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03 February 2018

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kooshy

Missed the link to Mehr news (in persian)
https://www.mehrnews.com/news/563504/ترکیه-میان-سوریه-و-اسرائیل-میانجیگری-می-کند

Cortes

Salacious is perhaps rooted (Matron!) in the Latin for salt, an essential mineral. Salary comes to mind. And where, exactly, do you expect the great public to look beyond the initial scabrously defamatory storytelling about the “golden showers”? When they exercise their common sense and consign the original story to the dustbin it deserves?

A series of probes tangientally (at best) related to the original enquiry.

Gossip raised to raison d’etat.

English Outsider


Colonel - Further apologies - I should have submitted comment 79 as two items.

Yes, the question about Steele was in response to DH's article. The UK side of the affair is I suppose only a small part of the question you and your Committee are examining but it's a dubious part however one looks at it. Although it's early days yet I was hoping DH, with his encyclopaedic knowledge of the UK intelligence scene, might feel able to cast more light on that UK side.

English Outsider


Cortes - " ... where, exactly, do you expect the great public to look beyond the initial scabrously defamatory storytelling about the “golden showers”? "

I don't think one can expect the public, at least in the UK, to look very far beyond the initial scandal. The investigations and enquiries presently under way in the US are complex and are taking place in a different system. This member of the UK public wouldn't be able to give you a coherent account of those enquiries and I doubt many of my fellows could.

So we have to take on trust, most of us, what we're told. As far as I can tell the underlying theme from the BBC and the media is generally that Trump is subverting the American Justice system in order to ensure his own misdemeanours aren't investigated.

Some of us take that as gospel. Others of us assume that the politicians and the media are untrustworthy and ignore them. I doubt many of us go into much more detail than that. Therefore the original story will stick in our minds.

But for some in the UK there are questions in there as well. How come the UK got mixed up in all this? How much did the UK get mixed up in it?

David Habakkuk

Sid Finster,

In response to comment 53.

When I belatedly started looking at the Litvinenko mystery, as a result of a strange email provoked by comments of mine on SST which arrived in my inbox in March 2007 from someone who turned out to be a key protagonist, it was rather obvious that improvised and chaotic ‘StratCom’ operations had been put into place on both the Russian and British sides to cover up what had happened.

A particular interesting feature of those on the British side – in which we now know Christopher Steele must have played a leading role – were the bizarre gyrations those responsible were going through trying to explain away the extraordinary fact that when he had broken the story of his poisoning, Litvinenko had pointed the finger of suspicion at his Italian associate Mario Scaramella.

When I started delving, I came across some very interesting pieces on Scaramella and related matters posted on the ‘European Tribune’ website by a Rome-based blogger using the name ‘de Gondi’ in the period after the story broke.

His actual name is David Loepp, by profession he is an artisan jeweller specialising in ancient and traditional goldsmith techniques, and I already knew and respected his work from his contributions to the transnational internet investigation into the Niger uranium forgeries – an earlier MI6 clusterf**ck.

So in May 2008 I posted a longish piece on that site, setting out the problems with the evidence about the Litvinenko case as I saw them, in the hope of reactivating his interest. This paid off in spades, when he linked to, and translated a key extract from, the request from Italian prosecutors to use wiretaps of conversations with Senator Paolo Guzzanti in connection with their prosecution of Scaramella for ‘aggravated calumny.’

The request, which up to not so long ago was freely available on the website of the Italian Senate, was denied, but the extensive summaries of the transcripts provided a lot of material.

(This initial post by me, and later posts by me on that site, are at http://www.eurotrib.com/user/uid:1857/diary. Three posts David Loepp and I produced jointly in December 2012, which have a lot on Scaramella and Shvets, are on his page there, at http://www.eurotrib.com/user/de%20Gondi/diary .)

The extract from the wiretap request which David Loepp posted, which like Litvinenko’s letter containing the claims he and Yuri Shvets had concocted about Putin using Mogilevich to attempt to supply Al Qaeda with a ‘mini nuclear bomb’ is dated 1 December 2005, contains key pointers to the conspiracy. It concludes:

‘A passage on Simon Moghilevic and an agreement between the camorra to search for nuclear weapons lost during the Cold War to be consigned to Bin Laden, a revelation made by the Israeli. According to Scaramella the circle closes: camorra, Moghilevic- Russian mafia- services- nuclear bombs in Naples.’

