McClatchy runs the headline: “Russia says it’s compiled 100-page report blaming Syrian rebels for a chemical weapons attack”. Generally speaking, I think McClatchy does a commendable job in refusing to parrot whatever might be the official line coming out of Washington. In this case, however, I think they let their readers down by using a misleading headline.
A lot of people glean their news from reading nothing more than headlines and in this case will likely have missed the indefinite article — a chemical attack — and assumed the Russian report refers to the chemical attack in Damascus on August 21.
Evidence that opposition forces had used sarin in Aleppo would be significant, so given that Russia’s foreign ministry asserts that it produced a detailed 100-page “scientific and technical document”, why have they not made the report public and why are they publicizing its existence weeks after they delivered it to the UN? And given that Russia remains a loyal ally of the Assad regime, how are we to trust the objectivity of a report based on evidence collected by Russian technicians which was then examined in Russian laboratories?
McClatchy reports: Russia says it has compiled a 100-page report detailing what it says is evidence that Syrian rebels, not forces loyal to President Bashar Assad, were behind a deadly sarin gas attack in an Aleppo suburb earlier this year.
In a statement posted on the Russian Foreign Ministry’s website late Wednesday. Russia said the report had been delivered to the United Nations in July and includes detailed scientific analysis of samples that Russian technicians collected at the site of the alleged attack, Khan al Asal.
Russia said its investigation of the March 19 incident was conducted under strict protocols established by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the international agency that governs adherence to treaties prohibiting the use of chemical weapons. It said samples that Russian technicians had collected had been sent to OPCW-certified laboratories in Russia.
The report itself was not released. But the statement drew a pointed comparison between what it said was the scientific detail of the report and the far shorter intelligence summaries that the United States, Britain and France have released to justify their assertion that the Syrian government launched chemical weapons against Damascus suburbs on Aug. 21. The longest of those summaries, by the French, ran nine pages. Each relies primarily on circumstantial evidence to make its case, and they disagree with one another on some details, including the number of people who died in the attack.
The Russian statement warned the United States and its allies not to conduct a military strike against Syria until the United Nations had completed a similarly detailed scientific study into the Aug. 21 attack. It warned that what it called the current “hysteria” about a possible military strike in the West was similar to the false claims and poor intelligence that preceded the United States invasion of Iraq. [Continue reading…]