More on the Khan Sheikhoun chemical attack: expert and CIA officials not buying the mainstream narrative

by omouggos

The alleged site of the chemical weapons release in Khan Sheikhoun.

During his brief on the al-Shayrat strike, President Trump cited no evidence to substantiate his claim that “There can be no dispute that Syria [Assad] used banned chemical weapons” against civilians in Khan Sheikhoun.1 Five days later the White House attempted to justify their actions against Syria and released a National Security Council (NSC) report which presented ‘evidence’ and ‘confirmed’ that Assad deliberately gassed civilians with sarin on April 4.2

According to the report:

“The United States is confident that the Syrian regime conducted a chemical weapons attack, using the nerve agent sarin, against its own people in the town of Khan Shaykhun in southern Idlib Province on April 4, 2017.

We have confidence in our assessment because we have signals intelligence and geospatial intelligence, laboratory analysis of physiological samples collected from multiple victims, as well as a significant body of credible open source reporting, that tells a clear and consistent story. We cannot publicly release all available intelligence on this attack due to the need to protect sources and methods, but the following includes an unclassified summary of the U.S. Intelligence Community’s analysis of this attack.”

While Trump, the US intelligence community (some elements of it), the mainstream media, and most world leaders are confident in the case made by the NSC report against Assad, not everyone is so credulous. Firstly, the report mainly cites open source information, much of which from pro-rebel sources. This indicates what I have suspected, that neither the US, nor any other Western group such as the UN, have boots on the ground to investigate and verified what actually occurred at Khan Sheikhoun. Instead they must rebel sources, who credibility and impartiality are dubious to say the least.

The only evidence that is presented in the report which is derived from US sources is the claim that:

“the chemical agent was delivered by regime Su-22 fixed-wing aircraft that took off from the regime-controlled Shayrat Airfield. These aircraft were in the vicinity of Khan Shaykhun approximately 20 minutes before reports of the chemical attack began and vacated the area shortly after the attack. Additionally, our information indicates personnel historically associated with Syria’s chemical weapons program were at Shayrat Airfield in late March making preparations for an upcoming attack in Northern Syria, and they were present at the airfield on the day of the attack.”

The report also disseminates a falsehood. While declaring with regards to Russia’s propagation of false narratives “we must demonstrate that subterfuge and false facts hold no weight” the report contains it own false fact. In an attempt to smear Assad it states “We must remember that the Assad regime failed to adhere to its international obligations after its devastating attacks on Damascus suburbs using the nerve agent sarin in August 2013, which resulted in more than one thousand civilian fatalities, many of whom were children.

As credible analysis has shown, the 2013 Ghouta chemical attack was not the fault of Assad, in actuality it was a false flag operation by rebels.3 The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which the NSC report cites to provide evidence of Assad prior use of chemical weapons after 2013, determined that the sarin gas used in Ghouta did not match that found in Assad’s stockpile. So it appears that the NSC is either ignorant of what has occurred in Syria or is partaking in their own subterfuge.

MIT chemical weapons expert critiques NSC report

If one is unaware of what actually occurred in Ghouta in 2013 and one ignores the lack of objective intelligence, at face value one could be convinced by the case against Assad made by the NSC report. However, if one goes beneath the surface, the NSC report has numerous problems that diminish its credibility. Fortunately there discerning minds who have critically analyzed the NSC report such as Theodore A. Postol, a Professor Emeritus of Science, Technology, and National Security Policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Dr Postol, an expert in ballistic missiles and the air dispersal of toxic plumes, who has taught courses at MIT on weapons of mass destruction, has assessed the NSC report and concluded:4,*

“I have reviewed the document carefully, and I believe it can be shown, without doubt, that the document does not provide any evidence whatsoever that the US government has concrete knowledge that the government of Syria was the source of the chemical attack in Khan Shaykhun, Syria at roughly 6 to 7 a.m. on April 4, 2017.

