No Red Line Requiem for Dead Syrian Soldiers

By Jeremy Salt

The latest evidence of a chemical weapons attack in Syria has emerged in the form of a video proudly filmed by the perpetrators themselves, the so-called ‘lions’ of Jabhat al Nusra, Al Qaida’s Syrian franchise, listed by the US as a terrorist organization yet used by the US and its allies in their continuing campaign to destroy Syria in the process of destroying the Syrian government. Wandering across open fields in the southern Dara’a province, they move from body to body of Syrian soldiers, occasionally prodding them with the toes of their shoes or flipping over name tags to see who they are. The soldiers are young, most in their late teens or early 20s. Perhaps they are conscripts. Some are huddled in groups. Others are scattered where they fell. There must be 40 or 50 of them, maybe more, hard to tell because the camera is moving all the time.

Not one of these dead young men has a wound on his body. They are completely unmarked. Except for their absolute stillness and wide open staring eyes they could be sleeping. Some are still clutching gas masks and if not, masks lie close to the hands of others, as if they were overwhelmed before they had time to put them on. The scattered nature of the bodies suggests that the soldiers were running away when they fell. These men were not fighting but escaping something terrible – something they could not fight.

That they were not killed by conventional weapons is clear. The blistered faces of some suggests the use of mustard gas but without inspection of the site or the bodies it will be impossible to determine exactly what was used to kill them. Almost certainly the answer lies somewhere in the realm of chemical weapons. There is no conflicted narrative here. This is the clearest untainted evidence so far in Syria of a chemical weapons attack yet not only will there not be an inquiry, the mainstream media has completely ignored what has happened.

This apparent chemical weapons attack follows an attempt by Jabhat al Nusra and other groups operating in Dara’a province to storm a military complex at Tal al Jabiyya where chemical weapons are believed to be stored. Reports indicate that the takfiris came close to overrunning the base in March before being warned off by the US command and control center across the Jordanian border at Mafraq for fear that the chemical weapons would fall into their hands. As a last resort the Israelis were said to be prepared to launch bombing raids to prevent the base being taken over. Israel, of course, treating wounding takfiris in its hospitals and providing them with battlefield equipment, is deeply involved in the campaign against Syria and is supporting the takfiris but not to the point where they can get their hands on unconventional weapons that might one day be used against their Zionist sponsors. To the extent that Israel is the greatest single beneficiary of the campaign against Syria, the Palestinians are the greatest losers. That is axiomatic.

It is surely a striking coincidence that within weeks of the takfiris closing in on an apparent chemical weapons complex in Dara’a, some kind of chemical weapon seems to have been used against Syrian soldiers in the same province. Is it possible that the takfiris actually broke through and got their hands on some of this material, explaining why not even the official Syrian media is mentioning what happened to its soldiers in the province?

In the past two years the media has done its best to suppress or twist the evidence linking the takfiri groups to chemical weapons attacks. It ignored the film of these people experimenting on rabbits before deploying chemical weapons in the field.  It ignored the video evidence of these weapons being loaded up and fired. It ran the line that the chlorine-based chemical weapons attack on the Syrian army outpost at Khan al Assal last year was probably the work of the Syrian military.  It heaped blame for the chemical weapons attack on the outskirts of Damascus on the ‘regime’ when it was completely unlikely from the start that it was in any way responsible. It refused to look at the holes in the evidence even when the UN inspectors had exposed them. It refused to look at the evidence that bodies had been moved around and neither did it ever attempt to find out who these dead children were and where they came from (Alawi children kidnapped from Latakia remains one possibility). All it could do was snigger at the Syrian nun who showed them what journalism should be about.  So-called ‘human rights’ organizations took up the call, peddling false information and adding to the momentum for a direct military attack on Syria

The ‘evidence’ on which these governments, newspapers and human rights organizations based their accusations against the Syrian ‘regime’ has long since completely collapsed. The work of two leading US scientists on the probable trajectory of the chemical weapons indicates that these weapons were fired by the ‘rebels’ themselves. The counter and more compelling narrative has been fortified by Seymour Hersh’s two reports. The first showed that Barack Obama suppressed evidence from his own intelligence agencies indicating that the ‘rebels’ were most probably responsible. It also showed that the sarin apparently used in the attack was not stocked by the Syrian military but was of the lower grade ‘kitchen’ sarin known to have been produced or sought by the takfiri groups. His report also showed that the Israeli and US military intelligence had been keeping a close watch on supplies of chemical weapons in the hands of the Syrian military. Neither reported any movement of this material in the period before the attack.

Going for Bush over Abu Ghraib is one thing but going for Obama over Syria is something else and the ‘liberal’ press in the US refused to touch this report and the second follow-up report Hersh published in the London Review of Books more recently,  suggesting that the sarin gas used in the attack around Damascus was  provided with the support of the Turkish government.

The attack on the outskirts of the Syrian capital was a clear attempt to push Barack Obama over his own ‘red line’ so that he would order a direct military attack on Syria in place of the semi-covert war he has been running. This ‘red line’ apparently only applies when there is some hope of showing that the Syrian ‘regime’ is using chemical weapons. Despite trying very hard, not once has the US or any other government been able to prove this. All the evidence points to the takfiris, shopping for chemical weapons material in Turkey, being found with cylinders of the stuff in Syria, filming themselves while they experiment on rabbits, using a chlorine-based chemical weapon at Khan al Assal, almost certainly using chemical weapons around Damascus last August and now using some kind of chemical weapon against Syrian soldiers in  Dara’a province on or about April 25.

Sharing common ground with the media, the human rights organizations have had nothing to say about this latest attack.  Neither has Mr Ban Ki Moon, the hand-wringing grand arbiter of peace and justice around the world. Neither has the UN Human Rights Council, pumping out its own anti-Syrian propaganda reports at regular intervals. They are all quiet for one simple and central reason: in their own way, all of them have been complicit in the attack on Syria, the most determined attempt made in modern times to destroy a government in the Middle East.

The US and its friends in the anti-Syrian collective profess to abhor terrorism when they utilize it. Jabhat al Nusra is just one of their tools, as brutal as the officially-designated terrorist enemy, the Islamic State of Iraq and Bilad al Sham. The government perpetrators of this relentless assault on Syria skulk behind an array of empty but useful slogans. Civil war, rebels, transition to democracy, humanitarian concern ….   Having devastated the country, using the most debased tools, i.e takfiris who are more destructive of Islam than the most fervent Islamophobe, now they are raising their hands in horror at the consequences of their own actions. The poor children: the women being raped or sold …..  If millions of Syrians have been driven outside their country, if they are starving or begging in the streets of Turkish cities, it is because of what they have done.    They are as shameful in their deceit as they are disgusting in their hypocrisy.

This is the clearest evidence we have had of a chemical weapons attack.  There is no photo-shopping and no conflicted narrative. There are the bodies of the young men and there are the representatives of the group that killed them. This attack cannot possibly be sheeted home to the Syrian army or the ‘regime’. Not even the most gullible western media consumer would be taken in. So it is being ignored as if it had never happened. The media needs to be confronted on the basis of its own self-ascribed principles: please report this latest apparent outrage against humanity and if you won’t report it, please explain why.

– Jeremy Salt is an associate professor of Middle Eastern history and politics at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey. He contributed this article to

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1 Comment

  1. “completely unlikely”

    That’s a keeper.

    Also, when Assad agreed to decommission his CW, why didn’t he demand the rebels decommission theirs? Maybe because he knows he was responsible and they don’t have any.

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