Saturday, April 12, 2014

Syria Update April 12 , 2014 - Losing badly against Assad's forces and with in-fighting threatening to derail the whole Rebel scheme - we see another attempt to foist a chemical weapon attack in Syria ( allegedly by Assad forces ) ...... With the US stock market going sideways , Ukraine going sideways , Iran slowing winning the nuclear quest negotiation chess game , Afghanistan and Iraq already sideways - can the sense the need for a distraction ? Heck , the Bundy Ranch family just chumped the Feds in Nevada - not even Charlie Sheen had times as bad as these ! Recall we have seen this movie before , not even a year ago regarding Syria !

Syrian army seizes towns near Lebanon border

Regime forces take rebel-held towns of Sarkha and Maaloula as they seek to cut their supply lines across the border.

Last updated: 14 Apr 2014 10:48
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President Bashar al-Assad's troops have captured a string of rebel strongholds on the border with Lebanon [AFP]
Syrian government troops seized two towns, one of them an ancient Christian hamlet north of Damascus, as part of the military's relentless offensive along the rugged frontier with Lebanon, state media and activists said.
Syria's state news agency said that forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad captured Sarkha early on Monday before also quickly sweeping rebels out of the nearby town of Maaloula.
The Lebanese TV channel al-Mayadeen, which closely follows the Syrian conflict, briefly broadcast footage that it said was from inside Maaloula, a predominantly Christian village, showing a cluster of buildings set in hilly terrain.
"The army has taken full control of Maaloula and restored security and stability. Terrorism has been defeated in Qalamoun [the region where Maaloula is located]," AFP news agency quoted a security official as saying.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has a network of activists on the ground, confirmed that both Sarkha and Maaloula had fallen to government forces.
Government offensive
The seizure of the towns comes a day after Syrian troops backed by fighters from Lebanon's Shia Muslim group Hezbollah captured the nearby town of Rankous.
The push is part of an offensive that government forces have been waging since November in the Qalamoun area along the border with Lebanon. Assad's troops have captured a string of rebel strongholds in region as they look to cut a vital opposition supply line across the frontier used to support rebels around the Syrian capital of Damascus.
Rebels seized Maaloula in early December, even as they were under fire from pro-Assad forces at the time. The rebels included fighters of the Nusra Front, who abducted 12 Greek Orthodox nuns from their convent during the fighting. The nuns were released unharmed in March in exchange for the Syrian government releasing dozens of Syrian women from prison.
At the time, the abduction added to fears that hard-line Sunni Muslim rebels were targeting Christians as the three-year Syrian conflict grows increasingly sectarian.

Syrian jets hit rebel bastions near Damascus

Fierce air assault reported near the capital even as President Assad declares war has turned in government's favour.

Last updated: 13 Apr 2014 17:14
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Online footage showed highly destructive barrel bomb attacks on Daraya, southwest of Damascus [YouTube]
Syrian jet fighters are reported to have launched a fierce offensive against a string of opposition strongholds, including Kafr Zita, a village north of Damascus that was recently hit by an alleged poisonous gas attack.
Other towns on the edges of the capital, including Eastern Ghouta area, were also hit by the bombardment, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Sunday.
"Warplanes carried out two air strikes against areas of Douma" northeast of Damascus, the UK-based monitoring group said, adding that "at least five people including one child were killed and several others injured".
One of the strikes on Douma, an opposition stronghold since early in the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad, hit a crowded marketplace, according to the Syrian Revolution General Commission, a network of activists on the ground.
Douma and other towns and villages in Eastern Ghouta have been under a Syrian army siege for a year.
'Turning point'
Sunday's offensive came as Assad said that the three-year war tearing the country apart was turning in the government's favour, state television reported.
"This is a turning point in the crisis, both militarily in terms of the army's achievements in the war against terror, and socially in terms of national reconciliation processes and growing awareness of the truth behind the [attacks] targeting the country," the TV channel quoted Assad as saying.
Details of the poisonous gas attack on Friday in Kafr Zita, a village in Hama province about 200km from Damascus, remain sketchy.
State television and rebel forces traded accusations over the attack that reportedly caused "suffocation and poisoning" of residents. The Syrian National Coalition, the main opposition group, said the attack hurt dozens of people.
The Syrian Observatory also reported air strikes against Hammuriyeh, east of Damascus, and highly destructive barrel bomb attacks on Daraya, an opposition bastion southwest of Damascus.
The air raids came as fighting raged on the edges of Daraya pitting rebels against the army, which for more than a year has waged a bitter campaign aimed at securing the capital.
Other air raids targeted Mleiha, also in Eastern Ghouta, while clashes pitted rebels and their Al-Nusra Front allies against the army and its Lebanese Shia ally Hezbollah, the Syrian Observatory said.
Mleiha has suffered heavy bombing for 10 consecutive days, as the army and Hezbollah attempt to break through rebel lines.
The Syrian Observatory said government forces on Sunday took control of areas on Mleiha's edges.
North of Damascus, the army overran a string of hills overlooking Rankus, a former opposition stronghold in the strategic Qalamun mountains that fell to the regime on Wednesday, said state television.
Against this backdrop, the state news agency SANA reported "the death of a young man and the wounding of 22 others" in a mortar attack launched by "terrorists" in central Damascus.
State media uses the government's term "terrorists" to refer to rebels fighting to topple Assad's regime.
Damascus comes under frequent mortar fire. Sunday's attack hit Beirut Street, located near the army command headquarters.
The Syrian Observatory said two people were killed in the attack.
More than 150,000 people have been killed in Syria's war, and nearly half the population have been forced to flee their homes.


