wrong in the video report the NYT published on April 26?
(It was featured at the top, center of their web page on that date;
that is what brought it to my attention.)
“How Syria and Russia Spun a Chemical Strike”
https://youtu.be/qaCT6kzWFHk
That video purports to
a) support the U.S./MSM/anti-Assad story, and
b) undermine the Assad/Russia story.

The New York Times is, like it or not,
for many people the “newspaper of record”.
If what they are saying is a distortion of reality,
I think it is important to point out just why that is.
Ignoring it allows its misreporting to go unnoticed.
In fact, if anyone has good counterarguments to that video,
they can post them as a comment to that video.

Publius Tacitus

I posted the following on 7 April. These are the facts from someone who had full knowledge of what happened before, during and after the bombing of the Al Nusra weapons cache:

Here is what happened:

The Russians briefed the United States on the proposed target. This is a process that started more than two months ago. There is a dedicated phone line that is being used to coordinate and deconflict (i.e., prevent US and Russian air assets from shooting at each other) the upcoming operation.
The United States was fully briefed on the fact that there was a target in Idlib that the Russians believes was a weapons/explosives depot for Islamic rebels.
The Syrian Air Force hit the target with conventional weapons. All involved expected to see a massive secondary explosion. That did not happen. Instead, smoke, chemical smoke, began billowing from the site. It turns out that the Islamic rebels used that site to store chemicals, not sarin, that were deadly. The chemicals included organic phosphates and chlorine and they followed the wind and killed civilians.
There was a strong wind blowing that day and the cloud was driven to a nearby village and caused casualties.
We know it was not sarin. How? Very simple. The so-called "first responders" handled the victims without gloves. If this had been sarin they would have died. Sarin on the skin will kill you. How do I know? I went through "Live Agent" training at Fort McClellan in Alabama.

robt willmann

Here are citations to reports by Professor Theodore Postol and an interview he gave.

The report of 21 April 2017 in which he corrects his article of 18 April with respect to wind direction, but it does not change the conclusion that the story is fiction that the crater in the road was caused by a chemical munition dropped by an airplane--

http://www.washingtonsblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Postol-Important-Correction-to-the-Nerve-Agent-Attack-that-Did-Not-Occur__Analysis-of-the-Alleged-Nerve-Agent-Attack-at-7-AM-on-April-4_2017-in-Khan-Sheikhoun_Syrian_April212017_Optimized.pdf

His report of 25 April 2017--

http://www.washingtonsblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Evidence-Consistent-with-the-Possibility-o
f-a-Poison-Gas-Release-_April252017_Optimized_.pdf

An interview of about 48 minutes probably done on 26 April 2017 is here--

https://www.libertarianinstitute.org/scotthortonshow/42617-theodore-postol-white-houses-false-claims
-regarding-april-4th-syrian-nerve-agent-attack/

robt willmann

In case the link to the interview of Dr. Postol did not display cleanly, I will try it again--

https://www.libertarianinstitute.org/scotthortonshow/42617-theodore-postol-white-houses-false-claims-regarding-april-4th-syrian-nerve-agent-attack/

Donald

I just watched the NYT video and would welcome a detailed critique of it, but that said, it seemed pretty thin to me. They made a point of Assad being all over the map with his claims of what was hit, but didn't actually refute him. They show a clip of three explosion clouds, identify three small buildings that were hit, show the crater that Dr. Postol has been analyzing, argue that the two large buildings that fit the Russian description were hit in 2015 and rely heavily on local activist testimony. And they argue the Russian and Syrian claim about timing is wrong.

I think they deliberately avoided talking about Dr. Postol's claims. I have no idea who is right, but the last time the NYT played at being forensic scientists with their rocket trajectory analysis of Ghouta they know who proved them wrong.

Ghostship

I think Professor Postel has misinterpreted or misread the French report. The French report alleges that because of what happened in Saraqib on April 29, 2013 when it's alleged that three SAAF dropped three grenades containing what is claimed to be Sarin, then Assad is guilty of using Sarin in Khan Shaykun on April 4, 2017.
Having briefly read the report I thought I should bring this to PTs attention straight away. While reading the report, I noticed a number of other problems with it.

