Bellingcat: The Implausible ‘False Flag’ Theory About a Syrian Chemical Attack

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Victims of a chemical attack in Ghouta, Syria

Last year I reviewed the evidence of the chemical attack in Douma, Syria and came away unconvinced by the “false flag” scenario advanced by some critics of U.S. policy. While the U.S. is known to mount “false flag” operations, the evidence from Douma does not support the claim that an attack was staged to blame the Syrian government for someone else’s actions.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) concluded the April 2018 attack was perpetrated by Syria and used chlorine to kill dozens of people. One investigator working with OPCW said that the impact crater on the roof the building where the victims lived cast doubt on whether the deadly ordance had been from the air or manually.

Even if the the so-called OPCW whistleblower, Ian Henderson, was correct about the ordance, the question remains, what is the better alternative? If the facts don’t support a Syrian chemical attack, do they support the critics’ scenario of a “managed massacre,” in which the victims were supposedly killed elsewhere and then brought to the building where a munition was found.

The investigative team at bellingcat, the crowd-sourced geolocation site that has examined the case (as well as Russian assassinations and civilian casualties in Yemen), argues that the “managed massacre” scenario is absurd.

The first thing to understand is the scene of the attack: a densely populated urban neighborhood in a war zone.

To give an idea of how dire the situation was, the Douma pocket surrendered less than 24 hours after this chemical attack, bringing an end to fighting in this area. The bombardment was so intense that medical workers could not move through the city. Any potential plan that would have included placing these cylinders manually must have been carried out under this intense bombardment and chaos.

The idea of mounting a “false flag” operation is such an environment is fanciful, bellingcat notes.

In order to create the scene observed in open source materials, the bodies of at least 34 people, including men, women and children, would have had to have been obtained — possibly via mass murder. The victims would have had to be killed in a way that left no obvious visible trauma. All these bodies would have had to be fresh to account for livor and rigor mortis. 

Either these people were killed in a way that produced a frothy discharge, or the froth was added later to bodies of people who were already dead. The Russian and Syrian presentation at the UN claimed that bodies were transported in from another location and that nobody in the building was affected by any gas. There are, of course, no images or videos showing any of these 34 bodies being unloaded from the cars they were allegedly transported in. No witnesses interviewed immediately after the attack by journalists or the OPCW reported bodies being transported into this location. 

Source: bellingcat – The OPCW Douma Leaks Part 3: We Need To Talk About A “False Flag” Attack – bellingcat

I haven’t seen a convincing answer to these arguments.

Death of White Helmets Co-Founder Revives Russian Allegations

James Le Mesurier

The White Helmets have played a major role in the Syrian civil war.

The Guardian notes that “the group, made up of more than 3,000 volunteers, operates inside opposition-held areas in Syria and has been credited with saving the lives of thousands of people affected by Russian and Syrian airstrikes and bombings.”

Russia says the White Helmets are a front for Western intelligence services. From behind the Financial Times paywall:

[James] Le Mesurier and the organisation he founded had come under fresh attack in recent days from Moscow. Russia has long accused the White Helmets — the informal name of the group known as the Syrian Civil Defence — of being a project by western intelligence services to undermine its ally Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s president.

On Friday, a Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman repeated a claim that Le Mesurier was a former agent with the British intelligence service MI6 and said Moscow would “very much want to hear what London has to say about these facts,” according to a report by Russia’s state-owned Sputnik news outlet. Le Mesurier had previously denied being a former MI6 officer. 

The Guardian says Le Mesurier was a soldier and then a security consultant before founding the White Helmets. The U.K. news site has previously documented how the White Helmets have been the target of a disinformation campaign, conducted with the support of the Russian government, that positions it as an al-Qaida-linked terrorist organisation.

Source: British co-founder of White Helmets found dead in Istanbul | Financial Times

Syrian Intelligence Officers Charged for Torture and Executions

Bashar al Assad
Bashar al Assad
Syrian president Bashar al Assad

From The New York Times:

“As Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, closes in on victory over an eight-year revolt, a secret, industrial-scale system of arbitrary arrests and torture prisons has been pivotal to his success. While the Syrian military, backed by Russia and Iran, fought armed rebels for territory, the government waged a ruthless war on civilians, throwing hundreds of thousands into filthy dungeons where thousands were tortured and killed.

French and German prosecutors have arrested three former security officials and issued international arrest warrants for Syria’s national security chief, Ali Mamlouk; its Air Force Intelligence director, Jamil Hassan; and others for torture and deaths in prison of citizens or residents of those countries.

Source: Inside Syria’s Secret Torture Prisons: How Bashar al-Assad Crushed Dissent – The New York Times

How Iran’s IRGC Views Israeli Attacks. 


General Hossein Alayee, a former chief of staff of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), explained to an Iranian news outlet, how he views the recent Israeli attacks on Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq.

From: Iran Front Page, an anti-regime news site.

“It seems that Israel’s main purpose in launching the recent attacks on the buildings of Hezbollah in Lebanon, on the Hashd al-Sha’abi (Popular Mobilization Forces) military bases in Iraq, and on the positions that it believes belong to the IRGC Quds Force in Syria, is to make the US and a number of the European and Arab countries sensitive about the Islamic Republic’s increasing clout in the Middle East,” he noted.

“Israel wants to argue that despite the full-scale US sanctions, Iran’s power is constantly increasing in the countries around Israel, and that it would be possible to curb it only with bombardment and military attacks. In addition, the Zionist regime wants to create a rift in the relations of the governments of Lebanon and Iraq with Iran, and to link their security to restrictions on Hezbollah, Hashd al-Sha’abi and the Quds Force,” the general explained.

This view is consistent with my take that “Iran Is Not Another Iraq. Its a Different Kind of War.” It’s a proxy war, where two powers (Iran and the United States) use proxies to fight each other.