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Foreign Policy is reporting this story which I first picked up from RIA Novosti:

Secret State Dept. Cable Says Syria Used Chemical Weapons

15 January 2013
United States diplomats in Turkey conducted a previously undisclosed, intensive investigation into claims that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons, and made what an Obama administration official who reviewed the cable called a "compelling case" that Assad's military forces had used a deadly form of poison gas.

The cable, signed by the U.S. consul general in Istanbul, Scott Frederic Kilner, and sent to State Department headquarters in Washington last week, outlined the results of the consulate's investigation into reports from inside Syria that chemical weapons had been used in the city of Homs on Dec. 23. More...

This article then goes on to provide a great amount of detail about the investigation and the conclusions about what was used "Agent 15, known also by its NATO code BZ, which is a CX-level incapacitating agent that is controlled under schedule 2 of the Chemical Weapons Convention."
"It was a chemical weapon, we are sure of that, because tear gas can't cause the death of five people," said Dr. Nashwan Abu Abdo, a neurologist who spoke with The Cable from an undisclosed location inside of Homs.
This report indicates that Bashar al-Assad was definitely listening to the "fine print" when Barack Obama warned him that "a whole bunch" of chemical weapons was his "red-line" back on 20 August 2012. See: UPDATED: #Obama "green lights" #Assad's slaughter in #Syria. So far, he has only used them in small amounts.  

This RIA Novosti report was the first one i saw:

Washington Dismisses Report on Chemical Attack in Syria

07:19 16/01/2013
WASHINGTON, January 15 (RIA Novosti) – The White House downplayed on Tuesday media speculations that chemical weapons had been used by President Bashar al-Assad’s regime against the Syrian rebels.

According to a recent report in the Foreign Policy magazine, a secret American investigation revealed that Assad forces used a poisonous gas against the rebels in Homs on December 23, 2012.

"The reporting we have seen from media sources regarding alleged chemical weapons incidents in Syria has not been consistent with what we believe to be true about the Syrian chemical weapons program," White House National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said in a statement.

The official reiterated, though, that Assad’s government would be still held responsible for any potential chemical attack against the Syrian opposition forces or failure to ensure security of its stockpile of chemical weapons. More...

I first reported on this chemical attack here at the Daily Kos on the day it happened 23 December 2012:
BREAKING: Chemical weapons use reported in #Syria, Has Obama's red-line has been crossed?

When I did, some of the comments were:

43% of his diaries are "BREAKING" - (6+ / 0-)

does he 'cry wolf!', much?  ;-)

by Sharon Wraight on Sun Dec 23, 2012 at 10:34:51 AM PST

consistency (3+ / 0-)

is not Clay's strong point. Neither is accountability. I'm still waiting for confirmation on that coup....

by Fire bad tree pretty on Sun Dec 23, 2012 at 01:50:41 PM PST

Pro-war hysteria creating diary (2+ / 0-)

Referring to chemical weapons as pre-text for intervention/war.   Same old story of Saddam Hussein in Iraq.  Lots of BS.    Is BS HRable?

-8.50, -7.38

by Blue Wind on Sun Dec 23, 2012 at 12:56:41 PM PST

Clay doesn't want American boots on the ground... (3+ / 0-)

just their bombs.

by Claudius Bombarnac on Sun Dec 23, 2012 at 02:30:37 PM PST

This has been predicted by some, that the terrorist proxy fighters will be supplied with chemical weapons, probably from lIbya, use them and blame it on the Assad regime thereby giving the US/NATO war machine the "red line" they need to launch a Libya style assault.

by BigAlinWashSt on Sun Dec 23, 2012 at 10:42:32 AM PST

I think we've seen enough false flags by now (3+ / 0-)

to know that they will continue to be used to paint the Assad "regime" in an evil light; which beyond terror, is their purpose if that wasn't bloody obvious enough by now.
by protectspice on Sun Dec 23, 2012 at 11:11:11 AM PST

People are dying on the ground in Syria. We know the number 60,000 now. But this is how a chemical weapons attack looks in Kossack Comment Land.