In fact, a main piece of evidence that is cited in the document points to an attack that was executed by individuals on the ground, not from an aircraft, on the morning of April 4. This conclusion is based on an assumption made by the White House when it cited the source of the sarin release and the photographs of that source. My own assessment, is that the source was very likely tampered with or staged, so no serious conclusion could be made from the photographs cited by the White House.”

The main piece of evidence that Dr Postol is referring to is a photograph of a small crater in a road, which contains what looks to be some type of exploded ordinance. Pertaining to this image the NSC report states “observed munition remnants at the crater and staining around the impact point are consistent with a munition that functioned, but structures nearest to the impact crater did not sustain damage that would be expected from a conventional high-explosive payload. Instead, the damage is more consistent with a chemical munition.” The report’s assessment is that this was likely the munition, containing a nerve agent, that was dropped by a Syrian Su-22.

Dr Postol interprets the image differently. His analysis is as follows:

“The data cited by the White House is more consistent with the possibility that the munition was placed on the ground rather than dropped from a plane. This conclusion assumes that the crater was not tampered with prior to the photographs. However, by referring to the munition in this crater, the White House is indicating that this is the erroneous source of the data it used to conclude that the munition came from a Syrian aircraft.

Analysis of the debris as shown in the photographs cited by the White House clearly indicates that the munition was almost certainly placed on the ground with an external detonating explosive on top of it that crushed the container so as to disperse the alleged load of sarin.

The dispenser [munition] looks like a 122 mm pipe like that used in the manufacture of artillery rockets. As shown in the close-up of the pipe in the crater in Figure 3, the pipe looks like it was originally sealed at the front end and the back end. Also of note is that the pipe is flattened into the crater, and also has a fractured seam that was created by the brittle failure of the metal skin when the pipe was suddenly crushed inward from above.”

So according to Dr Postol the munition was probably a sealed 122 mm pipe loaded with a nerve agent. It was then placed on the road with an explosive charge on top of it, which was then detonated. The force of the explosion caused the two ends of the pipe to blow out thereby releasing the poison gas. As Dr. Postol describes it “This mechanism of dispersal is essentially the same as hitting a toothpaste tube with a large mallet, which then results in the tube failing and the toothpaste being blown in many directions depending on the exact way the toothpaste skin ruptures.

Isn’t it rather odd that one of the few pieces of ‘hard’ evidence cited by the NSC report, which Dr Postol describes as containing “obviously false, misleading and amateurish intelligence,” does not even support the report’s conclusions! With more recent analysis, this evidence is even more discredited.

Dr Postol has issued an addendum to his initial assessment which based on photographic evidence “unambiguously shows that the assumption in the WHR [NSC report] that there was no tampering with the alleged site of the sarin release is not correct. This egregious error raises questions about every other claim in the WHR.5

He has also produced a second addendum which provides further evidence, this time video, that once again indicates that the “alleged site of the sarin release” was tampered with.6 This has led Postol to conclude “the assumption in WHR that the site of the alleged sarin release had not been tampered with was totally unjustified and no competent intelligence analyst would have agreed that this assumption was valid.

Even if the “alleged site of the sarin release” was not tampered with so as to falsely incriminate Assad for the Khan Sheikhoun attack (though it was), the photos of it do not support the NSC’s conclusions. As Dr Postol states “It is now obvious that this incident produced by the WHR, while just as serious in terms of the dangers it created for US security, was a clumsy and outright fabrication of a report that was certainly not supported by the intelligence community.

Former Intelligence Community personnel aren’t buying it either

It is not just Dr Postol that does not buy the mainstream narrative, many former US intelligence personnel do not as well. The Steering Group of the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) organization has issued a memorandum for President Trump, challenging the claim that Assad was involved in the Khan Sheikhoun chemical attack and warning that the resulting situation with Russia could spiral out of control.7

The document was signed by 28 individuals including William Binney former Technical Director of the NSA and former CIA officers and analysts such as Philip Giraldi, John Kiriakou and Ray McGovern. The VIPS warn “of the threat of armed hostilities with Russia – with the risk of escalation to nuclear war” which “has grown after the cruise missile attack on Syria in retaliation” for Assad’s supposed gassing of civilians at Khan Sheikhoun.

