Tag Archives: Syria

US-led coalition acknowledges killing 800+ civilians in Iraq & Syria airstrikes

US-led coalition acknowledges killing 800+ civilians in Iraq & Syria airstrikesFILE PHOTO People run in panic after a coalition airstrike hit Islamic State fighters positions in Tahrir neighbourhood of Mosul, Iraq, November 17, 2016 © Goran Tomasevic / Reuters

At least 800 civilians have been killed by US-led coalition airstrikes in Iraq and Syria since 2014, a coalition report says. It adds that the group holds itself accountable for “unintentional injury or death to civilians.”

To date, based on information available, [the coalition] assesses at least 801 civilians have been unintentionally killed by Coalition strikes since the start of Operation Inherent Resolve [in 2014],” Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF–OIR) said in statement on Thursday.

READ MORE: US Raqqa offensive killing more civilians than claimed – airstrike monitor

The coalition said that despite “significant successes” against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS), “combat has taken a toll on populations suffering under the militant extremists.”

We continue to hold ourselves accountable for actions that may have caused unintentional injury or death to civilians,” the report said.

CJTF-OIR Monthly Civilian Casualty Reporthttps://t.co/fTBmCIDGEv

— Inherent Resolve (@CJTFOIR) November 30, 2017

 

According to the document, US-led forces in Iraq and Syria conducted “a total of 28,198 strikes that included 56,976 separate engagements between August 2014 and October 2017… During this period, the total number of reports of possible civilian casualties was 1,790,” it added.

In June, Amnesty International released a report, criticizing the action of the US coalition in Mosul, Iraq. Dubbed “At any cost: the civilian catastrophe in west Mosul, Iraq,” the document says that, apart from IS attacks, civilians suffer from “relentless unlawful attacks by Iraqi government forces and members of the US-led coalition.” The report said that at least 5,805 civilians were killed by the US and Iraqi strikes.

In September, Human Rights Watch, which also monitors US coalition actions, said strikes that killed civilians in Syria “instilled fear and pushed many to flee.” “Although ISIS fighters were also at these sites, the high civilian death toll raises concerns that military forces of the US-led coalition failed to take necessary precautions to avoid and minimize civilian casualties, a requirement under international humanitarian law,” HRW said.

From RT

Posted by The NON-Conformist

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Russia warns US it will strike back if militia attacks in Syria don’t end

Moscow has warned the US that if militias it supports in northeast Syria again attack positions of pro-government forces backed by Russia, the Russian military will use all its force to retaliate.

The troops of the Syrian Democratic Force (SDF), a predominantly Kurdish militia that receives support from the US military, have twice attacked positions of the Syrian Arab Army in the Deir ez-Zor governorate with mortar and rocket fire, according to the Russian Defense Ministry’s spokesman, Major General Igor Konashenkov.

“Russia unequivocally told the commanders of US forces in Al Udeid Airbase (Qatar) that it will not tolerate any shelling from the areas where the SDF are stationed,” Konashenkov said, adding that the attacks put at risk Russian military advisers embedded with Syrian government troops.

“Fire from positions in regions [controlled by the SDF] will be suppressed by all means necessary,” he stressed.

Konashenkov said Moscow suspected the SDF of colluding with the terrorist group Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIS/ISIL) in Deir ez-Zor rather than fighting it, as it claims to be. He said Russia had detected the transfer of SDF fighters from the IS stronghold of Raqqa, to join forces with the jihadists.

“SDF militants work to the same objectives as IS terrorists. Russian drones and intelligence have not recorded any confrontations between IS and the ‘third force,’ the SDF,” the Russian general said.

The statement said that the siege of Raqqa by the SDF has been halted, apparently in response to the latest advances by Syrian government forces in Deir ez-Zor, which is located to the east from Raqqa along the Euphrates River.

“The central parts of the former ISIL capital, which account for roughly 25 percent of the city, remain under full control of the terrorists,” Konashenkov remarked.

According to the statement, in the last 24 hours Syrian government troops “continued their offensive operation” to destroy the last “IS bridgehead” near the city of Deir ez-Zor, the provincial capital. Troops led by Syrian Army General Suheil al-Hassan liberated around 16 sq km of territory and two settlements on the western bank of the Euphrates River.

“More than 85 percent of Deir ez-Zor’s territory is under the full control of Syrian troops. Over the next week the city will be liberated completely,” Konashenkov said.

The city of Deir ez-Zor in eastern Syria was besieged by Islamic State in 2014. Syrian government forces lifted the blockade of the city in early September.

However, the liberation of Deir ez-Zor also triggered a confrontation between Syrian government forces and the US-backed SDF militants, the point of contention being control of Deir ez-Zor’s oil fields.

Following Damascus’s strategic victory, food, medicine and other essentials started to reach the city by convoy, where previously the inhabitants had to rely on air-drops.

The escalation of tension in eastern Syria is mirrored in the western Idlib governorate, where militant forces this week attacked Syrian positions in a designated de-escalation zone. The offensive threatened a unit of Russian military police, who were stationed in the area to monitor the ceasefire. Russia mounted an emergency rescue operation on Wednesday, in which three Russian special operations troops were injured. The Russian Defense Ministry claimed that the militants’ offensive had been instigated by US special services.

From Russia Today

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Pentagon finally ‘admits’ US jets bombed mosque with civilians in Syria

The Pentagon has reportedly acknowledged that a US airstrike destroyed a mosque in Syria’s Aleppo province in March, a CNN report says. The US had insisted that it targeted a terrorist meeting and claimed the mosque was intact, despite video evidence.

