April 8, 2017 - No. 12

Join Demonstrations Against U.S. Attack on Syria

Oppose U.S. Air Strikes Against Syria!
No to Escalating the Military Conflict!
Hands Off Syria!


Make Canada a Zone for Peace!

Positions on U.S. Air Strike
United States Government
Government of Canada
Syrian President and Legislative Assembly
Russian President and Officials

Positions on April 4 Use of Chemical Weapons in Syria
Deputy Prime Minister of Syria Says Army Did Not and Will Not Use Chemical Weapons Even Against Terrorists
Information Provided by Russian Defence Ministry
What the U.S. Said at April 5 UN Security Council Meeting

Another Dangerous Rush to Judgment in Syria
- Robert Parry -
Why Is Media Citing Man Accused of Kidnapping Journalists as Credible Source on Syrian Chemical Attack?
- Ben Norton -

Join Demonstrations Against U.S. Attack on Syria

Oppose U.S. Air Strikes Against Syria!
No to Escalating the Military Conflict!
Hands Off Syria!

Windsor picket April 7, 2017 against U.S. air strikes on Syria.

The U.S. launched a criminal attack against Syrian military targets at 8:40 pm on April 6. Fifty-nine Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles were launched from U.S. destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean Sea targeting aircraft, aircraft shelters, fuel and other storage, ammunition, air defence systems, and radar at the Shayrat Airfield in Homs province.

The airfield has played a significant role in the Syrian army's recent battles against ISIL in central, northern and eastern Syria to liberate cities, including Palmyra, Raqqa and Deir Ezzor. Talal al-Barazi, Governor of Homs told media that casualties included the deaths of five soldiers and nine civilians, four of them children from nearby villages hit by missiles.

U.S. imperialist president Donald Trump used the pretext of deaths due to the April 4 use of chemical weapons on civilians, which he blamed on Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, to launch the attack. It is reported that the chemical weapons belonged to forces in the pay of the Anglo-American imperialists and were released when the Syrian armed forces bombed what they thought was an arms depot of the terrorists -- an  airstrike the Russians had already informed the Americans would take place. It is increasingly evident that the chemical weapons were used by terrorist groups as part of a deliberate provocation to blame the Syrian President. Without waiting for an investigation on who used the chemical weapons, the Trump administration declared the Syrian government guilty and targeted the airfield from which the Syrians launched their attack on the arms depot.

The aim is to ensure that there is no peaceful, political resolution of the conflict in Syria under the auspices of the Syrians themselves along with those countries they have sought assistance from, including Russia. The cruise missile attack comes after 1,000 U.S. ground troops invaded the country in the past weeks with another 1,500 expected to enter soon after.[1] On April 1, the Trump administration announced that it will no longer disclose the number of U.S. troops in Syria.

News agencies report that there will be no further strikes until "another decision is made." Russia, which was alerted through military channels before the attack, announced the suspension of military communications, called "deconfliction," designed to prevent accidental collisions between the air forces of the two countries operating over Syrian airspace. The following day, the Trudeau government declared that it "fully supports" the attack.

The Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) firmly condemns the use of chemical weapons and targeting of civilians along with the refusal of the Americans, Canadians and other allies to permit warranted conclusions to be drawn from proper investigations into their use so as to bring those responsible to justice under the proper procedures prescribed under international law. CPC(M-L) calls on all its members, supporters and friends and all Canadians to condemn the U.S. air strikes carried out under the pretext of high ideals and join demonstrations and protests to oppose this dangerous escalation of military force and Canada's support. Go all out to make Canada a zone for peace!


1."U.S. Begins Ground Invasion of Syria," TML Weekly, March 25, 2017.

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Make Canada a Zone for Peace!

Action outside U.S. consulate in Vancouver, April 7, 2017.

The U.S. intervention in Syria violates the UN Charter and as such is illegal. Syria has not attacked the United States. The U.S. cannot claim self-defence and the action is not authorized by the Security Council of the United Nations. Despite not conforming to international law, along with the Trump Administration, the Trudeau government is saying the attack is a moral imperative to stop a brutal dictator they say has used chemical weapons against the Syrian people. They are reporting as a fact that the Syrian government is responsible for the use of some form of chemical weapon against the population in Khan Sheikhun in Idlib province on April 4. The attack is reported to have killed at least 70 people. This is the pretext for the latest criminal U.S. air strikes against Syria on the night of April 6, which the Government of Canada supported the following day.

A main source of the information and the video footage of the attack being repeated on cable news stations is the White Helmets. The group claims to be a civil defence organization yet since its founding by a British mercenary in 2013 has been an outspoken advocate of military intervention in the form of a U.S. "No Fly Zone" over Syria. The images and video footage they produce are all to support these calls for military intervention.[1] The White Helmets footage depicts men dressed in the organization's uniform, without gloves or other safety protection, tending to and spraying with hoses people lying on a muddy street.

Idlib is among the last significant areas in Syria held by so-called rebel groups. When Aleppo, some 60 kilometres away, was liberated in December, foreign-sponsored armed groups, affiliated organizations such as the White Helmets and a small number of civilians were evacuated to Idlib. Control of Idlib as well as Khan Sheikhun, where the April 4 attack took place, is held mostly by the Al-Nusra Front, an Al-Qaeda affiliated group that has gone by various names including the latest, Tahrir al-Sham. Al Nusra is accused of having used chemical weapons in the past; its members have been arrested in Turkey for sarin gas possession and they left behind in Aleppo a facility used for chlorine gas production, found after the city was liberated.[2]

The Syrian army general command issued a statement on April 4 condemning and categorically denying any involvement in the crime, and stated that it has not and will not use any chemical weapons. The army command stated that foreign-sponsored groups "accuse the Syrian Arab Army of using toxic gases against them or against civilians at anytime they fail to implement the targets of their sponsors and operators or when they are unable to achieve any advantages on the ground in a desperate attempt to justify their failure and to maintain the support of their masters."

In an interview with the Lebanese network al-Mayadeen TV on April 4, before the U.S. air strikes, Syrian Deputy Foreign and Expatriates Minister Fayssal Mikdad said that a few weeks ago, the Syrian government informed and provided evidence to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the United Nations' Security Council that organizations, including Al-Nusra were transporting and storing toxic substances in Syria. He affirmed that Syria stands against using chemical weapons by anyone, anywhere, and under any circumstances.

