April 27, 2013
Syria has accused the United States and Britain of telling lies about its supposed use of chemical weapons. Syria says it has not used the weapons and does not possess them.
“Everything that the American minister and British government have said lack credibility,” Syrian Information Minister Omran Al-Zoub told Russian TV on Friday. “It’s baseless, and it’s a new tactic to put political and economic pressure on Syria.”
They “want to manipulate the issue, to let whoever used the chemical weapons … get away (with it), and to repeat the Iraq example,” Al-Zoubi said.
Russia’s foreign minister has warned against repeating the “Iraqi scenario” where Bush neocons installed in the Pentagon fabricated evidence concluding Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.
Prior to the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, United Nations weapons inspector Hans Blix found no stockpiles of WMD despite claims made by the Bush administration and the corporate media.
“The biggest regret of all the presidency has to have been the intelligence failure in Iraq,” Bush told ABC News prior to his departure from the White House. A 2008 Senate Intelligence Committee report stated that the Bush administration had “misrepresented the intelligence and the threat from Iraq.”
Earlier in the week, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the Obama administration believes “with varying degrees of confidence” that the Syrian government used chemical weapons. Speaking from Abu Dhabi, Hagel said the government believes “any use of chemical weapons in Syria very likely originated” with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.
“We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus,” Obama said in August, 2012. “That would change my equation. . . . We’re monitoring that situation very carefully. We have put together a range of contingency plans.”
The Obama administration, however, is taking a cautious approach to the latest accusation. “Our intelligence community does assess with varying degrees of confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically the chemical agent sarin,” White House legislative director Miguel Rodriguez said in letters to Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and John McCain, R-Ariz.
The U.S. and Israel have cited photos, shelling and traces of toxins to make the claim Syria is using chemical weapons.
The Israeli military said Syrian forces used sarin and displayed for reporters photographs of a body it claimed showed evidence of nerve gas exposure.
“There is a limit to what you can extract from photograph evidence alone,” said Ralf Trapp, an independent consultant on chemical and biological weapons control. “What you really need is to get information from on the ground, to gather physical evidence and to talk to witnesses as well as medical staff who treated victims.”
Despite the paucity of evidence, Israeli Brigadier-General Itai Brun, the head of military intelligence research at the Israeli Defense Forces, said the lack of international response to the alleged use of sarin nerve gas was a “very worrying development.”
“There’s a huge arsenal of chemical weapons in Syria. Our assessment is that the [al-Assad] regime has used and is using chemical weapons,” he said.
Obama spokesman Jay Carney said that while the Israeli accusation is of concern, U.S. intelligence has yet to independently confirm the assessment.