"The French claimed that "France has deployed the required resources to obtain its own samples from the alleged sarin attack on 4 April 2017 in Idlib Governorate".
So did the French send agents to gather the material or did they acquire it from the White Helmets and/or Al Nusrah? Do the French have a fully documented chain of custody for the samples that goes nowhere near Al Nusrah and all its associates? Have the French ever watched CSI? I thought the French had conclusively proved that it was Assad who ordered the attack and the SAAF who carried our the attack so why use the phrase "alleged sarin attack"?

The sarin present in the munitions used on 4 April was produced using the same manufacturing process as that used during the sarin attack perpetrated by the Syrian regime in Saraqib. Moreover, the presence of hexamine indicates that this manufacturing process is that developed by the Scientific Studies and Research Centre for the Syrian regime.
There evidence comes down to the claim that the sarin allegedly used was manufactured by a process developed by the Syrians. The problem is that this process is not a secret since the French and presumably others know about it, so anyone with access to the correct chemicals could replicate the process and manufacture sarin that could then be passed off as Syrian sarin. This seems circumstantial evidence at best to me. If they could spectrographically match the chemicals used to produce this sarin back to samples known to be Syrian then the French might have a case but otherwise they have nothing.

Keith Harbaugh

PT claims to report information from

“someone who had full knowledge of
what happened before, during and after
the bombing of the Al Nusra weapons cache”

Let me switch gears here, to the issue of
what gets leaked and what doesn't.
We have seen a veritable tsunami of leaks coming from one or more of
the IC, the justice system, or the political system,
leaks which assert the USG collected information that
the Trump campaign was communicating with the Russians before the election.
The spin is that these communications were severely damaging to America.
These leaks were all published in the most generally respected newspapers in America.

OTOH, according to Philip Giraldi at least,
there are people in the IC who believe the MSM narrative is (totally?) false.
See the 2017-04-06 interview
https://www.libertarianinstitute.org/scotthortonshow/4617-philip-giraldi-says-ic-military-doubt-assad-gas-narrative/

Philip Giraldi, former CIA officer and Director of the Council for the National Interest, says that
“military and intelligence personnel,” “intimately familiar” with the intelligence,
say that the narrative that Assad or Russia did it is a “sham,”
instead endorsing the Russian narrative that Assad’s forces had bombed a storage facility.
Giraldi’s intelligence sources are “astonished” about the government and media narrative
and are considering going public
out of concern over the danger of worse war there.

although Giraldi did not seem to repeat those claims about the IC in his more recent (2017-04-24)
http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/did-assad-order-the-syrian-gas-attack/

And there is also the source for your statements.

The question then is:
Why are leaks from such people not being published in the MSM?
Some possible answers:

  • Such people in fact do not exist.
  • They have tried leaking to their MSM contacts,
    but the MSM does not publish what they say.
  • They are afraid to leak to the MSM,
    fearing that the MSM in fact is hostile to their point of view,
    and would expose them to USG security as leakers.
    In other words, the MSM
    protects those who leak information it likes, but
    exposes those who try to leak information it does not favor.
No doubt there are other possibilities as well.
In any case,
we seem to have a situation where secrets putting Trump on the defensive
get leaked vociferously,
while information casting doubt on the guilt of the Syrian government
simply does not appear, or is labeled as a “conspiracy theory”.
Interesting, or worse.

DianaLC

Why, then, did the Russians claim they, not Syria, had hit the site? Was that simply an effort to prevent Trump from doing what Trump did?

pmr9

Postol has not read the French "national evaluation" carefully. The French report alleges that environmental samples recovered from the alleged chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun on 4 April 2017 match environmental samples that were recovered from an alleged chemical attack on 29 April 2013 in Saraqeb. It asserts that only the regime could have been responsible for the Saraqeb incident in 2013, and therefore that the regime must be responsible for the Khan Sheikhoun incident in 2017

The evidence in the report for a match between the two samples (based on DIMP and hexamine in both samples) is dubious to say the least - a proper match would be based on the entire mass spectrometry profile including signatures of many impurities, and a reconstruction of the entire synthetic pathway.