Subsequent conversations make clear that Scaramella left on 6 December 2005 for Washington, on a trip where he was to meet Shvets. The summary of a report on this to Guzzanti reads:

‘12) conversation that took place on number [omissis] on December 18, 2005, at 9:41:51 n. 1426, containing explicit references to the authenticity of the declarations of Alexander Litvinenko acquired by Scaramella, to the trustworthiness of the affirmations made by Scaramella in his reports to the commission and to the meetings Scaramella had with Talik after having denounced them [presumably Talik and his alleged accomplices]. (They can talk with HEIMS thanks to the help of MILLER. SHVEZ says that he had been a companion of CARLOS at the academy; SHVEZ has already made declarations and is willing to continue collaboration. Guzzanti warns that a document in Russian arrived in commission in which the name of SCARAMELLA appears several times, these [sic] say that directives to the contrary had been given to Litvinenko. Scaramella says that he went to the meeting with TALIK in the company of two treasury [police] and a cop, Talik spoke of a person from the Ukrainian GRU who would be willing to talk and a strange Chechen ring in Naples. Assassination attempt against the pope, CASAROLI was a Soviet agent.)’

The summary of a later conversation also refers to 'MILLER':

‘conversation that took place on number [omissis] on January 13, 2006, at 11:22:11 n. 2287, containing references to Scaramella’s sources in relation to facts referred in the Commission, the means by which they were obtained by Scaramella from declarations made abroad, the role of Litvinenko, also on the occasion of declarations made by third parties and the credibility of the news and theses given by Scaramella to the commission (Scaramella reads a text in English on the relation between the KGB and PRODI. Guzzanti asks if its credibility can be confirmed and if the taped declarations can be backed up; Scaramella answers that there were two testimonies, Lou Palumbo and Alexander (Litvinenko), and that the registration made in London at the beginning of the assignment [Scaramella’s?] had been authenticated by a certain BAKER of the FBI. As he translates the text from English, Scaramella notes that the person testifying does not say he knows Prodi but only that he thinks that Prodi ...; all those who worked for the person testifying in Scandinavia said that Prodi was “theirs.” The affair in Rimini, Bielli is preparing the battle in Rimini. Meetings with MILLER for the three things that are needed. Polemic about Pollari over the pressure exerted on Gordievski.)’

In the exchanges on my May 2008 post, I mentioned and linked to some extraordinary comments on a crucial article by Edward Jay Epstein, in which Karon von Gerhke claimed that his sceptical account fitted with what her contacts in the British investigation had told her. When that July I came across her equally extraordinary claims in response to the BBC’s Mark Urban piece of stenography – which Steele may also have had a hand in organising – I found she was referring to precisely that visit to Washington by Scaramella which had been described in the wiretap request.

As you can perhaps imagine, the fact that ‘Miller’ had featured in the conversations with Guzzanti both as a key contact, who could introduce Scaramella to Aldrich Ames (which is who ‘Heims’ clearly is), and with whom there had been meetings about ‘the three things that are needed’ made me inclined to take seriously what Karon von Gerhke said about his role.

In December 2008, I put up another post on ‘European Tribune’, putting together the material from David Loepp and that from Karon von Gerhke – but not discussing the references to ‘Miller.’ As I had hoped, this led to her getting in touch.

Among the material with which she supplied me, which I in turn supplied to the Solicitor to the Inquest, were covers of faxes to John Rizzo, then Acting General Counsel of the CIA. From a fax dated 23 October 2005.

‘John: See attached email to Chuck Patrizia. Berezovsky alleges he is in possession of a copy of a classified file given to the CIA by Russia’s FSB, which he further alleges the CIA disseminated to British, French, Italian and Israeli intelligence agencies implicating him in business associations with the Mafia and to ties with terrorist organizations. Yuri Shvets was authorised/directed by Berezovsky to raise the issue with Bud McFarlane scheduled for Thursday. McFarlane is unaware the issue will be raised with him.’

From a fax dated 7 November 2005:

‘John: I am attaching an email exchange between Yuri Shvets and me re: 1) article he published on his Ukraine website on alleged sale of nuclear choke to Iran, which I reproached him on as having been planted by Berezovsky and 2 the alleged FSB/CIA document file that Berezovsky obtained from Scaramella, which Yuri acknowledges in his e-mail to me. Like extracting wisdom teeth to get him to put anything on paper, especially in an e-mail! [NAME REDACTED BY ME – DH] is the source McFarlane referred Yuri to re: Berezovsky’s visa issue. She proposed meeting Berezovsky in London. Alleged it would take a year to clear up USG issues and even then could not guarantee him a visa. She too has access to USG intelligence on Berezovsky. Open book.’

