A Belgian writer who was held hostage with an Italian reporter for five months in Syria says that he heard their rebel captors deny that President Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the Ghouta massacre. The two were kidnapped while working in the war torn country back in April and were released over the weekend.
Pierre Piccinin said that he and fellow hostage Domenico Quirico, an Italian war reporter, heard their jailers talking about the chemical weapon attack and saying that Assad was not to blame.
Quirico confirmed to La Stampa newspaper that they had eavesdropped such a conversation through a closed door but added that he had no evidence to substantiate what he heard.
Piccinin said the captives became desperate when they heard that the US was planning to launch a punitive attack against the regime over the gas attack in the Damascus suburb.
“It wasn’t the government of Bashar al-Assad that used sarin gas or any other gas in Ghouta,” Piccinin told Belgian RTL radio after he was released.
“We are sure about this because we overheard a conversation between rebels. It pains me to say it because I’ve been a fierce supporter of the Free Syrian Army in its rightful fight for democracy since 2012,” Piccinin added.
Here is an interview Pierre Piccinin had with RTL TV:
Watch with the captions. The translation is very poor, but it is clear that he doesn’t think that Assad released the chemical weapons.
Piccinin’s fellow prisoner said it would be “madness” to say that he knew for sure that Assad was not culpable.
“I do not know if this is true but nothing tells me it is,” he said.
Quirico said he listened to a Skype conversation between three individuals, whose names he could not confirm. One identified himself as a Free Syrian Army general.
The three contended that insurgents had used gas in Ghouta to trigger Western intervention.
“I have no evidence to confirm this theory and I do not know who these people were or if they are reliable,” Quirico said.
“It is impossible for me to say if this conversation was based on real events or on rumours and hearsay. It is not my habit to hold true conversations overheard through a door.”
Quirico said he was treated badly. The Syrian revolution had turned into something “very dangerous” since he began covering it, he added.
Just one more hole in Obama’s “slam dunk” case.
Iranians Warned U.S. That Syrian Rebels Had Chemical Weapons Over a Year Ago…
September, 10, 2013 — nicedeb
According to leaked diplomatic correspondence obtained by the Christian Science Monitor, ‘Iran has been warning Washington since July 2012 that Sunni rebel fighters have acquired chemical weapons, and called on the US to send “an immediate and serious warning” to rebel groups not to use them.’ In one letter Iran stated that as a “supporter” of the rebels, the US would be held responsible for any use of the chemical weapons.
Iran amplified those year-old warnings over the weekend in its strongest public comments to date linking the rebels with a chemical weapons, echoing Russia‘s dismissal of American assurances that President Bashar al-Assad’s forces were to blame. The comments come as the US Congress prepares to vote on military strikes.
“There is ample intelligence that takfiri [extremist] groups are in possession of chemical arms,” Iran’sForeign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Sunday during a visit to Iraq, according to state-run PressTV. “Extremists and takfiris are a threat to the whole region.” Semi-official Fars News Agency headlined its story: “Iranian FM refutes US claims on Syria’s use of chemical weapons.”
Iran says that it warned the United States directly, in mid- and late- 2012, and at least once after that, about the risks of chemical weapons among the rebels. The letter acquired by the Monitor references messages from July 18 and Dec. 1, 2012.
According to the English translation that accompanies the one-page Persian document, the letter reads: “Alerting [worrying] news has been published about the preparations of insurgent forces in Syria for using chemical weapons/elements.”
Iran “holds responsible, in addition to the elements of violent forces, their supporter countries including the American government, for any resort to chemical weapons/elements by those insurgent forces,” it states.
The letter makes no reference to the possibility of chemical weapons use by Syria itself – holder of the world’s third-largest chemical arsenal. Nor does it acknowledge that if the same argument was applied to the regime, then Iran and Russia, Syria’s closest supporters, would likewise be held responsible for any regime use of chemical weapons.
The Iranian letter is undated and was produced by the previous government under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, according to informed sources in Iran who provided a copy to the Monitor on the condition that they not be further identified.
Reuters reported back in May that the UN had collected testimony that Syrian rebels used sarin gas.
U.N. human rights investigators have gathered testimony from casualties of Syria’s civil war and medical staff indicating that rebel forces have used the nerve agent sarin, one of the lead investigators said on Sunday.
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.
Hostages who were recently releasedfrom a Syrian prison say they overheard a Skype conversation between three rebels, one who identified himself as a Free Syrian Army general. The three contended that insurgents had used gas in Ghouta to trigger Western intervention.
On CBS’ Face the Nation, Sunday, Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) said that the Obama Regime “embellished” its public statements on the situation in Syria. Amash said that the evidence presented to Congress during briefings is “not as strong” as what the Obama administration has been telling the public.
The Daily Caller reported that according to former military officers who had access to the original intelligence reports, a Syrian military communication intercepted by Israel’s famed Unit 8200 electronic intelligence outfit was doctored so to lead the reader to just the opposite conclusion reached by the original report.
The doctored report was leaked to a private Internet-based newsletter that boasts of close ties to the Israeli intelligence community, and led to news reports that the United States now had firm evidence showing that the Syrian government had ordered the chemical weapons attack on August 21 against a rebel-controlled suburb of Damascus.
According to the doctored report, the chemical attack was carried out by the 155th Brigade of the 4th Armored Division of the Syrian Army, an elite unit commanded by Maher al-Assad, the president’s brother.
However, the original communication intercepted by Unit 8200 between a major in command of the rocket troops assigned to the 155th Brigade of the 4th Armored Division, and the general staff, shows just the opposite.
The general staff officer asked the major if he was responsible for the chemical weapons attack. From the tone of the conversation, it was clear that “the Syrian general staff were out of their minds with panic that an unauthorized strike had been launched by the 155th Brigade in express defiance of their instructions,” the former officers say.
According to the transcript of the original Unit 8200 report, the major “hotly denied firing any of his missiles” and invited the general staff to come and verify that all his weapons were present.
The report contains a note at the end that the major was interrogated by Syrian intelligence for three days, then returned to command of his unit. “All of his weapons were accounted for,” the report stated.
This morning Secretary of State John Kerry said the US is awaiting a proposal from the Russians about how Syria could agree to give up its chemical weapons, but will not wait for long.
Kerry told a House panel on Tuesday that the Obama administration will give any proposal a hard look, but that it must not be used as a delaying tactic and that it has to be verifiable, real, and include tangible conditions for Syrian President Bashar Assad to forfeit his chemical weapons.
Kerry is testifying in the House to persuade members of the Armed Services Committee to back Obama’s request for military action against Syria — a strike that could be avoided if Syria gives up its weapons.
Meanwhile, @AP: BREAKING: Senate Republican leader McConnell announces his opposition to military strikes against Syria.