Russia: Attempts to blame Assad for chemical attack are baseless

Sept. 18, 2013

Russia says certain Western states are making baseless efforts to blame the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for a chemical weapons attack that allegedly killed hundreds of people in the suburbs of Damascus last month.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich made the remarks in a statement on Tuesday, a day after the United Nations issued a report by UN investigators which said sarin nerve agent was used in the Damascus suburbs attack, without indicating who launched the attack.

Lukashevich said that the Western attempts to blame the Assad government for the attack are “simplistic and groundless”. Read more…

RT- Syria gives Russia new evidence of rebel hand in chem attacks

Damascus has presented to Russia additional evidence regarding the use of chemical weapons in Syria. Earlier Western countries accused the Syrian government of using chemical weapons against civilians, citing a controversial UN report.

The evidence was handed over on Wednesday to Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov, who arrived at Damascus for talks with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moualem and President Bashar Assad.

“That is really true. Just now we were given evidence. We need to analyze it,” he told RT.

He didn’t describe further the evidence Damascus had presented, although it apparently is meant to prove that rebel forces have access to chemical weapons and used it in the conflict.

He also criticized the UN report, saying that Russia is disappointed with its “biased” and “politicized” nature.

“We are unhappy about this report, we think that report was distorted, it was one-sided, the basis of information upon which it is built is not sufficient, and in any case we would need to learn and know more on what happened beyond and above that incident of August 21,” Ryabkov told RT.

The UN released a 38-page report on the incident, which confirmed that chemical weapons were indeed used in Syria on August 21. The inspectors behind the report were not authorized to name a suspected culprit in the attack, and the evidence they presented is now subject to conflicting interpretations.

The report stated that the warheads used in the Syria chemical attack “could be original or improvised.” The conclusion came after inspectors collected over 30 samples from both victims and nearby soil in the Damascus suburb last month.

The UN team noted that they had limited time to conduct the investigation and cautioned that evidence might have been “moved” or even “manipulated” since others visited the sites before and during the investigation.

‘Al-Qaeda and Al-Nusra in Syria may have significant amounts of sarin’

The US military have reportedly proved that sarin gas production is going on among some Sunni salafists in Iraq, and via Turkey, can reach Syrian rebels, former Pentagon official Michael Maloof told RT, citing classified sources.

RT: France, the US and UK are saying the UN report clearly points to the Assad government’s involvement in the August attack . But how can they be so sure, especially as the document states that improvised rockets may have been used, possibly pointing to rebel involvement?

Michael Maloof: I have a report from a source who has direct connections with classified information and he basically told me that [the] US military did an assessment based upon 50 indicators and clandestine interviews that the sourcing of sarin originated out of Iraq and into Turkey before some of it was confiscated in May in Turkey. He believes that since that report was disseminated in August in 2013, that there has actually been a more significant amount of sarin production both in Iraq and in Turkey going to the opposition, principally Al-Qaeda and Al-Nusra.

That was their specific target, to see to what extent Al-Qaeda was actually involved in production, in research and dissemination. He says what was confiscated was bench level or small specimens at the time, but that the production now they believe is much more robust and that the non-proliferation, genie, as he says, is no longer exclusive. So there’s quite an increasing concern that this is still ongoing, that production is occurring among some Sunni salafists in Iraq and continues to be transported into Turkey.

RT: Can you tell us more about that classified document you’ve seen, which shows that the US knew that Al-Qaeda linked rebels in Syria had sarin gas? 

MM: The document itself was published in August 2013 by the National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC). It’s part of the intelligence community. The fact that some of it was actually captured in May along the border in Turkey and it was actually Al-Qaeda, and since it was disseminated my sources are telling me that production has probably increased significantly and sarin gas is being produced quite widely now.  That it’s actually ongoing and there’s actually a Saudi financier whose name I’m trying to obtain right now.

This raises a whole host of questions, and even though Mr Kerry says we know what the origin of the August 21 shot was into the outskirts of Damascus that killed hundreds of people including children, he tells me that they have been scouring Syria for more than a year looking at all the Syrian military activities and that they have no information on any artillery having been fired that day at that time into that location. So this raises all kinds of further questions as to what this information is which Kerry possesses, but refuses to share with the world.

RT: Why is the US not taking any action against the Syrian rebels then? After all, they believe that Al-Qaeda, their sworn enemy has chemical weapons. 

MM: Clearly the administration does not want to get more deeply involved in a Middle East conflict.  It’s probably a political and policy call on the Obama administration’s part. Again, this is speculation on my part, but I think it would go absolutely against the grain of trying to assist the rebels and I think the administration’s goal really is regime change. You have an opposition and foreign fighters that have now integrated into the opposition being involved in this. This absolutely goes contrary to what their policy direction is and results in tremendous confusion.

We’ve had separate reports already that Al-Qaeda elements are rather significant in numbers and have permeated into the opposition. So the ability to distinguish who gets what and where becomes much more problematic for this administration. I think that the administration is trying to oust Assad, but the fact that you have those foreign fighters there, for them to admit it would absolutely undermine their entire policy approach.