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Ghouta Earliest Report from Syrian Support Group - Mohammad Salaheddine

by Oui Fri Sep 27th, 2013 at 05:32:59 PM EST

A discussion about former New York Times reporter Dexter Filkins, triggered a deeper investigation in understanding about the earliest reporting from East-Ghouta on the day of the gas attack. The advocacy group Syrian Support Group of Brian Sayers has some explaining to do.

The Syrian Question by Dexter Filkins on Aug. 23, 2013 also published @Syrian Freedom

(The New Yorker) - But Wednesday's early-morning attack appears to be something very different in scale. According to reports from the scene, four large rockets landed in the Damascus suburb of East Ghouta at just after 2 A.M. This time, the gas appeared to be more concentrated: on Thursday, the Syrian Support Group (S.S.G.), a rebel advocacy organization in Washington, put the death toll at 1,302, with nearly ten thousand others contaminated. Two-thirds of the dead were women and children, the group said. [Ghouta was evacuated as the suburb has been under heavy bombardment by the Assad regime - Oui]

... On Thursday, S.S.G. put me in touch with Mohammad Salaheddine, a Syrian reporter and activist who lives in the Damascus area and works for Al Aan TV, which is based in Dubai. Salaheddine told me that he arrived in East Ghouta minutes after the area was struck by four rockets containing poison gas.

"There were so many people I could not count them,'' Salaheddine said of the hospital. Many of the people, he said, were weak and couldn't breathe; the doctors were trying to give injections of atropine, an antidote, to as many of the victims as they could, and administer oxygen to others."

"People were panicking," he went on. "They were saying, Am I dead or am I alive?"

Continued below the fold ...

The worst moment, Salaheddine said, came when he found three women huddled together in the hospital; a young woman, her mother, and her grandmother. All were suffering the symptoms of poison gas, he said, and each was trying to comfort the others. "I was trying to rescue the grandmother," Salaheddine said. "She was dying. I was trying to give her oxygen. She kept saying to me, 'My son--my heart, my heart.' She was gasping for air. She was in agony. She died in my arms."

Before we hung up, Salaheddine told me he hoped that his story would goad the United States into action. "I want you to pass a message to the U.S. leadership: America has great power and influence and can make a difference. We are suffering. It's been too long."

    NY Times - Obama Officials Weigh Response to Syria Assault  Aug. 22, 2013

    "Mr. Salaheddine was reached by Skype on Thursday with the help of the Syrian Support Group, an American-based organization that backs the opposition.

    He asserted that more than 1,500 people had been killed by the chemical attack and that many more had been wounded. The area, he said, was cut off by the fighting, making it hard for opposition members to smuggle hair, urine and blood samples out for analysis.

    Adding to the opposition's frustration, two of its officials said that none of the weapons American officials said would be provided by the C.I.A. had yet been delivered."

East Ghouta Report by Syrian Support Group Aug. 22, 2013

"The areas attacked are heavily populated, and are under the ontrol of the FSA. Doctors and activists report that people's windows were open during the night, allowing high concentrations of gas to pour into homes.

Many civilians were found simply unconscious in the street. Mohammad Salaheddine, a journalist/activist based in a Zamalka hospital at the time the victims began to arrive, says 'the dead were loaded into large pick-up trucks by the hundreds, and were taken to three large mass graves in Zamalka, Ain Turma, and Arbeen. The bodies were placed inside, and dirt was bulldozed to bury them.'"

Another Halabja?
Horrifying reports of Assad's biggest chemical attack
by Michael Weiss

Human Rights Watch Report (HRW) did not have any evidence to suggest that, whatever substance was used, this was the result of a conventional round accidentally striking a chemical or gas facility in the surrounding area. The New York-based NGO also spoke to one doctor working in the medical center at Arbeen who claimed that activists told him 18 missiles were fired "from the direction of the October War Panorama, a military museum in Damascus city, and of Mezzeh military airport, hit Zamalka, Ayn Tarma, Douma, and Moadamiya."

The Syrian Support Group (SSG), a U.S.-licensed rebel aid provider, cited one very early report that preceded the HRW briefing that was relayed by Mohammed Salaheddine, a journalist with Al Aan TV and an eyewitness to the early-morning attacks. Salaheddine claimed that four rockets hit Eastern Ghouta, the first striking Zamalka, the second Ayn Tarma, the third Jobar, and the fourth Zamalka again. He said these were all Grad 122-mm rockets and came from the Damascus-Homs highway near the Baghdad Bridge (southern Damascus), and the other two came from Qabun (north of Jobar). (Note that the Baghdad Bridge is near the Nusariyeh chemical research facility, which the regime currently controls.)

