UPDATE: Today a Pentagon spokesman backed up last night's White House statement that the Syrian government was mixing up a batch of chemical weapons (in order to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory). According to "U.S. Has Seen Chemical Weapons Activity in Syria, Pentagon Says," by Helene Cooper and Ben Hubbard, which has run all day with only modest changes:
Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters that what looked like active preparations for a chemical attack were seen at Al Shayrat airfield, which was struck in April by American cruise missiles two days after the Syrian government dropped bombs loaded with toxic chemicals in northern Syria. Another Defense Department official said that an aircraft shelter at Al Shayrat that had been hit by an American Tomahawk missile was being used for the preparation.
Syrian and Russian officials rejected the accusation, calling the White House statement a provocation.
The Pentagon comments appeared to shore up the unusual statement Monday night by the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, who warned that Syria was preparing for what looked like another chemical weapons attack, and said that the United States would not hesitate to act if one was launched. But that statement appeared to take defense officials off guard. An official with the United States Central Command, which oversees combat operations in the Middle East, said Monday night that he had “no idea” what the White House statement was referring to.
A White House official said on Tuesday that relevant agencies, including the Pentagon, the State Department, the C.I.A. and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, had been involved in issuing the statement.
A defense official said that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was aware of the movements at Al Shayrat and that the White House statement was coming. The situation “was very fast-moving,” the official said on Tuesday.Since the divulged intelligence is so specific -- a bombed aircraft shelter at Al Shayrat -- why not go further and describe the suspicious movements? Are there men in hazmat bunny suits screwing canisters together?
Judging from the story's comments section, NYT readers are not buying it one bit. RoseMai from Boston, Mass. provides a representative point of view:
Between the WMDs, the Gulf of Tonkin, the Iran-Contra affair, etc. etc., I do not trust any US "intelligence" to tell United States citizens the truth. I would not be a single bit surprised if our government used false information to drag us into another foreign conflict.
And why Syria? There have been whole genocides thate've turned a blind eye to. This country does nothing on conscience alone.
No more! Focus on fixing what's wrong at home before even entertaining the idea of venturing abroad. We certainly have enough problems to keep us busy for a long time.This contrasts will the lone opinion attached to the AP story of last night's White House statement that appears on the Kurdish news site Rudaw, The Kurdish Boy comments
Go ahead , and destroy all the enemies of America . Help the Kurds to bring peace and some humanity into a region ravaged by savagery. May God bless Trump and the Kurds.I don't think he's being facetious.
The sentiment is not that much different on Eliot Higgins' Bellingcat website; it is just that with Higgins there is a greater degree of obfuscation. Take for instance Higgins' attempted refutation of Sy Hersh's latest, "Trump's Red Line." Higgins picks apart the inconsistencies between initial Syrian and Russian explanations of what happened at Khan Sheikhoun with the confidential source(s) Hersh relies on for his reconstruction of events:
In the face of allegations of chemical weapon use neither Russia nor Syria mention targeting “a jihadist meeting site”, and described the location as a “large warehouse” on the “eastern outskirts of Khan Shaykhun”, not a “two-story cinder-block building in the northern part of town” with “security, weapons, communications, files and a map center.” In fact, the only thing Hersh’s account and the Russian and Syria account agrees on is it was a Syrian aircraft which conducted the attack.But Higgins completely ignores the 900-lb.gorilla that is the main focus of Hersh's piece in Die Welt. Information about the flight of the Syrian warplane that Higgins believes was the source of the sarin attack was fully shared by Russia with the United States over the deconfliction channel.
Does Higgins imagine that Russia would alert the U.S. to Syria's use of sarin? Maybe Higgins believes that the Syrians tricked the Russians and replaced the conventional bomb with a chemical weapon (which sounds like something from a 1960s situation comedy).
But now we're in "magic bullet" territory, which is where most of Higgins' arguments lead once the smoke clears and the mirrors crack. Higgins cannot ask the basic "Cui bono," but a commentator on his web site does:
Jim Miles - June 27, 2017
Follow the ‘needs’ – the U.S. needs an excuse to go after Assad regardless of Russia’s presence. The U.S. is the single largest purveyor of violence and creator of terror in the world. Another country dismembered (after Yugoslavia, Iraq, and Libya) will greatly help its control of US fiat petrodollar hegemony as well as to contain and deconstruct both Russia and China. The U.S.’ wonderful democratic progressive government of Saudi Arabia is fully in on this deal, along with its sidekick, Israel.The U.S. also has a first strike nuclear policy and the crazies within the deep state – and its not all that deep – are willing to create a situation In which it could use those weapons.
