Did Assad or the Russians use chemical weapons against civilians in Syria or are we dealing with a false flag operation? Is Trump being duped by the neocons?
[It should be noted that as I was finishing this post I learned of the US strikes against Syria. Bear in mind that most of this post was written without my knowledge of those strikes.]
The Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province appears to be the scene of a chemical gas attack and if we are to believe the media and Western leaders it is Bashar al-Assad and Russia who are responsible for this atrocity. Even President Trump is blaming Assad and as a result the drum beats of US intervention in Syria is now clamoring at levels similar to that surrounding Obama’s redline fiasco. However, it is currently not clear that Assad is guilty of this crime and the incident could very well be a false flag attack by rebel groups intended to precipitate a Western military response against Assad’s regime.
The event in question occurred on April 4, when warplanes, either Syrian or Russian, bombed a residential section of Khan Sheikhoun.1 Shortly thereafter people began experiencing symptoms consistent with exposure to a chemical weapon. According to Al Jazeera’s Alan Fisher people were “people fainting, they were vomiting, they were foaming at the mouth.” Casualties are significant with at least 100 dead and 500 others sickened, many of which are children.2 It is also being reported that one of the hospitals treating the wounded has been struck by air strikes, presumably by Syria or Russian jets.3
There is some confusion as to what chemical agent was used. It was initially reported that the agent was chlorine gas, but now there is evidence that it was the nerve agent sarin. According to the Turkish Health Ministry, tests done on three dead victims who were being treated in Turkey indicate that they were possibly exposed to sarin gas.4 Some believe that both chlorine gas and sarin were used in the attacks.5
While the circumstances surrounding the deadly incident remain unclear, many were quick to express their outrage, the target of which was Assad and Russia. French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault called the attack “monstrous” while Federica Mogherini declared “obviously, there is a primary responsibility there from the regime and first and foremost because it has the primary responsibility of protecting its people and not attacking its people. The issue of accountability is key for the EU but also for the conference itself.”6 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demanded that the world “fully and finally remove these horrible weapons from Syria.”
White House spokesman Sean Spicer stated “These heinous actions by the Bashar al-Assad regime are a consequence of the last administration’s weakness and irresolution.” US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley demanded that the UN take action against Russia and Syria, wondering “How many more children have to die before Russia cares?” and warning that the US would be willing “to take our own action.”7 (The UN is investigating the incident as a possible war crime.8)
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson blamed Assad saying “there is no doubt in our mind that the Syrian regime under the leadership of Bashar al-Assad is responsible for this horrific attack.”9 He also criticized Russia warning “the Russians really need to think carefully about their continued support of the Assad regime.”
President Trump said “These heinous actions by the Assad regime cannot be tolerated. … [They] crossed a lot of lines for me.” When asked what his response will be he answered “You’ll see.”10
Turkish officials who have long been against Assad chimed in as well. Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu stated “I strongly condemn the attack. This is a crime against humanity and should be punished. But I am sure the Western world which stood impassive when red lines had been crossed in the past will try to cover up this incident. This is unacceptable for us.”11 President Erdoğan called Assad a murder questioning “Hey murderer Assad, how are you going to escape from their curse?”12
Russian and Syria deny they were involved in the attack
Unsurprisingly the Syrians have denied any wrongdoing. The Syrian Army issued the following statement:13 “We deny completely the use of any chemical or toxic material in Khan Sheikhoun town today and the army has not used nor will use in any place or time, neither in past or in future.” Syria’s Foreign Ministry reiterated such denials and also claimed that “these fabricated allegations will not prevent it [the Syrian regime] from continuing its war on terrorists as well as their supporters and sponsors in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and some of the EU countries.”14
Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem stressed “the Syrian army has not, did not and will not use this kind of weapons — not just against our own people, but even against the terrorists that attack our civilians with their mortar rounds.”15 He also implicated the rebel groups saying they “are stockpiling chemical weapons in urban areas.” So clearly Syria believes, or wants others to believe, that they are being set up by their enemies and that the rebels are responsible for the Khan Sheikhoun attack.
The Russians have also denied involvement in the attack and the Russian Ministry of Defense has claimed that Syrian warplanes struck a rebel ammunition depot, which unbeknownst to them, housed chemical weapons.16 The airstrike then caused the inadvertent release of the chemical agents which poisoned civilians in the vicinity.
Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the incident a “dangerous and monstrous crime” but also cautioned that “it would be incorrect to hang labels (to identify those who did it).”17 He also affirmed Russia’s support for Assad stating “The Russian Federation and its military are continuing…to support the anti-terrorism operation and liberation of the country, which is being conducted by the Syrian armed forces.”18
Iran is also condemning the incident but still supporting their ally in Syria. According to Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi, while Syria voluntarily handed over its chemical weapon’s stockpile, no such measures were adopted by the rebel groups, and that the Khan Sheikhoun attack was meant to disrupt the ceasefire in Syria.19
Was Assad responsible for the Khan Sheikhoun chemical attack?
So what are we to believe in this situation. Are most Western observers, leaders and media correct that Assad and the Russians gassed civilians in Khan Sheikhoun or was the release of chemical agents inadvertent as the Russians claim or was it done by the rebels as a false flag operation to frame Assad?
First it is clear that people were in fact poisoned by some type of toxic chemical agent or agents as there is photographic and video evidence of this. The Russian military in its explanation of the incident did not deny that such agents were involved only that the Syrian regime or themselves did not release it. The Syrian regime itself also did not deny that poison gas was somehow released, just that they were not responsible for it. So civilians in Khan Sheikhoun were exposed to some type of poison gas, but remains unclear is how did this happen and who did it?
Based on the current evidence, I am highly skeptical that the Syrian regime or Russia launched a chemical attack on civilians in Khan Sheikhoun. My skepticism is based on the lack of irrefutable evidence proving Syrian or Russian involvement, the timing of the incident, the rebels prior history of false flags involving chemical weapons, the irrationality of Assad conducting such an atrocity, and evidence implicating that an anti-Assad organization carried out the gas attack.
Lack of evidence
Lets start with the lack of evidence. As Dmitry Peskov remarked “Immediately after the tragedy no one had access to this region … any data which the US side or our colleagues from other countries might have had access to could not have been based on objective facts.”17 Even the UN has stated that they currently cannot verify what occurred at Khan Sheikhoun.20
According to a DEBKAfile article, “Today, no international inquiry commissions would be able to establish beyond doubt the source of the chemical substances that poisoned hundreds of people in Idlib this week or determine who was ultimately responsible for this atrocity.”21 It is notable that DEBKAfile, being a pro-Netanyahu Israeli news outlet, is anti-Assad. In the same article that I cite, which is entitled Condemnation will not stop Assad’s chemical war, they condemn Assad and the limp-wristed international response against him.
So if the anti-Assad DEBKAfile has to admit that currently no one can conclusively determine Assad’s guilt, the case against him is not well substantiated. Yet this uncertainty has not hindered the media and world leaders, including Trump, from declaring Assad guilty.
The media’s eagerness to condemn Assad is also rather ironic and hypocritical as they usually criticize anyone who will immediately label a terrorist attack in the West as being Islamic in nature, even though nearly all such cases are indeed cases of Islamic terror, and obvious cases at that. But while it is impermissible to quickly label a terrorist attack in the West as Islamic, it is perfectly fine to accuse Assad and the Russians of targeting civilians with chemical weapons, even though the evidence of such is inconclusive at best. But then again one should not expect objectivity from the Western mainstream media, as they are closer to propaganda organs than news outlets.
The timing of the attack
The timing of the Khan Sheikhoun attack is also suspect. On March 27 Nikki Haley commented “Our priority is no longer to sit there and focus on getting Assad out.”22 Then three days later, during a news conference in Ankara, Rex Tillerson stated “I think the longer term status of President Assad will be decided by the Syrian people.”23 Based on Haley’s and Tillerson’s comments it is clear that the Trump administration was no longer pushing for Assad’s removal from power. Trump’s main concern was not getting rid of Assad but fighting ISIL. Not surprisingly Senator John McCain was “deeply disturbed by statements today by our Secretary of State and Ambassador to the United Nations regarding the future of Bashar al-Assad in Syria.”24
Isn’t it odd that a few days after Trump’s officials made such conciliatory statements towards Assad, that the latter decided to gas civilians in Khan Sheikhoun, which seems to have caused Trump to turn against him. Tillerson is now admonishing the Russians to “think carefully about their continued support of the Assad regime,” which means that the US themselves are now carefully rethinking their ‘support’ of Assad. Trump has admitted “It is now my responsibility to respond to the crisis. My attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much.”25
So one week one Trump is warming towards Assad, and then the next week, thanks to the Khan Sheikhoun attack, he has made an abrupt change of course and is now firmly condemning Assad, possibly to the point of direct military intervention. Furthermore, due to Russia’s support of Assad, Russian-US relations, which were in the doldrums to begin with, may take a turn for the worse.