The memorandum then disputes the mainstream narrative and basically agrees with Russian explanation of the events in question:

“Our U.S. Army contacts in the area have told us this is not what happened. There was no Syrian “chemical weapons attack.” Instead, a Syrian aircraft bombed an al-Qaeda-in-Syria ammunition depot that turned out to be full of noxious chemicals and a strong wind blew the chemical-laden cloud over a nearby village where many consequently died.”

The VIPS conclude, “Surely it is time to deal with Russia on the basis of facts, not allegations based largely on dubious evidence – from ‘social media,’ for example” and recommendation that a summit with Putin be arranged to help defused the situation.

Sources said false flag orchestrated by Saudi Arabia and Israel

Robert Parry, a journalist who became famous for helping to expose the Iran-Contra scandal, has been delving into the Khan Sheikhoun incident and the subsequent al-Shayrat strike. Having many sources in the intelligence community he has been revealing interesting, albeit unsubstantiated, information on the case.

Robert Parry.

According to one of his sources: “the most likely scenario was a staged event by the rebels intended to force Trump to reverse a policy, announced only days earlier, that the U.S. government would no longer seek ‘regime change’ in Syria and would focus on attacking the common enemy, Islamic terror groups that represent the core of the rebel forces.8

Now another source is telling him that the false flag event goes far beyond the rebels. According to Parry US analysts analyzing satellite surveillance of Khan Sheikhoun, “couldn’t see any warplanes over the area in Idlib province at the suspected time of the poison gas attack but later they detected a drone that they thought might have delivered the bomb.9

So who’s drone was allegedly spotted by US satellite surveillance? Parry continued:

“analysts eventually came to believe that the flight was launched in Jordan from a Saudi-Israeli special operations base for supporting Syrian rebels, the source said, adding that the suspected reason for the poison gas was to create an incident that would reverse the Trump administration’s announcement in late March that it was no longer seeking the removal of President Bashar al-Assad.”

So if we are to believe Parry’s sources than Khan Sheikhoun incident was a false flag orchestrated by Saudi Arabia and Israel, both of which are unified in their opposition to Iran and by extension Assad in Syria.

Russians claim the al-Shayrat strike was pre-planned and that more false flag are to come

According to the Russian Foreign Ministry (FM) the US cruise missile strike on the al-Shayrat airbase has been in the works for a while, presumably due to the planning involved. The Russian FM stated: “It is obvious that the cruise missile attack was prepared in advanced. Any expert understands that Washington’s decision on air strikes predates the Idlib events, which simply served as a pretext for a show of force.10

Russian Ministry of Defense spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov concurred, “It is clear for any specialist that the decision for the missile strike on Syria had been made well in advance of the events in Khan Sheikhoun, which have become just a formal reason for the attack, while the demonstration of military power has been dictated only by reasons of internal policy.

In the context of the official Russian belief that the Khan Sheikhoun chemical attack was merely a pretext for US strikes against Syria, Putin has stated that more such pretexts are in the works. At a press conference Putin said “We have reports from multiple sources that false flags like this one – and I cannot call it otherwise – are being prepared in other parts of Syria, including the southern suburbs of Damascus. They plan to plant some chemical there and accuse the Syrian government of an attack.11

Some still believe Assad is guilty

While there are many who do not buy the official narrative, there are still some who do. The Iranian based War Reports website–run by “a group of independent Iranians” who are attempting “to report the misery of Syrians during the [Syrian Civil] war, while our focal point is on the role of [the] Islamic Republic of Iran in this war and the adverse consequences of their involvement12–has claimed that the Syrian regime carried out the chemical attack at Khan Sheikhoun to prevent “Iranian-affiliated ground forces, Hizbullah, and the Syrian army” from losing further ground to rebel forces.13