The OPCW is the implementing body of the Chemical Weapons Convention, which aims to eliminate an entire category of weapons of mass destruction by prohibiting the development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, retention, transfer or use of chemical weapons by States Parties. On June 23, 2014, the OPCW confirmed that Syria had successfully disposed of its chemical weapons stocks and production facilities.

Colonel W. Patrick Lang, a retired senior officer of U.S. Military Intelligence and U.S. Army Special Forces (The Green Berets) provided the following account on his website on April 7:

Donald Trump's decision to launch cruise missile strikes on a Syrian Air Force Base was based on a lie. In the coming days the American people will learn that the Intelligence Community knew that Syria did not drop a military chemical weapon on innocent civilians in Idlib. Here is what happened:

1. The Russians briefed the United States on the proposed target. This is a process that started more than two months ago. There is a dedicated phone line that is being used to coordinate and deconflict (i.e., prevent U.S. and Russian air assets from shooting at each other) the upcoming operation.

2. The United States was fully briefed on the fact that there was a target in Idlib that the Russians believed was a weapons/explosives depot for Islamic rebels.

3. The Syrian Air Force hit the target with conventional weapons. All involved expected to see a massive secondary explosion. That did not happen. Instead, smoke, chemical smoke, began billowing from the site. It turns out that the Islamic rebels used that site to store chemicals, not sarin, that were deadly. The chemicals included organic phosphates and chlorine and they followed the wind and killed civilians.

4. There was a strong wind blowing that day and the cloud was driven to a nearby village and caused casualties.

5. We know it was not sarin. How? Very simple. The so-called "first responders" handled the victims without gloves. If this had been sarin they would have died. Sarin on the skin will kill you. How do I know? I went through "Live Agent" training at Fort McClellan in Alabama.

There are members of the U.S. military who were aware this strike would occur and it was recorded. There is a film record. At least the Defense Intelligence Agency knows that this was not a chemical weapon attack. In fact, Syrian military chemical weapons were destroyed with the help of Russia.[3]

Calgary, April 7, 2017.

Creating a pretext to justify aggression is the tried and true method of the U.S. imperialists. They have not been able to pursue their striving to control Europe and dominate Asia with approval under international law from the Security Council of the United Nations. Thus, they have created humanitarian crises with crimes so heinous that they expect world public opinion to clamour for them to act as liberators. Acting as liberators is indeed what they were supposed to do in the period before World War II when instead the British, with the full support of Canada's prime minister, engaged in the Munich Betrayal and during the war delayed opening a Second Front that would alleviate the pressure on the Soviet Union and its people, who bore the brunt of Hitler's murderous offensive.[4] But today they are not liberators, they are the perpetrators of crimes against peace and crimes against humanity, the very crimes condemned by the Nuremberg Trials, where the principles on which the post-war international rule of law is based were established.

The missile attack on the Syrian air base April 6 is but the latest such atrocity of the U.S. war machine. In October 2016, the U.S. killed or wounded more than 160 Syrian soldiers who were defending the city of Deir Ezzor against Daesh/ISIS. This demonstrated yet again direct U.S. support for this so-called Islamist reincarnation of the U.S.-created Al-Qaeda.

Attempts to persuade the peoples of the world of a moral imperative to justify intervention on humanitarian grounds have proven to have been manufactured from the time of the first Iraq war in 1991 and the dismemberment of Yugoslavia by NATO in 1999. Then and since, the U.S. and big European powers have themselves staged criminal massacres to create humanitarian crises, which they then blame on one regime after another, accusing them of being barbaric rogue states.

Evidence shows that the pretexts are set in motion or directly put in place by the imperialist powers' own covert agencies and that the big powers and their media cite the falsified "evidence" as pretexts for their use of force to take over those countries that they covet. The results are disastrous, they leave death and wanton destruction in their wake. U.S. regime change operations in the Middle East have now created among the worst humanitarian refugee crises ever experienced by humanity.

The U.S. has resolved no problem on the basis of its invasions and acts of aggression in one country after another. It spawned Al-Qaeda and ISIS and despite its continued presence experienced one defeat after another. This isolated the U.S. and led the Obama administration to try to change tack to realize U.S. ambitions through other means, including negotiations, as it did with Iran, along with massive expansion of drone and other targeted assassinations.

The Trump administration has now smashed this to smithereens with its missile attack in Syria on April 6. It thinks that this will serve notice to all those fighting to preserve their sovereignty. The boorishness of the new U.S. president is such that he thinks that by launching this attack, even while the Chinese president was with him at an official dinner at his private estate in Florida, that the Chinese will do the U.S. bidding to "rein in" the Democratic People's Republic of Korea under the threat of nuclear destruction at the hands of the U.S.

TML Weekly calls on Canadians to draw warranted conclusions and appreciate the need to take independent political stands. Doing so will prevent the propaganda of the Government of Canada and liberal apologists for aggression and war and so-called humanitarian imperialism from being able to claim a mandate for their crimes. The non-fabricated war crimes and daily crimes against humanity for which these imperialists are responsible show that we cannot look for a cure from the gods of plague. They reaffirm that amidst all the lies, half-truths and disinformation it is most important to take a stand of principle that conflicts must be resolved on a peaceful, political basis and Canada must become a zone for peace, not an accomplice of the U.S. imperialists.

In this issue, TML Weekly is providing readers with the positions of the Syrians, Russians and U.S. on the April 4 reported use of chemical weapons by the Syrian army and their positions on the U.S. missile attack on Syria on April 6. Along with this, news and commentary from various sources is provided to show evidence that it was not the Syrians who used chemical weapons in that country on April 4.

All Out to Make Sure Canada Is a Zone for Peace!
Oppose U.S. Aggression Against Syria!
Do not Permit the Dangers of War to Increase Further!


1. See "Call to Nominate Unsavoury Group for Nobel Peace Prize," TML Weekly, October 1, 2016 and Enver Villamizar, "Promotion of "White Helmets" Serves Nefarious Aims," TML Weekly, December 10, 2016.

2. Seymour Hersh, "Whose sarin?" London Review of Books, December 19, 2013.

Hersh wrote:

"In the months before the [2013 Ghouta] attack, the American intelligence agencies produced a series of highly classified reports, culminating in a formal Operations Order -- a planning document that precedes a ground invasion -- citing evidence that the al-Nusra Front, a jihadi group affiliated with al-Qaida, had mastered the mechanics of creating sarin and was capable of manufacturing it in quantity. When the attack occurred al-Nusra should have been a suspect, but the administration cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad."

