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If true, this could be why the Obama administration is hesitant to intervene between Syrian rebels and the Assad regime. And, more troubling, if true, it could also mean U.S. (Read: CIA) intervention has already occurred in Syria behind the scenes. (I sincerely hope the latter is just my cynicism speaking)

According to one of the lead investigators from the United Nations, they've gathered testimony from both medical staff and the casualties of the civil war currently raging in Syria indicating that it was not the Assad regime who used chemical weapons but rather the rebels.

The United Nations independent commission of inquiry on Syria has not yet seen evidence of government forces having used chemical weapons, which are banned under international law, said commission member Carla Del Ponte.

 "Our investigators have been in neighboring countries interviewing victims, doctors and field hospitals and, according to their report of last week which I have seen, there are strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof of the use of sarin gas, from the way the victims were treated," Del Ponte said in an interview with Swiss-Italian television.

"This was use on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities," she added, speaking in Italian.

This information is kinda tough to reconcile with the rhetoric we're hearing in the U.S. right now. Of course, our media rarely pays attention to anything the United Nations has to say about anything.

Del Ponte is a former Swiss attorney-general who at one time served as prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. She didn't offer any details of where or when sarin gas may have been used.

Separate from the investigation of the alleged use of chemical weapons, the inquiry based in Geneva covers war crimes and human rights violations during the current Syrian conflict.

Reuters is carrying the story:

President Bashar al-Assad's government and the rebels accuse each another of carrying out three chemical weapon attacks, one near Aleppo and another near Damascus, both in March, and another in Homs in December.

The civil war began with anti-government protests in March 2011. The conflict has now claimed an estimated 70,000 lives and forced 1.2 million Syrian refugees to flee.

The United States has said it has "varying degrees of confidence" that sarin has been used by Syria's government on its people.

President Barack Obama last year declared that the use or deployment of chemical weapons by Assad would cross a "red line".

Is it just me who thinks the phrase, "varying degrees of confidence" doesn't bode well for the reliability of the intelligence our government is presently gathering in the region?
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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (23+ / 0-)

    "Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone" - John Maynard Keynes

    by markthshark on Mon May 06, 2013 at 04:08:30 AM PDT

  •  Who Crossed the Red Line (12+ / 0-)

    If it was the Syrian rebels, as Billmon quipped, maybe we should be bombing the CIA instead of Damascus.

    "I'll believe that corporations are people when I see Rick Perry execute one."

    by bink on Mon May 06, 2013 at 04:16:46 AM PDT

  •  Oops (4+ / 1-)
    Recommended by:
    Lepanto, Gooserock, Fishtroller01, PeterHug
    Hidden by:
    leftynyc

    Looks like Israel lied again.  Hoocoodanode?

  •  Look, a good bombin' never hurt nobody (13+ / 0-)

    What harm could precipitous military intervention do?  After all, awful things are happening -- and we know from history that it's impossible to make things go from awful to worse.

    So let's skip all this complicated 'thinkin' about stuff and just come up with a big long list of moral phrases to use to describe bombing lots of targets.

    Then, if things turn out worse than the present scenario, which is impossible, of course, because things never, ever get worse, we can forget because once we're done we'll ignore the place long enough to act surprised the next time we pay attention to that area.

  •  The problem is the US loves binary conflicts (10+ / 0-)

    where the good guys line up on one side and the baddies on the other and they go at it until Truth Justice and the American Way prevails.

    Problem is that few conflicts are ever so clean, even when we so frame them.  For example, for those reading the Western press of the day, VN was such a "clean" conflict, with the West arrayed against the forces of atheistic communism.  What never seemed to occur to many people was that VN and China are historical and geographical adversaries or that China and the USSR were natural competitors in the region.  The US inherited its interests from de Gaulle and the French.  Post WWII the French were watching their empire collapse back in on itself while de Gaulle, no internationalist, had trouble reigning in his RW which wanted a perpetual colonial war.

    I am afraid that Syria is such a conflict where the departure of Assad does not guarantee a Western or Israeli friendly government.  What seems more likely is a replay of the last 40 years of Lebanese history, assuming Israel does not take the opportunity to set up a DMZ either under a friendly militia, as it tried with the SLA  

    •  Yes, in most ways, other than the horrible (7+ / 0-)

      mistreatment of their citizens, the US probably isn't going to get a Syrian government that is more favorable to our interests than the current one.

