Oct 10, 2015

60 Minutes' Review of the Ghouta Attack

If this is your first time here, I recommend starting from the conclusion page.

A few days ago, CBS' 60 Minutes aired a review of the Ghouta attack. Following is my quick analysis:
  1. Despite the claim of new evidence, I could not identify any new videos. The new evidence must therefore be the eyewitness reports.
  2. The show seems to be relying on Western Intelligence reports to claim government culpability, saying the rocket attacks originated from government held territory. This claim by the US has since been completely refuted.
  3. The show claims the rockets were of a type used by the government. This is known to be correct, although it is irrelevant when determining culpability, due to the numerous rebel raids on army depots. Actually, these rockets were not part of the Syrian chemical weapons program, and were most likely repurposed incendiary rockets. Such a weapon is therefore a much better fit for a false flag attack than for a government attack.
  4. The eyewitness reports do not add any new information relevant to determining culpability. There is however one interesting report: The opposition activist from Moadamiyah describes hearing muffled rocket hits, and a strong burning sensation in his lungs. This strengthens our conclusion that no chemical attack occurred in Moadamiyah: Sarin is highly lethal, and by the time a victim can inhale enough sarin to feel lung irritation, he has long been unconscious or dead.
    If we are to believe the claims of muffled hits and lung irritations, a white phosphorous or non-lethal gas attack is far more likely. Both of which have been used often by the Syrian government (while there is no evidence of previous use of lethal chemical weapons).
  5. Despite the numerous mistakes, the show does deserve some credit for leaving significant room for doubt regarding culpability, and even ending the interview with Scott Cairns of the UN investigation team, with the following:
    60 Minutes: “Why would anyone launch the largest chemical weapons attack in decades, while [UN] chemical weapon experts are in town?”
    Cairns: “I ask myself this a lot... I don’t know... I don't think we'll ever truly know.”
    Not many shows on a US mainstream channel would dare to do so. Kudos.


  1. 90% of samples tested positive to Sarin? Not to my recollection.

    The witnesses in the refugee camp appeared to not have been in Ghouta or Moadimiyah at that time. The symptoms were wrong. As actually were the symptoms described by the Moadimiyah activist. They got one example of Myosis on camera, but the site examination of subject in later days mention Miosis in only 14% of cases - which is the earliest and longest lasting symptom and would be expected in 100% of cases.

    Also of note were the cherry red lips noted by Denis O'Brien. That is not consistent with asphyxiation by respiration failure.

  2. The Syrian opposition activist Kassam Eid, quoted in the program, is also known as Qusai Zakarya (apparently this is an alias. http://www.latimes.com/world/la-fg-c1-syria-names-20141113-story.html#page=1)

    He claims to have been one of those who accompanied the OPCW investigators in Moadamiyah, and left for the US in 2014 (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/30/world/middleeast/a-rebel-leader-retreats-from-syria-to-fight-another-day.html)

    He has since given detailed accounts of his experiences in the alleged gas attack in Moadamiyah.


    This includes a vivid account of helping to transport victims to hospital, losing consciousness and being left for dead in a pile of corpses after failed resuscitation.

    He seems to have a working relationship with Samantha Power - she brought him to the UNSC in May last year and asked him to stand while she told his story.


    Last week she brought him again to the UNSC as one of three Syrians testifying about the alleged chlorine attack in Sarmin on 16 March 2015.

    1. See my similar comment at end of Bob Parry's article at: https://consortiumnews.com/2015/04/20/a-fact-resistant-group-think-on-syria/#comment-193348:

      The Syrian who was interviewed by Pelley, whose true name is Eid but who formerly went by his “nom de guerre” (war pseudonym) Qusai Zakarya, spoke in Minnesota many months ago, shortly after he was somehow spirited out of Syria and made his way directly to sit by Samantha Power as she castigated Russia in a speech about Syria, using Eid as a kind of “prop.” Pelley probably took Samantha Power’s word for Eid's credibility.

      Eid is good at telling fantastic stories that the NYT described as “youthful megalomania” which promote himself as a revolutionary hero. (The paper even reported that the young Syrian pictures himself as Ben Affleck in the movie “Argo” http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/30/world/middleeast/a-rebel-leader-retreats-from-syria-to-fight-another-day.html?_r=0 ) But did anyone at “60 Minutes” or the other news agencies actually investigate Eid’s claims or polygraph him to find out if his stories are not akin to “Curveball’s”?

      Eid’s different public accounts of his actions in being overcome by Sarin in Moadamya vary greatly. When Eid spoke in Minnesota, he used his emotional appeal to carefully call for US military intervention to topple Assad (since he was speaking to the “Friends for a Nonviolent World” which is supposed to be a peace group). In February, he wrote a Washington Post op-ed in opposition to the UN effort to obtain a ceasefire in Aleppo and elsewhere in Syria. He also makes rather bizarre claims, impossible to verify, that Assad’s generals and aides approached him with offers for him to become their spokesman if hew would turn his back on his rebel colleagues but he turned them down. He’s reportedly called an opportunist by some of his former Syrian colleagues for having taken up residence in the U.S. http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-assad-regime-does-not-honor-local-cease-fires-in-syria/2015/02/20/acbb2c22-b3d2-11e4-886b-c22184f27c35_story.html

      Of course the CBS show treated Eid’s information as the gospel and didn’t investigate the factual incongruence in the different versions of his narrative.