READ MORE: Aleppo mosque airstrike controversy: ‘US only considers sources credible when it suits them’

An internal investigation carried out by US Central Command (CENTCOM) in the wake of the deadly airstrike on the Al-Jinah Mosque concluded that it was accidentally targeted in what was supposed to be a strike on a meeting of senior Al-Qaeda members, CNN reports, citing two US defense officials.

While photos and videos showed the disastrous aftermath of the strike – which reportedly claimed the lives of over 40 people – emerged almost immediately after the attack on March 16, the US military failed to accept responsibility until now.

The officials told CNN that the building, earlier identified as a partially-built community hall, was in fact part of a “mosque complex.” The probe launched by the Pentagon into the circumstances of the strike – after images of bodies and debris that started circulating on social media challenged their version of events – found that the building had been used as a place of worship in the past.

Another official speaking to CNN said that the building was primarily used as a religious institution.

The sources say that the US command genuinely believed that Al-Qaeda militants were holing up in the building at the time of the attack. It is unknown if the complex had ever been on the list of civilian structures that are banned from attacking.

Following the attack, Colonel John J. Thomas, spokesman for US Central Command, claimed that “We did not target a mosque, but the building that we did target – which was where the meeting took place – is about 50 feet from a mosque that is still standing.”

A recent report by Human Rights Watch (HRW), based on witness accounts, says that the mosque had been used daily and saw dozens of people gathering inside during prayer calls.

“Aerial surveillance of the building would have shown this,” the report said, accusing US forces of failing to double check the facts on the ground before launching what turned out to be an attack on civilians who were flocking to the site for evening prayers.

“The airstrike took place in between the sunset and the evening prayer, at a time when US officials should have known that there would be people gathering in the mosque,” deputy director of HRW’s Middle East and North Africa division, Lama Fakih, told RT in April.

HRW did not find any evidence that would have backed up the claim that an Al-Qaeda meeting was being held there.

Such negligence in identifying the target “raises the question whether officers were criminally reckless in authorizing the attack,” the report says.

In the immediate aftermath of the attack, some news outlets rushed to pin the blame for the reported death of civilians on Moscow or Damascus.

READ MORE: Russia urges US comment on reports of fatal Syria mosque strike

However, after troves of evidence emerged which indicated the culpability of the US – including a photo allegedly showing a fragment of an air-to-surface AGM-114 Hellfire missile from the site – Moscow urged Washington to comment.

“Unlike some of our opponents, we are not going to blame them for ‘intentional killing of civilians and destruction of infrastructure,’” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said at the time, adding that she was sure the US warplanes had been aiming at terrorists during the ill-fated sortie.

From RT
Posted by The NON-Conformist

The Nerve Gas Attack Described in White House Report Did Not Occur, Expert Says of Syria Incident

  Video frames from the location in Khan Shaykhun where mass casualties either occurred or were being treated. (The wording below some of the images is embedded in the original recordings.)

Theodore A. Postol is professor emeritus of science, technology and national security policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a specialist in weapons issue. At the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, he advised on missile basing, and he later was a scientific consultant to the chief of naval operations at the Pentagon. He is a recipient of the Leo Szilard Prize from the American Physical Society and the Hilliard Roderick Prize from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and he was awarded the Norbert Wiener Award from Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility for uncovering numerous and important false claims about missile defenses.

This analysis contains a detailed description of the times and locations of critical events in the alleged nerve agent attack on April 4 in Khan Shaykhun, Syria. The conclusion assumes that the White House Intelligence Report (WHR) issued on April 11 correctly identified the alleged sarin release site.

Analysis using weather data from the time of the attack shows that a small hamlet about 300 meters to the east-southeast of the crater could be the only location affected by the alleged nerve agent release. The hamlet is separated from the alleged release site (a crater) by an open field. The winds at the time of the release would have initially taken the sarin across the open field. Beyond the hamlet there is a substantial amount of open space, and the sarin cloud would have had to travel a long additional distance for it to have dissipated before reaching any other population center.

READ: A Critique of ‘False and Misleading’ White House Claims About Syria’s Use of Lethal Gas

Video taken on April 4 shows that the location where the victims were supposedly being treated for sarin exposure is incompatible with the only open space in the hamlet that could have been used for mass treatment of victims. This indicates that the video scenes where mass casualties (the dead and dying) were laid on the ground randomly was not at the hamlet. If the location where the bodies were on the ground was instead a site where the injured and dead were taken for processing, then it is hard to understand why bodies were left randomly strewn on the ground and in mud as shown in the videos.

The conclusion of this summary of data is obvious—the nerve agent attack described in the WHR did not occur as claimed. There may well have been mass casualties from some kind of poisoning event, but that event was not the one described by the WHR.

The findings of this analysis can serve two important purposes:

1. It shows exactly what needs to be determined in an international investigation of this alleged atrocity. In particular, if an international investigation can determine where casualties from the nerve agent attack lived, it will further confirm that the findings reported by the WHR are not compatible with the data it cites as evidence for its conclusions.

2. It also establishes that the WHR did not utilize simple and widely agreed upon intelligence analysis procedures to determine its conclusions.

