Watchdog reports Damascus co-operating with weapons inspectors

The world’s chemical weapons watchdog says it is confident that Syria will meet an important early milestone in its disarmament

Michael Luhan, a spokesman for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), said the Syrian government had provided complete co-operation with the 27 weapons inspectors in the country.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/23/syria-deadline-chemical-weapons-opcw

Assad’s troops may be winning this war in Syria’s capital

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/robert-fisk-in-damascus-assads-troops-may-be-winning-this-war-in-syrias-capital–untouched-by-obamas-threats-8825005.html

“The claim that 40-50,000 rebels surround the capital is probably untrue but there are up to 80,000 security men and soldiers inside Damascus and, on this battlefront, they may well be winning.”

“If the government wanted to use gas, why not employ it north of Aleppo where not a single government soldier or official exists? Why in Damascus? And why wasn’t gas used on this scale in the previous two years? And why employ such a dreadful weapon when the end result is that Syria – by giving up its stocks of chemical weapons – has effectively lost one of its strategic defences against an Israeli invasion?”

Syria and the geopolitics of gas

Qatar shares the largest gas field in the world with Iran, the South Pars (Iranian appellation) / North Dome (Qatari appellation). Tensions exist between the two countries because Iran is unable to extract its gas as fast as Qatar, mainly because of the sanctions imposed on Iran (Tehran frowns upon the Qatari extraction which is “emptying” the common gas field).

2012-12-29-250pxSouthParsLocationMap.jpg

More than a year ago, Iran, Iraq and Syria signed an agreement for the construction of a pipeline supposed to transport gas from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea in order to supply Europe.

Meanwhile, Qatar transports its gas through the Strait of Hormuz and is therefore dependent on Iran for its exports (with LNG tankers which then need to pass through the Suez Canal). The Emirate had plans to build a gas pipeline through Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria. But, Bashar al-Assad blocked this project, preferring to sign an agreement with his Iranian ally, but above all, to preserve its long-term energy deals with Russia.

As a result, Europe — which is largely dependent on the Russian giant Gazprom for its energy needs — has an interest in seeking a competitor to lower its growing gas bill. We understand that a Sunni power could protect a Qatar-Saudi Arabia-Jordan-Syria pipeline to diversify its sources. Besides, this path would allow Europe to further isolate Iran by preventing it getting supplies from a “Shia pipeline” Iran-Iraq-Syria.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/milad-jokar/war-in-syria-geopolitics-_b_2378683.html

Iran’s chemical weapon survivors now suffer under medicine shortage due to sanctions

Ahmad, a survivor of chemical warfare during the Iran–Iraq war of 1980-88, has already had more than 50 operations on his eyes. He uses multiple inhalers every day to alleviate the pain from his lungs, 60% of which were burned, and he takes a multitude of pills just to stay alive.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/iran-blog/2013/sep/02/iran-chemical-weapons-wmd-sanctions

His story, which exemplifies the consequences of warfare conducted with weapons of mass destruction, is complicated by the fact that western sanctions against Iran have added an additional layer to the suffering: the shortage of medicine.

Doctors Matthias Jochheim of Germany and Gunnar Westberg of Sweden decided to take action to get vital medicines into Iran after they saw first-hand how the sanctions regime was causing critical pharmaceutical shortages in the country.

Death toll of the gas attack – US: 1429, Doctors Without borders: 355 – Associated Press

Inconsistencies over the death toll and other details related to the attack also have fueled doubts among skeptics.

The Obama administration says 1,429 people died in 12 locations mostly east of the capital, an estimate close to the one put out by the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition. When asked for victims’ names, however, the group provided a list of 395. On that list, some of the victims were identified by a first name only or said to be members of a certain family. There was no explanation for the hundreds of missing names.

In Ghouta, Majed Abu Ali, a spokesman for 17 clinics and field hospitals near Damascus, produced the same list, saying the hospitals were unable to identify all the dead.

Casualty estimates by other groups are far lower: The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says it only counts victims identified by name, and that its current total stands at 502. It has questioned the U.S. number and urged the Obama administration to release the information its figure is based on. The AP also has repeatedly asked for clarification on those numbers.

The humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders says it has not been able to update its initial Aug. 24 estimate of 355 killed because communication with those on the ground around Damascus is difficult. That estimate was based on reports from three hospitals in the area supported by the group.

http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/lingering-doubts-syria-gas-attack-evidence-20191332?singlePage=true

British military officer expresses doubts on use of chemical weapons by Assad – Associated Press

“We can’t get our heads around this — why would any commander agree to rocketing a suburb of Damascus with chemical weapons for only a very short-term tactical gain for what is a long-term disaster,” said Charles Heyman, a former British military officer who edits The Armed Forces of the U.K., an authoritative bi-annual review of British forces.

http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/lingering-doubts-syria-gas-attack-evidence-20191332?singlePage=true

US ‘helped Iraq get chemical weapons’ and use them for years against Iran

As an envoy from President Reagan 19 years ago, Rumsfeld had a secret meeting with the Iraqi dictator and arranged enormous military assistance for his war with Iran.

On November 1, 1983, a full month before Mr Rumsfeld’s visit to Baghdad, Secretary of State George Shultz was officially informed that the CIA had discovered Iraqi troops were resorting to ‘almost daily use of chemical weapons’ against the Iranians.

Nevertheless, Mr Rumsfeld arranged for the Iraqis to receive billions of pounds in loans to buy weapons and CIA Director William Casey used a Chilean front company to supply Iraq with cluster bombs.

According to the Washington Post, a Senate committee investigating the relationship between the US and Iraq discovered that in the mid-1980s – following the Rumsfeld visit – dozens of biological agents were shipped to Iraq under licence from the Commerce Department.

They included anthrax, subsequently identified by the Pentagon as a key component of the Iraqi biological warfare programme.

On November 1 1983, the secretary of state, George Shultz, was passed intelligence reports of “almost daily use of CW [chemical weapons]” by Iraq.
Furthermore, in 1988, the Dow Chemical company sold $1.5m-worth (£930,000) of pesticides to Iraq despite suspicions they would be used for chemical warfare.
CIA files:

Intelligence Suggests Assad Not Behind Chemical Weapons Attack

http://www.infowars.com/intelligence-suggests-assad-not-behind-chemical-weapons-attack/

“Intercepted phone calls that will be presented by the Obama administration as proof that Bashar Al-Assad was behind last week’s chemical weapons attack in Syria actually suggest that the attack was not ordered by the Syrian government.”

The CIA about al Qaidas capability to use chemical weapons

“Al-Qa’ida and associated extremist groups have a wide variety of potential agents and delivery means to choose from for chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear (CBRN) attacks…however, most attacks by the group—and especially by associated extremists—probably will be small scale, incorporating relatively crude delivery means and easily produced or obtained chemicals, toxins, or radiological substances…Analysis of an al-Qa’ida document recovered in Afghanistan in summer 2002 indicates the group has crude procedures for making mustard agent, sarin, and VX.”

http://www.yourmiddleeast.com/opinion/musa-algharbi-toxic-discourse-on-chemical-weapons_17457

The US do not care much about the UN (inspectors)

“http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/syria-crisis-as-us-prepares-to-reveal-intelligence-on-suspected-damascus-chemical-weapons-attack-what-do-we-know-already-8787788.html”

“Officials in the US and the UK have made it clear that any decision to proceed with military action will be based on intelligence gathered by the US, and not the findings brought back by the UN inspectors currently on the ground in Syria.”