Maybe the timing of such events, and their ramifications, are coincidental, but it does strike me as rather suspicious. We should remember that there are numerous nations and groups–such as Turkey, the rebels, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the US deep state and Israel–who fervently desire Assad out of Syria. With Trump warming towards Assad, these groups must have been very concerned. So the question naturally arises as to whether any of these groups conducted a false flag operation in Khan Sheikhoun with the intention of falsely incriminating Assad and thereby prompting Trump to turn against him? Or maybe these groups are not guilty of conducting a false flag but instead are misrepresenting the incident to blame Assad towards the same ends? In my view these groups have the motive and are cold blooded enough to do so.
What does Assad have to gain from gassing civilians?
The ramifications of the Khan Sheikhoun attack makes one wonder why would Assad or the Russians gas civilians at this moment? With Trump willing to deal with him, why would Assad carry out such an atrocity? Does he not realize that gassing civilians will only play into the hands of those who want to remove him from power by forcing Trump to adopt a harder stance against him? With the recapture of Aleppo he has gained the upper hand in the civil war, so why would he need to commit such an atrocity against civilians? In other words Assad has nothing to gain from this atrocity and everything to lose.
Of course someone could counter that Assad is evil and greatly desires to punish the civilian population of Syria who are supporting the rebels. Maybe the terrible tactic of gassing civilians is meant to demoralize a restive population and break their will so that they will submit to Assad’s authority. Some have argued that Assad is conducting an ethnic cleansing campaign of sorts to kill and push out Sunnis from the land and replace them with Alawites and Shiites. Maybe the gassing of civilians is apart of this claimed ethnic cleansing campaign. All of these possibilities may be the case. Assad could be vicious enough to do such things, however I think this to be unlikely.
Assad may be a bad man, but he is obviously not an idiot, if he was he would not have remained in power after 6 years of a bloody civil war. And he is also not reckless, as shown by his remarkable restraint in not retaliating against numerous Israeli airstrikes conducted usually against Hezbollah or Iranian targets in his country.26,* So if Assad is rational enough to understand that he is in no position to forcefully respond to Israeli airstrikes on his soil, maybe he also realizes that gassing civilians at this moment, even if he is evil enough to desire to do so, is not the best course of action. Ultimately, Assad is not a saint, but neither is he dumb enough to brazenly gas civilians, an action that will provoke foreign intervention against his regime and may lead to his downfall.
Rebels have history of chemical gas attacks and false flags
There is another reason to believe that Assad may not be responsible for the Khan Sheikhoun attacks: the rebel groups in Syria have themselves on numerous occasions used chemical weapons and have attempted to frame Assad for using chemical weapons.
According to an IHS Conflict Monitor report ISIL has used chemical weapons, including chlorine and mustard gas, at least 52 times in Iraq and Syria.27 A UN inquiry by the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) concluded that ISIL used mustard gas in Marea on August 21, 2015.28 (It should also be noted that the same report concluded that Assad had used chlorine gas on two separate occasions.) According to a US official ISIL has been producing their own chemical weapons, in addition to seizing such agents from a Syrian military base.29
A UN diplomat stated that there is “strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof” that a sarin gas attack in Syria in early 2013 was conducted by rebel forces.30 There is also video of a FSA fighter threatening to use chemical weapons.31
Not only are there reports of rebel group using and threatening to use chemical weapons in Syria, there have been incidences in which they have staged false flag attacks to discredit Assad. The most notable such incident occurred on August 2013 in Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus, where rockets loaded with sarin gas targeted civilians. Initially it was claimed that the Syrian regime was responsible for this crime, and the media and many world leaders were clamoring for some sort of Western intervention against Assad.
It was this incident in which Obama drew his infamous red-line, which he promptly ignored. Whatever the reason for Obama backing down from military intervention against Assad and making himself look like a dithering leader, it was apparent that the Syrian regime was not responsible for the Ghouta chemical attack, the rebels were.