Also see:

"Turkey indicts 11 linked with Syria militants caught with sarin gas," PressTV, September 14, 2013.

"Turkey intercepts chemical shipment from Syria," al Akhbar, November 4, 2013.

"This is Where Syrian Rebels Obtain Chemical Weapons," Sputnik, November 12, 2016.

"Syrian Army Discovers Saudi-Made Chemical Weapons in Aleppo," Alwaght, January 11, 2017.

3. "Donald Trump Is An International Law Breaker by Publius Tacitus," Sic Semper Tyrannis, April 7, 2017.

4. The Munich Pact of 1938 was an agreement between the heads of the British Empire, France, Hitlerite Germany and Fascist Italy for the partition of Czechoslovakia, signed in Munich on September 29. It provided to Hitler the transfer to Germany of the Sudeten region of Czechoslovakia, with all its installations and fortifications, factories, plants, raw material reserves, and means of transportation, and provided territorial concessions to other regional powers. The Munich Pact aimed to divert fascist aggression towards the countries of eastern Europe and the Soviet Union and prevent any anti-fascist united front from forming.

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Positions on U.S. Air Strike

United States Government

Action outside the White House, April 7, 2017 condemns U.S. air strikes on Syria
the previous night. Immediate actions took place in a number of U.S. cities.

U.S. President Donald Trump spoke shortly after the attack, saying "Tonight, I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched. It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons. There can be no dispute that Syria used banned chemical weapons, violated its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention, and ignored the urging of the U.N. Security Council."

Trump stated, "Years of previous attempts at changing Assad's behavior have all failed, and failed very dramatically. As a result, the refugee crisis continues to deepen and the region continues to destabilize, threatening the United States and its allies.

"Tonight, I call on all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria, and also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types. We ask for God's wisdom as we face the challenge of our very troubled world," he said.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke about "the chaotic circumstances that exist on the ground in Syria with the presence of a battle underway to defeat ISIS, the presence of Al-Qaeda elements inside of Syria and a civil war that is underway." He stated that an "existential threat" in Syria is "if there are weapons of this nature available in Syria, the ability to secure those weapons and not have them fall into the hands of those who would bring the weapons to our shores to harm American citizens."

Tillerson said the plans to launch the attack were a "very deliberative process" and that "the response from our allies, as well as the region and the Middle East has been overwhelmingly supportive of the action we've taken." Tillerson said that "Other things were considered. Those were rejected for any number of reasons. In my view, the president made the exact, correct decision."

H.R. McMaster, U.S. National Security Adviser issued a statement claiming that the U.S. "confidence level has just continued to grow in the hours and days since the attack, associated with additional evidence, especially with so sad, sadly, with the victims that are being treated and confirmation of the type of agent which was used, which is a nerve agent." McMaster stated, "There were three options we discussed with the president, and the president asked us to focus on two options in particular, to mature those options, and he had a series of questions for us that we endeavored to answer. ... After a meeting of considerable length and a far-reaching discussion, the president decided to act and that's the general sequence of events. So, two rather large and formal meetings, but really a whole series of discussions since the time of the attacks."

The U.S. State Department issued its own report focused on the technical details of the attack. It also stated that the attack "was a proportional response to Assad's heinous act. Shayrat Airfield was used to store chemical weapons and Syrian air forces. The U.S. intelligence community assesses that aircraft from Shayrat conducted the chemical weapons attack on April 4. The strike was intended to deter the regime from using chemical weapons again. ... Initial indications are that this strike has severely damaged or destroyed Syrian aircraft and support infrastructure and equipment at Shayrat Airfield, reducing the Syrian Government's ability to deliver chemical weapons."

Demonstration in New York City, April 7, 2017.

(Photos: Answer)

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Government of Canada

In the House of Commons on April 7, Prime Minister Trudeau confirmed that Canada was given advanced warning of the strike via a briefing from U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis to Minister of Defence Harjit Sajjan, who then informed the Prime Minister. Trudeau stated that he spoke with U.S. President Trump the morning of April 7 and voiced his support for the strike. The Prime Minister said in the House, "In the face of such heinous war crimes, all civilized peoples must speak with one voice."

The exchange in the House of Commons reveals the about-face of the Trudeau government on the legitimacy of military action without UN Security Council authorization. It shows the Trudeau government saying one thing the day before the attack, and another after receiving marching orders from the U.S. when it acts unilaterally and then claims to speak for all "civilized nations."

Pierre Poilievre (Carleton, CPC): [T]he Prime Minister is being dangerously naive on Syria. Yesterday, he said that the United Nations Security Council needed to have a meeting, pass resolutions, and hold an investigation to find out who was originally responsible for the chemical attacks against Syrian civilians, including children. Only hours later, the United States launched missile strikes against the origins of those very chemical attacks. Why is it that the Prime Minister continues to put all of his faith in the Security Council, which has failed to confront Bashar al-Assad?

Justin Trudeau (Prime Minister, Lib.): [L]ast night the United States Secretary of Defense briefed Canada's Minister of National Defence in advance of the American military strike in Syria. The Minister of National Defence then immediately briefed me. This morning, I spoke with the President directly and emphasized that Canada agrees that Assad's repeated use of chemical weapons must not continue. In the face of such heinous war crimes, all civilized peoples must speak with one voice. That is why Canada fully supports the United States' limited focused action to degrade the Assad regime's ability to launch such attacks. We continue to support diplomatic efforts with our international partners to resolve the crisis in Syria.

Pierre Poilievre (Carleton, CPC): [...]

[Y]esterday that was not the Prime Minister's position. At that point, he said it was not even clear who was responsible for the chemical attacks on Syrian civilians, and that the UN Security Council needed to hold another meeting, which would include a veto power by the Russian federation. When will the Prime Minister stop being so dangerously naive and confront this dictator and tyrant?

Justin Trudeau (Prime Minister, Lib.): [L]ast night, the U.S. Secretary of Defense briefed our Minister of National Defence in advance of the American military action in Syria. The Minister of National Defence immediately conveyed the information to me, and I spoke with the President directly this morning. I emphasized that Assad's repeated use of chemical weapons must stop. In the face of these war crimes, all civilized societies must speak with one voice. That is why Canada fully supports the United States' limited, focused action to degrade the Assad regime's ability to perpetrate such attacks. We continue to support diplomatic efforts with our international partners to resolve the crisis in Syria.

Trudeau also reiterated Canada's aim of bringing about regime change in Syria and to lay grounds to criminalize anyone who presents a dissenting opinion. He said:

"We know that we must use diplomacy to create a secure and peaceful regime for the people of Syria.

