(NOTE: The article appearing here is subject to denials and counter claims from various sources including or allegedly including Dale Gavlak, Mnar Muhawesh (editor Mint Press News) While unresolved we leave the article here as archive. Further back story can be found at Brown Moses blog )
In an article entitled ‘EXCLUSIVE: Witnesses Of Gas Attack Say Saudis Supplied Rebels With Chemical Weapons’, MintPress News reporter Dale Gavlak and freelancer Yahya Ababneh reveal a story that could stop a war.
UPDATE: MintPressNews.com website is down. Here is a googlecache of the original article
MintPress News has released this story which claims rebels and local residents in Ghouta accuse Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan of providing chemical weapons to an al-Qaeda linked rebel group. Extract:
However, from numerous interviews with doctors, Ghouta residents, rebel fighters and their families, a different picture emerges. Many believe that certain rebels received chemical weapons via the Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, and were responsible for carrying out the dealing gas attack.
“My son came to me two weeks ago asking what I thought the weapons were that he had been asked to carry,” said Abu Abdel-Moneim, the father of a rebel fighting to unseat Assad, who lives in Ghouta.
Abdel-Moneim said his son and 12 other rebels were killed inside of a tunnel used to store weapons provided by a Saudi militant, known as Abu Ayesha, who was leading a fighting battalion. The father described the weapons as having a “tube-like structure” while others were like a “huge gas bottle.”
Ghouta townspeople said the rebels were using mosques and private houses to sleep while storing their weapons in tunnels.
Abdel-Moneim said his son and the others died during the chemical weapons attack. That same day, the militant group Jabhat al-Nusra, which is linked to al-Qaida, announced that it would similarly attack civilians in the Assad regime’s heartland of Latakia on Syria’s western coast, in purported retaliation.
“They didn’t tell us what these arms were or how to use them,” complained a female fighter named ‘K.’ “We didn’t know they were chemical weapons. We never imagined they were chemical weapons.”
“When Saudi Prince Bandar gives such weapons to people, he must give them to those who know how to handle and use them,” she warned. She, like other Syrians, do not want to use their full names for fear of retribution.
A well-known rebel leader in Ghouta named ‘J’ agreed. “Jabhat al-Nusra militants do not cooperate with other rebels, except with fighting on the ground. They do not share secret information. They merely used some ordinary rebels to carry and operate this material,” he said.
“We were very curious about these arms. And unfortunately, some of the fighters handled the weapons improperly and set off the explosions,” ‘J’ said.
Doctors who treated the chemical weapons attack victims cautioned interviewers to be careful about asking questions regarding who, exactly, was responsible for the deadly assault.
The humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders added that health workers aiding 3,600 patients also reported experiencing similar symptoms, including frothing at the mouth, respiratory distress, convulsions and blurry vision. The group has not been able to independently verify the information.
More than a dozen rebels interviewed reported that their salaries came from the Saudi government.
The report remains without further verification at this stage. Although unrelated sources seem to be piecing similar narratives together. On Irish RTÉ channel this morning Tory MP Andrew Bridgen told RTÉ News that information emerging from the UN inspection team may have helped stall military efforts, saying he suspected the attack may have even been an accident. Another source for a story which may corroborate locals claims comes from a Corbett Report video . Ayssar Midani (a French Syrian citizen and political activist) names the local Jabhat al-Nusra commander, Sheikh Zahran Abdullah Alloush, as having ordered the firing of the two rockets with chemical warheads (in fact, reports are that Alloush is the commander of the Liwa al-Islam Brigade, based in Duma but verification is difficult).The Assad regime has reported 3 more alleged rebel chemical attacks to the UN. In breaking news UK parliament revolt sees MPs vote against air strikes.
The road towards American, and consequently allied, attacks in Syria has been signposted for a couple of years. You need to sell these actions to war-weary citizens. Since 2011 it has been clear that this Unique Selling Point could be chemical weapons. Would the western media be compliant in another fraud so soon after the ‘dodgy dossier‘ ?
Noted in the Wikileaks ‘GIfiles’ cables releases from 2012 is one email which quotes from an Andrew Rettman report in EUobserver.com (10th Aug ’11) ‘Strike on Syria is Technically Feasible’. The report pours doubt on the successful outcome of any such attack but it notes in one paragraph ‘Syria is said to have two Scud missile brigades armed with conventional and chemical warheads (VX, Sarin and Mustard gas), as well as M600 chemical-ready missiles, which it could fire at Israel in retaliation.’
Last year Obama said
“We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized,” the president said a year ago last week. “That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.”
The mounting press speculation on Assad’s propensity to use chemical weapons and their simultaneous support of action against him has been noticeable since late last year. Many of the usual suspects are doing their bit. For example the New York Times’ Michael R. Gordon who was a key cheerleader with false information on the Iraq invasion of 2003, in November of 2012 wrote about Syria’s chemical weapons quoting anonymous sources. He also wrote of Hezbollah’s capabilities and intentions again quoting anonymous sources although admitting there was no evidence elsewhere in this same article. Simultaneously he links North Korea, Hezbollah and China with Assad and attributes discovery of dozens of chemical rocket sites to unnamed sources.
Within a month Gordon again uses unnamed sources in depth and referring to unseen intelligence. The final paragraph is key
‘The activity at the Syrian chemical weapons sites, described by American, European and Israeli officials, poses an additional challenge for the West. The senior American official confirmed on Saturday that in the past two or three days, United States and allied intelligence have detected that the Syrian military was carrying out some kind of activities with some of its chemical stockpiles.’
There have been chemical weapons used in Syria this year. These attacks were attributed to Assad’s regime forces. They subsequently turned out to be rebel attacks. We moved on. We forgot.
And then the deadly morning of 21st August. At 2.45am during heavy fighting in rebel-held areas of Ghouta in eastern Damascus an opposition Facebook report claimed ‘chemical shelling’ in Ein Tarma and two minutes later another chemical weapon report from another Ghouta area, Zamalka. The horrendous videos and pictures made it around the world, and while the initial reports of thousands dead was downgraded to approximately 330-350 by Doctors Without Borders the images of so many dead children still shocks.
That Assad would authorise a chemical attack made no sense. But that is beside the point. The point is proof. While John Kerry stated Monday that Assad’s guilt was “a judgment … already clear to the world” there are journalists and others that still belief in evidence before judgement. An ‘exclusive video’ has been circulating today showing an apparent launch of chemical weapons that proves Assad’s guilt. The video was shot in broad daylight, the atrocity in Ghouta occured in darkest night.