However there's no need to argue this point, because there is already strong evidence that the Saraqeb incident was an opposition false flag, so a match of the chemical profiles with samples from Khan Sheikhoun is strong evidence that that also was an opposition false flag.

What would implicate the Syrian government would be a match of the sarin from KS to the methylphosphonyl difluoride (DF) precursor destroyed under OPCW supervision on the MV Cape Ray in 2014, though even then we might be suspicious of the chains of custody of samples from both sources.

There is considerable evidence that the Saraqeb incident was an opposition false flag:-

1. The munition allegedly dropped from a helicopter was later identified as the canister of a riot-control grenade manufactured in India, sold to Turkey, and photographed being carried by Nusra Front police.

2. No survivors who had tested positive for sarin were available for interview. The only confirmed exposure was a woman who was dead on arrival in Turkey, but whose blood samples, tested in France, contained a lethal level of sarin (9.5 ng/ml in the fluoride ion regeneration test, equivalent to 80% saturation of receptors).

3. The BBC reported an interview with someone who claimed to be her son (the rest of the family having disappeared), but the interviewer was Ian Pannell, later to become notorious for a documentary on an alleged napalm attack on a school playground on 26 August 2013 for which there is overwhelming evidence of fabrication. The role of the MI6 agent Hamish de Bretton-Gordon was concealed from BBC viewers, and he was falsely presented as an independent expert who had not been present at the scene

4. The same munition was photographed, and alleged to have been used, at the site of the alleged chemical attack in Sheikh Maqsood, Aleppo on 13 April 2013. The videos showing purported victims of this attack in hospital with shaving cream on their faces were obviously faked, and widely ridiculed at the time. As in Saraqeb, Hamish de Bretton-Gordon was present in a covert role with a UK journalist (Anthony Loyd of the Times) who reported an interview with a survivor whose family had been killed. However the records of the Violations Documentation Centre show that this individual had died two weeks earlier.

More generally, Postol's reports are focusing on an issue that is probably irrelevant - what was released at the alleged attack site, and where it might have drifted given the prevailing wind conditions. A more detailed analysis of all the videos is still under way at ACLoS. The story that is beginning to emerge is of a massacre of captives at about the time of the alleged attack in the early morning, probably in gas chambers at the White Helmets cave complex just outside the town. This was followed by redistribution of the bodies to hospitals and other sites, in some cases with faked efforts at resuscitation. The autopsy findings of pulmonary edema reported in Turkey are consistent with the use of a gas causing acute inhalation injury, such as chlorine or phosphine, in a confined space. The opposition in Aleppo was found to have stockpiled large quantities of aluminium phosphide, used for generating phosphine to fumigate barns. The planners of this attack would have needed only enough sarin to generate environmental swabs and blood samples that tested positive.

John_Frank

With respect, IMHO there are a number of issues with the analysis of Professor Postel.

Has the Professor misread the French report? He writes:

"The French Report instead claims that there were at least three munitions dropped from helicopters in the town of Saraqib, more than 30 miles north of the alleged sarin release crater identified by the WHR."

Wrong. The reference to the attack on Saraqib is related to an event that took place on April 29, 2013.

Yes, the White House Report does state where it is believed the impact point was resulting in the release of sarin in the Khan Sheikhoun area on
April 4, 2017, within the context of refuting the Russian narrative.

Interestingly, the French report does not identify where specifically their environmental samples were collected in Khan Sheikhoun, except to state "they were collected at one of the impact points of the chemical attack at Khan Sheikhoun on 4 April, 2017."

The French assessment is based on comparing the environmental samples retrieved from the attack on Saraqib on April 29, 2013 all as described in the report, to those collected from the attack on Khan Sheikhoun on April 4, 2017.