"Nevertheless, we recognize that the actions taken by the U.S. were necessary to degrade the Assad regime's capabilities and, as I said yesterday, to send a clear message that anyone who supports the Assad regime is partly responsible for these chemical attacks."

Then came these remarks from the Defence Minister:

Harjit S. Sajjan (Minister of National Defence, Lib.): [L]ast night the U.S. Secretary of Defence briefed me in advance of the American military action in Syria. I then immediately briefed the Prime Minister. As we saw this morning, the Prime Minister spoke with the President of the United States directly and emphasized that Assad's repeated use of chemical weapons must not continue.

In the face of such heinous war crimes, all civilized people must speak with one voice. That is why Canada fully supports the United States' limited, focused action to degrade the Assad regime's ability to launch such attacks. We continue to support diplomatic efforts with our international partners to resolve the crisis in Syria.

A statement issued by the Prime Minister's Office the morning of April 7 stated:

"Canada fully supports the United States' limited and focused action to degrade the Assad regime's ability to launch chemical weapons attacks against innocent civilians, including many children. President Assad's use of chemical weapons and the crimes the Syrian regime has committed against its own people cannot be ignored. These gruesome attacks cannot be permitted to continue with impunity.

"This week's attack in southern Idlib and the suffering of Syrians is a war crime and is unacceptable. Canada condemns all uses of chemical weapons.

"Canada will continue to support diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis in Syria."

Vancouver action at U.S. Consulate, April 7, 2017.

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Syrian President and Legislative Assembly

Damascus Syria, September 9, 2013

U.S. aggression against Syria is "an irresponsible and short-sighted action that holds no military or political prospects," the Syrian presidential office said in a statement circulated by the news agency SANA the day following the U.S. air strikes.

The missile strike pursues a goal of rendering support to the accomplices of the U.S. from among terrorist groups active in Syria, the statement reads. "The Syrian Arab Republic states in response that this aggression will only strengthen Syrians' resolve to crush mercenaries' gangs and will accelerate the pace of military operations against them," it adds.

For its part, the Syrian People's Assembly condemned the U.S. aggression in the strongest terms, SANA reports.

"This blatant aggression came in defence of the collapsed terrorist organizations and in an attempt to revive them since Israel failed to carry out this mission before," the Assembly said in a statement. It added that the United States, the sponsor of terrorism in the world, began to practice terrorism against Syria after its terrorist tools failed to achieve any progress against the Syrian Arab Army.

"This new U.S. aggression, added to the aggression on the army units in Deir Ezzor and the bombing of the Euphrates Dam faciliities, reveals again the falsity of the U.S. allegations of combating ISIS terrorist organization," the statement said. It also extended greetings to the steadfast Syrian people and wished a speedy recovery to the wounded, SANA says.

The Syrian Arab Army will not be deterred by this brutal aggression from defeating terrorism and its supporters and clearing the entire Syrian soil of terrorism, the Legislative Assembly said in conclusion.

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Russian President and Officials

Russian officials on April 7 condemned the U.S. strike against a Syrian airfield as an "act of aggression." In addition, Russia called off its use of a shared military communications channel that had been used to prevent possible midair collisions between U.S. and Russian pilots, TASS reports. Called the deconfliction line, it was established in October 2015 after several close calls between U.S. and Russian air forces in Syrian skies. It is now suspended as of April 8.

Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the U.S. of using a "far-fetched pretext" to attack Syria following this week's chemical weapons strike, the news agency TASS reported.

"Washington's move deals a significant blow to the Russia-U.S. relations, which are already in a deplorable shape," a Putin spokesperson said.

Asked at a news conference whether the U.S. attack was viewed by the Kremlin as an act of aggression against Russia's ally, the President's press secretary Dmitry Peskov said "Definitely.... Since we are rendering assistance to the Syrian military in line with the relevant request from the Syrian authorities, we view Syria as our ally."

"As for the changes in the geopolitical situation after these attacks, let's watch the situation develop together. So far, one can definitively say that the strikes impaired the fight against terrorism," Peskov said.

"What is unambiguous is the fact that the strikes [by the U.S. on Syria] de facto were delivered in the interests of the ISIL [the former name of the Islamic State terrorist organization outlawed in Russia], Jabhat al-Nusra and other terrorist organizations," he said.

Regarding exchanges of information via military channels about its operations in Syria, Peskov confirmed that Russia has suspended the Memorandum on preventing military incidents and ensuring aviation security that was signed with the U.S.

"Technically the channels remain, but no information will be exchanged," Peskov said. "This Memorandum lost its meaning last night when the attack was carried out," he added.

Viktor Ozerov, the chairman of the Defence Committee in the Federation Council, condemned the cruise missile strikes at the Shayrat airfield, stating that the operation could endanger any further joint military operations.

"This could eliminate the ongoing cooperation between Russian and U.S. forces in Syria," Ozerov said, as reported by RIA news.

He further stressed that the operation may destroy joint anti-terrorism efforts in the country.

"The U.S. rocket strike could tank the effort to combat terrorism in Syria," Ozerov said.

Another member of the Federation Council, Konstantin Kosachev, echoed Ozerov's remarks, stressing that future cooperation with Russia in Syria is now unlikely.

"Either way, Russian missiles continue to target terrorists while the American rockets hit government forces that spearhead the effort against terrorists," Kosachev said. "I am afraid that with such an approach the desired Russo-American anti-terrorist coalition in Syria -- that has so frequently been discussed since [President] Trump came to power -- will not come to fruition," he added.

As well, the Director of the Russian Foreign Ministry's Department for Non-Proliferation and Arms Control Mikhail Ulyanov told TASS on April 7 that claims of chemical weapons being present at the Shayrat Airfield hit by U.S. strikes are groundless. "This is a clumsy attempt at least somehow to justify the actions running counter to the fundamental norms of international law," he said.

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Positions on April 4 Use of Chemical Weapons in Syria

Deputy Prime Minister of Syria Says Army
Did Not and Will Not Use Chemical Weapons
Even Against Terrorists

Walid al-Moallem, Syria’s Deputy Prime Minister, Foreign and Expatriates Minister, reaffirmed at an April 6 press conference in Damascus that the Syrian Arab Army did not and will not use any kind of chemical weapons even against the terrorists who target the Syrian people.

Al-Moallem pointed out that this lie about the Syrian army came from countries known for conspiring against Syria, whether through support for terrorists or other attempts to disrupt the political process.