This raises troubling questions about how United States political and military leadership determined that the Syrian government was responsible for the alleged attack. It is particularly of concern that the WHR presented itself as a report with “high confidence” findings and that numerous high-level officials in the U.S. government have confirmed their belief that the report was correct and to a standard of high confidence.

Methodology Used in This Analysis

The construction of the time of day at which particular video frames were generated is determined by simply using the planetary geometry of the sun angle during the day on April 4. The illustration below of the sun-angle geometry shows the Day/Night Sun Terminator at the location of Khan Shaykhun on April 4. The angle of the sun relative to local horizontal is summarized in the table that follows the image of the planetary geometry along with the temperature during the day between 6:30 a.m. and 6 p.m.

The next set of two side-by-side images shows the shadows at a location where a large number of poison victims are being treated in what appears to be the aftermath of a poisoning event. The shadows indicate that this event occurred at about 7:30 a.m. This is consistent with the possibility of a nerve agent attack at 7 a.m. on April 4, and it is also consistent with the allegation in the WHR that an attack occurred at 6:55 a.m. on that day.

The timing sequence of the attack is important for determining the consistency of the timelines with the allegations of a sarin release at the crater identified in the WHR.

Assuming there was enough sarin released from the crater identified by the WHR to cause mass casualties at significant downwind distances, the sarin would have drifted downwind at a speed of 1 to 2 meters a second and for several minutes before encountering the only location where mass casualties could have occurred from this particular release. The location where these mass casualties would have had to occur will be identified and described in the next section. If there was a sarin release elsewhere, mass casualties would have not occurred at this location but would have occurred somewhere else in the city.

Assuming the victims of the attack were exposed to the plume, the symptoms of sarin poisoning would have expressed themselves almost immediately. As such, the scene at 7:30 a.m. on April 4 is absolutely consistent with the possibility of a mass poisoning downwind of the sarin-release crater.

The next figure shows the earliest photograph we have been able to find of an individual standing by the sarin-release crater where the alleged release occurred. The photo was posted on April 4, and the shadow indicates the time of day was around 10:50 a.m. Thus the individual was standing by the crater roughly four hours after the dispersal event.

If the dispersal event was from this crater, the area where this unprotected individual is standing would be toxic, and this individual would be subjected to the severe and possibly fatal effects of sarin poisoning. As a result, this throws substantial suspicion on the possibility that the crater identified by WHR would be the source of the sarin release.

At the time of the sarin release, the temperature of the air was about 60 degrees Fahrenheit, and the sun was at an angle of only 8 degrees relative to local horizontal. This means that liquid sarin left on the ground from the dispersal event would remain mostly unevaporated. By 11 a.m., the temperature of the air had risen to 75 degrees, and the angle of the sun relative to horizontal was at 66 degrees. Thus, one would expect that the combination of the rise in air temperature and the sun on the crater would lead to significant evaporation of liquid sarin left behind from the initial dispersal event. The air temperature and sun angle are such that the area around the crater should have been quite dangerous for anybody without protection to operate.

This is therefore an important indication that the crater was probably not a dispersal site of the sarin.

The final set of three photographs shows arriving victims seeking treatment at a hospital at some location in Khan Shaykhun. The arrivals at the hospital are between 9 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. on the day of the attack. This is perhaps late since victims were seriously exposed by 7:30 a.m., but victims could have been trailing in after the initial arrival of severely affected victims. This time is considerably earlier than the time at which WHR alleges that a hospital was attacked while treating victims of the poisoning attack.

In the next section, we discuss the location where mass casualties would have occurred if the sarin release occurred at the location alleged by the WHR.

Sun shadows at about 7:30 a.m. on April 4 at a location where large numbers of victims from a poisoning event were being treated.

A man without protective equipment standing next to the crater at 10:50 a.m. on April 4—roughly four hours after the sarin release alleged by the WHR.

Victims arriving at a hospital in Khan Shaykhun between 9 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. on April 4 following the mass casualty event observed at 7:30 a.m.

An image from about 10:30 a.m. in Khan Shaykhun suggesting a possible additional location where casualties were generated from a poisoning attack.

Identification of the location of the mass casualties.

The figure on the next page shows the direction of the toxic sarin plume based on the assumption that the alleged release point was the crater identified by the WHR. The wind conditions at the time of the release, which would have been at about 7 a.m. on April 4, would have carried the plume across an empty field to an isolated hamlet roughly 300 meters downwind from the crater. Pages 2, 3

By Theodore A. Postol/Truthdig

Posted by The NON-Conformist

US, Syrian, and Russian Airstrikes Kill Dozens of Civilians

The civilian toll of the Syrian war continues to rise, with airstrikes driving the toll today, as US, Russian, and Syrian warplanes all took to the skies, pounding targets in rebel-held parts of the country, killing at least 44 civilians across the country.

The biggest single incident was in Abu Kamal, along the Iraqi border, where US airstrikes killed at least 30 civilians, mostly women and children. The Pentagon downplayed the incident, saying they couldn’t confirm the civilian casualties, and that they’d “tried to avoid” killing any civilians.

Abu Kamal is a main border crossing between Iraq and Syria, and the Syrian side is mostly controlled by ISIS. The other strikes saw Russia killing 10 civilians in Maaret Harmeh, in Idlib Province, and four civilians were killed by Syrian government strikes in Aleppo Province.