Syrian activists report new Assad poison attack

Rebel fighters mourn over the body of a comrade during his funeral on April 10, 2014 in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo. (AFP)
A Syrian opposition news outlet claimed Friday the government troops attacked a Damascus suburb with poison gas and that residents were showing symptoms of shortness of breath.
The Shaam News Network identified the Damascus suburb of Harasta as the site of the poison gas attack and said that at least 100 residents were critical condition.
The opposition Syrian Coalition issued a statement condemning the alleged attack using “poison gas and highly concentrated pesticides.”
“Assad is dragging his feet over the elimination of the chemical weapons arsenal, missing a series of deadlines while at the same time spraying people with gas on a scale- he thinks- small enough to avoid world condemnation,” said Badr Jamous, Syrian Coalition Secretary General, in the statement.
“The international community has a moral duty to voice its rejection of this crime and indeed take immediate firm steps to restrain a regime that is prepared to use all kinds of conventional and unconventional weapons to cling to power,” Jamous added.
Responding to a question, White House spokesman Jay Carney said the U.S. was working with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to check on whether the Syrian government was abiding to the 2013 deal on the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile.
Members of the Syrian opposition have in recent months accused President Bashar Assad’s regime of using chemical arms in a number of attacks including in the two Damascus suburbs of Harasta and Jobar.
U.S. and British officials are reportedly investigating claims that Assad’s forces have used chemical weapons in at least four attacks around Damascus between January and April.
The London Times Friday cited British officials as saying that they were “aware of multiple allegations” of poison gas attacks against opposition forces on the outskirts of the capital.
The Times reported that the regime this time may have been using "toxic industrial substances" to frighten rebels in a way that does not trigger a wide international outcry.
This week an Israeli defense official said Assad had used chemical weapons again around the capital at the end of March. The Times of Israel reported that "the nonlethal agents were used to incapacitate opposition fighters."
It cited the defense official as saying that one attack occurred on March 27 in the capital's Harasta neighborhood, and that "the effects of the chemicals lasted for several hours."
In December, a U.N. inquiry found that Sarin gas had likely been used in Jobar and another Damascus suburb called Ghouta. The Syrian opposition accused the Syrian government for the attacks but the regime denied the allegations.
Outrage over the Aug. 21 Ghouta attack, were hundreds of people were killed, sparked global outrage as well a U.S. threat of military strikes.
The strikes were dropped after Damascus vowed to destroy is chemical weapons stockpile, a process that is being supervised by the OPCW.
Any use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime would be in clear breach of the agreement it signed with the OPCW.
Last Update: Friday, 11 April 2014 KSA 22:37 - GMT 19:37

But we have seen this movie before , in fact - just this past August !