Here is another report saying Obama has grown soft on the revolution. Of course I disagree, I maintain that he has been more of a friend to Assad than to the Syrian people all along. See, for example Barack Obama's Courtship of Bashar al-Assad

Now has this analysis piece:

Magical realism

Michael Weiss
January 9, 2013
According to Arab diplomatic sources consulted by the London-based Saudi newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, Russia has successfully exploited US fears of extremist infiltration of the Syrian opposition and so Washington is more committed than ever to ensuring the continuity of the very state institutions responsible for wrecking Syria in the first place: the mukhabarat and the military. The idea of even halfheartedly supporting this Arab revolution is over, whatever State Department posturing to the contrary; the “bartering phase” has thus begun.

There’s a good chance that this claim, or some variation of it, is accurate. In the diplomatic arena, all signs point to the West’s quiet efforts to try and lower the temperature of the Syrian opposition down from revolution to reform and to deprive it of long-promised and longer-needed material assistance. More...

UPDATE: 9:00AM 16 Jan 2013:

We now have at least three independent reports on this chemical attack:

1.) The original report on 23 Dec from Syrians in Homs, together with video. I reported on this in BREAKING: Chemical weapons use reported in #Syria, Has Obama's red-line has been crossed?

2.) Syrian military police defector Abdul-Aziz Jassim al-Shallal confirmed the use chemical weapons by Assad forces in Homs. I reported on that in BREAKING: Defecting General confirms use of chemical weapons in #Syria

3.) This present report based on an alleged state department cable about a US government investigation that concluded that the Assad regime used chemical weapons in Homs.

And now the MSM is beginning to report on the story I broke last night at the Daily Kos.

The NY Times is reporting:

Consulate Supported Claim of Syria Gas Attack, Report Says

Published: January 15, 2013
WASHINGTON — A State Department cable asserted that Syrian forces might have used poison gas in December, according to a report by on Tuesday.

The classified cable was sent by the United States consul general in Istanbul, according to the Web site, and it discussed a consulate investigation into allegations that chemical weapons were used in the city of Homs on Dec. 23.

A White House statement on Tuesday evening discounted the possibility that poison gas had been used. But White House and State Department officials declined to comment directly on the cable. Nor did they rule out that some form of chemical agent may have been used.   More...

The Australian is reporting:
Syrian military used gas to poison citizens: US State Department

January 17, 2013 12:00AM
A SECRET State Department cable has concluded that the Syrian military likely used poison gas against its own people in a deadly attack last month.
Foreign Policy magazine's The Cable blog reported yesterday that the cable, signed by the US consul-general in Istanbul and sent to the State Department, described an investigation by the consulate into the December 23 attack in the city of Homs.

"We can't definitely say 100 per cent, but Syrian contacts made a compelling case that Agent 15 was used in Homs on December 23," an Obama administration official who reviewed the document told The Cable.

US and NATO representatives have warned the embattled Syrian regime that the use of chemical weapons would trigger an international reaction.

"The possible use of chemical weapons would be completely unacceptable for the whole international community, and if anybody resorts to these terrible weapons I would expect an immediate reaction," NATO secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters last month. More...

Of course none of this will matter to the Assad supporters among us. They will continue to deny his use of chemical weapons with their dying breath.

And the White House is with them. If you've read my Barack Obama's Courtship of Bashar al-Assad this should come as no surprise.

The Ticket is reporting:

White House doubts Syria chem. weapons report

White House doubts Syria chem. weapons report
The White House late Tuesday expressed skepticism about a report that Syria’s military used a chemical weapon against its own people in the city of Homs in December – but did not flatly deny the account.

“The reporting we have seen from media sources regarding alleged chemical weapons incidents in Syria has not been consistent with what we believe to be true about the Syrian chemical weapons program,” National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said.