This marks the latest in a growing number of US strikes with large civiliian tolls across Iraq and Syria, most of which never make it into official Pentagon figures, despite substantial third party evidence that they took place. The result of this is that the “official” figure is less than 10% the number killed according to NGOs.

by Jason Ditz/AntiWar

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Donald Trump’s Syria Attack Trampled Many Laws

With 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles, each armed with over 1,000 pounds of explosives, Donald Trump went from scoundrel-in-chief to national hero, virtually overnight. The corporate media, the neoconservatives and most of Congress hailed Trump as strong and presidential for lobbing bombs into Syria, reportedly killing seven civilians and wounding nine.

“The instant elevation of Trump into a serious and respected war leader was palpable,” wrote Glenn Greenwald. This sends Trump a frightening message: Bombing makes you popular.

Two wrongs don’t make a right. The use of chemical weapons is illegal, immoral and intolerable. If it was an intentional attack, it constitutes a war crime. Anyone responsible for the horrific April 4 events in the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun, which killed over 80 people, including at least 20 women and 30 children, should be brought to justice. But Trump’s bombing of Syria, a sovereign nation, was illegal, under both U.S. and international law.

Trump and the prevailing U.S. national discourse rushed to judgment about who was responsible for the chemical attack – the Syrian government. An investigation by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the implementing body for the Chemical Weapons Convention, was ongoing when Trump launched his missiles into Syria two days after the incident. The OPCW’s Fact-Finding Mission was already “in the process of gathering and analysing information from all available sources.”

As former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter pointed out, “chemical attacks had been occurring inside Syria on a regular basis . . . with some being attributed to the Syrian government (something the Syrian government vehemently denies), and the majority being attributed to the anti-regime fighters, in particular those affiliated with Al Nusra Front, an Al Qaeda affiliate.”

The Assad government has denied responsibility for the Khan Sheikhoun chemical attack, and some U.S. experts are also skeptical of the Trump administration’s supposed certainty that the Syrian military was responsible.

Philip Giraldi, former CIA officer and director of the Council for the National Interest, stated on the Scott Horton show that “military and intelligence personnel” in the Middle East, who are “intimately familiar” with the intelligence, call the allegation that Assad or Russia carried out the attack a “sham.”

Giraldi said the intelligence confirms the Russian account, “which is that they [attacking aircraft] hit a warehouse where al-Qaeda rebels were storing chemicals of their own and it basically caused an explosion that resulted in the casualties.” Moreover, Giraldi noted, “Assad had no motive for doing this.”

Journalist Robert Parry concurs: “Assad’s military had gained a decisive advantage over the rebels and he had just scored a major diplomatic victory with the Trump administration’s announcement that the U.S. was no longer seeking ‘regime change’ in Syria. The savvy Assad would know that a chemical weapon attack now would likely result in U.S. retaliation and jeopardize the gains that his military had achieved with Russian and Iranian help.”

Regardless of who is responsible for the Khan Sheikhoun chemical deaths, however, Trump’s response violated both U.S. and international law.

Trump’s Missile Attack Was Illegal

Two days after Trump’s bombing occurred, the President sent a letter to congressional leaders informing them of his attack on Syria. The War Powers Resolution, passed in the wake of the Vietnam War, requires that the President report to Congress within 60 days of initiating the use of military force.

The resolution, however, allows the President to introduce U.S. Armed Forces into hostilities or imminent hostilities in only three situations: First, after Congress has declared war, which has not happened in this case; second, in “a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces,” which has not occurred; third, when there is “specific statutory authorization,” which there is not.

The 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) authorized the President to use force only against those groups and countries that had supported the 9/11 attacks. The bombing in Syria was not authorized by any other act of Congress. Thus, Trump’s missile attack violated the War Powers Resolution.

Regarding international law, the United Nations Charter prohibits the “use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.” There are only two exceptions: when conducted in self-defense after an armed attack, or with the approval of the Security Council.

Syria had not attacked the United States or any other country before Trump ordered the missile strike. “The use of chemical weapons within Syria is not an armed attack on the United States,” said Notre Dame law professor Mary Ellen O’Connell. And the Security Council had not approved Trump’s attack. It therefore violated the Charter. In fact, under the U.N. Charter, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would have a valid self-defense claim since the U.S. initiated an armed attack on Syria.

So, Trump committed an illegal act of aggression against Syria when he lobbed his missiles. According to U.N. General Assembly Resolution 3314, an “act of aggression” is the use of armed force by a state against the sovereignty, territorial integrity, or political independence of another state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Charter. As stated above, Trump’s attack constituted an unlawful use of force under the Charter.

Moreover, treaties the United States has ratified, including the Charter, are part of domestic U.S. law under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution. That means a violation of the Charter also violates U.S. law.

In his report to Congress, Trump wrote that he directed the attack to avert “a worsening of the region’s current humanitarian crisis.” So-called “humanitarian intervention” is not a settled norm of international law. As stated above, to be lawful, military force can only be conducted in self-defense or with the blessing of the Security Council. Neither was present in this case.

Trump’s humanitarian claim also does not pass the straight face test, in light of his Muslim Ban excluding all Syrian refugees from entry into the United States (halted by the courts, for now). Since the conflict in Syria began in 2011, more than 400,000 Syrians have been killed. Five million people are refugees. If Trump were indeed motivated by humanitarian concerns, he would embrace those seeking to escape the carnage in Syria, which he has emphatically not done.

The 1980 Refugee Act grants the President authority to determine how many refugees may be admitted to the United States. The President must consider whether “the admission of certain refugees in response to the emergency refugee situation is justified by grave humanitarian concerns or is otherwise in the national interest.”

