Both Sides Now

Today, the Senate Foreign relations Committee essentially drafted a declaration of war against Syria. The text is here: http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2013/09/03/full-text-senate-foreign-relations-committee-resolution-on-syria/.The slogan “where’s the beef” should be liberally applied when reading it.

Ever since August 21st’s chemical weapon incident, Obama and his administration have been building a posture for starting the war. You may recall that in the first days, the justification for preparing an attack was a simply a claim of confidence in some intelligence report that appears to have originated with an Israel intelligence unit’s intercept of a communication between a local commander and a shocked superior asking what happened. This of course has been embroidered into a vast array of other supporting sources and claims not a single one of which has been revealed in any detail whatsoever. Obama and his teleprompter have given no other proof other than a ‘we know – trust us’.

Right from the start we attempted to find evidence that would answer some basic questions such as:

  1. Who actually conducted the attack. If it was the Syrian army, then identification of a particular unit and unit commander would be required as part of the proof – i.e., who pulled the trigger? We haven’t seen this.
  2. Who knew about the attack? If it was a Syrian army unit then was it a battlefield decision by a local commander – perhaps rogue – or did the general staff know. Did Assad know? Recall that recently a US soldier went off the reservation and murdered a couple of dozen Afghans in their homes including women and children. If Assad were to be held accountable for the action of a rogue officer, then by the same logic, Obama should be held accountable for the action of his man. The means and the scale are different but these are the only differences. As an example of a dissenting claim of who carried out the attack, consider: http://www.mintpressnews.com/witnesses-of-gas-attack-say-saudis-supplied-rebels-with-chemical-weapons/168135/.
  3. What is the agent used and can its source be identified? Earlier gas attacks were attributed to the rebels by UN inspectors, a point that the US has deliberately ignored or lied about.
  4. What are the possible motives for chemical use? For example, why would Assad authorize the use of a chemical weapons just days before a UN inspection team was to arrive and at a time when his forces had the upper hand? Against this consider the analysis of edward Luttwak: In Syria, America Loses if Either Side Wins – NYTimes.com in which he argues that the optimal position for the US is  to attack and degrade Assad’s forces enough to produce a stalemate. This is precisely what the Senate committee has recommended. Of course a false flag (These False Flags Were Used To Start A War, also read Warfare State Duplicity: A Brief History Of False Flag Terrorism) incident is required as justification since they have no other.

We uncovered many sources, analysis, and claims that stand in opposition to the US claims, enough so to warrant careful unbiased examination by a third party other than the US. Many of the items we came across are woven together in this following video which we think is much closer to the truth.

Obama’s initial position was a short “surgical” strike to “punish” Assad. The Senate committee is proposing a much more extensive and dangerous position that will draw in Iran and quite possibly Russia. We are possibly as close to a nuclear World war II as we have been since the height of the cold war. Remember that the Cuban missile crisis arose because the Russians were mucking around in the US’s back yard. Well Obama is mucking around in Russia’s back yard.

Addendum 20130905

We expect much material relevant to our opening discussion above to emerge in the short-run. While we had not planned to update it, an excellent summary position from NightWatch appeared over night. Since it is published in the public domain we reproduce a large section below. The reader may find considerable congruence with our position. Any emphasis we have added.

Nightwatch For the night of 4 September 2013:

Syria and Gas: Previously, the US, France and the UK published declassified documents about the 21 August gas attack and Syrian government forces use of gas in the past. Today, Russia published a summary of its findings about a prior attack that was alleged loudly and wrongly to be a Syrian government chemical attack.

This Russian study concerns a gas attack in Aleppo, also attributed to the Syrian government. The Russian document has received no coverage in Western media.

NightWatch reproduces the Russian report below.

“Text of “Commentary by the Information and Press Department of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in connection with the situation concerning the investigations into the use of chemical weapons in Syria” by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs website on 4 September”

“We note a massive injection into the information space of material of different kind with a view to make official Damascus responsible for a possible use of chemical weapons in Syria even before the publication of the results of the UN investigation. “Groundwork” is thus being prepared for the use of force against it. In view of this, we deem it permissible to share the main findings of the Russian analysis of the samples collected at the site of the incident involving the use of toxic warfare substances in Aleppo’s Khan al-Assal suburb.”