Barack Obama pulls a George W. Bush: Lies, misinformation and chemical weapons

Remember the almost-war in Syria last year? An amazing new report -- which our media won't touch -- is a must read

Barack Obama pulls a George W. Bush: Lies, misinformation and chemical weaponsA U.N. chemical weapons expert holds a plastic bag containing samples from one of the sites of an alleged chemical weapons attack in Damascus, August 29, 2013. (Credit: Reuters/Mohamed Abdullah)
Am I misjudging our time, or have we entered some accelerated cycle of American subversions, and then another cycle of coverups and disinformation that do not quite come off? In less than a year, the Obama administration has mounted four covert coup operations, all variants of the classic Cold War model, all costly of human life, all assuring us the contempt and animosity of many people for years to come.
In chronological order:
* The American-authorized coup in Egypt last July. In the disinformation universe, Washington watched at a distance. Since the coup, dead silence in the face of a blood bath, except for Secretary of State Kerry’s applause for the Egyptian army’s “restoration of democracy.”
• In the war to depose Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, the linchpin event is the chemical-weapons attack last Aug. 21. We are invited — required, actually — to believe Assad allowed U.N. inspectors in to determine responsibility for previous gas attacks and then launched another attack near Damascus while the inspectors were settled in their hotel rooms.
* The role of the U.S. and its European allies in financing, fomenting and steering the direction of the Ukraine coup requires little discussion at this point. Rather bizarrely in the face of all we have on record, the Obama people continue to insist Ukraine is nothing more than a case of Russian overreach. As order unravels in the eastern sections of the country, it is important to bear in mind the chronology of events — and from the beginning, not somewhere in the middle.
* In Venezuela, the foreign minister recently read aloud portions of intercepted cable traffic documenting American subterfuge. No, no, no: Nicolás Maduro, successor to the late Hugo Chávez, is just as paranoid as his mentor, and both were merely trying to distract Venezuelans from their economic problems. (Vigilance is always essential when Washington and the hacks marshal the “distraction” thesis.)
Cuba could go on this list, given news of Washington’s operation of a social-media network on Cuban soil via the customary collection of front companies, except that intruding covertly in Cuba is so routine as to be (appallingly) unremarkable.
I find this an exceptionally busy schedule for the spooks and the nation-building set. We can explore the reasons on another occasion; for now, it seems also unusual that so much of what in an earlier time would remain hidden from view is not.