Yes the French, like everyone else, are satisfied that the attack on Damascus on August 21, 2013 involved sarin.

The French have attributed that use of sarin to the Syrian Government. However, the issue that DNI Clapper reputedly had with the attribution of the Syrian Government being behind the Damascus attack does not negate the French analysis in this case, nor does it support the claims being made by Professor Postel.

The French assessment at the opening of the published report as to what was described to have taken place contradicts the analysis of Professor Postel, while supporting the conclusions presented in the White House Report.

Are some people overstating certain facts? In an article dated April 24 by Philip Giraldi, he writes:

"U.S. monitors, who had been warned by the Russians that an attack was coming, believe they saw from satellite images something close to the Russian account of events, with a bomb hitting the targeted warehouse, which then produced a cloud of gas."

http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/debunking-trumps-casus-belli/

According to the French report, they "are aware in particular of a Sukhoi Su - 22 bomber which took off from the Shayrat Airbase on the morning of 4 April and launched up to six strikes around Khan Sheikhoun."

As an aside, in his statement to the UK House of Parliament, the British Foreign Minister makes reference to two Sukhoi Su - 22 bombers being involved in carrying out attacks in the Khan Sheikhoun area on April 4.

Are there other issues with Professor Postel's analysis? Maybe, however those are the one's that immediately jumped out to the writer's attention.

People can read the French report at the following two links:

National evaluation - Chemical attack of 4 April 2017 (Khan Sheikhoun)
Clandestine Syrian chemical weapons programme
http://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/IMG/pdf/170425_-_evaluation_nationale_-_anglais_-_final_cle0dbf47-1.pdf

- and -

Allegations of Use of Chemical Weapons in Syria Since 2012
http://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/IMG/pdf/170425_-_national_evaluation_annex_-_anglais_-_final_1_cle8211fe-1.pdf

People can read the White House Report at the following link:

https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/3553049/Syria-Chemical-Weapons-Report-White-House.pdf

kooshy

"we seem to have a situation where secrets putting Trump on the defensive
get leaked vociferously,
while information casting doubt on the guilt of the Syrian government
simply does not appear, or is labeled as a “conspiracy theory”.
Interesting, or worse."

well, same can be true for your analogy, why you don't make a conclusion based on points you raised and figure out who and which group can benefit from both scenarios you raised above. Only one group will benefit to expose and put Trump on defense a d at the same time blame everything on Assad, that group is the Mccainites, Neocons, or as is better known here the Borg.

Alaric

The more I think about the fake chem attack and Trump's response to it, the more I believe that this was retaliation for Israel for Syria's downing of an Israeli jet or even just shooting at it and for his threat to shoot scuds at Israel shoot Israel hit Syria again. In other words, it was Netanyahu's way of telling those Syrian and Russian goys who is boss.

Yeah, Right

Where I'm struggling is this: there are two people involved in those conversations - one is a USAF officer, but the other is a Russian air force officer.

Therefore we don't need the USA to come clean about what it had been told and when it was told to them, because the Russians are equally in-the-know regarding those briefings.

The Russians can just release that information - transcripts, recordings, whatever. Doing that would shoot down the US lies.

Heck, they could just dump it on WikiLeaks.

Yet...... nothing.

No leaks. No cryptic comment from Lavrov, no pithy remark from Putin.

Nothing.

If the Russians did brief the USA in the manner that you report then, surely, they would be in possession of a paper-trail detailing those briefings.

What would stop them from putting that out in the public arena?

Marko

I was a strong supporter of Postol until this. This is sloppy , damaging, embarrassing - I could go on and on , but I won't.

It may not be his fault. As much of a thorn as he's been in the backside of the warmongers , they may have treated him to some free psychopharmaceuticals , not bothering to ask for his consent , of course.

Take a vacation and get away from this stuff for a while , Dr. Postol. Have fun. Relax.