“We recall that that the tragedy, which killed 26 civilians and Syrian army servicemen and left 86 people with injuries of varying severity, took place on 19 March of this year. The results of the analysis of samples carried out by a Russian laboratory certified by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons at the request of the Syrian authorities were on 9 July handed over to the UN secretary-general due to the Syrian authorities’ request for him to conduct an independent investigation into that incident. The Russian specialists’ main findings are as follows:

– the used piece of ammunition was not a standard issue piece of Syrian army ammunition but a crudely produced one whose type and parameters were similar to those of the unguided rockets produced in Syria’s north by the so-called Bashair al-Nasr brigade;

– hexogen, which is not used in standard chemical munitions, was used as the charge to detonate the round;

– non-industrially synthesized nerve agent Sarin and diisopropylfluorophosphate, which Western countries used for chemical weapons purposes in World War II years, were found in round and soil samples.”

“We stress that the Russian report is extremely specific. It represents a 100-page scientific-technical document with numerous tables and diagrams reflecting a spectral analysis of samples. We hope that it will be of significant help in the UN’s investigation into this incident. Unfortunately, effectively it has not started yet.”

“The attention of those who wittingly, and always, seek to place all responsibility for the developments on the Syrian Arab Republic’s official authorities has fully shifted to the events in eastern Al-Ghutah. However, in this respect too there is “selectiveness coupled with a shortcoming”. Specifically, attempts to forget the data about the exposure of Syrian army servicemen to toxic agents during the discovery on the outskirts of the Syrian capital of materials, equipment and containers with traces of Sarin on 22, 24 and 25 August supplied by official Damascus to the UN are evident. As is known, the condition of the injured servicemen was examined by members of the group of UN experts headed by A. Sellstrom. It is clear that any objective investigation into the 21 August incident in eastern Ghutah is impossible unless these circumstances are taken into account.

“In view of the above, we welcome the statement by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that the A. Sellstrom group intends to go back to Syria in the near future to continue its work, including in the Khan al-Assal area.”

“4 September 2013”

Comment: With this Russian document, there are four national reports about the use of gas in Syria. One each from the US, France, the UK and Russia. The three Western reports provide circumstantial evidence at best. They are not intelligence appraisals because they fail to address contradictory and contrarian evidence that is at least as strong as that which they present in support of their case. They are advocacy, not intelligence.

The only report missing is the only report that really counts to establish some ground truth. That is the UN report. A prior UN report found that the Syrian opposition used gas in July 2012, precisely as described by the Russians.

US- Syria: Special comment.  The US government assessment on Syria is not weathering well challenges by open source reports and investigative journalists. Parts are unraveling.

Today, the US admitted that US intelligence did not have intelligence about Syrian Arab Army preparations before the attack on 21 August. That flatly contradicts testimony presented to Congress this week.

In the normal fashion of signals intelligence, the electrons had been intercepted, but they remained inchoate and unprocessed until after the attack. The US had data somewhere, but no information.

The alleged incriminating information was reconstructed and converted into evidence of malevolent Syrian intent for the US Congress after the fact. The way that information was presented was at a minimum dishonest.

Videos from government sources posted to the web showed home-made rebel rockets and a firing system to which only the Russian report refers. Those videos are not discussed by the US report. As illustrations, they are undated, like the rebel videos of casualties from 21 August.

The US analysis of observed so-called symptoms of an attack by nerve agents is also weakening. Multiple reputable experts, including Feedback from six NightWatch Readers, disagree with the “assessment” that the symptoms seen in videos are those of sarin poisoning, even in diluted form. The Russians have a better explanation for the same symptoms, which they evaluated in March.