From a fax dated 5 December 2005:

‘John. From Mario Scaramella to Yuri Shvets to my ears, the DOJ has authorised Mario Scaramella to interview Aldrich Ames with regard to members of the Italian Intelligence Service agent recruited by Ames for the KGB. Scaramella, as you may recall, is who gave Boris Berezovsky’s aide, a former FSB Colonel [LITVINENKO – DH], that alleged document number to the FSB file that the CIA disseminated on Berezovsky – a file that Bud McFarlane’s “Madam Visa” [NAME REDACTED BY ME – DH] is alleged is totting off to London for ameeting with Berezovsky, who has agreed to retain her re: his visa issue. Quid pro quo’s with Berezovsky and Scaramella on the CIA agent currently facing kidnapping charges for the rendition of the Muslim cleric? Scott Armstrong has a most telling file on Scaramella. Not a single redeeming quality.’

In the course of very extensive exchanges with Karon von Gerhke subsequently, we had some rather acute disagreements. It was unfortunate that her filing was a shambles – a crucial hard disk failed without a backup, and the ‘hard copies’ appeared to be in a chaotic state.

However, the only occasion when I can recall having reason to believe that was deliberately lying to me was when David Loepp unearthed a cache of documentation including the full Italian text of the letter from Litvinenko containing the ‘StratCom’ designed to suggest that Putin had attempted to supply a ‘mini nuclear bomb’ to Al Qaeda. Having been asked to keep this between ourselves for the time being, Karon insisted on immediately sending it to her contacts in Counter Terrorism Command, and then produced bogus justifications.

Time and again, moreover, I found that I could confirm statements that she made – see for example the two posts I put up on the legal battles following the death in February 2008 of Berezovsky’s long-term partner Arkadi ‘Badri’ Patarkatsishvili in June and July 2009, which were based on careful corroboration of what she told me.

(I should also say that I acquired the greatest respect for her courage.)

And while Owen and his team suppressed all the evidence from her, and almost all of that from David Loepp, which I had I provided to them, the dossier about Berezovsky is described in a statement made by Litvinenko in Tel Aviv in April 2006, presented in evidence in the Inquiry.

(See http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20160613090333/https://www.litvinenkoinquiry.org/evidence">https://www.litvinenkoinquiry.org/evidence">http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20160613090333/https://www.litvinenkoinquiry.org/evidence .)

Other evidence, moreover, strongly inclines me to believe that there were overtures for a ‘quid pro quo’, purporting to come from Putin, but that this was a ruse orchestrated by Berezovsky.

Part of the purpose of this would almost certainly have been to supply probably bogus ‘evidence’ about arms sales in the Yeltsin years to Iraq, Iran and Syria. Moreover, I think there was an article on the second ‘Fifth Element’ site run by Shvets about the supposed sale of a nuclear ‘choke’ – whatever that is – to Iran.

The likelihood of the involvement of elements in the FBI in these shenanigans seems to quite high, given what has already emerged about the activities of Levinson. Also relevant may be the fact that the ‘declaration’ which was part of the attempt to frame Romano Prodi was authenticated, in London, by ‘a certain BAKER of the FBI.’)

Babak Makkinejad

Thank you David Habakkuk.

Truly sordid and deplorable.

WWIII to be initiated on basis of lies.

David Habakkuk

blowback,

In response to 36.

Thanks for the link. But what Mattis has said relates to the latest accusations, not early ones. Key paragraphs:

‘A deadly sarin attack on another rebel-held area in April 2017 prompted President Donald Trump to order a U.S. missile strike on the Shayrat airbase, from which the Syrian operation is said to have been launched.

‘“We are on the record and you all have seen how we reacted to that, so they would be ill-advised to go back to violating the chemical (weapons) convention,” Mattis said.’

So he is not repudiating the conventional wisdom according to which sarin was used at Khan Sheikhoun, and the possibility of a military response to a fresh ‘false flag’ is left open. Unless he is basing his accusation on credible evidence, this to be blunt, comes close to inciting jihadists to atrocity.

The extent – and unscrupulousness – of the mounting propaganda campaign in relation to the recently claims is well brought out in a piece by Rick Sterling in ‘Consortium News’ on Sunday. Whether those involved are still hoping to precipitate a serious American military intervention, and whether those hopes might be realistic, I cannot say.