Vietor was reacting to a report on Foreign Policy Magazine’s The Cable blog, citing a secret diplomatic cable from the U.S. consul in Istanbul, laying out conclusions from an investigation into the events in Homs on December 23.

Whether the report is accurate matters because President Barack Obama has warned Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad that using chemical weapons would cross a “red line” that triggers a possible American military intervention.

“The President was very clear when he said that if the Assad regime makes the tragic mistake of using chemical weapons, or fails to meet its obligation to secure them, the regime will be held accountable,” Vietor said.

The Foreign Policy report seems to come from an official eager to see an increase in American help to Syrian rebels. The Obama Administration says it does not provide arms directly to the opposition, but media reports have said that American intelligence officials are helping the various groups to unify, steering third-party arms to those it has vetted while trying to cast out extremist elements that may have al-Qaeda sympathies.

“The report confirms the worst fears of officials who are frustrated by the current policy, which is to avoid any direct military assistance to the Syrian rebels and limit U.S. aid to sporadic deliveries of humanitarian and communications equipment,” The Cable says. But it's not clear how greater U.S. military aid to the rebels would have prevented the alleged attack or might stop the Assad regime from using chemical weapons in a possible last-gasp attempt to hold on to power. More...

Click here for a list of my other Daily Kos dairies on Syria
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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Simian, mookins

    Remember history, Clay Claiborne, Director Vietnam: American Holocaust - narrated by Martin Sheen

    by Clay Claiborne on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 11:13:20 PM PST

  •  This deserves bigger play. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mookins, Clay Claiborne

    FP is no Fox News.

    You can tell Monopoly is an old game because there's a luxury tax and rich people can go to jail.

    by Simian on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 11:34:25 PM PST

    •  FP pushes for US intervention in Syria. (4+ / 0-)

      It has neocon leanings. Lots of articles by neocons such as Max Boot, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick and other neocons. It's co-founder was Samuel Huntington.

      Some interesting quotes:

      “The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion, but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact, non-Westerners never do.”

      ― Samuel P. Huntington

      “Islam's borders are bloody and so are its innards. The fundamental problem for the West is not Islamic fundamentalism. It is Islam, a different civilisation whose people are convinced of the superiority of their culture and are obsessed with the inferiority of their power.”
      ― Samuel P. Huntington

  •  False report by FP (10+ / 0-)
    U.S. plays down media report that Syria used chemical weapons

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Tuesday poured cold water on a media report that chemical weapons had been used in the Syrian conflict, but reiterated that if Syrian President Bashar al Assad's government did resort to these weapons, it would be held to account.

    "The reporting we have seen from media sources regarding alleged chemical weapons incidents in Syria has not been consistent with what we believe to be true about the Syrian chemical weapons program," White House National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said in a statement.

    He was responding to a report in Foreign Policy magazine that a secret U.S. State Department cable had concluded the Syrian military likely used poison gas against its own people in a deadly attack last month.

    •  When even the NSC calls out the reporting, you (8+ / 0-)

      know the propaganda machine is out of control.

      "The Global War on Terror is a justification for U.S. Imperialism. It must be stopped."

      by BigAlinWashSt on Wed Jan 16, 2013 at 12:31:42 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Al Jazeera is said to have footage. (0+ / 0-)

      Let's see what they have to say.

      "Politics should be the part-time profession of every citizen who would protect the rights and privileges of free people and who would preserve what is good and fruitful in our national heritage." -- Lucille Ball

      by Yamaneko2 on Wed Jan 16, 2013 at 12:33:43 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Here's the footage (4+ / 0-)

        It's from December 24, 2012. This has already been discussed here in DKos

        Seven people have died in Homs after they inhaled a "poisonous gas" used by government forces in a rebel-held neighbourhood, activists said.

        Activists also told Al Jazeera on Sunday night that scores of others were affected in al-Bayyada neighbourhood. Side effects reported include nausea, relaxed muscles, blurred vision, and breathing difficulties.

