Washington says it has proof that Syria used sarin gas on its own people in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta and that only the regime could have been responsible. But is this true? A number of online reports indicate that at least one al-Qaeda affiliated rebel group has chemical weapons.
Several reports dated May 30, 2013, allege that Turkey arrested 12 al-Qaeda affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra fighters plotting major attacks in the southern Turkish city of Adana. According to these reports, the arrests netted four and a half pounds of sarin nerve gas. Earlier, on May 14, 2013, a Turkish opposition party MP, Mehmet Ali Ediboglu, alleged that al-Nusra rebels had planted twin car bombs in Turkey's frontier area that killed 46 people in a bid to draw Turkey into Syria's civil war. This, he asserted, was because the rebels realized that they need help to overthrow Bashar Al Assad's regime. If this plot with sarin had not been foiled it is quite likely that the Turkish government, as it has in the past, would have blamed Syria for the attack, obliging a military response. If these reports are true, then al-Nusra has sarin gas. And if it has enough to expend on false flag operations in Turkey, then it has plenty in Syria. And if al-Nusra was trying to lure the Turkish government into attacking Syria with a sarin gas attack on its territory in May, then it is reasonable to suspect it may also have been trying to do the same thing in Ghouta, Syria, on August 21 to draw America into the conflict.
Another report dated May 5, 2013, alleges that the U.N. human rights investigator Carla Del Ponte told Swiss-Italian television that Syrian rebels had likely used the nerve agent sarin in a March attack in the village of Khan al-Asal near Aleppo. "This was use on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities," Del Ponte said.
Mint Press News is a Minneapolis- based independent online news organization. On August 29, 2013, Mint Press News posted an on the ground report by Jordanian reporter Yahya Ababneh entitled "Exclusive: Syrians In Ghouta Claim Saudi-Supplied Rebels Behind Chemical Attack." In this report, Ababneh, who had spoken directly with the rebels, their family members, victims of the chemical weapons attacks and local residents, alleges that rebels and local residents in Ghouta complained in talking with him that Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan had provided chemical weapons to certain rebels (al-Nusra is cautiously referenced) without training them in their use. They believed the casualties were the result of an accident caused when al-Nusra used some ordinary rebels to carry and operate these weapons and they mishandled the material.
But are the above cited reports true or disinformation planted to mislead? How can Washington launch punitive attacks against the Syrian government without at least investigating them? Before we go off half-cocked and launch another war in the Middle East of unforeseeable consequences, we should give the Intelligence Community time to sort out the facts. What we don't need is to degrade the Assad government's ability to fight if al-Nusra has chemical weapons.
Washington also needs to be more forthcoming in releasing to the America people the information it claims proves the Syrian government bears responsibility for the attack. It is troubling to see Washington claim it has proof of the Syrian government's culpability for the attack based on telephone intercepts and satellite imagery but cannot release such proof because of a need to protect sources and methods. The Syrian government knows when such calls were made and it knows where and when it was vulnerable to satellite imagery. So why should such information be classified and kept from the American public? Americans have a "need to know" if they are going to shed their blood and foot the bill for another war in the Middle East.
Washington also needs to explain to the American public why - if U.S. intelligence had "collected streams of human, signals and geospatial intelligence" that showed the regime preparing for an attack three days before the event, as John Kerry said - it did not warn the rebels of the threat or Assad to stand down on such activity.
The thoughts outlined above represent my personal views and not the views of my former employer.
Dennis Lamb, from Chelsea, Iowa, and now residing out of the state, retired from the CIA in 2002 after serving 30 years in its Directorate of Operations as a case officer and intelligence analyst. Comments: email@example.com