(See https://consortiumnews.com/2018/02/04/wmd-claims-in-syria-raise-concerns-over-u-s-escalation/ .)

This makes the detailed demonstration by Professor McKeigue of the frankly farcical nature of the ‘Joint Investigative Mechanism’ report into Khan Sheikhoun, to which I linked, all the more important. In addition to exposing the total dependence of its analysis on a completely incredible claim about the aircraft which is supposed to have delivered the chemical weapon, and discussing much other evidence, he brings out a key point about developments in ‘chemical forensics’ over the past years.

As well as the 1995 sarin attacks, the 2001 anthrax letter attacks led to an enormous investment of money and intellectual energy in the development of analytical techniques making it possible to identify perpetrators of chemical weapons incidents. A fascinating article entitled ‘Tracing a Threat’ by Bethany Halford in ‘Chemistry & Engineering News World’ in February 2012 provides a good picture of what the state of play was at that time.

(See https://cen.acs.org/articles/90/i6/Tracing-Threat.html .)

She quotes an expert called Joseph Chipuk, from a consultancy called ‘Signature Science’ in Austin, explaining how the ‘spectra’ – different wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation associated with different ‘impurities’ in samples, including ‘environmental’ ones, such as soil, fragments of weapons, and clothing – can be matched with reconstructions of possible ‘synthetic pathways’.

The levels of sophistication of which this kind of analysis was already capable, he made clear, are close to breathtaking:

‘To figure out signatures based on various synthetic routes and conditions, Chipuk says that the synthetic chemists on his team will make the same chemical threat agent as many as 2,000 times in an “almost robotic manner,” following a database that tells them exactly what conditions to use. They then hand off the product to the analytical chemists, who look at all the tiny impurities that turn up along with the toxic chemical – “the stuff that’s down in the weeds,” as Chipuk describes it. From there, the hundreds or, in some cases, thousands of spectra that are collected go to statisticians and computer scientists who work their magic to tease out the unique attribution signatures.’

At the end of the article, Halford quotes Chipuk again making clear that improvement is continuous in a way that is making it quite extraordinarily difficult to fool analysts who are genuinely looking for the truth – as not only Dan Kaszeta but, very regrettably, key figures at the OPCW and some of its ‘Designated Laboratories’ do not appear to be:

‘“The fact is that technology continues to improve, instrumentation continues to improve, and computers continue to improve. The chances of someone being able to slip by undetected are getting smaller and smaller,” says Signature Science’s Chipuk. “If you were to choose to do something like this, the science is going to catch up to you.”’

In relation to the claims now being made, what is initially at issue is simply the question of whether the ‘impurities’ identified by the ‘spectra’ in samples from the incidents at Khan Sheikhoun, Ghouta, Saraqeb, and Khan Al-Asal match.

What characterised the ‘hexamine hypothesis’ as put forward by Kaszeta was the – close to surreal – suggestion that a single substance, hexamine, was a ‘smoking gun’. To anyone who had taken the trouble to read easily accessible discussions of the methodology, such as Halford’s piece, it would be apparent that it is simply ludicrous to base a claim on a single substance – particularly given that hexamine is also used in explosives.

In the ‘Reuters’ report on 30 January, we were told:

‘Two compounds in the Ghouta sample matched those also found in Khan Sheikhoun, one formed from sarin and the stabilizer hexamine and another specific fluorophosphate that appears during sarin production, the tests showed.’

(See https://www.reuters.com/article/us-syria-crisis-chemicalweapons-exclusiv/exclusive-tests-link-syrian-government-stockpile-to-largest-sarin-attack-sources-idUSKBN1FJ0MG .)

So we have an – unidentified – compound which supposedly establishes that the hexamine did indeed form part of the sarin production process, rather than of the explosive charge. And we are then told of the presence of another compound, which are told is ‘another specific fluorophosphate’: why not tell us which?

To anyone interested in actually making sense of the evidence, to have a mere two compounds mentioned, and those not adequately identified, suggests an alternative possibility: that people who knew details of the ‘synthetic pathway’ by which Syrian government sarin had been synthesised leaked them to those who were producing the substance for a ‘false flag.’ It would have been beyond the capabilities of a relatively primitive operation to produce any kind of close fit – to get a couple of compounds to match would probably not have been difficult at all.