When, during the presidential campaign, Trump said he wanted to ban all Syrian refugees from entering the U.S., he was asked if he could then “look children aged five, eight, ten, in the face and tell them they can’t go to school here.” Without skipping a beat, Trump replied, “I can look in their faces and say, ‘You can’t come’. I’ll look them in the face.” Spoken like a true humanitarian.

Trump’s new-found humanitarian concerns, including his lament about the terrible fate of Khan Sheikhoun’s “small children and even beautiful little babies,” also stand in contrast to the horrific death toll from other U.S.-allied bombings in recent weeks. The U.S.-led coalition in Iraq and Syria killed nearly 1,000 non-combatants in March alone, “a record claim,” according to Airwars.org, a non-profit organization that monitors civilian casualties from airstrikes in the Middle East. “These reported casualty levels are comparable with some of the worst periods of Russian activity in Syria,” the group said.

The coalition forces’ use of white phosphorous, a chemical weapon that burns to the bone, has been documented in Mosul, Iraq. And the U.S. Central Command confirmed that it has used depleted uranium, arguably a war crime, against ISIS in Syria.

Encouraging Trump to Use Military Force

Trump is obsessed with being liked. So, smarting from the healthcare loss and attacked by the media, the GOP’s right-wing and Democrats, Trump turned the tables. Now that he’s become Bomber-in-Chief, Trump is liked by nearly everybody – or so it seems. And what lesson will he learn from his missile attack? That being a strong, forceful leader makes people like you. And blowing things up makes you a “strong, forceful leader.”

Members of the Trump administration are sending mixed signals about whether they seek to forcibly change the Assad regime in Syria. That would violate the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the United States has also ratified.

During the U.N. Security Council meeting following Trump’s missile attack, the ambassador from Bolivia declared, “The United States has not only unilaterally attacked . . . [it] has become that investigator, has become the prosecutor, has become the judge, has become the jury. Whereas the investigation would have allowed us to establish in an objective manner who is responsible for the attacks, this is an extreme violation of international law.”

Trump’s missile attack also has put a dangerous strain on U.S. relations with nuclear-armed Russia, which supports the Assad regime in the conflict with various opposition groups, including Al Qaeda’s affiliate and its spinoff, Islamic State or ISIS.

Following the April 6 missile strike, Russia suspended a memorandum of understanding designed to minimize collisions between U.S. and Russian aircraft over Syrian airspace. A statement issued by Russia, Iran and Assad’s forces said, “What America waged in an aggression on Syria is a crossing of red lines. From now on we will respond with force to any aggressor or any breach of red lines from whoever it is and America knows our ability to respond well.”

With his missile attack, Trump has made the world a much more dangerous place. “Make no mistake,” Norman Solomon wrote. “With 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons at the ready in the United States and Russia, pushing to heighten tensions between the two countries is playing with thermonuclear fire.”

Where Will Trump Bomb Next?

Meanwhile, Trump is taking provocative measures against nuclear-armed North Korea, deploying an aircraft carrier and several warships to the Korean Peninsula. Trump’s show of force is a response to North Korea’s recent ballistic missile test.

The Trump administration has indicated it may use pre-emptive strikes to prevent North Korea from developing a missile that could carry a nuclear warhead to the United States. Pre-emptive strikes violate the U.N. Charter, which specifies several non-forceful measures, including diplomacy, to maintain or restore international peace and security. But diplomacy doesn’t seem to be in Trump’s toolkit.

North Korea warned of “catastrophic consequences of [the United States’] outrageous actions.” Pyongyang said, “We will take the toughest counteraction against the provocateurs in order to defend ourselves by powerful force of arms.” A foreign ministry spokesman said North Korea “is ready to react to any mode of war desired by the US.”

When Secretary of State Rex Tillerson appeared on ABC’s “This Week,” he cited the U.S. strike on Syria as a not-so-veiled warning to North Korea: “The message that any nation can take is if you violate international norms, if you violate international agreements, if you fail to live up to commitments, if you become a threat to others, at some point, a response is likely to be undertaken.”

By logical extension, Trump’s missile attack on Syria makes the United States vulnerable to retaliation from other countries that see the U.S. violating international law and committing acts of aggression.

What can be done to stop the Trump administration’s illegal use of military force in Syria and its dangerous provocation of Russia and North Korea?

Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CodePink, suggests doing things that will be “positive for the Syrian people.” She advocates immediately lifting the ban on Syrian refugees, providing the U.N. with its requested $5 billion to deal with the humanitarian crisis, and demanding that the Trump administration work with Russia toward a ceasefire and a political solution.

By Marjorie Cohn/Truthdig

Posted by The NON-Conformist

AMERICA ILLEGALLY BOMBS SYRIA UNDER FALSE PRETEXTS. LINKS FOR CRITICAL THINKING.

