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Kerry on Syria: The Absurdity of Certainty

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From Senate Candidate John Kerry
Senate Candidate John Kerry by City of Boston Archives

John Kerry, when he still had credibility.

"Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd".      Voltaire

In May, 2013 , Carla del Ponte, a member of the U.N. Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria told Swiss TV that there was no evidence of government use of nerve gas, and testimony from victims strongly suggested that it was the rebels who had used Sarin.   The following month, Washington announced it would continue to arm the rebels citing evidence that Assad had used chemical weapons against his own people.    In spite of the alleged evidence, Washington refused to send gas masks to the rebels.     

Today, while the UN chemical weapons inspectors in Syria are investigating the possible use of chemical agents, US Secretary of State John Kerry put all doubt aside announcing that he has irrefutable evidence that the Assad government is responsible for the use of chemical weapons.   Mr. Kerry is of the opinion that since he has the "facts', the UN inspectors have nothing new to offer - after all, "the American intelligence community has high confidence' in its findings.    This degree of certainty is simply absurd -- or dishonest. 

These allegations are all the more dubious given their source - the Israeli intelligence. It was reported that an " IDF intelligence unit was listening in on senior Syrian officials when they discussed the chemical attack".    In his remarks, Kerry stressed "evidence in the assessment that regime forces had spent three days in eastern Damascus preparing for the attack".  If true, this indicates that IDF unit was aware of the plans and did not inform Washington (or Washington did not act on it) -- unless the IDF miraculously "intercepted a conversation between high-ranking regime officials regarding the use of chemical agents at the time of the attack" ( The Times of Israel ).        

As the Kerry-doing-Powell tells us: "We know rockets came only from regime-controlled areas and landed only in opposition-held areas".    Basing the intelligence on these rockets is all the more questionable as the rockets alleged to have been used by Assad bear a strong resemblance to a 1970's American weapon - the SLUFAE .  Although SLUFAE had been shelved, the concept was built upon by several countries -- namely   Israel.  According to a former UN inspector "a very similar munition was found 3-5 years ago, during one of the Israeli excursions," into Southern Lebanon." ( Foreign Policy ).      

So we are left with dubious intelligence and mystifying rockets - but what of the chemical weapons which are reported to have taken a high toll?  Another anomaly in the Kerry allegations is that at the rocket site,   there is a complete absence of fear shown by people posing with the weapons, and an absence of any kind of protective gear.  So if not rockets, what was the delivery method, and by whom?

Dubious reports have surfaced on the internet which cite a rebel's father claiming that the Saudis supplied the chemical weapons without instructions, or without telling the rebels what they were which is why " they" went off in the tunnel causing so many accidental deaths.   Although these allegations reinforce the fact that chemicals were used, the unlikely story flies in the face of Israeli intelligence and Kerry's   allegations, serving to add confusion to an already mystifying event.   What other plausible explanations are there? 

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Writing for the prominent Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), in his 2005 article entitled " Unmanned Air Vehicles as Terror Weapons: Real or Imagined ?", Dennis Gormley stressed the danger of UAV (unmanned aerial vehicles - drones) and stated: "Dispersal of chemical or especially biological agent is ideally suited for a UAV; its flight stability permits the release of agent evenly along a line of contamination."  

Coincidentally, in April 2013, The Times of Israel citing Le Figaro reported that "Israeli drones were given leave to fly over Jordan in order to monitor the chemical caches and take action if necessary'.  Could these drones have been used to destroy an existing caches or, were the drones used to disperse the chemical weapons? Certainly Israel had the weapons, the means and the opportunity.      

 The Israeli government has issued no policy statement on biological arms control and it has either signed nor ratified the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC); however, according to Avner Cohen "Ben Gurion's desire to seek scientists to "either increase the capacity to kill masses or to cure masses" implied -- in the 1948 context -- an interest in biological warfare.  Subsequently, the Israel Institute of Biological Research (IIBR) was founded in Ness Ziona, some 12 miles southeast of Tel Aviv [i] (The Nonproliferation Review/Fall-Winter 2001). 

 The institute was not without its hazards.  Several "accidents' took place in Ness Ziona and in August 1998, the British Foreign Report citing Israeli sources claimed that one accident was so serious that the authorities were contemplating evacuating the entire town of Ness Ziona  before the IRIB scientists had concluded that the threat has passed.     

There were further revelations in October 1998 when Israel admitted that the El Al Boeing plane which crashed in Amsterdam in 1992, was carrying cargo destined for Ness Ziona.  The shipment contained DMMP - a dual-use chemical used in the manufacture of sarin nerve gas.  Perhaps it is the experiments being carried out by the IRIB in Ness Ziona, and all the related incidents, in addition to Israel's policies that has the Israeli   citizens on a constant alert -- masks ready, images of which are broadcast to justify aggressive, illegal action.     

There are far too many unanswered questions and potential possibilities - all of which underscore the absurdity of Kerry's certainty on Syria.  As oft repeated on this topic - qui bono (who benefits)?  For now it seems that Mr. Kerry's attention been redirected from the "peace plan' to war planning - at a ludicrously high cost to Syria and at the expense of America's credibility.     

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[i] Avner Cohen, "Israel and Chemical/Biological Weapons: History, Deterrence, and Arms Control"


Soraya has lived and studied in-Iran, UK, France, and has obtained her Master's degree in Public Diplomacy from USC Annenberg and USC School for International Studies, Los Angeles.- She is an independent researcher, public speaker, radio (more...)

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Does John Kerry have a shred of credibility left?&... by Michael Germain on Sunday, Sep 1, 2013 at 10:44:43 PM
As war is a highly profitable industry listed on t... by jean labrek on Monday, Sep 2, 2013 at 4:22:14 PM
Jean,  you are absolutely right to point to t... by Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich on Monday, Sep 2, 2013 at 7:44:29 PM
... by jean labrek on Monday, Sep 2, 2013 at 4:14:40 PM
U.S., Britain, and France have all lost th... by Esfandiar Bakhtiar on Tuesday, Sep 3, 2013 at 11:45:02 PM