If this suspicious interpretation if false, there is a very simple way to refute it – and General Mattis is in a perfect position to do this.

The close links between the American and British ‘intelligence communities’ have been stressed in comments on this thread. It is clear that in relation to Syrian chemical weapons, there was a division of labour.

Analysis of ‘environmental’ samples was concentrated at the British OPCW-certified facility, the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down in Wiltshire. Meanwhile, preparations for the dismantling of the Syrian chemical arsenal were the made at one of the two American OPCW-certified laboratories, the U.S. Army’s Edgewood Chemical Biological Center in Maryland.

The destruction of the 581 tonnes of the sarin precursor methylphosphonyl difluoride, or DF, aboard the specially kitted out vessel ‘M.V. Cape Ray’ in the Mediterranean was announced in August 2014. In the extensive reporting on the preparations for this, it was made absolutely clear that – as one would expect – the vessel was equipped with a proper analytical laboratory, with OPCW scientists involved as well as those from the Edgewood Center.

(See https://www.chemistryworld.com/feature/eliminating-syrias-chemical-weapons/7390.article .)

In a post entitled ‘Sentence First – Verdict Afterwards?’ shortly after the Khan Sheikhoun attack, and then in two ‘open letters’ to the members of our Defence and Foreign Affairs Committees, I pointed to the mass of evidence suggesting that the test results from different incidents did not match each other or those from the stocks destroyed on the ‘Cape Ray.’

(See http://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/habakkuk/ .)

The publicly available evidence, I argued, provided strong reason to believe that results from Porton Down and the OPCW confirmed the claim made by the Russians, supposedly on the basis of tests from their own OPCW-certified laboratory, that the sarin used at Khan Al-Asal and Ghouta was a ‘cottage industry’ product. This was also what Seymour Hersh claimed that tests carried out at Porton Down had revealed about the sarin used at Ghouta - he used the term 'kitchen sarin.'

What the Reuters report has – perhaps inadvertently – confirmed is that Porton Down had in fact tested ‘environmental’ samples from the Khan Al-Asal incident on 19 March 2013, the first where sarin was used in Syria, by suggesting that tests from that incident as well as those at Ghouta and Khan Sheikhoun matched the results from the stocks on the ‘Cape Ray’:

‘Laboratories working for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons compared samples taken by a U.N. mission in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta after the Aug. 21, 2013 attack, when hundreds of civilians died of sarin gas poisoning, to chemicals handed over by Damascus for destruction in 2014.

‘The tests found “markers” in samples taken at Ghouta and at the sites of two other nerve agent attacks, in the towns of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib governorate on April 4, 2017 and Khan al-Assal, Aleppo, in March 2013, two people involved in the process said.

‘“We compared Khan Sheikhoun, Khan al-Assal, Ghouta,” said one source who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the findings. “There were signatures in all three of them that matched.”’

Can anyone seriously believe that if the tests we know to have been done on at Porton Down had established what this ‘source’ who does not have the guts to the identify himself claims, this fact would not have been trumpeted to the skies – first when the results from Ghouta matched those from Khan Al-Asal, and then when both matched those from the ‘Cape Ray’?

Allright – sometimes the practically incredible turns out to be true. But if he has any evidence on which to base his claims, General Mattis should have the courage of his convictions, and order the disclosure of the relevant ‘spectra.’

Jack

David

You may already know this but Steele was a no show in a UK court for a deposition on the libel suit.

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2018/02/05/christopher-steele-is-no-show-in-london-court-in-civil-case-over-dossier.amp.html

Babak Makkinejad

I know something of spectroscopy.

The critical issue here is the provenance of the samples and not the sophistication of the techniques used in the analysis itself or its instrumentation.

The paragraph that you have quoted:

"To figure out signatures based on various synthetic routes and conditions, Chipuk says that the synthetic chemists on his team will make the same chemical threat agent as many as 2,000 times in an ..." reeks of intellectual intimidation - trying to brow-beat any skeptic by the size of one's instrument - as it were."

And then there is a little matter of confidence level in any of the analysis - such things are normally based on prior statistics - which did not and could not exist in this situation.

Tidewater

Tidewater says,

So you have forgiven the Communists for taking all the Spanish gold bullion from the Spanish equivalent of Fort Knox and shipping the whole kit and caboodle to Odessa? Wasn't that a bit much? And never a hint of giving it back either to this very day.