*“…the White Helmets are handling the corpses of people without sufficient safety gear, most particularly with the masks mostly used , as well as no gloves. Although this may seem insignificant, understanding the nature of sarin gas that the opposition claim was used, only opens questions. Within seconds of exposure to sarin, the affects of the gas begins to target the muscle and nervous system. There is an almost immediate release of the bowels and the bladder, and vomiting is induced. When sarin is used in a concentrated area, it has the likelihood of killing thousands of people. Yet, such a dangerous gas, and the White Helmets are treating bodies with little concern to their exposed skin. This has to raise questions.” (from: “Jumping to conclusions; something is not adding up in Idlib chemical weapons attack“)

This morning, under the orders of President Trump, the US military fired a reported 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at an airbase in Syria, killing at least 6, according to early reports. The false pretext for this is the tired old refrain that “Assad used chemical weapons”, a ‘red line crossed claim’ made–and disproven–in 2013 in Ghouta, and in allegations prior and since. Any actual instances were the western-backed ‘rebels’. All others were fabrications of the NATO aligned media and faux human rights groups.

I’ll keep my own commentary short other than to emphasize that I do not believe for one second that the Syrian government used toxic gases on Idlib last week. My reasons are logical and many, but I will list just a few here and continue with suggested reading/listening:

The Syrian army had no need to do so, are making advances on the ground in various areas of Syria with conventional means of fighting terrorism.  Using a chemical weapon is precisely the ‘red line’ act America and NATO/Gulf/Zionist allies would leap upon to wage their war of ‘regime change’ fully on Syria, as per Libya and Iraq before. Meanwhile, western-backed ‘rebels’ have a history of using toxic gas in Syria (even the UN’s Carla del Ponte admitted this).

-Recently, apparently relations with America, via Trump, had improved. At the time of the alleged gas attacks, relations were looking positive. (That said, today, sadly, Trump has launched an illegal attack on Syria, using at least 59 cruise missiles on a military site and causing unknown deaths. This is an unprovoked act of war. Trump/America have zero evidence that the Syrian government authorized and used toxic gas, something even the United Nations admittedeven the United Nations admitted.)

For the sake of time, because this is an urgent issue that needs clear thinking and a firm stance against American (and Zionist/NATO/Turkish/Gulf) attacks on Syria, I am posting excerpts from a number of good analyses already online. Please share.

**

Ex-UK Ambassador: Assad wasn’t behind the chemical attack“, Apr 5, 2017

“Former British Ambassador to Syria Peter Ford says he believes it is “highly unlikely” that Russia or the Assad regime was behind the attack in Idlib.”

Finian Cunningham, April 6, 2017, “Chemical reaction: Trump in U-turn, bubbling with Syria regime change“:

“Last week, the Trump administration announced it was abandoning a failed US policy of regime change in Syria. This week, however, the White House suddenly back-flipped, saying Syrian leader Bashar al Assad “must go”.

The dramatic U-turn in US policy was, of course, in reaction to the reported chemical weapons incident in Syria’s Idlib province on Tuesday morning in which over 80 people were allegedly killed. Among the dead apparently were some 30 children.

Such a vigorous contradictory response from the Trump administration is strongly suggestive that the incident was an orchestrated political stunt; carried out for the purpose of achieving that very outcome by the Syrian militants and their foreign sponsors. It wouldn’t be the first time such a false flag device has been attempted to influence US policy in Syria.

Within minutes of the alleged attack in Khan Sheikdoun, in Syria’s northern Idlib province, Western governments and media were rushing to blame the Syrian air force for dropping chemical weapons on the town. Such claims were based entirely on images and information released by the discredited so-called rescue group, the White Helmets, who are reportedly affiliated with the Nusra terror organization. There was no attempt at verification by Western outlets, just straight-to-screen broadcast.

…The rush to condemn was reflected in the hasty UN draft resolution drawn up by the US, Britain and France. Russia’s acting deputy ambassador Vladimir Safronkov noted that the entire Western position was based on discredited sources like the terrorist-linked White Helmets.

“Taking the White Helmets at face value is not professional and not serious,” said Safronkov. He also added that the Western position was driven by an ideological expedience for “regime change” in Syria.

The last major deadly incident in Syria allegedly involving chemical weapons was in August 2013, when hundreds of civilians, including children, apparently died from exposure to the nerve agent sarin.

As with this week’s incident, Western governments and media were quick to accuse Syrian armed forces of carrying out the supposed attack in East Ghouta, a militant-held suburb of capital Damascus. Horrific images of children gasping for air were likewise given saturated coverage by Western media outlets.

The then Obama administration asserted “conclusively” that the Assad government was guilty of “heinous crimes”. Washington was on the verge of taking unilateral military action because of “red lines crossed”. It was only due to Moscow’s last-minute diplomatic intervention in September 2013 that US military involvement was averted, when a deal was struck by which the Syrian government vowed to decommission its chemical weapons arsenal under the auspices of the UN-affiliated Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

The Assad government insisted back then that it did not carry out the East Ghouta attack even though it was willing to comply with the Russian-brokered decommissioning deal. It later emerged from investigative reports and Syrian testimonies that the East Ghouta chemical weapons massacre most likely was carried out by militants as a propaganda stunt aimed at forcing the Obama administration’s hand to act on its “red line” threats of military intervention in Syria against the Assad government.

This week, Damascus again categorically denied that its forces had used chemical weapons in Idlib province. The Syrian government said all such weapons had been disposed off under the 2013 disarmament.

…images and video footage released by the White Helmets “aid responders” show no sign that those suffering from chemical exposure were caught up in the aftermath of an air strike. The location indeed appears to be a depot, and the people appearing to administer aid and recording the video footage seem to be doing so with a strange air of calm deliberation.