But please , before you go public with something like this again , run it by a few of your close friends first , OK ?

Marko

Carla Del Ponte tried to let the world know a bit of the truth when she made her comments in May 2013 about the evidence only pointing towards the rebels , not the Assad gov't., after reviewing information from the events at Khan Assal , Saraqeb , etc.

She was promptly told to zip it , I suppose , because we haven't heard much of substance from her since , which is a shame.

Leonardo

Sadly, Postol's recent blatant and ameteurish mistakes offer his adversaries a sound chance to ridicule not just his attempt at debunking the WHR, but also all of his previous work (for example the Ghouta report).

In my opinion it also confirms something I have been saying a lot recently, while discussing with friends and strangers alike: do NOT rush to judgement. These kind of complex analysis requires time to read, to think and to carefully study and evaluate statements and evidence.

Rushing to release a rebuttal of a government document at the cost of producing an easily dismissible piece of crap will just end up hurting one's reputation and making the official government version look much more solid than it actually is.
Exercizing caution is even more important when you are dealing with an organized and coordinated media campaign/intelligence operation that spans multiple allied countries.

Philippe

French communiqué (ENG version)
http://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/en/country-files/syria/events/article/chemical-attack-in-syria-national-evaluation-presented-by-jean-marc-ayrault

Report (ENG)
http://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/IMG/pdf/170425_-_evaluation_nationale_-_anglais_-_final_cle0dbf47-1.pdf

As already said, Postol has completely misunderstood this (however
quite simple) report. This cast a very serious shadow on the quality and credibility of his precedent works and "analysis"...

That said, the French report "prove" nothing. He just "deduct" the SAA responsibility from the resemblance of samples from the 2013 Saraqib site and the Khan Sheikoun ones.

The type of ammo involved is not addressed, nor the fact that rebels have likely seized stockpiles of chemical ammunitions prior to the OPCW disarmament process.

jonst

KH, without getting into the substance of matters here, that you raise, the long held, and long treasured, belief that the NYTimes is; "...for many people the 'newspaper of record'" should be challenged now, if, indeed, not retired completely. I know of no objective evidence proving my contention...but then again, I know of no objective evidence to prove the long held assertion. Further, I do not know what to make of your statement about "generally respected newspapers'. I know of many formally "generally respected newspapers". Not so sure they exist anymore. This is, sadly, a hallmark of the split between the Borg, and 'the rest of us' mortals. Brexit, by a slight majority, and Trump, by an electoral majority (and perhaps LePen, soon enough) in a Luther like announcement, said, 'no more'. We lack any 'generally agreed upon'reliable 'gatekeeper platforms. We're adrift.

Annem

There seem to be here two scenarios for what happened that refute the WH narrative: a] SAA bombing of weapons depot released poisonous substance that blew into the civilian area and b] false flag operation on the ground by al Nusra. Which of them seems more consistent with the facts available. It could not have been both. The Saraqeb story is simply bizarre.

aleksandar

" The French assessment at the opening of the published report as to what was described to have taken place contradicts the analysis of Professor Postel, while supporting the conclusions presented in the White House Report. "
This assessment is just a copy of the WHR, with absolutely no proof given that it was an air attack.It is the core of the problem.
Using a jet ( speed 500 mph / 0.14 miles per second ) to lauch a chemical attack ?
With 5 normal bombs and only 1 chemical ?
What kind ? Normal ? Laser-guided ?
Hope some retired USAF pilots here can explain if it is possible.


Chris Chuba

Has there been publication that discusses the feasibility of the Russian/Syrian (and anonymous U.S. Intelligence sources) account that a warehouse containing chemical weapons was bombed, releasing toxic agents?
(Here is one link from Philip Giraldi regarding the claim of U.S. insiders
http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/debunking-trumps-casus-belli/ )

1. Have the Russians / Syrians released the time of the attack on the warehouse
2. The location of the warehouse
3. Any Postol style analysis on their claim? (Thankfully I haven't heard any reference to Bellingcat)

I did see a dismissive reference to it in the 4 page WH 'Government' Assessment but that was not convincing at all.