Why are your interests so far flung, like some sort of Isobel Eberhardt, when you have such a great and yet troubling story in your own back-yard. Or mountains.

What happens when Catalonia becomes independent? What does that do to the Basque country? What are they thinking there?

Are you for an independent Catalonia?

And now, what may or may not be the Trick Question: What do you think of Ernest Hemingway?

LeaNder

David, it's no doubt interesting to watch how attention on Victor Ivanov in another deficient inquiry on the British Isles, was managed in that inquiry. If I may, since he pops up again in the Steele dossier. You take what's available? Is that all there is to know?

I know its hard to communicate basics if you are deeply into matters. Usually people prefer to opt out. It's getting way too complicated for them to follow. You made me understand this experience. But isn't this (fake) intelligence continuity "via" Yuri Svets what connects your, no harm meant I do understand your obsession with the case, with what we deal with now in the Steele Dossier? Again, one of the most central figures is Ivanov.

Of course later reports in the Steele Dossier go hand in hand with a larger public relations campaign. Creating reality? Irony alert: as informer/source I would by then know what the other side wants to hear.

By the way, babbling mode, I found your Tom Mangold transcription. It felt it wasn't there on the link you gave. I used the date, and other search terms. Maybe I am wrong. Haven't looked at what the judge ruled out of the collection. Yes, cozy session/setting.

According to Google search there are no other links then your articles here:
http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20160613093555/https://www.litvinenkoinquiry.org/files/2015/04/HMG000513wb.pdf">https://www.litvinenkoinquiry.org/files/2015/04/HMG000513wb.pdf">http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20160613093555/https://www.litvinenkoinquiry.org/files/2015/04/HMG000513wb.pdf

**********

JAN RICHARD BÆRUG
The Collapsing Wall. Hybrid Journalism.
A Comparative Study of Newspapers and
Magazines in Eight Countries in Europe

Available online. Haven't read it yet, but journalism as hidden public relations transfer belt would be one of my minor obsessions. ...

David Habakkuk

Babak Makkinejad,

You are wrong about this. That the ‘chain of custody’ principle has been flagrantly violated in the reports of the ‘Fact-Finding Mission’ and the ‘Joint Investigative Mechanism’ is patently the case, and in itself reason why the almost unanimous acceptance of these in the MSM is scandalous. But that is a separate issue.

(See http://russiaun.ru/en/news/opcwun – the whole document is well worth reading.)

The reasons why the test results from the various laboratories were critical were set out last April in my ‘“Sentence First – Verdict Afterwards”?’ piece, and the two ‘open letters’ to the members of the Defence and Foreign Affairs Committees pointing out the need for clarification as to what was being claimed about the test results.

Let me recap, and update.

An example of the kind of ‘chemical forensics’ one needs in incidents like this was provided by the analysis of test results on ‘shell and soil’ samples purporting to derive from the Khan Al-Asal incident on 19 March 2013 which formed part of the document from the Russian OPCW-certified laboratory which was submitted to the UN Secretary-General on 9 July that year.

On 4 September, as part of the attempt to stop the visible attempt to use Ghouta to create an unstoppable momentum towards the destruction of the Syrian government, more details of what looks like an expanded version of the original document were made public by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In it they claimed that:

‘shell and soil samples contained nerve agents – sarin gas and diisopropylfluorophosphate – not synthesized in an industrial environment, which was used by Western states for producing chemical weapons during World War II.’

It was also made clear that the conclusions rested upon precisely the kind of very complex analysis Bethany Halford is describing:

‘We highlight that the Russian report is extremely specific. It is a scientific and technical document containing about 100 pages with many tables and diagrams of spectral analysis of the samples. We expect that it will significantly assist in the investigation into this incident by the UN. Unfortunately, it has in fact not started yet.’

(See https://www.rusemb.org.uk/fnapr/3169 .)

Unfortunately, the detailed ‘spectra’ have not been released, but they have certainly been analysed by experts at the OPCW and that organisation’s ‘Designated Laboratories’ in the West, including Porton Down. We know that the results from the materials tested on the ‘Cape Ray’ will show a sarin precursor ‘manufactured in an industrial environment.’

To prove what Mattis and others want to claim it is necessary that the ‘spectra’ from none of the other tests match those in the Russian report, and the ‘markers’ from the ‘Cape Ray’ materials are the same as those from Khan Sheikhoun, Ghouta, and Khan Al-Asal. If there are serious ‘chain of custody’ problems, the ‘markers’ from the four sets of tests might not be sufficient to establish Syrian government culpability – a lack of a match would be quite sufficient to establish that the indictment cannot be accepted as it stands.