At one point in the video footage, three semi-conscious adult males are dragged from prone positions on a floor and then propped up against a pillar. The “aid responders” then walk away, but the video footage of the “victims” continues to run. Is that the expected action of “humanitarian responders”?…”

 

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Rick Sterling, April 7, 2017, “The Escalating War on Syria and Need for International Law“:

“…- On 22 March, the government controlled town of Khattab was over-run by militants with some civilians kidnapped and taken to the nearby opposition controlled town of Khan Sheikhoun.

– On 4 April, up to 80 persons, including many children, died at Khan Sheikhoun. Some showed signs of chemical poisoning.  Photographs, videos, analyses and other sources are documented at “A Closer Look At Syria”.

– one of the videos features a UK born and raised Dr. Shajul Islam.  He received his UK medical license in 2012 but had the license suspended due to reports he was involved in the kidnapping in Syria of journalist John Cantlie.

– Many of the video scenes depict an area set into a limestone quarry with apparent caves and storage depots. There are flat bed trucks with bodies scattered on the ground in this semi-industrial area.  Other video show scenes in medical clinic.

– Photographs show “White Helmet” individuals handling bodies without gloves which is very strange if they died or were dying from chemical poison.

Who is responsible?

There are three theories about what happened:

– The western government narrative is that the Syrian “regime” is responsible. They fired illegal chemical weapons into the town, primarily killing innocent civilians and many children.

– The Syrian army acknowledges firing air strikes but deny using chemical weapons at this or any time. This area was the base for militant attacks against government areas in Hama province in the preceding weeks. The Russian Ministry of Defense says that militants had a weapons production factory including chemical weapon ingredients, and that may have been hit and caused the chemical weapon deaths.

– A third theory is the kidnapped civilians from Khattab were killed or poisoned by the militants as part of a staged event.

Evidence Pointing to the Militants

Looking at the facts, history and overall circumstances, it is far more likely the armed opposition is responsible for this event. Here is why:

(1) The incident and publicity help the opposition and hurt the government.

Crime investigations usually begin with the question: Who has a motive? In this case, it’s strikingly clear that the armed opposition and their supporters benefit from this event. They have used the story to further demonize the Assad government and make renewed calls for US and “the world” to intervene.

The Syrian government is making steady advances in many parts of the country. They have no reason to use chemical weapons; they have every reason to NOT use chemical weapons. They know very well that the armed opposition has immediate access to major media.

Accusations that the Syrian government intentionally attacks civilians is contradicted by their policies and actions. As demonstrated last Decembers in Aleppo, civilians are welcomed from opposition areas into government controlled areas. Even Syrian militants are welcomed after they sign an agreement to lay down arms.

It is also relevant to consider timing. There is a pattern of sensational events helpful to the armed opposition occurring simultaneous with critical international meetings or actions.  In this case, the events in Khan Sheikhoun occurred the day before an important conference on Syria in Brussels. The conference titled “Supporting the future of Syria and the region” has been effectively sidetracked by news about the chemical weapons attack and the Syrian government being blamed.

(2) Extremists were responsible for the August 2013 Chemical Weapon attack in Damascus. 

Western supporters of the armed opposition were quick to blame the Syrian government for the chemical attack in Ghouta on 21 August 2013. However, subsequent investigations by the most credible investigative journalists and researchers concluded the Syrian government was probably NOT responsible. Seymour Hersh and Robert Parry concluded the attack was most likely carried out by militants with support from Turkey. The in depth examination titled WhoGhouta concluded“The only plausible scenario that fits the evidence is an attack by opposition forces.” An MIT studymade a detailed trajectory analysis, concluded that the missile could not have been fired from government territory and warned “Faulty intelligence could have led to an unjustified US military action.

(3) Armed Opposition Groups have a history of Staging Incidents.

From the start, the Syrian conflict has included an information war. Hillary Clinton boasted of “training for more than a thousand activists, students and independent journalists.”  In December 2012, NBC journalist Richard Engel was reportedly kidnapped and abused by “shabiha” supporters of the Syrian government. Engel and his film crew were “liberated” by Free Syrian Army rebels after a gunfight with the Assad supporting kidnappers. In reality, the entire episode from kidnapping to rescue was a hoax designed to demonize Assad supporters and glorify the “rebels”. The true story emerged years later after the actual events were leaked. When it was going to be made public, Engel finally admitted the truth.

(4) Supporters of the armed opposition have a history of fabricating stories which demonize the Syrian Government.

In February 2014, it was announced that a defecting Syrian military photographer, who was anonymous but code named “Caesar”, had 55 thousand photos showing the torture and murder of 11 thousand innocent Syrian civilians.  This news received sensational media attention with live interviews on CNN and front page coverage throughout the western world. The news relied on the judgment of legal prosecutors who “verified” the story and produced a “Caesar Report”. This was released the day before the start of Geneva negotiations. It effectively disrupted the talks and facilitated the “rebels” refusal to negotiate and walk away. In reality, the “verification” and report was commissioned by the government of Qatar which has been a major funder of the armed opposition. Since then it has been discovered that nearly half the 55 thousand photos show the opposite of what was claimed: they show dead Syrian soldiers and victims of explosions NOT tortured civilians. That is just one of the findings confirming the fraud involved in this sensational story. A concise expose of “Caesar” is here.