"All of you learned about the statement of the Command of the Army and the Armed Forces and the statement of the Foreign and Expatriates Ministry that was sent to the UN Security Council and sent to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the statement of Deputy Permanent Representative in New York, and all of these statements stressed that our forces could not have used chemical weapons -- neither in the past nor in the present, and neither could they use them in the future in any place, and that we condemn such criminal acts," al-Moallem said.

Al-Moallem reminded the press conference that Syria had already joined the OPCW and submitted successive reports, with the OPCW confirming the accuracy of the Syrian data in mid-2016.

He questioned the timing of the smear campaign against Syria. He pointed to favourable developments in recent weeks, including the active movement toward national reconciliation, the interdiction of terrorist attacks in Jobar and the northern countryside of Hama by the Syrian Army, and the absence of terrorist groups at the latest peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan, whose presence would have blocked the proceedings.

He also referred to the fifth round of talks in Geneva, where the "Riyadh delegation" of opposition groups had only one demand, which is to take power.

"When all these attempts failed, they came up with the lie of the army's use of chemical weapons in Khan Sheikhoun," said al-Moallem.

The Foreign Minister explained that the campaign of accusing the Syrian army of using chemical weapons in Khan Sheikhoun started at 06:00 am on April 4, while the first air raid carried out by the Syrian army only took place at 11:30 am, targeting an ammunition store of Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists that it subsequently became known included chemical weapons.

He went on to clarify that the evidence that the target was an ammunition depot is that the affected area shown in video footage from the "White Helmets" and the London-based "Syrian Observatory for Human Rights" was relatively small, and that had this been an airstrike that used chemical weapons, the affected area would have had a radius of more than half a kilometre.

He stressed that ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra and other terrorist groups have continued to store chemical weapons in cities and inhabited areas, pointing out that Syria has sent more than 100 cables to the UN Security Council and the OPCW. These included information on the entry of chemical materials from Iraq to ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra and from the Turkish border towards Idleb.

"This chorus that was launched in the international arena is made up of states that are well-known for conspiring against Syria," said al-Moallem.

"I reiterate that the Syrian Arab Army has never used and will never use this type of weapon, not only not against our people and our children, but not even against the terrorists who are killing our people and our children and attacking civilians in the cities with their random shells," al-Moallem added.

He stressed that it is not reasonable that the Syrian army would use chemical weapons at a time when it has been achieving victories on various fronts that have led to changes in the positions of some countries in the international arena and "at this time when we are optimistic about the world public opinion's realization of the reality of the terrorist plot against Syria"

"And we are aware that the main beneficiary of all that is happening is Israel, and it is strange to see Netanyahu almost weeping for what happened in Khan Sheikhoun," al-Moallem said.

He commented on a statement to the Security Council made by U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley on April 5 in which she said the U.S. does not have information on what happened in Khan Sheikhoun, but nonetheless the U.S. points its finger at Syria.

Al-Moallem said it is normal that they do not have information since the chorus of accusations directed at the Syrian army started only an hour after what happened in Khan Sheikhoun became public. He wondered how could the U.S. not have information about what happened, while UN Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura had that information and said that the chemical weapons came from the air, but that he forgot to name the pilot.

Answering a question about whether Syria would welcome an international committee of inquiry into the use of chemical weapons in Khan Seikhoun, al-Moallem said that on April 5, the Russian representative to the Security Council submitted ideas on forming a neutral and non-politicized committee with broad representation to probe the incident. He added that Syria's experience with such committees that have come to Damascus is not encouraging as they typically leave Damascus with one set of data but present another when they return home.

He pointed out that Syria constantly coordinates with the Russian side on this matter.

In response to a question on whether the aim of this campaign against Syria was to foil the political process, the Minister said this depends on the developments during the coming few days at the UNSC and through the Russian-U.S. communications, noting that "Syria is keen to make the political dialogue a success, but if their goal is to disable it, then let it be."

Al-Moallem noted that a new terrorist assault was launched on April 6 in the northern countryside of Lattakia as part of the continued attempts by backers of the terrorist organizations to disrupt the political process after their recent failed attacks in the Jobar and Hama countryside.

The Foreign Minister cited other goals that could be behind this campaign against Syria, including to cause U.S. President Donald Trump to change his recent opinion on Syria, which al-Moallem said may have been achieved to a slight degree, or to pressure the Russian side that provides real and sincere support to Syria in its struggle against terrorism. The latter is unlikely to be achieved especially after the two statements issued by the Kremlin on continued support to Syria's army and legitimate government. Likewise, another possible aim, to pressure Damascus to change its stances and principles, will be difficult to achieve.

Asked about the announcement by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on preparing for a new operation to invade Syria after the conclusion of the so-called "Euphrates Shield" operation, al-Moallem said Erdogan had declared on April 5 that his next target is Manbij, adding that the Syria government will "let him go ahead and we will see what he will do."

Responding to a question on whether Syria would accept a committee of inquiry convened by the UN, al-Moallem said:

"We have to ensure that this committee is not politicized, has wide geographical representation and that it starts from Damascus and not from Turkey. We have many questions on this subject and when we have made sure that these questions have convincing answers, then we will give you our answer."

(Syrian Arab News Agency)

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Information Provided by Russian Defence Ministry

On April 5, spokesperson for the Russian Defence Ministry addressed an April 4 Syrian aviation airstrike on the eastern outskirts of Khan Sheikhun, the news agency TASS reported.

"According to Russian airspace monitoring systems, yesterday between 11:30 and 12:30 local time the Syrian aviation carried out an airstrike on the eastern outskirts of Khan Sheikhun, targeting a major ammunition storage facility of terrorists and a cluster of military hardware. The territory of this storage facility housed workshops to produce projectiles stuffed with toxic agents," Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said.

"From this major arsenal, chemical-laden weapons were delivered by militants to Iraq. Their use by terrorists was confirmed on numerous occasions by international organizations and official authorities of the country," he said.

The spokesman added that these projectiles were similar to those used by militants in Syria's Aleppo, where their use was recorded by Russian military specialists.

"Video footage from social networks shows that those affected in Khan Sheikhun demonstrate the same symptoms of poisoning as the victims of the Aleppo attack had last fall," he added.

The official said that Russia has handed over all information about the incident to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which is still studying them.

"We assure that this information is completely unbiased and true," he added.