As I brought out in my post last April, the publicly available evidence – of which Hersh’s ‘Red Line and Rat Line’ article and subsequent interviews form an important part – strongly suggests the Russian claims that the toxin used in both Khan Al-Asal and also Ghouta was ‘cottage industry’, as they put it, or ‘kitchen sarin’, as he put it, are correct.

It is simply not a refutation of these claims to treat one compound supposed to validate the ‘hexamine hypothesis’, and an unspecified fluorophosphate, which could be the diisopropylfluorophosphate reported by the Russians, or hexafluorophosphate, as conclusive evidence. (The implications, or lack of them, would be quite different, depending on which compound it was.)

And all this hush-hush whisper-whisper from ‘diplomats and scientists’ who are not prepared to be identified, as well as assurances from that supposedly ‘independent’ expert Colonel Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, only add to the grounds for scepticism. As I brought out in my post, he is under the strongest possible suspicion of having been involved in covering up, and quite possibly colluding in, the ‘false flags.’

If they have evidence to support the case, then let Western governments produce the ‘spectra’ – as also should the Russians. We do not need complete reports, which may need to be kept secret for perfectly good reasons – simply the ‘many tables and diagrams’ which must exist. Once these were out in the open, then it would be much easier to have an informed argument.

Most of this ground I covered last April. However, there is some crucial new context. Part of this is provided by a report in ‘The Intercept’ last October, entitled ‘NSA Document Says Saudi Prince Directly Ordered Coordinated Attack By Syrian Rebels On Damascus.’ As it explains:

‘According to a top-secret National Security Agency document provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden, the March 2013 rocket attacks were directly ordered by a member of the Saudi royal family, Prince Salman bin Sultan, to help mark the second anniversary of the Syrian revolution. Salman had provided 120 tons of explosives and other weaponry to opposition forces, giving them instructions to “light up Damascus” and “flatten” the airport, the document, produced by U.S. government surveillance on Syrian opposition factions, shows.’

(See https://theintercept.com/2017/10/24/syria-rebels-nsa-saudi-prince-assad/ .)

This was on 18 March – the day before Khan Al-Asal. Further relevant context is provided by a piece in February 2017 on the ‘Monitor on Massacre Marketing’ site by Adam Larson, entitled ‘What happened on March 19, 2013?’ which is subtitled ‘The First Bodies Tossed Across Obama’s “Red Line” in Syria.’

(See http://libyancivilwar.blogspot.co.uk/2017/02/what-happened-on-march-19-2013.html .)

This starts by reviewing the – ample – evidence that the Khan Al-Asal attack came at a point where there was very visible enthusiasm on the part of a lot of people in the United States and Western Europe for intervention in support of the ‘Assad must go’ agenda, so that he had every incentive to avoid chemical weapons use, and the insurgents every incentive to produce a ‘false flag.’

And Larson goes on to note that ‘Ironically, the first solid news of the feared chemical attack came in the form of a Syrian government announcement on March 19 that their forces had been gassed by “terrorists" in a town just west of Aleppo” – that is, the Shi’ite town of Khan Al-Asal.

There follow detailed reviews of the evidence of another incident on the same day, in which the victims appeared to be insurgents, at the Damascus suburb variously transliterated as Otaybah and Uteibah, and more fragmentary and puzzling evidence about events at Homs.

And Larson goes on to suggest that a three-pronged ‘false flag’ was planned for 19 March, in Aleppo, Damascus and Homs – the country’s three largest cities. This would obviously fit very well with the NSA intercept, in that it would suggest that the intent was to portray these as Assad’s savage response to the attacks in Damascus, thus, hopefully, generating unstoppable momentum for American military intervention.

This seems to me eminently plausible, but it leaves open two possible interpretations of Khan Al-Asal. When insurgents who are difficult to control are given access to weapons like sarin, there is an obvious possibility of matters developing in unexpected directions, either as the result of their bungling an attack, or succumbing to the temptation to use it against government forces.

However, a different set of unintended consequences is also possible. It could be that Syrian intelligence, perhaps with the assistance of Russian and/or Iranian, and with a combination of ‘SIGINT’ and ‘HUMINT’ methods quite possibly being deployed, knew precisely what was going on – and had double agents inside the groups preparing the ‘false flags.’