William R. Cumming

Whomever did it the U.S.A. missile strike was a show of weakness IMO!

Marko

I've argued all along that sarin would be conclusively found to be present at the site , while still believing all along that this is a false-flag. The reason one would suspect this in advance is because the false-flag perpetrators already know exactly what happened , so propagandists like Higgins are going to know just how to frame the story so that the pieces will fall neatly into place as the lab analyses and such start coming in.

The same applies to the hexamine story. They know Assad used it , at least for some , if not all of his stockpile. They know it helps explain the odors (as does residual HF and other impurities). They know explosives leave hexamine residue , but they also know what the typical experience looks like with analysis of explosive residues vs what would be found with the sarin analysis. It might be orders of magnitude differences , I can't say , but they can - they already know this story will work itself out.

The point is that most of the counterarguments made have been on these self-defeating topics. You can't play their game and win.

Anybody can have a supply of Assad's stockpile - Assad , al Nusra , Turkey , Israel , ISIS , etc. That stuff was still scattered around the country at multiple underground sites at a time when above ground it looked like Mad Max. Batches were likely relocated and relocated again before they even started the collection process. At that point , it becomes a question of the high bidder as to where it ends up. The CIA collected thousands of Saddam's sarin-loaded CW munitions by making repeated purchases from a black-market dealer. The Libya stockpile was the same chaotic story as Syria , and there's good reason to think they may have also used hexamine. One shipment to Libya of a couple hundred tons of hexamine was stopped at the border because of fears of CW usage , and they didn't even know about Assad's use of hexamine as an acid scavenger at the time. They just knew that CW programs liked hexamine.

So , everyone has potential access to some of Assad's old stockpile and/or to Gaddafi's old stockpile , both of which may already have hexamine included in the unitary batches , or in one of the binary components , or it could be added before usage. Everyone may be able to get limited quantities of brand new binary components shipped into Syria. So , everyone may have sarin ,unitary and/or binary , everyone may have hexamine , and all via multiple potential sources. There's no smoking gun , period.

WE need to know where the casualties lived. We need to know where exactly the Syrian bombs fell , and at what time. Was the video of the air strike legit?
If it was,then why did Syria and Russia lie about the timing of the bombing run,because it clearly depicts a near-sunrise air strike,while they're claiming late-morning to noonish. Also, hey say the strikes were on the eastern outskirts of town , which doesn't really match up with the video.

The munition in the pothole may be very similar to those from Ghouta if the tail-fin section has just gone missing somewhere. What's buried and scattered around that crater might reveal the parts of a 50-60 L payload front-end like the Ghouta rockets , making for a similar story in terms of casualties per liter of sarin used. If this is the case , it was launched by a Volcano-type launcher somewhere within ~ 2-3 km , like Ghouta. That probably rules out SAA territory in the present case. They'll probably make sure nobody sees the rest of that munition , however.

If you looked at all the CW events as closely as they should be looked at , and did the math , you'd probably find there's zero probability they've been as selective in death patterns as I suspect they have been. I know there have been quite a few SAA deaths and injured , while damn few if any from the rebel/White Helmet side. I'd be willing to bet the breakdown of Sunni vs everyone else would be similarly suspect.

Chris Chuba

Okay, I see that Postol did comment on the feasibility of the Russian/Syrian account http://www.washingtonsblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Evidence-Consistent-with-the-Possibility-of-a-Poison-Gas-Release-_April252017_Optimized_.pdf
I should have read all the replies to this article before posting.
Unless Postol made a mistake, at least it confirms that a building was attacked on that day that did generate a serious explosion and gas cloud.

I'll have to read the French report for myself but the bulk of comments that I have read about it say that the French make a connection between Khan Sheikhoun and the attack in 2013. I find it a lapse that they would avoid an analysis of the stock that Assad gave up for destruction.

Bacchus

Thank you for your thoughtful, detailed and factual analysis.

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