WASHINGTON — The White House said late Monday that President Bashar al-Assad of Syria appeared to be preparing another chemical weapons attack, and warned that he would “pay a heavy price” if one took place.
Several military officials were caught off guard by the statement from President Trump’s press secretary, but it was unclear how closely held the intelligence regarding a potential chemical attack was.
In the statement, the White House said that Mr. Assad’s preparations appeared similar to the ones Western intelligence officials believe the Syrian government made before a chemical attack in April that killed dozens of Syrians, including children.
“As we have previously stated, the United States is in Syria to eliminate the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria,” the statement said. “If, however, Mr. Assad conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price.”I'm surprised that it took this long. Moon of Alabama explains that the timing has to to do with the G-20 summit in July:
During the last three days Al-Qaeda attacks on Syrian army position near the Israeli occupied Golan heights were supported by Israeli air attacks.
This all is clearly a coordinated operation by the "western" supporters of the Takfiris in Syria. Their aim is to prevent the victory of Syria and its allies and to split up the country.
The announced fake "chemical attack" and the "retaliation" it is supposed to justify will likely happen in the south-west of Syria around Deraa where all recent attempts by Israel and the U.S. supported Takfirs to dislodge the Syrian government forces have failed. The provocation, now prepared and announced by Macron and the White House and supported by the UK, is likely planned to happen shortly before or during the upcoming G-20 meeting in Hamburg:
President Trump and members of his administration are requesting a full bilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 summit in Germany next month....While some administration officials have pressed for a quick "pull-aside" meeting at the Group of 20 summit or lower officials talking privately instead of the heads of state, Trump wants an event that includes the media and time for work sessions, according to one government official.
Trump has to make a deal (or war) with Russia and the announced fake "chemical attack" will be the pressure point against Putin. The neoconservatives want to break up Syria and Trump is tasked to get the Russian agreement for that (... or else.)
Syria insists that its has no chemical weapons nor any intention to use any indiscriminate weapon. Russia warns of any further military aggression and calls such U.S. threats unacceptable.At this point Russia cannot buckle. To turn the other cheek again after the military campaign against the jihadists is progressing to its final stages would be to acquiesce to perpetual meddling by the U.S., Israel and the Gulf monarchies. Syria would be carved up; so too Iraq. Iran would be next as NATO marches continually eastward.
This appears to be the moment that Syria has been moving toward for the last six years. Remember Hassan Nasrallah explaining why Hezbollah was going all in in Syria? Because if Syria falls we're next. Syria is now on the verge of a victory, something that Israel and Saudi Arabia cannot abide. Trump is being made to walk the plank.
The anti-Trump prestige press I'm sure would like to protest, but they've painted themselves into a corner with their past fulsome support for Ghouta and Khan Sheikhoun. The best we get is from The Times story:
Monday’s message appeared designed to set the stage for another possible military strike. After Mr. Assad allegedly used chemical weapons in April, the American military fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the air base his government had used to launch the attack."[A]llegedly used chemical weapons" is an improvement on the usual bald assertion that Syria used sarin at Khan Sheikhoun. Maybe Sy Hersh's "Trump's Red Line," though assiduously ignored in the mainstream, is having an impact nonetheless.
Yesterday I contacted the guy, Paul McLeary, who aggregates Foreign Policy's daily Situation Report and asked him why no link to Hersh's story in Die Welt. He replied, "We squeeze in all we can, but some things, like a Hersh piece, need some serious vetting first."
To which I responded:
According to Die Welt, not what you would consider a fringe publication to begin with, "Trump's Red Line" has been vetted: "As has always been his practice, Hersh has told Welt am Sonntag [German Sunday paper; same publisher, Axel Springer, as Die Welt] the identities of all the sources he quotes anonymously in his story about Trump's retaliatory strike against Syria. The paper was thus able to speak independently to the central source in the U.S."Andrew Cockburn tweeted yesterday about the universal silence that greeted "Trump's Red Line" in the mainstream: "No surprise. Reference Upton Sinclair: their salaries absolutely depend on not listening to Hersh."
Now at least we have arrived at the 11th hour. Either the war draws down or it becomes much larger. Better hope for the former