    •  Oh, these conflicts never (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      whizdom, markthshark

      are unambiguous.  Even WW2 meant ensuring Stalin's/Communisms's/the USSR's survival and ascent while utterly destroying Germany- which in the pre-WW2 Western notion of things was perverse.   The destruction of Germany and Japan as major powers/empires then entailed the Cold War, 40-some years of danger of annihilation of all sides and several conventional wars (Korea, Vietnam, and a bunch of lesser proxy wars, uprisings, etc).   But by the mid-1990s it was pretty clear that the whole sequence was probably ultimately worth it and probably not avoidable.

      Syria...again, we face a choice of favoring the local equivalent of a lesser Hitler (Assad) or a lesser Stalin/Communists (Islamists).  There is a pretense we can avoid that, keep clean hands, somehow avoid responsibility for bloodshed, avoid hard choices.  We sorta did in WW2, helping one side but keeping up the precious pretenses- until Pearl Harbor said that we were living a lie and just trying to avoid the cost of truth.  These days the equivalent of Pearl Harbor is a radicalized person from such a country, who gets angry enough at the U.S.'s halfheartedness and cheapness and lack of commitment to misinterpret it as malice- and then he flies jet liners into buildings or sets off pressure cooker bombs in a crowd in an American city.

      There's no getting people we really like and a kind, peaceful, enduring easy resolution to the Syrian conflict.  There are short term moralistic takes and short term cost/benefit analyses and crude ideological siding.  The wisest thing, however, is to side with and aid in a concrete way the side which represents the next step in the social and political evolution, and the internal resolution of disputes- however horrific the actors choose to make them-, in Syria.  

      The fall of Assad probably means government by a set of militia leaders and a fairly radical, socially reactionary/conservative Islamist party much as is the case in Egypt.  In Egypt this is a pretty accurate reflection of the condition of the average, quite impoverished and mostly illiterate, male Egyptian.  Egypt is so absorbed with its internal disputes and structural troubles- few or none of which were resolved by Nasser, Sadat, or Mubarakh- that its interference in other countries' affairs is pretty unrealistic.  And we can see the source of opposition within Egypt and the force that will force liberalization and conflict resolution and solving of problems in Egypt emerging: Egyptian women.

      All this preciousness about whether a change of government in Damascus will be better or worse for Israel sort of misses the point.  A toppling of Assad means a notionally more anti-Israel popular government- but also a government utterly absorbed with its real problems- providing food and water and shelter to millions of refugees, reactionary Assad supporters, the ethnoreligious problem of Alawites/Christians and Kurds (I suspect this will result in partitions), and generally a very poor and overpopulated Sunni country mostly desert whose infrastructure is greatly destroyed by war.  The semifunctional advanced Soviet bloc weaponry they'll inherit will not be of any use, militarily or otherwise- it amounts to crap best sold off.  I don't know how Assad manages to fund Hezbollah now, but when he's gone it's hardly going to be possible.  Basically, the Syrian government after Assad's going to have to start off from scratch, much like the governments following Mubarakh's in Egypt and Gaddafi's in Libya.

      •  Assad is funded by Iran (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        killjoy

        as is  most of the arms flowing to Hezbollah.

        I suspect there is a deal in the works, Assad gets to keep power with cosmetic reforms and
        he gets  Western or Saudi funds, US Arms,
        in return he agrees to not contest the Golan, stop supporting Hezbollah, and let the US build another pipeline for Iraqi Oil and gas.

  •  Methinks you'd have to be awfully cynical (6+ / 0-)

    to think that the CIA has NOT already intervened "behind the scenes"

    I mean, that's what they do.

    •  You mean I'd have to be naive... (5+ / 0-)

      to not know the CIA is already involved.

      I was alluding to the possibility of the U.S. intervening as far as chemical weapons are concerned.

      "Varying degrees of confidence" is a troubling statement. Ambiguous at best. Contrived at worst.

      "Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone" - John Maynard Keynes

      by markthshark on Mon May 06, 2013 at 05:30:54 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That's a tough one (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        markthshark

        not sure why the CIA would promote the use of sarin, since   chemical weapons of that type have little military value.

        Guess one would have to accept that they've become an out and out terrorist organization to therefore be promoting  its use, which is basically only effective against unsuspecting civilians.

        Maybe that's where the need for cynicism comes in.  For me, I actually don't need that much to accept that that's what they're doing.

      •  It's Not Behind the Scenes (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        markthshark, corvo, protectspice

        Obama administration officials have already acknowledged to the New York Times that the CIA is assisting Syrian rebels.

        With help from the C.I.A., Arab governments and Turkey have sharply increased their military aid to Syria’s opposition fighters in recent months, expanding a secret airlift of arms and equipment for the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, according to air traffic data, interviews with officials in several countries and the accounts of rebel commanders.