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What the U.S. Said at April 5
UN Security Council Meeting

Posted below is an excerpt from the remarks of Nikki Haley, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations said at the April 5 Emergency UN Security Council Meeting on Chemical Weapons.[1]



Yesterday morning, we awoke to pictures, to children foaming at the mouth, suffering convulsions, being carried in the arms of desperate parents. We saw rows of lifeless bodies. Some still in diapers. Some with the visible scars of a chemical weapons attack.

Look at those pictures. We cannot close our eyes to those pictures. We cannot close our minds of the responsibility to act. We don't yet know everything about yesterday's attack. But there are many things we do know.

We know that yesterday's attack bears all the hallmarks of the Assad regime's use of chemical weapons. We know that Assad has used these weapons against the Syrian people before. That was confirmed by this Council's own independent team of investigators. We know that yesterday's attack was a new low, even for the barbaric Assad regime.

Evidence reported from the scene indicates that Assad is now using even more lethal chemical agents than he did before. The gas that fell out of the sky yesterday was more deadly, leaving men, women, the elderly, and children, gasping for their very last breath.

And as first responders, doctors, and nurses rushed to help the victims, a second round of bombs rained down. They died in the same slow, horrendous manner as the civilians they were trying to save.

"We all also know this: Just a few weeks ago, this Council attempted to hold Assad accountable for suffocating his own people to death with toxic chemicals. Russia stood in the way of this accountability. They made an unconscionable choice. They chose to close their eyes to the barbarity. They defied the conscience of the world. Russia cannot escape responsibility for this. In fact, if Russia had been fulfilling its responsibility, there would not even be any chemical weapons left for the Syrian regime to use.

There is one more thing we know: We know that if nothing is done, these attacks will continue.

Assad has no incentive to stop using chemical weapons as long as Russia continues to protect his regime from consequences. I implore my colleagues to take a hard look at their words in this Council. We regularly repeat tired talking points in support of a peace process that is regularly undermined by the Assad regime.

Time and time again, Russia uses the same false narrative to deflect attention from their allies in Damascus. Time and time again, without any factual basis, Russia attempts to place blame on others.

There is an obvious truth here that must be spoken. The truth is that Assad, Russia, and Iran have no interest in peace.

The illegitimate Syrian government, led by a man with no conscience, has committed untold atrocities against his people for more than six years. Assad has made it clear that he doesn't want to take part in a meaningful political process. Iran has reinforced Assad's military, and Russia has shielded Assad from UN sanctions.

If Russia has the influence in Syria that it claims to have, we need to see them use it. We need to see them put an end to these horrific acts. How many more children have to die before Russia cares?

The United States sees yesterday's attack as a disgrace at the highest level, an assurance that humanity means nothing to the Syrian government.

The question members of this Council must ask themselves is this: If we are not able to enforce resolutions preventing the use of chemical weapons, what does that say for our chances of ending the broader conflict in Syria? What does that say of our ability to bring relief to the Syrian people? If we are not able to enforce resolutions preventing the use of chemical weapons, what does that say about our effectiveness in this institution?

If we are not prepared to act, then this Council will keep meeting, month after month, to express outrage at the continuing use of chemical weapons, and it will not end. We will see more conflict in Syria. We will see more pictures that we can never un-see.

I began my remarks by saying that in the life of the United Nations, there are times when we are compelled to take collective action. I will now add this: When the United Nations consistently fails in its duty to act collectively, there are times in the life of states that we are compelled to take our own action.

For the sake of the victims, I hope the rest of the Council is finally willing to do the same. The world needs to see the use of chemical weapons and the fact that they will not be tolerated.


1. For the month of April, the United States is serving as President of the United Nations Security Council, a position that rotates every month among the 15 Security Council members. The U.S. will be responsible for setting the agenda for the month, organizing meetings, managing the distribution of information to Council members, issuing statements, and communicating the Council's actions to the public.

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Another Dangerous Rush to Judgment in Syria

Rally in Union Square, New York City, April 7, 2017.

With the latest hasty judgment about Tuesday's [April 4] poison-gas deaths in a rebel-held area of northern Syria, the mainstream U.S. news media once more reveals itself to be a threat to responsible journalism and to the future of humanity. Again, we see the troubling pattern of verdict first, investigation later, even when that behavior can lead to a dangerous war escalation and many more deaths.

Before a careful evaluation of the evidence about Tuesday's tragedy was possible, The New York Times and other major U.S. news outlets had pinned the blame for the scores of dead on the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad. That revived demands that the U.S. and other nations establish a "no-fly zone" over Syria, which would amount to launching another "regime change" war and would put America into a likely hot war with nuclear-armed Russia.

Even as basic facts were still being assembled about Tuesday's incident, we, the public, were prepped to disbelieve the Syrian government's response that the poison gas may have come from rebel stockpiles that could have been released either accidentally or intentionally causing the civilian deaths in a town in Idlib Province.

One possible scenario was that Syrian warplanes bombed a rebel weapons depot where the poison gas was stored, causing the containers to rupture. Another possibility was a staged event by increasingly desperate Al Qaeda jihadists who are known for their disregard for innocent human life.

While it's hard to know at this early stage what's true and what's not, these alternative explanations, I'm told, are being seriously examined by U.S. intelligence. One source cited the possibility that Turkey had supplied the rebels with the poison gas (the exact type still not determined) for potential use against Kurdish forces operating in northern Syria near the Turkish border or for a terror attack in a government-controlled city like the capital of Damascus.

Reporting by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh and statements by some Turkish police and opposition politicians linked Turkish intelligence and Al Qaeda-affiliated jihadists to the Aug. 21, 2013 sarin gas attack outside Damascus that killed hundreds, although the Times and other major U.S. news outlets continue to blame that incident on Assad's regime.

Seasoned Propagandists

On Tuesday, the Times assigned two of its most committed anti-Syrian-government propagandists to cover the Syrian poison-gas story, Michael B. Gordon and Anne Barnard.

Gordon has been at the front lines of the neocon "regime change" strategies for years. He co-authored the Times' infamous aluminum tube story of Sept. 8, 2002, which relied on U.S. government sources and Iraqi defectors to frighten Americans with images of "mushroom clouds" if they didn't support President George W. Bush's upcoming invasion of Iraq. The timing played perfectly into the administration's advertising "rollout" for the Iraq War.

Of course, the story turned out to be false and to have unfairly downplayed skeptics of the claim that the aluminum tubes were for nuclear centrifuges, when the aluminum tubes actually were meant for artillery. But the article provided a great impetus toward the Iraq War, which ended up killing nearly 4,500 U.S. soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.