These attacks appeared to have preceded a rapid buildup of conventional military forces around Eastern Ghouta which, according to Salaheddine, included 30 tanks and "several thousand regime soldiers." [Would this build-up of soldiers be logical with a simultaneous neurotoxin gas attack on Ghouta? - Oui] Non-chemical rocket attacks continued from the direction of Mezze Air Base in Moaddamiya, presumably launched by the Fourth Division. "Large explosions could be heard in the background during the call with Mohammad," the SSG emailed.

Samantha Power cited the UN Report and found 122mm rockets!!

US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power said: "The technical details of the UN report make clear that only the regime could have carried out this large-scale chemical weapons attack." The 122mm rockets cited in the report, according to Power, were previously linked to government forces.

Samantha Power speaks at UN about Ghouta Inspection Report - video

Syrian rebels open US lobbying agency

WASHINGTON (DC) (TheNational.ae) Feb. 7, 2013 - Brian Sayers is a former Nato political officer lobbying in the corridors of Washington on behalf of Syrian rebels fighting the regime of Bashar Al Assad, the country's president.

Not all the rebels, of course. Washington only publicly supports those rebel groups it is convinced are committed to a secular, democratic Syria. Consequently, only a select group of fighters qualify to receive funds from the Syrian Support Group (SSG), the organisation where Mr Brian Sayers works [LinkedIn states per June 2013 job at Oak Global Tech (?) - Oui] and the only group licensed by US authorities to fund the rebels. New policy director at SSG is Max Stahlberg, previous job a senior editor at Public International Law & Policy Group (PIPLG).

Those constraints are at least one of the reasons why the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), the main anti-Assad political bloc, announced this week that is it planning to open offices in Washington and New York. Najib Ghadbian, an associate professor of political science and King Fahd Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Arkansas who was born in the Damascus suburbs, will lead both offices. Link to SCPSS [Arabic - Google translation].

... All the money that the SSG sends to Syria is currently from private donations, though Mr Sayers refused to specify the amount. Most of the funds are earmarked for rebels' salaries, and none of it is to be used to buy weapons. But verifying the money trail is difficult.

"At the end of the day it's not funding that could be diverted for the most part. It's not been enough for lethal purposes. That's not within their purview anyway," he said.

Besides helping the insurgents' payroll, the SSG hopes to provide them with training on dealing with a chemical-weapons attack and on the Geneva Conventions and other international law pertaining to conduct during war.

Syrian Rebels Lobby Washington Behind The Scenes

Syrian Support Group Granted License to Supply Military Goods

The Syrian Support Group was established earlier this year to lobby for U.S. backing for the Free Syrian Army. It includes Syrian expatriates and works with retired Syrian military officers, Louay Sakka, a Syrian-Canadian co-founder of the group, said in a June interview. Brian Sayers, its director of government relations, is a former Political Officer Operations and Missions at NATO HQ.

U.S. Nonprofit Wins License to Supply Free Syrian Army

    "Subject to the terms and conditions set forth in the License, the Syrian Support Group, Inc. (the "Licensee") may export, sell, or supply to the Free Syrian Army ("FSA") financial, communications, logistical, and other services otherwise prohibited by Executive Order 13582 in order to support the FSA..."

    According to Treasury License No. SY-2012-294747-1, dated 23 July 2012, the Syrian Support Group, Inc. (SSG) will be providing "otherwise prohibited" services to the Free Syrian Army (FSA) under the supervision of the Office of Terrorism Finance and Economic Sanctions Policy at the U.S. Department of State.  The license was announced on the SSG website syriansupportgroup.org after a copy was leaked to the public.

Syrians in Ontario give rebels reinforcements from afar

Posted @Juan Cole's Informed Comment on August 2, 2012 - Obama signed finding to help Syria Uprising.

'Sapere aude'

by Oui (Oui) on Fri Sep 27th, 2013 at 06:03:46 PM EST
Syria researcher dismissed for falsifying credentials hired by Senator McCain

(RT) - The Washington scholar who was cited by US leaders calling for a military strike on Syria, only to lose her job for fabricating her academic credentials, has been hired by the office of US Senator John McCain.

Elizabeth O'Bagy was formerly employed by the Institute for the Study of War, where she quickly became a respected voice on the ongoing conflict between Syrian President Bashar Assad and opposition forces. McCain and US Secretary of State John Kerry once read from an editorial O'Bagy wrote in the Wall Street Journal when advocating for a military strike in front of Congress.

O'Bagy was fired from the Washington, DC based think-tank shortly thereafter, when it was revealed that she did not have a combined masters/PhD from Georgetown University as she had claimed.

    "Elizabeth is a talented researcher, and I have been very impressed by her knowledge and analysis in multiple briefings over the last year. I look forward to her joining my office," McCain told Foreign Policy in a statement.
The article McCain and Kerry referenced argued the US should send arms to Syrian rebels, claiming that "contrary to many media accounts, the war in Syria is not being waged entirely, or even predominantly, by dangerous Islamists and Al-Qaeda die-hards."