        The airlift, which began on a small scale in early 2012 and continued intermittently through last fall, expanded into a steady and much heavier flow late last year, the data shows. It has grown to include more than 160 military cargo flights by Jordanian, Saudi and Qatari military-style cargo planes landing at Esenboga Airport near Ankara, and, to a lesser degree, at other Turkish and Jordanian airports.

        As it evolved, the airlift correlated with shifts in the war within Syria, as rebels drove Syria’s army from territory by the middle of last year. And even as the Obama administration has publicly refused to give more than “nonlethal” aid to the rebels, the involvement of the C.I.A. in the arms shipments — albeit mostly in a consultative role, American officials say — has shown that the United States is more willing to help its Arab allies support the lethal side of the civil war.

        The CIA is involved.

        "I'll believe that corporations are people when I see Rick Perry execute one."

        by bink on Mon May 06, 2013 at 06:10:12 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  in a couple of years (8+ / 0-)

    after the "freedom fighters" we're aiding have seized control of Syria we'll relabel them "terrorists" and drone the crap out of them

    We're shocked by a naked nipple, but not by naked aggression.

    by Lepanto on Mon May 06, 2013 at 05:15:03 AM PDT

  •  Perfection does not exist (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    johnny wurster, FG
    Is it just me who thinks the phrase, "varying degrees of confidence" doesn't bode well for the reliability of the intelligence our government is presently gathering in the region?
    To me it says a government briefer was relatively honest for once.  Intel always comes in "varying degrees of confidence".
  •  Are you suggesting (8+ / 0-)

    That if the attack was done by rebels, the CIA would be implicated in supplying it?

    Could be my reading is mistaken, please clarify, thanks.

    Certainly any intelligence the US or anyone else has is incomplete.

    FYI, CNN International is now reporting this story including rebel denials.

    {Not a sigline. You are hallucinating.}

    by koNko on Mon May 06, 2013 at 05:33:01 AM PDT

  •  McCain, DeMint and King (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DRo, Fishtroller01, markthshark, corvo

    what will they say if it turns out the rebels they want to support are responsible for false flag deception with WMD?  

    What are their red lines?

  •  BBC report (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    whizdom, markthshark, Rogneid

    We're shocked by a naked nipple, but not by naked aggression.

    by Lepanto on Mon May 06, 2013 at 06:03:59 AM PDT

  •  Syria for us should look like a bottle of (4+ / 0-)

    poison... with the skull and crossbones clearly marked to remind us of our history of shooting first and asking questions later... when it's too late.  I just hope that our "obligations" to Israel and the "leadership" of Netanyahu doesn't force us to drink that poison.

  •  MUST. COVER. THIS. UP. (3+ / 0-)

    The MIC wants another war, and it will have its way.

    Dogs from the street can have all the desirable qualities that one could want from pet dogs. Most adopted stray dogs are usually humble and exceptionally faithful to their owners as if they are grateful for this kindness. -- H.M. Bhumibol Adulyadej

    by corvo on Mon May 06, 2013 at 06:16:39 AM PDT

  •  The thing is, there are many oppositions. (0+ / 0-)

    But there's only one government.  So there's a double standard when it comes to blame, but it's not unfair since the government's claim to legitimacy (shaky as it is) is based on there being a unity of command on its side.  When the government side uses sarin, Assad uses it; when the opposition uses it, it wasn't me, it was that guy over there.

    You know, I sometimes think if I could see, I'd be kicking a lot of ass. -Stevie Wonder at the Glastonbury Festival, 2010

    by Rich in PA on Mon May 06, 2013 at 06:34:51 AM PDT

  •  Since the West won't help w/o the "red line" (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    corvo, markthshark

    crossed, it's not a hard stretch to imagine some rebels decided to jump the gun. I heard a good acct on NPR with a NYT reporter who was based with rebels over two years. They realize, noises aside, no one really cares if they are dying, just worried about the movement of chemical weapons and the "message it would send" if Assad used chemicals w/o repercussions. Either way, getting involved (perhaps beyond supplying weapons to move army troops out of fortified bunkers) is not a politically wise move, nor necessarily helpful to civilians.

    Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree. -Martin Luther

    by the fan man on Mon May 06, 2013 at 07:07:05 AM PDT

  •  Our Foreign policy challenge (0+ / 0-)

    and imperative is to reduce the possibility of escalation.  What's evolving is an ugly three way proxy war, with Saudi backed Salfists Syrian opposition, fighting Russia and Iranian backed Allawites, and western powers, Egypt and Turkey supporting the FSA.   Lebanon civil war all over again.  

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