(ANALYSIS) — It seems that neither the U.S. State Department nor the corporate media will give up on the incessant claims of the Syrian government’s alleged use of “chemical weapons” in Syria. This is, of course, despite having no evidence to back up their claims of Assad’s guilt. As usual, however, that hasn’t stopped the U.S. government or Reuters from promoting the claims as absolute truth as evidenced by the latest report by Reuters entitled “Assad Linked To Syrian Chemical Attacks For First Time.”
In this article, Reuters attempts to paint a picture that not only lays the blame for chemical weapons attacks at the feet of Assad, but also claims that the investigators have labeled Assad himself as personally responsible for them. Yet there are a number of problems with the article. First, it incorrectly assumes that the U.N. report referenced from 2016 is accurate. Second, it claims that the report labels Assad as personally responsible despite denials from the actual committee producing it that a list has even been compiled.
Anthony Deutsch writes for Reuters,
International investigators have said for the first time that they suspect President Bashar al-Assad and his brother are responsible for the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian conflict, according to a document seen by Reuters.
A joint inquiry for the United Nations and global watchdog the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) had previously identified only military units and did not name any commanders or officials.
Now a list has been produced of individuals whom the investigators have linked to a series of chlorine bomb attacks in 2014-15 – including Assad, his younger brother Maher and other high-ranking figures – indicating the decision to use toxic weapons came from the very top, according to a source familiar with the inquiry.
Yet, curiously, Deutsch states that Reuters saw the list but “Reuters was unable to independently review the evidence or to verify it.”
Deutsch also points out that:
The U.N.-OPCW inquiry – known as the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) – is led by a panel of three independent experts, supported by a team of technical and administrative staff. It is mandated by the U.N. Security Council to identify individuals and organisations responsible for chemical attacks in Syria.
Virginia Gamba, the head of the Joint Investigative Mechanism, denied any list of individual suspects had yet been compiled by the inquiry.
“There are no … identification of individuals being considered at this time,” she told Reuters by email.
Basically, Reuters should correct its article to read that “Reuters saw a list” that was reported to have been compiled by the JIM but which the JIM denies having compiled.
Still, Deutsch falls back upon a previous JIM report, stating that “A joint inquiry for the United Nations and global watchdog the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) had previously identified only military units and did not name any commanders or officials.”
Yet that JIM report is itself highly questionable. For instance, in an op-ed for RT by Russian Ambassador to the UK, Alexander Yakovenko wrote,
While appreciating the significant amount of work done by the JIM and its experts, conclusions drawn by its leadership panel are hardly convincing. It has become obvious that due to objective reasons it had very little chance to conduct an effective investigation. One of the main problems was lack of access to the locations due to the dire security situation on the ground.
There are also other factors that have seriously affected the quality of the investigation, including it being carried out in some cases more than two years after the incident, some of the information was misleading, and sources of information were of second or third hand. The accusation against Damascus is mostly based on the testimonies of the “witnesses” handpicked by opposition NGO’s, and the assumption that nobody but the government forces in Syria have access to aircraft, which could be used to drop barrel bombs filled with chlorine.
Taking into consideration the gaps and inconsistencies in the report, one may conclude that there is insufficient evidence to state that any party, be it the government of Syria or even ISIS, was undoubtedly involved in the use of chemical weapons. It is also necessary to ask ourselves, what is the motive behind such an insignificant, from a military point of view, use of chlorine as a chemical weapon?
Such acts serve no purpose for Damascus in view of its possession of much more destructive conventional weapons and especially given the fact that no military operations to recapture towns mentioned in the report followed the incidents. Apart from the fact that such acts carry a clear hallmark of propaganda tailored to putting the blame on the Syrian government at pivotal moments of the ongoing civil conflict.
There are talks about the need to impose sanctions against Damascus on the basis of the JIM’s conclusions. There are no grounds for such action which, above all, might be extremely detrimental for efforts aimed at a political settlement.
. . . . .
Considerations of a strictly political nature on the part of some of our colleagues in the Council have caused the international community to lose a minimum of two years that could have been spent in developing measures to address the threats and challenges of chemical terrorism.
Unfortunately, the time lost in pointless political rhetoric has also affected the work of both the OPCW and the JIM, and made it much harder for them to execute their respective mandates. Even now some of the proponents of imposing sanctions against Damascus blatantly call to turn a blind eye to chemical crimes committed by ISIS. Despite this shortsighted policy the time has come for serious action to address this problem.
Mr. Yakovenko did not even mention that, while the Western corporate press and the United Nations placed the blame on the Syrian government because the Syrian government was allegedly the only one capable of delivering chlorine bombs from the air, the terrorist have been delivering chlorine bombs and other chemical weapons from the air for some time via the infamous “Hell Cannon.”
It should also be mentioned that earlier reports of the OPCW report were clear that, what little evidence did exist regarding the chemical attacks, had more hallmarks of having been the handiwork of America’s terrorists.
The United Nations and its myriad of “investigative inquiry” teams have several times blamed Assad for chemical weapons attacks despite evidence to the contrary, even evidence presented by the U.N.’s own researchers.
For instance, UN investigator Carla del Ponte stated to Western media outlets as far back as March, 2013 that chemical weapons were used, not by the Syrian government, but the Syrian death squads that the Western media so desperately attempts to promote as freedom fighters and peaceful protesters.
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