Here are a few examples showing the bias, half-truths and outright false statements regarding the events at Khan Sheikhoun:

– The PBS Newshour typically features two guests who are questioned by the host. The problem is that their guests consistently share the same basic viewpoint. On 4 April, one guest was from the Soros funded Physicians for Human Rights. She claimed, “We know that sarin has been used before by the Assad regime.” In fact that has NOT been confirmed by any credible organization. On the contrary, the most thorough investigations point to sarin being used by the armed opposition NOT the Syrian government. The other guest was Andrew Tabler from the neoconservative Israeli associated “Washington Institute”.  His editorial from last Fall makes clear what he wants: “The case for (finally) bombing Assad.”  The discussion on Syria at PBS Newshour is consistently biased.

– The New York Times feature story on 4 April was “Worst Chemical Attack in Years in Syria; U.S. Blames Assad”.  One of the authors, Michael Gordon, was an influential proponent for “weapons of mass destruction in Iraq” that justified the 2003 invasion. But that has apparently not hurt his career. In this story on Syria, he and co-author Anne Barnard claim that “American intelligence agencies concluded” the 2013 attack was carried out by the Syrian government. That is false. The intelligence agencies did NOT agree and the “assessment” came from the White House not the intelligence agencies. It is astounding that they either do not know this or they are intentionally misleading the public.  Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity explained the significance in their memorandum “A Call for Syria – Sarin Proof”.

– DemocracyNow is a popular television/radio show. It is widely considered to be “progressive” but is also highly biased in its presentation on Syria. It almost solely promotes the perspective of those who support the armed opposition and/or western intervention in Syria. On April 5, they interviewed Dr. Rola Hallam. She is infamous for being the key player in the documentary “Saving Syria’s Children” which purports to show a chemical weapon attack in Aleppo but was actually staged. The “documentary” was then broadcast at a critical time trying to influence the 2013 vote in British parliament for an attack on Syria.  On April 6, DemocracyNow interviewed another “Syrian” who lives in the West and promotes western intervention: Lina Sergie Attar. Viewers of Democracy Now have no idea that the majority of Syrians support the government and especially the national Army in their struggle against invasion and terrorism.

Public understanding about what’s happening in Syria has been seriously confused by the bad analysis of prominent analysts.  Some have suggested that Israel was content to live with Assad. Former Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren clarified the truth as he said “we always wanted Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to those who were backed by Iran.”  In short, Israel prefers Al Qaeda or ISIS or, better yet, the conflict to continue so that both sides are destroyed.

Before the conflict began, in 2010, Secy of State Hillary Clinton made demands to Damascus that all revolved around Israeli interests. She wanted Syria to end its alliance with Hezbollah, to reduce its interactions with Iran and to come to an agreement with Israel. In contrast with what some analysts have said, Israeli interests have been a major factor driving and maintaining the conflict. With the liberation of Aleppo and prospect of a victory by Syria and allies, Israeli demands to escalate the war have probably increased.

Some of the world’s most famed political analysts have contributed to the confusion and lack of resistance as the war on Syria has continued. For example, Noam Chomsky on Democracy two days ago said “The Assad regime is a moral disgrace, the Russians with them.” Evidently he believes all or most of the accusations which have said about the ‘regime’.  In sharp contrast with Chomsky’s assessment, it’s remarkable that Syria has held together as well as it has in the face of attack by some of the most powerful and rich countries on earth.  Over 100 thousand Syrians have given their lives defending their country against the onslaught. Russia has supported their ally in compliance with international law, continually trying to work with the U.S. coalition as a “partner” against terrorism….

…International law has been undermined and replaced by “humanitarian law”. This has contributed to the current disastrous situation whereby the U.S. and NATO are waging aggression under a humanitarian pretext.

International law regarding attacks on sovereign states is clear: it is illegal unless authorized by the UN Security Council or in legitimate self defense. It is clear that Syria poses no threat to any of its neighbors or any other nation. It is also clear that Syria has been the victim for six long years of aggression by foreign states which have funded and promoted a proxy army of fanatics and mercenaries from around the world.

As the former Nicaraguan Foreign Minister and President of the UN General Assembly, Father Miguel D’Escoto, has said: “What the U.S. government is doing in Syria is tantamount to a war of aggression, which, according to the Nuremberg Tribunal, is the worst possible crime a State can commit against another State.” …”

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Apr 4, 2017, Syriana Analysis:

“Similar to 2013 chemical attack, the Western governments, and corporate mainstream media accusing the Syrian government of using chemical weapons, this time in Khan Shaykhun, in Idleb. This video discusses the disgusting and criminal usage of chemical weapons in Syria, indicating that it is not the Syrian government but the Islamist\terrorist groups behind the attacks.”

Other Important Articles:

-Adam Larson, April 2017,  “Analysis of evidence contradicts allegations on Syrian gas attacks

-Robert Parry, April 5, 2017, “Another Dangerous Rush to Judgment in Syria

RT, April 7, 2017,  ‘Trump attacked the very people fighting Islamic State’: Scholars, analysts and journalists spoke with RT, offering their opinions on the Trump administration’s decision to attack the Syrian military on Friday.

Brandon Turbeville, April 6, 2017,  “Chemical Weapons 2017: What Just Happened In Syria?

Mark Taliano, April 6, 2017, “Syria Chemical Weapons Red Flags and False Flags

Julie Lévesque and Prof Michel Chossudovsky, April 6, 2017, “The East Ghouta Chemical Attacks (2013): US-Backed False Flag? Killing Syrian Children to Justify a “Humanitarian” Military Intervention

By Eva Bartlett/ingaza

Posted by The NON-Conformist