Another Blatant Lie by Kerry Unmasked

'Sapere aude'
by Oui (Oui) on Fri Sep 27th, 2013 at 11:55:18 PM EST
Report: Al-Nusra Front forging al-Qaida base in Syria

(JPost) - Syria's most prominent jihadist organization, the Nusra Front, is creating a base for al-Qaida in the heart of the Middle East from which waves of terrorism and radical subversion will likely ripple out and threaten regional and global security.

This is according to a report issued this week by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center near Tel Aviv. The Al-Nusra Front seeks to overthrow the Assad regime and establish an Islamic Caliphate in Greater Syria, a center for regional and international terrorism and subversion.

A team of researchers from the center spent a year composing the 150-page document, which charts in remarkable detail the rise of the Nusra Front as well as its structure, leadership, size, scope of operations, ideological goals and growing geographic spheres of influence.

Report: The Al-Nusra Front is an Al-Qaeda Salafist-jihadi network, prominent in the rebel organizations in Syria

    During the Syrian civil war two branches of Al-Qaeda established themselves among the rebel organizations fighting to overthrow the regime of Bashar Assad. The most prominent is the Al-Nusra Front (Jabhat al-Nusra), directly subordinate to Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. The other is the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria {ISIS), subordinate to Al-Qaeda in Iraq. In addition, other Salafist-jihadi military organizations not necessarily affiliated with Al-Qaeda operate in Syria.

    Both the Al-Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda's representative in Syria, and the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria seek to promote long-term strategies: the first stage is to gain a hold over the rebel groups and establish a strong foundation in Syria for jihad, which will support the overthrow of the Assad regime. That will be done through collaboration (even if only partial and temporary) with other groups of rebels, especially those with Islamic affiliation. The second stage will be to take over the new Syrian regime formed by the union of all the Salafist-jihadi forces operating in Damascus, or at least to gain significant influence in it. The third stage will be for the jihadist regime established in Damascus (or for any other regime with a jihadist orientation) to establish an Islamic Caliphate in Greater Syria, serving as the front line for Al-Qaeda and the global jihad in the heart of the Middle East. It will wage a terrorist campaign against Israel from the Golan Heights, export terrorism to the West and other countries around the world and be a center for Islamic subversion and terrorism against the pro-Western Arab and Islamic countries.

 « click for more info
Jund al Sham's logo. Image from the SITE Intelligence Group

[Reported on al-Sham Islamists in my diary on the Hariri Assassination.]

Assessment of the Al-Nusra Front's Military Capabilities

   The Al-Nusra Front is the most prominent Salafist-jihadi organization fighting in the Syrian civil war and is headed by a leader called an Amir ("leader," a common title in contemporary jihadist organizations). It refers to a leader with both political and religious authority, as was set down at the dawn of Islam. Subordinate to him are local leaders (u'maraa) in Syria's cities and governorates (sometimes there is more than one amir in a governorate). The highest body in the Al-Nusra Front Is the Majlis Shura al-Mujahedeen (the Consulting Council of the Jihad Fighters). Within the leadership there are designated staff and operatives dealing with military operations, fund raising, acquiring weapons and smuggling them into Syria, religious affairs, information and public relations. The Al-Nusra Front operates military units in the various governorates. They are usually called battalions or companies. They are accompanied by governance, religious and information networks, whose objective is to strengthen the Al-Nusra Front's influence among the people, gain their trust and fill the void created by the collapse of Syrian administration in broad areas of Syria.

   The Al-Nusra Front leader on the ground goes by the name of Abu Muhammad al-Julani (there are contradicting, unverified versions of his real name). He is apparently a Syrian, possibly from the Golan Heights, who gained operational experience in Iraq fighting the United States and its allies. In the past, he was a follower of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who led the jihad fighters sent to Iraq by Al-Qaeda after the American invasion in March 2003. After the outbreak of the uprising in Syria, Abu Muhammad al-Julani was sent there by Al-Qaeda in Iraq to establish the Al-Nusra Front. Other Al-Qaeda operatives who gained experience in Iraq are also prominent in the Al-Nusra Front command, while the rank and file is made up of Syrian operatives and thousands of jihad fighters from the Arab-Muslim world (particularly Libya, Tunisia, Chechnya, Saudi Arabia and Egypt) and many hundreds from the West.

[Read on ...]  

'Sapere aude'
by Oui (Oui) on Sat Sep 28th, 2013 at 02:37:47 AM EST
Haven't seen Qatar's propaganda station offer a report in opposition to jihadists in Syria in the last two years. Concerns grow over Syria's foreign fighters and groups affiliated to al-Qaeda are having on the conflict. Even some criticism thrown at Erdogan's Turkey for letting foreign fighters travel via its territory to Northern Syria as easy as tourists.

