Reprinted from Consortium News
United Nations investigators encountered evidence that alleged chemical weapons attacks by the Syrian military were staged by jihadist rebels and their supporters, but still decided to blame the government for two incidents in which chlorine was allegedly dispersed via improvised explosives dropped by helicopters.
In both cases, the Syrian government denied that it had any aircraft in the areas at the times of the purported attacks, but the U.N. team rejected that explanation with the curious argument that Syria failed to provide flight records to corroborate the absence of any flights. Yet, if there had been no flights, there would be no flight records.
The U.N. team also dismissed out of hand the possibility that jihadist rebels who had overrun some air bases and thus had operational helicopters at their disposal might have used them as part of a staged event designed to incriminate the Damascus regime and thus justify U.S. or other outside military intervention.
Another problem with the U.N. team's findings is that the home-made chlorine bombs had minimal military value, inflicting relatively few casualties and only a handful of deaths.
Why the Syrian government, which was under intense international pressure regarding alleged chemical weapons use and was in the process of surrendering its stockpile of such weapons, would have jerry-rigged a handful of homemade bombs and dropped them for no discernible military effect makes little sense.
However, since Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been thoroughly demonized over his harsh reaction to an uprising that began in 2011, pretty much any accusation against him -- no matter how unlikely or implausible -- is widely accepted in the mainstream Western media and political circles. In other words, the U.N. team was under pressure to reach a guilty verdict.
Accusations of Staging
Yet, the evidence from at least one of the incidents examined by the U.N. team suggests that an attack on Al-Tamanah on the night of April 29-30, 2014, might well have been staged by rebels and then played up by activists through social media.
"Seven witnesses stated that frequent alerts [about an imminent chlorine weapons attack by the government] had been issued, but in fact no incidents with chemicals took place," the U.N. report stated. "While people sought safety after the warnings, their homes were looted and rumors spread that the events were being staged. ... [T]hey [these witnesses] had come forward to contest the wide-spread false media reports."
Accounts from other people, who did allege that there had been a government chemical attack on Al-Tamanah, provided suspect evidence, including data from questionable sources, according to the U.N. report.
The report said, "Three witnesses, who did not give any description of the incident on 29-30 April 2014, provided material of unknown source. One witness had second-hand knowledge of two of the five incidents in Al-Tamanah, but did not remember the exact dates. Later that witness provided a USB-stick with information of unknown origin, which was saved in separate folders according to the dates of all the five incidents mentioned by the FFM (the U.N.'s Fact-Finding Mission).
"Another witness provided the dates of all five incidents reading it from a piece of paper, but did not provide any testimony on the incident on 29-30 April 2014. The latter also provided a video titled 'site where second barrel containing toxic chlorine gas was dropped tamanaa 30 April 14'"
Some other witnesses alleging a Syrian government attack offered curious claims about detecting the chlorine-infused "barrel bombs" based on how the device sounded in its descent.