        Residents said they did not know the nature of the gas used.

        "The situation is very difficult. We do not have enough facemasks. We don't know what this gas is but medics are saying it's something similar to Sarin gas," Raji Rahmet Rabbou, an activist in Homs, told Al Jazeera.

        A doctor treating patients subsequently said the gas seemed to be a concentrated form of tear gas that has not been used in Homs before. Inhaling large amounts can lead to suffocation and death, he said.

        The gas appears to have been used during a battle with rebel fighters.

  •  Clay needs to know more (10+ / 0-)

    about his subject.

    "Tear gas", usually designated as "CS", CAN cause death by constriction of the airways.  BZ can cause death as well, from central nervous system affects.  To say that tear agents are NEVER lethal is just wrong.

    Take it from a chemist who has worked with both of those agents.


    I would rather die from the acute effects of a broken heart than from the chronic effects of an empty heart. Copyright, Dr. David W. Smith, 2011

    by Translator on Wed Jan 16, 2013 at 12:44:29 AM PST

  •  Rachel Maddow suggested that the story might (6+ / 0-)

    have been intentionally "leaked" to the press in much the same way that the Bush administration "leaked" information about WMD preparations leading up to the Iraq war. She had Richard Engel on, who has been hearing about the use of chemical weapons for a while now but he hasn't been able to verify it. He suggested that what they are probably using is something akin to tear gas, and that the five deaths can legitimately be attributed to coughing and choking on vomit. If it were true chemical weapons there would be many many more deaths.

    A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit. - Greek proverb

    by marleycat on Wed Jan 16, 2013 at 12:49:34 AM PST

  •  Why do people put hashtags here? nt (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Translator, furi kuri
  •  Tear gas has killed in Bahrain (7+ / 0-)
    "It was a chemical weapon, we are sure of that, because tear gas can't cause the death of five people," said Dr. Nashwan Abu Abdo, a neurologist who spoke with The Cable from an undisclosed location inside of Homs.
    The US trained and armed Bahrain police have killed 34 with US manufactured tear gas.
    Tear Gas or Lethal Gas? Bahrain’s Death Toll Mounts to 34

    Based on interviews with local physicians and analysis of news reports, the Government of Bahrain’s oppressive use of tear gas in recent months has reportedly killed both young and old civilians in their homes and in the streets of Manama, the Gulf Kingdom’s capital.

    PHR has compiled a list of 34 reported tear-gas-related deaths in Bahrain since the uprising began a year ago. Based on media and other accounts, most civilians who allegedly died from tear gas reportedly have suffered complications from gas inhalation; at least three civilians reportedly died after security forces fired metal tear gas canisters (nearly the size and half the weight of a can of Coke) from grenade launchers into crowds.
    Well known to Bahrain’s Shia population who wake up each morning to find their streets littered with empty tear gas canisters, the Government of Bahrain acquires tear gas from Pennsylvania-based companies, whose “USA” label is stamped on each blue canister.

  •  You seem confident. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marleycat, protectspice, Rusty Pipes

    What is making you so confident?

    Looking at what has happened in the Middle East the past few years I can't imagine anyone being confident about anything that's happening.

    The US has a presence in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Yemen, Somalia, Egypt, Lydia, Israel, Pakistan, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Jordan, Turkey, Turkmenistan.

    Now everyone is begging the US to involve themselves in Syria.

    Not to mention the talks about Iran.

    You mean to tell me that none of this seems a little convenient to you?

  •  Why Are We Expected To Be Everywhere? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marleycat, DeadHead, SpecialKinFlag

    We have problems at home that are unfinanced & unattended to.  Every country in the world appears to have humanitarian needs.....including our own country.

    We can't even get our elected officials to do their jobs.  How are we going to save Syria?  

  •  Deja Vu All Over Again (0+ / 0-)

    For years the neo cons used to accuse the communists of using chemical weapons in the form of "yellow rain" everywhere from Vietnam to Afghanistan to Iraq.