My earlier diary - MB Axis Egypt - Turkey - Qatar Faces Defeat.

'Sapere aude'

by Oui (Oui) on Sat Sep 28th, 2013 at 04:07:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I can't stay away from the technical discussions of Ghouta. I find the Who Attacked Ghouta? blog trustworthy because of its investigative approach (including frequent updates when the commenters bring more information and a relaxed attitude to previous positions) and its attempts at finding out what (if anything) we can know.

Who Attacked Ghouta?: Evidence Contradicting a Regime Attack

My conclusions at this point:
  1. The Mint Press, ISTEAMS, Quirico-Piccinin and Jobar Chemicals reports are of no value.
  2. The Liwa Al-Islam videos cannot be easily dismissed as fabrication, and if so would be of immense value, but further analysis is still required.

Who Attacked Ghouta?: Reliability of Using Munitions to Determine Culpability

After determining that the only reliable evidence associating the regime with the chemical attack is the munition analysis by Brown Moses, I will now examine the reliability of using this evidence to determine culpability.
Numerous examples of such raids and the loot may be found online, but here are a few examples:
Conclusion: Determining culpability by using munition analysis alone is irrelevant in the Syrian civil war.

So, yeah. Not much to go on.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Sun Sep 29th, 2013 at 04:23:33 AM EST
Easily dismissed, see my earlier post - Freed Hostage: Rebels Used Sarin Gas In Ghouta

'Sapere aude'
by Oui (Oui) on Sun Sep 29th, 2013 at 07:49:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's too easy to dismiss the version of kids taken hostage and murdered for staged casualties of gas attack. In this article, from translation, woman hostage says they are from the Ghouta area and held for a prisoner swap.

Terrorist, Reda Seyam participated in mass kidnapping of women and children - video

German Salafit Reda Seyam participated in mass kidnapping of women and children in Latakia. Note the Syrian al-Qaeda flag attached to the channel on the top right corner. See Wikipedia - Rebel attack in Latakia.

Translation of the audio from the Al-Jazeera reporter:
"On the outskirts of this city, the city of Kidaha [Qardaha? - Oui], is the the fall of the head of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, and strengthened is a number of forces who want to (benefit/support) Syria. An attempt by the Islamic brigades in this area to control these villages in a battle called [aaisht al muinee] and have completed control over 11 villages, as well as the killing of a number of security forces and imprisoning 10′s of them."

Translation of the female hostage:
At 0:44 "We are from the village of humbooshie [?] in Ghouta, We are abducted by the mujahideen, who have imprisoned us, and will not release us until their prisoners are released by the Syrian government. There are approximately 150 of us but we are being treated well. We urge the international community to intervene by releasing the Syrian government prisoners so that we may be released."

Video of children in Ghouta gas attack - here.

Syrian rebels push into Assad's Alawite mountain stronghold Qardaha   Aug. 6, 2013

(Reuters) - Syrian rebel fighters armed with anti-tank missiles pushed toward President Bashar al-Assad's hometown of Qardaha, the second day of a surprise offensive in the heartland of his minority Alawite sect, opposition activists said.

Forces comprising 10 mainly Islamist brigades, including two al Qaeda-linked groups, advanced south to the outskirts of the Alawite village of Aramo, 20 km (12 miles) from Qardaha, taking advantage of rugged terrain, the activists said.

Rebel fighters captured half a dozen villages on the northern tip of the Alawite Mountain, located east of the port city of Latakia. The area is the main recruiting ground for Assad's core praetorian guard units comprising the Republican Guards, Fourth Division and special forces.

At the gates of Syria's Qardaha   Aug. 12, 2013

'Sapere aude'
by Oui (Oui) on Sun Sep 29th, 2013 at 07:52:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Filkins at the top amongst his peers like Judith Miller of the NY Times.

How the spooks took over the news

(The Independent) Feb. 11, 2008 - Onthe morning of 9 February 2004, The New York Times carried an exclusive and alarming story. The paper's Baghdad correspondent, Dexter Filkins, reported that US officials had obtained a 17-page letter, believed to have been written by the notorious terrorist Abu Musab al Zarqawi.

There is very good reason to believe that that letter was a fake - and a significant one because there is equally good reason to believe that it was one product among many from a new machinery of propaganda which has been created by the United States and its allies since the terrorist attacks of September 2001.

For the first time in human history, there is a concerted strategy to manipulate global perception. And the mass media are operating as its compliant assistants, failing both to resist it and to expose it.

'Sapere aude'
by Oui (Oui) on Mon Sep 30th, 2013 at 01:41:33 PM EST

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