Tests conducted by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) determined that the sarin gas used at Ghoutin was not from Assad’s stockpiles.32 According to an expose by journalist Seymour Hersch rebel groups backed by Turkey carried out the attack in an effort to frame Assad and provoke a Western military intervention against him.33 According to Hersch, Obama was aware of this set up and was initially involved in it. It has been reported that the sarin used in Ghouta by the rebels came from Libya and its shipment to Syria was apart of the whole Benghazi debacle.34 Yossef Bodansky has made similar claims to Hersch’s.35
As such there is prior precedent for rebel groups in Syria for having access to and using chemical weapons, and for staging false flag attacks involving sarin gas to frame Assad. If it has been done before, it can be done again, and at the very least it is perfectly reasonable to suggest or allege that the Khan Sheikhoun attacks were a false flag perpetrated by some rebel group, or that the Syrian air force did inadvertently strike a rebel ammunition depot which contained sarin, chlorine gas or both.
Beyond demonstrating the reasonability of the false flag scenario there is evidence suggesting it to be the case. Mimi al-Laham a pro-Assad activist, otherwise known as Syrian Girl, has made a report for Infowars in which she writes “The White Helmets, an al-Qaeda affiliated group funded by George Soros and the British government, have reportedly staged another chemical weapon attack on civilians in the Syrian city of Khan Shaykhun to lay blame on the Syrian government.”36
She points out numerous inconsistencies in the mainstream media’s narratives on the attack, the most odd of which is a tweet by Orient TV made a day before the attack: “Tomorrow we are launching a media campaign to cover the airstrikes on Hama country side including the usage of chemical warfare against civilians.” I guess this was merely a coincidence.
While al-Laham’s report does not prove that the Khan Sheikhoun attack was a rebel false flag event, it illustrates that there are many uncertainties about the attack and the mainstream media’s narrative is not convincing.
What is Trump thinking?
Besides the deaths of innocent civilians including children due to exposure to some type of chemical agent, such as sarin or chlorine gas, what is most troubling about this incident is that President Trump seems to be convinced that Assad is guilty of this atrocity and that he must be removed from power and if necessary through military force.
One of the reasons for Trump being elected President of the US, was that many of those who voted for him were fed up with America’s foreign policy. They had enough of nation building and military intervention. They did not want to get rid of Assad, who in their eyes, for all of his faults, has been protecting minorities and Christians in Syria against the genocide of groups like ISIL. And they certainly did not want to support ISIL, al-Qaeda or whatever other ‘moderate’ Islamist group as a proxy army to do so. In effect they wanted nothing to do with the neoconservative foreign policy of Bush and Obama (which might be better labelled neo-liberal for the latter)
During the Presidential election campaign it seemed that Trump had successfully tapped into this sentiment of the American electorate. While not being an exact copy of Ron Paul’s form of isolationism (I do not use this term in a pejorative sense), Trump espoused elements of it, and at the least he was an American first pragmatist, who wanted to further America’s interests abroad and avoid pointless destructive and expensive foreign interventions, which only served to enrich the military industrial complex and to sow chaos throughout the Middle East.
People thought that Trump would pursue a different foreign policy than Bush or Obama. He would pursue rapprochement with Russia. He would not be obsessed with ousting Assad. He would be willing to work with Assad and Russia to defeat ISIL and thereby minimize the magnitude of America’s foreign intervention in the Middle East. This is what people expected and hoped for, but the reality has been different.
While Trump has not abandoned his campaign foreign policy–he is still going after ISIL, he did at one time appear open to rapprochement with Russia and Syria, and he has been demanding that America’s NATO allies pay their fair share–he does appear to be going off course. While a week ago his officials were conveying his willingness to work with Assad, now things have suddenly changed thanks to the Khan Sheikhoun incident. All of a sudden Trump is sounding like a neocon or even like Obama with his statement that Assad has “crossed a lot of lines for me.”