Rather than wait until the inevitable chorus calling for all-out air strikes began, it could well have made sense to turn one of the incidents into a ‘false flag’ within a ‘false flag.’

The anti-Assad camp would then have been effectively ‘snookered.’ They would have faced a situation where they would know that, if they acceded to the calls from the Syrians and Russians for a proper UN/OPCW investigation, making a rigorous use of ‘chemical forensics’, these would implicate the insurgents. And if the evidence suggested that it was these who had crossed Obama’s ‘red line’, it would have been game and set, and probably match, to the Syrian and Russian governments.

Irrespective of people’s views on what interpretation is plausible in relation to Khan Al-Asal, the important point is that strategies which rely strongly on convert action – as the ‘régime change’ projects I outlined in the current post do – are inherently liable to run out of control. The uncontrollability of their instruments, and the possibility of covert action meeting covert action in return, are always liable to generate unintended consequences which can escalate.

As soon as the possible that an impartial investigation would implicate the insurgents was real, in relation to Khan Al-Asal, irrespective of whether the imputation would have been justified, the alternative to facing a complete collapse of their projects in Syria, for Western governments, was inherently likely to be at best covering up, at worst colluding in, further ‘false flags.’ Moreover, intense pressure had to be mounted, to ensure that what were supposed to be sources of independent expertise supported their cover-ups.

This pattern, I am suggesting is common both to history of the ‘StratCom’ in which Christopher Steele has been involved, and that relating to chemical weapons use in Syria. Particularly when the ‘Fourth Estate’ ceases to do its job, a likely result is the progressive systematic corruption of institutions.

turcopolier

LeaNder

Which "Leander" are you? pl

LeaNder

Always the same Pat.

But thanks, got the difference by now. Pape - Papadopoulos.

Although, yes, I may have used Alex once lately. Without, to the extend I recall, sinister intention.

LeaNder

correction:

Pape - Papadopoulos.
should be Page - Papadopoulus.

Babak Makkinejad

I wonder too; their command of the English idiom is very au currant - noticed "opt in/opt out" reference? Too American.

They clearly are not native speakers of German.

LeaNder

why California, Kooshy #18? California among other things left this verbal trace, since I once upon time thought a luggage storage in SF might be free/available now: this is my home, lady.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kish_Island#Economy

Tourists from many—but not all—foreign nations wishing to enter Kish Free Zone from legal ports are not required to obtain any visa prior to travel. For those travelers, upon-arrival travel permits are stamped valid for 14 days by Kish officials.

Who are the not all? Can we assume Britain is not one of those?

The German link is different. How about the Iranian?

or isn't this the Kish we are talking about?

LeaNder

correcting myself #94:

another Ivanov. I struggled with names (...) in Russian crime novels, admittedly. But that's long ago from times Russian crime and Russian money flows and rogues getting hold of its nuclear material surfaced more often in Europe. 90s

I see Sergei seems to share my interest in the literary genre:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sergei_Ivanov#Personal

Babak Makkinejad

Thank you.

turcopolier

FM

You become more entertaining all the time. I would think you are more like the age of a grand daughter. Are you actually a member of a communist party or just a wannabe? pl

turcopolier

FM

But, you should join the party! Show the courage of your convictions! The Guardia Civil would like to know you. I'll bet your grandfather was a party member or was he also a wannabe? I don't care what you call me so long as it is not obscene. As a contribution to your education I will tell you that in the US retired military people are still in the military. They are not "former" military people. That is a different status. pl

turcopolier

FM

God is with the Communists? I think you are a little confused. Marxism-Leninism is specificall atheirst and anti-religious. pl

kooshy

Don't know, never been to Kish myself, just meant (compering) California is like paradise (persian Pardiss) once you enter you wouldn't want to leave. That's what happened to me anyway, never left.

turcopolier

Fatima Manoubia

I have decided that you are either a troll or an idiot. It is tempting to think that you are merely a fool but you display the symptoms of trollism: a desire to cause disruption through provocation and a desire to wound by denigration. You are banned from SST and guest authors are cautioned not to post comments from you. pl

Babak Makkinejad

You cannot be serious; not just in USSR, but also in Eastern Europe (e.g. Romania) the Communists continued the anti-clericalism of the Enlightenment Tradition. In Spain, 8600 priests were murdered by in territory of the Republic. Have you not read "Cypress Trees Believe in God"?

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