Before his appointment, Amano had portrayed himself as an independent-minded fellow who was resisting U.S.-Israeli propaganda about the Iranian nuclear program. Yet behind the scenes, he was meeting with U.S. and Israeli officials to coordinate on how to serve their interests. His professed doubts about an Iranian nuclear-bomb project was only a theatrical device to intensify the later impact if he declared that Iran indeed was building a nuke.
But this ploy was spoiled by Pvt. Bradley Manning's leaking of hundreds of thousands of pages of U.S. diplomatic cables. Among them were reports on Amano's secret collaboration with U.S. and Israeli officials.
The U.S. embassy cables revealing the truth about Amano were published by the U.K. Guardian in 2011 (although ignored by the New York Times, the Washington Post and other mainstream U.S. news outlets). Despite the silence of the major U.S. news media, Internet outlets, such as Consortiumnews.com, highlighted the Amano cables, meaning that enough Americans knew the facts not to be fooled again. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com's "Did Manning Help Avert War with Iran?"]
The Syrian Dossiers
This history is relevant now because the credibility of the UN's chemical weapons office has been central to conclusions drawn by the mainstream U.S. news media that the OPCW's report on the alleged chemical weapons attack outside Damascus on Aug. 21 pointed to the Syrian government as the responsible party.
Though the OPCW report did not formally assess blame for the attack, which purportedly killed hundreds of Syrian civilians, the report included details that the U.S. press and some non-governmental organizations, such as Human Rights Watch, used to extrapolate the guilt of Assad's government.
Yet, elements of the OPCW's official report appeared stretched to create the public impression that the Syrian government carried out the attack despite apparent doubts by OPCW field investigators whose concerns were played down or buried in tables and footnotes.
For instance, the UN inspectors found surprisingly little evidence of Sarin gas at the first neighborhood that they visited on Aug. 26, Moadamiyah, south of Damascus. Of the 13 environmental samples collected that day, none tested positive for Sarin or other chemical-warfare agents. The two laboratories used by the inspectors also had conflicting results regarding trace amounts of chemical residue that can be left behind by Sarin after being degraded by intense heat.
By contrast, tests for Sarin were more clearly positive from samples taken two and three days later -- on Aug. 28-29 -- in the eastern suburban area of Zamalka/Ein Tarma. There, Lab One found Sarin in 11 of 17 samples and Lab Two found Sarin in all 17 samples.
Though the UN report concludes that Sarin was present in Moadamiyah -- despite the failure to identify actual chemical-warfare agents -- the report does not explain why the Aug. 26 samples in Moadamiyah would test so negatively when the Aug. 28-29 samples in Zamalka/Ein Tarma would test much more positively.
One would have thought that the earlier samples would test more strongly than later samples after two or three more days of exposure to sun and other elements. An obvious explanation would be that the release of Sarin was concentrated in the eastern suburb and that the spotty residue detected in the south came from other factors, such as false positives for secondary chemicals especially from Lab Two.
If the Aug. 21 attack centered on Zamalka/Ein Tarma as the UN results suggest, that would indicate a much less expansive use of chemical weapons than a U.S. government white paper claimed. The alleged breadth of the attack served as a primary argument for blaming the Syrian government given its greater military capabilities than the rebels.
That point was driven home by President Barack Obama in his nationally televised address on Sept. 10 when he asserted that 11 neighborhoods had come under chemical bombardment on Aug. 21. [See Consortiumnews.com's "Obama Still Withholds Syria Evidence."]
However, even the U.S. "Government Assessment" on the attack, issued on Aug. 30 and explicitly blaming the Syrian government, suggested that the initial reports of about a dozen targets around Damascus may have been exaggerated. A footnote contained in a White House-released map of the supposed locations of the attack read:
"Reports of chemical attacks originating from some locations may reflect the movement of patients exposed in one neighborhood to field hospitals and medical facilities in the surrounding area. They may also reflect confusion and panic triggered by the ongoing artillery and rocket barrage, and reports of chemical use in other neighborhoods."