Zaher al-Sakat

For those who claim that Assad could not have gassed civilians at Khan Sheikhoun simply because he handed over all of his chemical weapons stockpiles in 2014, according to a regime defector, Assad did not in fact hand over all of his stockpiles. Zaher al-Sakat, the former head of chemical warfare for the 5th Division, has claimed that Assad still has hundreds of tons of chemical weapons stored in bases in the mountains surrounding Homs and Tartus.14

Conclusion

While some have criticized me for questioning the mainstream narrative pertaining to the Khan Sheikhoun chemical attack, Dr Postol and VIPS has shown there are plenty of cogent reasons to dispute it. Trump’s declaration that “there can be no dispute that Syria used banned chemical weapons” is becoming increasingly farcical.

It is still uncertain what exactly happened at Khan Sheikhoun. Those with VIPS claim that hte Syrian air force most likely struck a rebel munitions depot storing chemical weapons, which caused the unintended release of the latter. Some of Robert Parry’s sources are corroborating this explanation, yet others of his are claiming that a drone flying out of a secret Saudi-Israeli base in Jordan released a chemical weapon to blame Assad. Based on Dr Postol’s assessment it is clear  that evidence has been tampered with by people likely associated with the rebels.

Regardless of which theory is correct, it is becoming increasing clear that what Trump and his administration is telling us about Khan Sheikhoun is not accurate and is likely no mistake, but a willful attempt to deceive and provide a pretext to remove Assad from power in Syria.

O Mouggos

References and Notes

[1] http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-04-06/trump-statement-syria-air-strikes

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/04/11/world/middleeast/document-Syria-Chemical-Weapons-Report-White-House.html , https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/11/world/middleeast/russia-syria-chemical-weapons-white-house.html

[3] https://www.lrb.co.uk/v36/n08/seymour-m-hersh/the-red-line-and-the-rat-line , https://www.lrb.co.uk/v35/n24/seymour-m-hersh/whose-sarin , http://www.globalresearch.ca/hillary-clinton-approved-delivering-libyas-sarin-gas-to-syrian-rebels-seymour-hersh/5522647http://shoebat.com/2013/09/03/obama-an-accessory-to-war-crimes-in-syria/

[4] http://www.globalresearch.ca/assessment-of-white-house-intelligence-report-about-nerve-agent-attack-in-khan-shaykhun-syria/5584867 , https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B_Vs2rjE9TdwR2F3NFFVWDExMnc/view

[*] He does except the report’s claim that a nerve agent such as sarin was used in the Khan Sheikhoun attack.

[5] http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2017/04/addendum-dr-theodore-postols-assessment-white-house-report-syria-chemical-attack.html

[6] http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-04-15/video-tampering-evidence-syrian-chemical-weapons-attack

[7] https://consortiumnews.com/2017/04/11/trump-should-rethink-syria-escalation/

[8] http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-04-08/former-cia-officer-intelligence-confirms-russian-account-syria

[9] https://consortiumnews.com/2017/04/12/trump-withholds-syria-sarin-evidence/

[10] https://www.memri.org/reports/russias-reactions-us-missile-strike-syria

[11] https://www.rt.com/news/384333-putin-idlib-attack-provocation/

[12] https://warreports.org/about-us/

[13] https://www.memri.org/reports/iranian-website-specializing-syrian-war-reports-gas-attack-intended-save-iraniansyrian

[14] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/04/14/bashar-al-assad-still-has-hundreds-tonnes-chemical-weapons-former/ , https://www.dailysabah.com/syrian-crisis/2017/04/15/assad-still-has-massive-chemical-weapons-stockpile-former-syrian-chemical-warfare-head

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