Will Trump completely emulate Obama and back down from his multiples lines or will he go full neocon and militarily engage against Assad, and reap the potential dire consequences of such action? According to a CNN source “Trump is considering military action in Syria,”37 while Tillerson is talking about initiating a process to remove Assad: “The process by which Assad would leave is something that requires an international community effort both to first defeat ISIS within Syria, to stabilize the Syrian country to avoid further civil war and then to work collectively with our partners around the world through a political process that would lead to Assad leaving.”38
So it does seem that Trump is seriously considering taking action against Assad, whether that be a limited strike against his chemical weapons, which we were told Assad completely dismantled, or initiating political pressure to remove him. Regardless of whether Assad is removed militarily or politically, which is assuming Russia or Iran would be on board with that, does Trump and company really believe that they will be able to fill the political vacuum with a ‘moderate’ liberal democracy? Will significant numbers of US troops need to be deployed to stabilized an Assad-free Syria? If US troops are not deployed will Syria descend into anarchy like Libya. Will Islamist groups rise to power, or will Turkey swoop in and partition the country and thereby begin the reconstitution of the Ottoman Empire? Regardless of what will happen, if Trump decides to oust Assad and if he is successful, then he may get much more than he bargained for.
So what has happened to Trump, why is he becoming more neoconish? Personally I do not believe that Trump has consciously betrayed his campaign promises or that he has duped his followers, I believe the problem is that he has been unsuccessful in draining the swamp and if any thing he has become stuck in the swamp and surrounded by a variety of unsavory swamp creatures who are undermining his agenda.
In this regard Trump has committed two major and potential devastating mistakes. He has not taken sufficient control of the US federal bureaucracy and he has surrounded himself with advisers and officials (swamp creatures) who do not believe in Trumpism and who are leading him astray.
On the first mistake it is clear that a decent percentage of the federal bureaucracy is against Trump, some to the point of insubordination. (After all only 4% of D.C. areas residents voted for Trump!39) Illegal leaks attempting to discredit and impede Trump abound. Many bureaucrats are not following his orders but are instead implementing there own Obama agenda. Parts of the CIA, other intelligence agencies and the State Department seem hell bent on sabotaging Trump and even ousting him from power.
Trump’ lack of control of the US bureaucracy is further exacerbated by the fact that “nearly 2,000 appointed positions in the administration of President Donald Trump remain vacant.”40 According to Mike Cernovich the deep state is attempting to obstruct Trump by stonewalling or not granting security clearances to many of his appointees, which is part of the reason why there remains so many vacancies.41 However, regardless of deep state obstructionism, Trump and his cabinet appointees are not focused enough on getting their people within the bureaucracy, which is hindering him from asserting control over it.
The other major mistake by Trump is to surround himself with advisers and cabinet appointees, who were not ardent supporters of his campaign message. In my view the only hardcore picks by Trump have been Jeff Sessions, Steve Bannon, Michael Flynn and maybe Rex Tillerson. This is not to say that the others picked by Trump are not capable individuals just that they do not strike me as true believers in Trumpism.
Take for example White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus or Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, who are nothing more than Republican establishment hacks, with Priebus being accused by some as the source of some of the White House leaks. Or H. R. McMaster, the replacement for Flynn as National Security Advisor (NSA), who does not appear to be on the same page as the President.42
Then there is Trump’s family, Ivanka and Jared Kushner, who may be decent and sincere people but are obviously rather left leaning and do not appear to have the mettle to battle the ferocious onslaught of the Democrats against Trump. Kushner, so as to discredit Bannon has been leaking information on the latter to Joe Scarborough of MSNBC.43 This may partly explain why Bannon called Kushner a “cuck” and a “globalist,” an appraisal which I suspect is probably correct.44
So Trump has surrounded himself with people who really do not share his views and instead of him controlling them and bringing them to his point of view, they are slowly but surely influencing Trump away from his original message and more towards an establishment republican neocon point of view. It is interesting that Paul Craig Roberts feared that Trump did not have enough experience and expertise to appoint the right people around him and that he could end up appointing insider types who would sabotage him.45 It appears that Roberts was correct in his assessment.
It is also interesting to note that during an interview Catherine Austin Fitts warned that the establishment would try to counter Trump by marginalizing and removing those who were true supporters of him and his message such as Bannon and Flynn.46 Within a few days of Fitts’ interview Flynn resigned as NSA due to his phone conversation with the Russian Ambassador, and was replaced by the neocon McMaster. Then they went after Sessions, again due to contacts with Russian officials, but were unable to get him to resign. Now Bannon has been kickoff the National Security Council, possible because he did not by into the Assad is guilty narrative, and has been replaced by Rick Perry of all people. I find it no coincidence that with Bannon marginalized that Trump is becoming more belligerent towards Assad who has always been a target of the neocons.