Gordon's co-author, Judith Miller, became the only U.S. journalist known to have lost a job over the reckless and shoddy reporting that contributed to the Iraq disaster. For his part, Gordon continued serving as a respected Pentagon correspondent.

Gordon's name also showed up in a supporting role on the Times' botched "vector analysis," which supposedly proved that the Syrian military was responsible for the Aug. 21, 2013 sarin-gas attack. The "vector analysis" story of Sept. 17, 2013, traced the flight paths of two rockets, recovered in suburbs of Damascus back to a Syrian military base 9.5 kilometers away.

The article became the "slam-dunk" evidence that the Syrian government was lying when it denied launching the sarin attack. However, like the aluminum tube story, the Times' "vector analysis" ignored contrary evidence, such as the unreliability of one azimuth from a rocket that landed in Moadamiya because it had struck a building in its descent. That rocket also was found to contain no sarin, so it's inclusion in the vectoring of two sarin-laden rockets made no sense.

But the Times' story ultimately fell apart when rocket scientists analyzed the one sarin-laden rocket that had landed in the Zamalka area and determined that it had a maximum range of about two kilometers, meaning that it could not have originated from the Syrian military base. C.J. Chivers, one of the co-authors of the article, waited until Dec. 28, 2013, to publish a halfhearted semi-retraction.[1]

Gordon was a co-author of another bogus Times' front-page story on April 21, 2014, when the State Department and the Ukrainian government fed the Times two photographs that supposedly proved that a group of Russian soldiers -- first photographed in Russia -- had entered Ukraine, where they were photographed again.

However, two days later, Gordon was forced to pen a retraction because it turned out that both photos had been shot inside Ukraine, destroying the story's premise.[2]

Gordon perhaps personifies better than anyone how mainstream journalism works. If you publish false stories that fit with the Establishment's narratives, your job is safe even if the stories blow up in your face. However, if you go against the grain -- and if someone important raises a question about your story -- you can easily find yourself out on the street even if your story is correct.

No Skepticism Allowed

Anne Barnard, Gordon's co-author on Tuesday's Syrian poison-gas story, has consistently reported on the Syrian conflict as if she were a press agent for the rebels, playing up their anti-government claims even when there's no evidence.

For instance, on June 2, 2015, Barnard, who is based in Beirut, Lebanon, authored a front-page story that pushed the rebels' propaganda theme that the Syrian government was somehow in cahoots with the Islamic State though even the U.S. State Department acknowledged that it had no confirmation of the rebels' claims.

When Gordon and Barnard teamed up to report on the latest Syrian tragedy, they again showed no skepticism about early U.S. government and Syrian rebel claims that the Syrian military was responsible for intentionally deploying poison gas.

Perhaps for the first time, The New York Times cited President Trump as a reliable source because he and his press secretary were saying what the Times wanted to hear -- that Assad must be guilty.

Gordon and Barnard also cited the controversial White Helmets, the rebels' Western-financed civil defense group that has worked in close proximity with Al Qaeda's Nusra Front and has come under suspicion of staging heroic "rescues" but is nevertheless treated as a fount of truth-telling by the mainstream U.S. news media.

In early online versions of the Times' story, a reaction from the Syrian military was buried deep in the article around the 27th paragraph, noting: "The government denies that it has used chemical weapons, arguing that insurgents and Islamic State fighters use toxins to frame the government or that the attacks are staged."

The following paragraph mentioned the possibility that a Syrian bombing raid had struck a rebel warehouse where poison-gas was stored, thus releasing it unintentionally.

But the placement of the response was a clear message that the Times disbelieved whatever the Assad government said. At least in the version of the story that appeared in the morning newspaper, a government statement was moved up to the sixth paragraph although still surrounded by comments meant to signal the Times' acceptance of the rebel version.

After noting the Assad government's denial, Gordon and Barnard added, "But only the Syrian military had the ability and the motive to carry out an aerial attack like the one that struck the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun."

But they again ignored the alternative possibilities. One was that a bombing raid ruptured containers for chemicals that the rebels were planning to use in some future attack, and the other was that Al Qaeda's jihadists staged the incident to elicit precisely the international outrage directed at Assad as has occurred.

Gordon and Barnard also could be wrong about Assad being the only one with a motive to deploy poison gas. Since Assad's forces have gained a decisive upper-hand over the rebels, why would he risk stirring up international outrage at this juncture? On the other hand, the desperate rebels might view the horrific scenes from the chemical-weapons deployment as a last-minute game-changer.

Pressure to Prejudge

None of this means that Assad's forces are innocent, but a serious investigation ascertains the facts and then reaches a conclusion, not the other way around.

However, to suggest these other possibilities will, I suppose, draw the usual accusations about "Assad apologist," but refusing to prejudge an investigation is what journalism is supposed to be about.

The Times, however, apparently has no concern anymore for letting the facts be assembled and then letting them speak for themselves. The Times weighed in on Wednesday with an editorial entitled "A New Level of Depravity From Mr. Assad."

Another problem with the behavior of the Times and the mainstream media is that by jumping to a conclusion they pressure other important people to join in the condemnations and that, in turn, can prejudice the investigation while also generating a dangerous momentum toward war.

Once the political leadership pronounces judgment, it becomes career-threatening for lower-level officials to disagree with those conclusions. We've seen that already with how United Nations investigators accepted rebel claims about the Syrian government's use of chlorine gas, a set of accusations that the Times and other media now report simply as flat-fact.

Yet, the claims about the Syrian military mixing in canisters of chlorine in supposed "barrel bombs" make little sense because chlorine deployed in that fashion is ineffective as a lethal weapon but it has become an important element of the rebels' propaganda campaign.

UN investigators, who were under intense pressure from the United States and Western nations to give them something to use against Assad, did support rebel claims about the government using chlorine in a couple of cases, but the investigators also received testimony from residents in one area who described the staging of a chlorine attack for propaganda purposes.

One might have thought that the evidence of one staged attack would have increased skepticism about the other incidents, but the UN investigators apparently understood what was good for their careers, so they endorsed a couple of other alleged cases despite their inability to conduct a field investigation.[3]

Now, that dubious UN report is being leveraged into this new incident, one opportunistic finding used to justify another. But the pressing question now is: Have the American people come to understand enough about "psychological operations" and "strategic communications" that they will finally show the skepticism that no longer exists in the major U.S. news media?