      I also e-mailed the OPCW's media spokesperson to ask if Scott Cairns was in agreement with Pelley's conclusion blaming the Syrian government for the sarin attack or whether careful framing and editing by Pelley had just made it seem as if Cairns agreed. So far no one from OPCW has responded to my question but I think it's worth knowing as Cairns is the expert who provided the piece with its aura of credibility.

  3. From a quick search, all eyewitness accounts in English of the alleged Moadamiyah incident appear to be from Eid/Zakarya or from a young woman named Ameenah Sawwan, who has travelled widely speaking tours. As there has been a ceasefire in Moadamiyah since December 2013, it should not be difficult for a well-resourced TV network to find and interview some local residents who are not opposition activists, and to check some other details such as the location of the clinic where videos of supposed victims were recorded.

  4. The same month, and obviously as a support to the UN psy op by Samatha Powers, French-German TV broadcasted yet another program on the chemical weapons used in Syia and Iraq (the website mixes some of the interviews with other elements about the use of chemical weapons during WW1)
    It is not incidental that the date given at the end of the LIberation propaganda piece gives a wrong date for the diffusion (as if in January, although the url properly gives the date of the article as 28 April)

  5. The date on this article changed to Oct. 10th, 2015. Did you change something, Sasa? Glad to see your still out there.

    I see the U.S. has rammed through another U.N. chemical weapons investigation in Syria for the nonsensical 'chlorine bombs' (I'm sure to Eliot Higgin's delight)


    Russia is skeptical and wants the mandate expanded to look into ISIS manufacture and use of crude mustard CWs in Iraq. The U.S. says this is a delaying tactic because ISIS mustard CWs in Iraq can't possibly be related to Assad's imaginary CW program:


    In the mean time, Aleppo may be in the Syrian Government hands in a few weeks. I wonder what kind of interesting things they might find in the tunnels there?

    1. Good to hear from you. I only added a link to the conclusion in the beginning.

  6. Turkish MP: Ankara Supplied Terrorists in Syria with Sarin Gas

    FARS is an Iranian wire service, so pro-Syrian/anti-Turkey bias.

    "..."The terrorist groups in Syria have received Sarin gas from Ankara," member of the Republican People's Party (CHP) Barish Arkadash said on Tuesday.

    He pointed to the investigations by the UN in Syria proving that ISIL has Sarin Gas, and said, "We will also prove soon that the ISIL has received the (poisonous) gas from Turkey and we will also prove that some sections of the Turkish government and maybe some special private companies have been involved in this big crime."

    Arkadash also called on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to resign from his post as soon as it is proven that Ankara has supplied the terrorists in Syria with deadly Sarin gas..."

    1. Thanks. Hope to publish an analysis of that soon.

  7. Two deputies from the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) have claimed that the government is against investigating Turkey's role in sending toxic sarin gas which was used in an attack on civilians in Syria in 2013 and in which over 1,300 Syrians were killed.
    CHP deputies Eren Erdem and Ali Şeker held a press conference in İstanbul on Wednesday in which they claimed the investigation into allegations regarding Turkey's involvement in the procurement of sarin gas which was used in the chemical attack on a civil population and delivered to the terrorist Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) to enable the attack was derailed.
    Taking the floor first, Erdem stated that the Adana Chief Prosecutor's Office launched an investigation into allegations that sarin was sent to Syria from Turkey via several businessmen. An indictment followed regarding the accusations targeting the government.
    "The MKE [Turkish Mechanical and Chemical Industry Corporation] is also an actor that is mentioned in the investigation file. Here is the indictment. All the details about how sarin was procured in Turkey and delivered to the terrorists, along with audio recordings, are inside the file," Erdem said while waving the file.
    Erdem also noted that the prosecutor's office conducted detailed technical surveillance and found that an al-Qaeda militant, Hayyam Kasap, acquired sarin, adding: "Wiretapped phone conversations reveal the process of procuring the gas at specific addresses as well as the process of procuring the rockets that would fire the capsules containing the toxic gas. However, despite such solid evidence there has been no arrest in the case. Thirteen individuals were arrested during the first stage of the investigation but were later released, refuting government claims that it is fighting terrorism," Erdem noted.

    1. Thanks. Hope to publish an analysis of that soon.

  8. CIA Director Brennan now telling Pelley that ISIS is using chemical weapons: http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/cia-director-on-isiss-access-to-chemical-weapons/ Will Pelley remember he put out the opposite conclusion in April, 2015?

  9. A recent report by US News and World Report corroborates the findings of this blog: http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2016-12-06/anti-fraud-experts-launch-news-accuracy-site-find-us-probably-blamed-wrong-side-for-syria-chemical-attack

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