Eliot Higgins and Dan Kaszeta write: Last week the London Review of Books published an article by the respected Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh, The Red Line and the Rat Line, in which he details the alleged involvement of the Turkish government with the Syrian opposition group Jabhat al-Nusra in last August’s sarin attack in Damascus. Between 1,000 and 1,400 people are estimated to have died.
The US, Britain and other western governments have pinned the blame on the Syrian government; Russia has accused the rebels. Hersh describes this as part of a “false flag” operation designed to draw the US into a conflict with Syria.
In his 6,000-word article Hersh relies heavily on single, unnamed sources for each of his claims, and constructs a narrative in which the Turkish government was responsible for the largest chemical attack since the one carried out by Saddam Hussein on Halabja in 1988. But Hersh’s story is full of holes, and it brings the reliability of his sources and conclusions into question.
Hersh makes no mention of the munitions used on 21 August, something that is key to understanding the attacks. In an interview for Democracy Now! he states that the weapons were both homemade and not in Syria’s arsenal. Both these claims are wrong.
Two types of munitions were used on 21 August and are linked to the dispersal of sarin gas. Both were recorded in a report by the UN and the Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and tested positive for signs of sarin. One was a Soviet-era M14 140mm artillery rocket, certainly not a “homemade” munition, and the second was a munition that was widely unknown. [Continue reading…]