    In the run-up to the Bush II Iraq War, Saddam Hussein was accused of using yellow rain against the Kurds.

  •  The deaths (6+ / 0-)

    From what was reported on Maddow last night, the deaths were due to some individuals vomiting and choking on it.  It seems to me that there's a similar level of risk involved with other incapacitating agents such as tear gas and pepper spray, which are used routinely.  Considering that, I don't think this BZ gas is considered to be the sort of chemical agents that "cross the red line", so to speak.  

    "You must be the change you wish to see in the world." -Gandhi

    by Triscula on Wed Jan 16, 2013 at 04:36:31 AM PST

    •  Richard Engel (0+ / 0-)

      was describing chemical weapons that Syria has, but was not used in this case.  He reported that it was another form of chemical gas, not as harsh as those you are referring to, being used. This particular gas does not kill, nor does it compare to those that cause the vomiting, resulting in choking.  He also said that this would not be a red line breach.  Feel free to check the segment online.

    •  US made tear gas has killed in the West Bank (3+ / 0-)

      Jawaher Abu Rahmah died from inhaling tear gas at a protest in Bi'lin.  Her brother Bassem Abu Rahmah (who is featured in the Oscar-nominated documentary "Five Broken Cameras") was killed by a a high-velocity tear gas cannister.

      It isn't nice to go to jail ... but if that's freedom's price

      by Rusty Pipes on Wed Jan 16, 2013 at 05:55:35 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  BZ is basically a deliriant meant to incapacate (3+ / 0-)

    Basically it is a really strong not drug (not a fun one)

    "Central effects
    Disturbances in level of consciousness
    Misperceptions and difficulty in interpretation (delusions, hallucinations)
    Poor judgment and insight (denial of illness)
    Short attention span, distractibility, impaired memory (particularly recent)
    Slurred speech, perseveration
    Variability (quiet/restless)
    Central nervous system mediated perceptual disturbances in BZ poisoning include both illusions (misidentification of real objects) and hallucinations (the perception of objects or attributes that have no objective reality). Hallucinations resulting from anticholinergics such as BZ tend to be realistic, distinct, easily identifiable (often commonly encountered objects or persons), panoramic, and difficult to distinguish from reality. They also have the tendency to decrease in size during the course of the intoxication. This is in contrast to the typically vague, ineffable, and transcendent-appearing hallucinations induced by psychedelics such as LSD.

    Another prominent CNS finding in BZ poisoning is behavioral lability, with patients swinging back and forth between quiet confusion and self-absorption in hallucinations, to frank combativeness. Moreover, as other symptoms begin to resolve, intermittent paranoia may be seen. Automatic behaviors common during resolution include the crawling or climbing motions called "progresso obstinato" in old descriptions of dementia.

    BZ produces effects not just in individuals, but also in groups. Sharing of illusions and hallucinations (folie à deux, folie en famille, and "mass hysteria") is exemplified by two BZ-intoxicated individuals who would take turns smoking an imaginary cigarette clearly visible to both of them but to no one else.[10] [Clarification] When one observed subject mumbled, "Gotta cigarette?" His delirious companion held out an invisible pack, he followed with, "S'okay, don't wanna take your last one." In another test it was reported two victims of BZ played tennis with imaginary rackets.[11]

    "The Founding Fathers envisioned a robustly Christian... America, with churches serving as vital institutions that would eclipse the state in importance." The Real Ron Paul

    by 815Sox on Wed Jan 16, 2013 at 05:41:38 AM PST

  •  Time for the Arab League to do something. (0+ / 0-)

    it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses

    by Addison on Wed Jan 16, 2013 at 05:56:06 AM PST

    •  Do what? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Fire bad tree pretty

      The Arab League seems firmly committed to the protracted diplomatic efforts of al-Brahimi. The only thing that came out of the League's meeting on Monday was a decision to form a delegation to visit and assess the status and needs of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq in advance of a donors' meeting in Kuwait at the end of this month. Most likely the League will continue to "pick at the edges," reflecting deep divisions and a power-struggle within the League (with GCC countires forming a potent bloc) about what to do about matters within Syria.

      Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time. (Terry Pratchett)

      by angry marmot on Wed Jan 16, 2013 at 06:17:51 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Do what? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      InAntalya, Fire bad tree pretty

      Article Eight of the Arab League charter states that “each member-state shall respect the systems of government established in the other member-states and regard them as exclusive concerns of those states.” The article goes on to maintain that “each shall pledge to abstain from any action calculated to change established systems of government.”

      You want the highly anti-democratic countries within the Arab League to support a movement towards democracy using military force? It won't happen. What they wanted is what we have - the complete destabilization of the country. When the dust settles, they can go in and and rebuild in their own interests.

  •  There are a number of things to be sorted out here (0+ / 0-)

    On the one hand, the main  video posted on the FP/The Cable  site looks fairly convincing and consistent. . BUT as the article says, Agent 15 is an "incapacitating agent" - ie under normal circumstances it should not be lethal:  "While it is not good news that a chemical agent of any kind may have been used in the Syrian conflict, this Agent 15 is certainly on the less harmful end of the spectrum of chemical warfare agents believed to be in the Syrian arsenal."
    So that doesn't sit well with the claim that there were 5 fatalities.
    Maybe some further commentaries will emerge to clarify this (or maybe not).

  •  Major technical problems with the FP article (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Claudius Bombarnac, protectspice

    The victims are described as having symptoms consistent with a nerve agent - mitosis (constricted pupils), convulsions, vomiting, respiratory difficulties. BZ is does not cause these symptoms, in fact, it causes opposing effects in many respects. For example, it causes dialation of the pupils. The effects of BZ are, in fact, similar to a massive overdose of atropine, a nerve gas antidote.

    Then there is the line comparing BZ to CX. CX is phosgene oxime, a "nettle gas". CX has horrific effects on the skin and respiratory tract, but no effects on the CNS. It could not be more different from BZ.

    I have no idea what may be going on in Syria, but I know one thing: the guy who wrote the FP article has no freaking clue about what he's writing about.

  •  Won't Get Fooled Again? (4+ / 0-)
    Won't Get Fooled Again? Hyping Syria's WMD 'Threat'
    By: David Edwards

    Reading about crimes of state over many years, it is tempting to try to fathom the mind-set of political leaders. What actually is going on in their heads when they order sanctions that kill hundreds of thousands of children? What is in their hearts when they wage needless wars that shatter literally millions of lives? Are they desperately cruel, mindlessly stupid? Do they imagine they are living in a kind of hell where monstrous acts have to be committed to avoid even worse outcomes? Are they indifferent, focused on what will bring them short-term political and economic gain? Are they morally resigned, perceiving themselves as essentially powerless in the face of invincible political and economic forces ('If I didn't do it, someone else would.')?

    Similar questions come to mind as the US and UK governments once again raise the spectre of ‘weapons of mass destruction’ to demonise a target for ‘regime change’, this time in Syria. What is actually going on in the minds of people who know that exactly the same ploy was exposed as a cynical deception just a few years ago? Do they view the public with contempt? Are they laughing at us? Are they playing the only card they perceive to be available to them; one that they know will work imperfectly, but will have to do?

    In the US, NBC commented:

    ‘U.S. officials tell us that the Syrian military is poised tonight to use chemical weapons against its own people. And all it would take is the final order from Syrian President Assad.’

    US media watch dog Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting asked: ‘So where did all of this new information come from?’ The familiar, ominous answer: ‘Anonymous government officials talking to outlets like the New York Times.’ This, for example:...

    ...On May 26, 2004, the New York Times published a humbling mea culpa titled, ‘The Times and Iraq.’ The editors commented:

    ‘Editors at several levels who should have been challenging reporters and pressing for more skepticism were perhaps too intent on rushing scoops into the paper.’

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