The Daily Caller published an uncorroborated report that Egyptian intelligence reported the Syrian opposition advised its members of an event on 21 August that would bring the US into the Syrian conflict. No agency has provided an analysis of this report, which might not be true, but also might be highly relevant.

NightWatch cannot corroborate that information, but it provides an alternative explanation for Syrian Army preparations for chemical warfare attacks. That alternative is supported by the fact that the UN visited wounded Syrian Army soldiers in hospital.

The Daily Caller also published excerpts of signals intercepts that provide an alternative to the US assessment of panicky calls to a chemical warfare unit asking about the 21 August attack. The alternative reporting is that a General Staff officer asked a rocket unit commander in  a brigade of the 4th Armored Division whether he had launched an attack against specific orders.

The rocket regimental commander supposedly said he fired no rockets and could account for all of them. The General Staff confirmed the report of the rocket unit commander. 

There is more to this series of exchanges, but the point is that they raise concerns that US information might have been cherry-picked by some entity in the reporting channel and taken out of context. That is easy to do with information from radio intercepts.

And so the information debate continues and should continue. The US assessment appears to have conflated information and sources; ignored time distortions and dates and misstated relevant points to support its argument. 

A heads up is necessary. The poor guidance that prompts intelligence supervisors to require analysts to make judgments about matters that can be scientifically established needs to be recognized by Readers.

The date of an attack is not a matter of judgment. Likewise, the use of sarin is not a matter for “assessment.” The presence of sarin and other dangerous materials can and will be established by UN-sponsored laboratory analysis to some degree of probability. The inability of intelligence supervisors and analysts to distinguish matters appropriate for judgment from those that may be established as facts is a significant weakness.

The worst part of the three Western reports is their failure to consider reasonable alternative scenarios consistent with their information. That is a basic step in the scientific method. See R. Heuer, The Psychology of Intelligence Analysis..

Only the Russians have attempted to analyze an alternative scenario and contradictory evidence. Their analysis of the March 2013 incident proved to be the correct analysis, according to the UN. But in the 21 August crisis, senior US officials publicly have disparaged and dismissed UN findings as “irrelevant,” even though highly respectable US and European laboratories do the lab work.

So Readers are left with the three questions raised last week:

  • What was the agent?
  • How was it delivered?
  • Who delivered it?

The three Western documents are advocacy arguments, not intelligence appraisals. Every attorney knows that emotive, loud and strident oratory is the tactic to use when there is no clear and convincing evidence.

The Russian document is an intelligence appraisal of a past attack that Western governments wrongly attributed to the Syrian government, according to the UN. It is a lesson in evidence: the evidence on both sides of an argument must be presented and weighed.

Addendum 20130906

The US and Canadian administrations are maintaining that only the regime has used chemical weapons. There is some confusions as to how many incidents they claim have happened. In any case, we wanted to capture this link from our friend JR: Syrian Rebels Used Sarin Gas Says United Nations Investigator. They seem to be rejecting the findings of UN investigators. Perhaps this is why Obama is so anxious to pull the trigger before the current UN inspection team can produce its findings.

Both Obama and Harper are rejecting the notion they need UN approval to go to war. In Harper’s case, to reject ahead of time the validity of a Russian veto of a Security Council resolution must logically lead to the rejection of all vetoes of Security Council resolutions, past, present and future. This may become an inconvenient truth should Canada regain a position on the Security Council.

In any case, they are awfully quick to reject ahead of time, any UN resolution that does not go their way. In the case of the US, the objective seems to be to destabilize your enemies, partly by destabilizing their friends. In Canada’s case, it appears to stem from a deep inferiority complex associated with its rather irrelevant international status and the need to curry favour. The ineptness of Harper is shown by his failure to trade Canadian support for the Keystone XL pipeline approval.

Addendum 20140407

We will take this article as confirmation of a false flag attack: Obama’s Incredible Folly: He Almost Bombed Syria Over A False Flag Gas Attack . The interesting take-away is that turkey was the instigator of the inceident. This allines with the recent communications intercept of the Turkish government considering a false flag attack on the Tomb of Suleiman.

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