NEW YORK – Critics of the Obama administration’s policy on Syria are still asking for the “smoking gun” evidence that Bashar al-Assad’s regime is responsible for the chemical-weapons attack last month that reportedly killed more than 1,000 people.
On Sunday, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced samples collected by the U.N. inspection team in Syria were being transferred to chemical laboratories for inspection.
“The whole process will be done strictly adhering to the highest established standards of verification recognized by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, OPCW,” U.N. spokesman Martin Nerisky told reporters in New York on Monday.
Nerisky stressed that the U.N. mission is “uniquely capable of establishing, in an impartial and credible manner, the facts of any use of chemical weapons based directly on evidence collected on the ground.”
He noted that two Syrian government officials observed the U.N. inspection team closely, making sure the inspectors proceeded in strict adherence with the established standards of verification set up by the OPCW.
Quietly, the U.N. let it be known the two-week investigation in Syria was not aimed solely at determining the Syrian government’s involvement in chemical weapons attacks. The team also has been probing more than a dozen allegations of chemical weapons use, including many claiming the Syrian rebels were responsible.
Meanwhile, critics continue to present evidence challenging President Obama’s claim to have proof that the Assad regime was responsible for the chemical attacks last month in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta.
Among the questions are:
- Is Russia correct in asserting Israeli and U.S. intercepts of the telephone conversations of Syrian military officials leave doubt whether a Sarin gas attack had been ordered and authorized by the Assad government?
- Were the rebels responsible for the chemical weapons attack, not the Assad government, as claimed by a U.N. investigative team that went to Syria earlier this year to examine the evidence?
- Did Saudi Arabia manufactured the chemical agents and supply them to the rebel forces in Syria?
- Why did Britain sell the rebels the chemicals needed to make weapons?
Russians support Assad
On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced his intension to send a delegation of Russian lawmakers to the U.S. to discourage members of Congress from providing authorizing an Obama military attack on the Assad regime.
Russia continues to press the U.S. to prove the Assad government authorized the Ghouta attacks by releasing Israeli and U.S. telephone intercepts that purportedly establish the culpability of the Syrian Ministry of Defense.
Foreign Policy magazine said the telephone exchange took place between Syrian Ministry of Defense officials in “panicked phone calls” with a field commander of a chemical weapons unit, demanding answers for a nerve agent strike that killed more than 1,000 people.
The Foreign Policy article raises the possibility the attack could have been a miscalculation by the Assad government or even the action of a rogue field commander.
In June, Russia called on Turkey to share its findings in the case of Syrian rebels who were seized on the Turkish-Syrian border with a two-kilogram, or more than four pound, cylinder of Sarin nerve gas.
WND has reported continuing suspicions that Ambassador Christopher Stevens, when he was killed in Benghazi, Libya, was working with the CIA to ship weapons from Libya, through Turkey, to the rebels in Syria.
Rebels launch chemical attacks
A new photograph from Syria provided by Libyan expatriates in Cairo appears to back Middle East media reports cited by WND that say the rebels, which are composed of rogue al-Qaida elements mixed with Muslim Brotherhood radicals and Islamic mercenaries, launched the recent chemical weapons attacks.
The rocket-launcher shown in the image above resembles the weapon in a Syrian TV report that purports to show rebel forces in Syria preparing a chemical attack.
Video from the Syrian TV report posted on YouTube of Free Syrian Army forces can be seen here:
As seen below, a screen capture from the video shows rebel civilian forces placing a suspicious blue canister on top of a rocket-launching device.
A separate YouTube video from Syrian television shows a government-captured arsenal of what appears to be nerve gas weapons seized from a rebel stronghold in Jobar, Syria.
The image below shows canisters in the seized rebel arsenal from Jobar that appear to resemble the canister launched by rebel forces in the first image above.
WND has previously reported a United Nations investigating inquiry visiting Syria earlier this year placed the blame for chemical attacks on the rebel forces in Syria, not the Assad government.
On May 6, the BBC reported that Carla Del Ponte, a leading member of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Syria, established by the U.N. in August 2011, told Swiss TV the available evidence pointed to the Syrian rebels launching gas attacks, although the possibility government forces also using chemical weapons could not be ruled out.
“Our investigators have been in neighboring countries interviewing victims, doctors and field hospitals, and there are strong, concrete suspicions, but not yet incontrovertible proof, of the use of Sarin gas,” Del Ponte said in the interview, as reported May 6 by the London Daily Mail. “This was use on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities.”
The BBC also reported Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said he was deeply concerned by "signs that world public opinion is being prepared for possible military intervention" in Syria.
On the question of whether chemical weapons had been used, Lukashevich called for an "end to the politicization of this issue" and to the "whipping up of an anti-Syrian atmosphere.”
The report of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Syria delivered to the U.N .Human Rights Council in Geneva on June 4 found evidence of murder, torture, rape, forcible displacement or other inhumane acts having been committed both by government forces and by the rebels.
“There are reasonable grounds to believe that chemical agents have been used as weapons. The precise agents, delivery systems or perpetrators could not be identified," the report said.
Saudi Arabia connection?
Interviews conducted in Ghouta, where the most recent attack occurred, have raised suspicions that Saudi Arabian intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan supplied rebel forces with the chemical weapons.
WND previously published photographic evidence that the chemical agents held in weapons inventory by rebel forces were manufactured in Saudi Arabia.
A report from the Russian Arabic-language channel RT Arabic shows captured rebel arsenals apparently with chemical agents manufactured in Saudi Arabia and gas masks, supporting Russian claims that the rebels are responsible.
On Aug. 23, LiveLeak.com hosted an audio recording of a phone call broadcast on Syrian TV between a terrorist affiliated with the rebel civilian militia “Shuhada al-Bayada Battalion” in Homs, Syria, and his Saudi Arabian boss, identified as “Abulbasit.” The phone call indicates rebel-affiliated terrorists in Syria, not the Assad government, launched the chemical weapons attack in Deir Ballba in the Homs, Syria, countryside.
The terrorist said his group, which comprises 200 terrorists escaped from al-Bayadah to al-Daar al-Kabera through a tunnel, needed to buy weapons to attack Homs.
The Saudi financier, who was in Cairo, asked the Syrian terrorists to give details about his group and how it will receive the money. The Saudi admitted his support to terrorists in Daraa and the Damascus countryside. The Syrian terrorist told him that one of the achievements of his "battalion" was the use of chemical weapons in Deir Ballba.
The recorded phone call disclosed the cooperation between two terrorist groups in Syria to bring two bottles of Sarin Gas from the Barzeh neighborhood in Damascus.
Russian media sources have consistently reported Syrian military have discovered various rebel warehouses containing chemical weapons agents and have documented rebel chemical weapons attacks on Syrian civilians
The Daily Record in Britain created controversy over the past weekend by reporting that in January 2013, the British government granted export licenses for potassium fluoride and sodium fluoride, allowing firms to sell in Syria key ingredients involved in manufacturing chemical weapons such as Sarin.
The newspaper reported the U.K.'s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills began granting chemical export licenses 10 months after the Syrian uprising began.
The chemical export licenses were only revoked last June, after the European Union decided to extend economic sanctions against the Assad regime until June 1, 2014.