Seymour Hersh, the noted investigative journalist with a record of extraordinarily deep digging on behalf of obscured truths, has just made a significant contribution in this line.Here is the piece, just published in the London Review of Books. In it, Hersh detonates the Rube Goldberg of “evidence” concocted — not too strong a term now — to support the Assad-did-it case after the gas atrocity in Syria.
It is the usual Hersh job: granular, multi-sourced, supported with document citations, a shedding of light, all from several layers beneath surface reality. This is especially important in the Syria case because the demonization of Assad has been so complete as to cause almost everyone to set logic aside. Lonely were they willing to say after the attack: We do not know the perpetrators here, but there is a compelling case that it was Assad’s adversaries, not the unsavory man himself.
Hersh has just stitched this case, an important piece of work.
The trail into what happened begins with a sample of the gas used near Damascus given to Porton Down, the British military’s laboratory not far from London. The sample came via a Russian military intelligence operative, and the British found it did not match the Syrian army’s known stocks.
British intel quickly advised Washington that the case against Assad would not bear scrutiny. Revelation No. 1: Now we know why Obama abruptly asked for congressional support for his plan to shell Assad’s military. He wanted to pull a George W.: offloading some of the blame if it came out Assad was not the perp on Aug. 21. Bush had done the same when the WMD case against Saddam Hussein came undone a decade earlier.
Hersh tell us that it had long been known in American defense and intelligence circles that Syrian rebels, notably the jihadist al–Nusra Front, had been developing chemical-weapons capabilities. There had been attacks in the spring of 2013 that the U.N. subsequently investigated. American media never reported the conclusion.
Here is an example of why you have to be grateful Sy Hersh is walking around. He quotes “a person with close knowledge of the UN’s activity in Syria” as saying: “‘Investigators interviewed the people who were there, including the doctors who treated the victims. It was clear that the rebels used the gas. It did not come out in public because no one wanted to know. ’”
After the attacks in the spring of last year, the White House began suppressing intelligence that concerned chemical-weapons use in Syria. Too many indications were accumulating that the insurgents, which the Obama administration painted as democratic liberators with a view to arming them, had used chemical weapons and were training to get better at it.
Once again following the Aug. 21 atrocity, no one wanted to contaminate the White House line with the truth about what was known — too political, which is a common story. U.S. intelligence had discovered that al-Nusra had executed the attack with the support of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdoğan.
This gets especially interesting, as nitty-gritty with Hersh’s name on it often does, but you have to follow the bouncing ball into unexpected places.
Obama had signed a secret agreement with Erdoğan in early 2012 to acquire and transfer weapons from what had been Gadhafi’s arsenal in Libya to the Syrian insurgents. Turkey, the Saudis and the Qataris — all supporting the jihadists on religious grounds — would pay. The CIA and MI6 would set up what they called the “rat line” — the supply route from Libya to the rebels inside Syria. It was the usual thing: front companies, American veterans on contract; the operation was overseen by none other than David Petraeus.
That is revelation No. 2. No. 3 is a follow-on: That consulate in Benghazi that was attacked in September 2012 was not actually a consulate. Hersh’s source: “‘The consulate’s only mission was to provide cover for the moving of arms. It had no real political role.’”
After the assault in Benghazi, the CIA bailed on the rat line. And we come to the central connection. Erdoğan figured he was left to twist in the wind, given the war was turning against the insurgents by this time. So developed his fateful strategy: Train and equip al-Nusra to wage serious chemical warfare, then stage a gas attack to be pinned on Assad. Obama would be drawn across his “red line,” like it or not.
It is all there in the Hersh piece, not to be missed: the politics, the training, the sarin supplies, the dramatis personae, who knew what when. And the salad of denials all around, a feature of Hersh’s stuff that never fails to delight. He can even describe (using multiple sources, that antique practice of yesteryear’s journos) a secret dinner Obama gave for Erdoğan, at which the former told the latter, “We know what you’re up to in Syria.”
The Turks wanted “to do something spectacular,” as one of Hersh’s sources explained — something to shove the Americans into the war. And now we know why there was a gas attack in Damascus last Aug. 21, three days after the U.N. inspectors got there. It was spectacular; you have to give the Turks and the insurgents this much. (And spectacularly stupid — too stupid for Assad to have done it, as I argued in this space at the time.)
Hersh’s sources speculate that the Turks will continue supporting the Syrian insurgents, however poorly the war goes for them. It is anyone’s guess what the Obama people will do, other than deny Hersh’s report and pretend once again the revealed remains secret. “‘If we went public with what we know about Erdoğan’s role with the gas, it’d be disastrous,’” one of Hersh’s sources tells him. “‘The Turks would say: “‘We hate you for telling us what we can and can’t do.’”
I have not paid attention in the past, but Hersh is the kind of journalist who can engender a pack of lightweights who nip at his ankles in attempts to discredit the reporting. Beware of these people, clerks of the political cliques. I mention this because a Washington friend already sends a piece from Bloomberg View, the opinion section of the Bloomberg News operation. “Hersh has shed no light,” is the conclusion of columnist Marc Champion.
Champion is a man of innuendo, false feints, faulty logic and the odd lie when nothing else will do the job. He has nothing of importance to say in his attempt to discredit a reporter whose printer cartridge he could not change, to update the old phrase, but the piece is too flimsy to be worth a lot of lineage, honestly. Just one point to put readers on their guard.
Champion’s main critique concerns the source of the sarin gas that arrived at Porton Down. This was the Russian military operative. You cannot trust a Russian, Champion advises in fluent Cold War-ese. There is a provenance question with regard to the sarin sample. This is the cotter pin of Hersh’s case, Champion says. Remove it and the thing comes apart.
Not so fast. Answers, please: Why did the Porton Down lab work on the sarin sample if there was any possibility of taint? There would be no point and they would not have done so, or they would have looked at the sample but warned of possible taint. Why did Hersh’s source on this, an American well inside the intel scene, describe the Russian as trustworthy? Not too common, this. He did so out of loyalty only to the truth.
Why did Porton Down urgently advise defense counterparts in Washington that the case against Assad was not holding up? Why did the Defense Intelligence Agency then ask a source in the Syrian government for a typology of Assad’s chemical weapons and confirm on this basis that Porton Down was right: Assad was not the culprit?
Why did American military officers look at Porton Down’s material and then send Obama a last-minute warning not to strike? And why, finally, did Obama heed the officers, seek cover in Congress, and ultimately step back from the threatened missile attack?
Champion’s ruse is to pretend Hersh describes his own beliefs. He does not. He reports the conclusions of senior officials not exposed to political pressure. There is a big difference. Champion, to finish the thought, writes out of a need to believe.
Read the piece. Bush league commentary, in both senses of the term. There is a lot of it around these days, if you could conceivably not have noticed.