Ultimately Trump must take control of the federal bureaucracy, by focusing on getting his thousands of appointees in position, firing anyone who is insubordinate or a leaker, and disbanding the CIA, which I believe is out of control, and replace it with a new equivalent and restrained agency purged of any rogue elements. (I realize that if Trump does this then there is a good chance he will be assassinated, like Kennedy was who also wanted to break up the CIA). Trump also has to get rid of those he has appointed within his inner circle who do not completely buy into his agenda and he has to keep Bannon and surround himself with others who actually strongly support his ideology. (Maybe he needs to bring in people like Paul Craig Roberts or Catherine Austin Fitts.) If Trump does not do this, and do this soon, then I fear he will continue to be taken off track and his Presidency will likely be a disappointing failure.
Ultimately, we do not exactly know what occurred at Khan Sheikhoun on April 4. It cannot be ruled out that Assad carried a gas attack on civilians but neither can the alternatives explanations, that the Syrians inadvertently bombed a rebel chemical weapons depot or that the incident was a false flag intended to setup Assad. Based on my arguments herein I believe the latter to be the more likely explanation.
The lack of evidence, the timing of attack and the shear madness of doing so all suggest to me that it is highly unlikely for Assad, or the Russians for that matter, to have ordered the Khan Sheikhoun attack. It is not that I believe Assad to be incapable of such an atrocity, just that I don’t think him to be stupid enough to do it. Furthermore, it is in the interest of many groups, who are cold blooded enough to do so, to launch a chemical attack and blame it on Assad. Remember the rebels are on the back foot and they need to find some way to undermine Assad, while in the background lurks Turkey, the Gulf Arabs and the US deep state all of which also want Assad out.
While many people appeared to have been duped into believing that Assad is guilty of gassing civilians at Khan Sheikhoun, what is most worrisome to me is that Trump has also been duped. Instead of listening to Bannon, it appears that neocons such as McMaster are in control, and Trump is being led astray. And this is no minor problem, as I write this I have learned that Trump has executed a military intervention against Syria in response to Assad supposed responsibility for the Khan Sheikhoun attack. 59 cruise missiles have struck al Shayrat airbase in Homs province, which reportedly is where the chemical weapons attack was conducted from.47
One can only hope that this rash retaliation by Trump against Assad, for a crime he most likely did not commit, is not a harbinger of things to come, and most important of all that the situation does not eventually escalate to a World War 3 scenario.
References and Notes
 http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2017/04/06/Turkey-says-tests-on-Syria-attack-victims-point-to-possible-sarin-exposure.html , http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkish-health-ministry-says-initial-findings-point-to-sarin-gas-in-syrian-attack.aspx?pageID=238&nID=111682&NewsCatID=352
 http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/31/world/middleeast/syria-says-it-was-hit-by-strikes-from-israeli-planes.html , http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/188343 , https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/11/report-israel-strikes-target-in-syria/415446/ , http://www.rudaw.net/english/middleeast/110420161 , https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/nov/30/israeli-airstrikes-hit-damascus-outskirts-syrian-reports-say , https://www.ft.com/content/8d08632a-bc65-11e6-8b45-b8b81dd5d080 , http://www.foxnews.com/world/2017/01/13/syria-says-israeli-airstrikes-land-near-airport-west-damascus.html , http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/03/israel-carries-air-strikes-syria-170317070831903.html , http://www.timesofisrael.com/syrian-rebels-report-fresh-israeli-airstrikes-near-damascus/
[*] Although it does appear that with the most recent Israeli airstrike in Syria that Assad may finally have become fed up. He did retaliate to that airstrike and has threatened more retaliation against further such actions by Israel. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-03-17/syria-retaliates-against-israeli-airstrikes-as-tensions-escalate , http://www.businessinsider.com/syria-threatens-scud-missile-strikes-israeli-airstrikes-2017-3
 http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/may/6/syrian-rebels-used-sarin-nerve-gas-not-assads-regi/ , http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/10039672/UN-accuses-Syrian-rebels-of-chemical-weapons-use.html