WASHINGTON – A 100-page report on an investigation turned over to the United Nations by Russia concludes that the Syrian rebels – not the Syrian government – used the nerve agent sarin in an attack in the Syrian city of Aleppo last March.
While contents of the report have not been released, sources tell WND that the documentation indicates that deadly sarin poison gas was manufactured in a Sunni-controlled region of Iraq and then transported to Turkey for use by the Syrian opposition, whose ranks have swelled with members of al-Qaida-affiliated groups.
President Obama, at a recent Stockholm, Sweden, news conference, was dismissive of the alleged chemical weapons capability of the Syrian opposition. The United Nations, however, claims it now has the documentation to substantiate the claim but still hasn’t begun investigating its findings.
Obama and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry claim the U.S. has intercepts, or signals intelligence called Sigint, which establish that the Syrians ordered the chemical weapons attack on opposition forces Aug. 21.
But sources say that the intelligence lacks any smoking-gun evidence pointing to a direct order from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
In addition, sources tell WND that the intelligence originated with the Israelis, who have a vested interest in seeing Assad removed and his known chemical weapons storage facilities destroyed.
The question remains whether the U.S. has independent, verifiable intelligence of what the Israelis apparently provided to the U.S. intelligence community.
Memories remain fresh of Sigint used by then-U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell in February 2003 to make the case against Iraq.
Based on that Sigint intelligence, the U.S. initiated military action in March 2003 against the Iraqi regime, only to discover following a country-wide search that there were no stockpiles of chemical weapons.
U.S. military action never was approved by the U.N. Security Council. However, military action with a “coalition of the willing” resulted in regime change and the ouster of Saddam Hussein.
As Obama prepares to order a “limited” missile attack on Syria, the documentation that the U.N. received from the Russians earlier this year indicates that the poison gas attack on Aleppo in early March was sarin gas supplied to Sunni foreign fighters by a Saddam-era general working under the outlawed Iraqi Baath party leader, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri.
Al-Douri was a top aide to Saddam Hussein before he was deposed as president. In 1988, he ordered a massive chemical weapons attack on the Kurdish village of Halabja.
Sources say the sarin nerve gas used in the attack on the Khan al-Assal area had been prepared by former Iraqi Military Industries Brig. Gen. Adnan al-Dulaimi and then were supplied to Baath-affiliated foreign fighters of the Sunni and Saudi Arabian-backed Jabhat al-Nusra Front in Aleppo, Syria, with Turkey’s cooperation through the Turkish town of Antakya in Hatay Province.
The source who brought out the documentation now in the hands of the U.N. is said to have been an aide to al-Douri.
The former aide said that al-Dulaimi was a major player in Saddam’s chemical weapons production projects. Al-Dulaimi has been working in the Sunni-controlled region of Northwestern Iraq where the outlawed Baath party now is located and produces chemical precursors.
The former aide said that ex-Iraqi military industries engineers trained the Syrian terrorists on how to use the chemical weapons.
The 80 mm shells that landed in the Khan al-Assal region of Aleppo contained a chemical substance very similar to what is being produced in northwestern Iraq. It is the same type of lethal gas that was used against the Iranians during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war.
U.N. investigators claim to have testimony from local residents of the region that Syrian rebels used the sarin gas. However, there was no evidence that the sarin gas came from the Syrian military.
“Our investigators have been in neighboring countries interviewing victims, doctors and field hospitals and, according to their report…which I have seen, there are strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof of the use of sarin gas, from the way the victims were treated,” according to Carla Del Ponte, who was a member of the U.N. independent commission of inquiry.
“This was used on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not the government authorities,” Del Ponte said.
This U.N. preliminary finding bolsters videos available to WND which similarly show militants firing artillery shells with chemical weapons and canisters of poison gas captured by Syrian troops from Syrian opposition forces.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said he has turned over to the U.N. the documentation from the Iraqi defector but, to date, the international organization has yet to make a final determination on the evidence.
U.N. investigators arrived in Syria a day before the Aug. 21 poison gas attack on the outskirts of Damascus, killing some 1,429 people, of which more than 400 were children.
Sources add that given Obama’s declaration of a “red line” on the use of chemical weapons, it would be in the opposition’s interest to make it appear that such weapons were used by the Syrian government.
Because the Syrian opposition has had serious military losses in recent months, it knows that any such use of poison gas could prompt Western intervention in the two-year Syrian civil war that could turn the military tide in its favor.
Similarly, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has suggested that opposition use of chemical weapons to exact a Western military response would gut any effort by Russia and the U.S. to convene Geneva 2 summit in September at which the Syrian government would be represented.
The opposition has refused to attend any international meeting to resolve the Syrian crisis if the Syrian government is present.