Robert Parry is an investigative journalist known for his role in covering the Iran-Contra affair and CIA cocaine trafficking in the U.S. scandal in the 1980s. He was awarded the George Polk Award for National Reporting in 1984 and the I.F. Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence by Harvard's Nieman Foundation in 2015. Parry has edited Consortiumnews.com since 1995.


1. "NYT Backs Off Its Syria-Sarin Analysis," Consortiumnews.com, December 29, 2013.

2. "NYT Retracts Russian-Photo Scoop," Consortiumnews.com, April 23, 2014.

3. "UN Team Heard Claims of 'Staged' Chemical Attacks," Consortiumnews.com, September 8, 2016.

(Consortiumnews.com, April 5, 2017.)

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Why Is Media Citing Man Accused of
Kidnapping Journalists as Credible Source
on Syrian Chemical Attack?

Calls for regime change in Syria are once again filling the airwaves, and President Donald Trump has said he is considering further military intervention in the country.

Media outlets have been pouring fuel on the fire of war. One of the key voices calling for Western intervention that is being amplified by corporate news networks is Shajul Islam, a doctor in the al-Qaeda-controlled Syrian province of Idlib. Islam has accused the Syrian government of carrying out a chemical attack on civilians and dozens of major media outlets have cited his claims, while conceding that they have not been independently verified. Meanwhile, these news publications have failed to disclose a crucial detail about the doctor: He was accused in court of kidnapping journalists in Syria.

In October 2012, Shajul Islam was arrested in the UK and charged with kidnapping two photographers, one British and one Dutch. He was accused of providing medical treatment for the Salafi jihadist extremist group in Syria that held the journalists hostage. The case eventually fell apart and the charges against Islam were dropped because the prosecution was not able to hear evidence from the victims, who were the key witnesses. The attorney said this restriction served "to frustrate the trial from the point of view of the prosecution."

John Cantlie, one of the journalists Islam was accused of kidnapping, was unable to appear at the trial because he was still a hostage. He was kidnapped along with James Foley, the American journalist who was beheaded on camera by Mohamed Emwazi, an ISIS foreign fighter from London.

Islam's younger brother, Razul, reportedly entered Syria to volunteer as a foreign fighter in the ranks of ISIS.

Sometime in 2016, Shajul Islam smuggled himself back into Syria and is now working in Idlib.

Even hawkish pundits who have repeatedly called for further Western military intervention in Syria have acknowledged that Idlib is "the heartland of al-Nusra," in reference to Jabhat al-Nusra, Syria's al-Qaeda affiliate.

Syrian al-Qaeda and other extremist rebel groups have constructed a brutally repressive regime in Idlib. They have ethnically cleansed religious and ethnic minorities, banned music and instituted a violent theocratic system in which women accused of adultery are publicly executed. Amnesty International documented Salafi jihadist groups' use of summary killings, torture, abductions and sectarian violence in the province.

On April 3, an alleged chemical attack in Idlib killed dozens of civilians. The details around the incident are murky.

At a press conference April 4, Staffan de Mistura, the U.N. special envoy for Syria noted, "We have not yet any official or reliable confirmation." Federica Mogherini, high representative of the EU for foreign affairs and security policy, likewise said, "We also do not have evidence at the moment."

A statement by the the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons did not apportion blame and noted it "is in the process of gathering and analysing information."

However, the U.S. government, which has spent billions over the past several years arming and training rebels committed to overthrowing Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, immediately said the Syrian government had used chemical weapons, an accusation the Syrian and Russian governments deny.

Media outlets were quick to jump on board and echo the U.S. government's claims. Shajul Islam became a key source for the accusation that the Syrian government had used sarin gas against civilians.

Numerous media outlets cited Islam's claims and social media posts, including CBS News, Fox News, McClatchy, the Daily Beast, Voice of America, the New York Daily News, the New York Post, CBC, Politico, the Independent, Vocativ, Bellingcat, Euronews, Middle East Eye, the Mirror, Metro, the Daily Mail, the Sun and UNILAD.

NBC News and Middle East Eye published profiles of Islam without identifying him.

Even right-wing pro-Trump media outlets that have previously opposed U.S.-led regime change in Syria have suddenly had a change of heart, now that the president is on board. PJ Media and Western Journalism also uncritically cited Shajul Islam without providing any context.

In another report, NBC News said it spoke with Islam, whom it described as "a London surgeon who was volunteering in a hospital just outside Idlib." NBC added that it "was not able to verify either account from the ground."

Most of the publications similarly provide just a sentence of background on Islam, noting he was "trained in the UK and now works in northern Syria." None mentioned the accusations of kidnapping.

Several media outlets that are now uncritically spreading Islam's unverified claims have previously reported on the fact that he was once charged with working with an extremist group in Syria.

In the frequently cited videos Islam posted to social media, he openly called for more foreign intervention in Syria and reiterated talking points that have for years been echoed by supporters of regime change.

"We urge you to put pressure on your government, put pressure on anyone, to help us," Islam said. "I'm trying to make awareness so that people will support us and support our work and give us the equipment we need to continue saving lives."

Islam also claimed the alleged chemical attack is one of a string of such incidents, insisting, "These gas attacks are continuing every day and no one is doing anything to stop these gas attacks."

He tried to frighten civilians in the West claiming, "Now it's the civilian population of Syria; soon it would be the civilian population of America, in a subway or something." In reality, experts recognize that Syria's al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, the most powerful force among the rebels in the country (in its rebranded forms), poses the actual threat to civilians in the West, not the Syrian government.

Islam's claims have not been independently verified, and he said in a video that because of safety concerns he was not able to share his location.

Major news networks have demonstrated a similar lack of skepticism when it comes to reporting on other issues about Syria. Ambiguous "activists" and rebel groups committed to overthrowing the Syrian government, some of them linked to al-Qaeda, are often cited as sources in media reports.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights is a leading source, and is frequently described by media outlets as a "monitoring group." Yet even the New York Times, which often draws from SOHR's claims, has acknowledged that it "is virtually a one-man band" run out of the home of a man in a small town in England who has not been to Syria in more than a decade.

Likewise, major news networks like CNN have repeatedly cited Bilal Abdul Kareem, a propagandist for extremist jihadists militias in Syria who has embedded himself with al-Qaeda's Syrian franchise, as a supposed independent observer of the war.

Ben Norton is a journalist and writer based in New York City. He writes for AlterNet, Mondoweiss, The Intercept, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting and Salon.

(AlterNet, April 6, 2017)

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