SYR­IAN CHEM­I­CAL AT­TACK

The Washington Times Daily - - WORLD -

The White House this week dis­closed new de­tails from U.S. elec­tronic and im­agery in­tel­li­gence on the chem­i­cal weapons at­tack that trig­gered last week’s cruise mis­sile strike against Syria.

Ac­cord­ing to se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials who briefed re­porters on the chem­i­cal at­tack that killed scores of civil­ians, Rus­sian gov­ern­ment dis­in­for­ma­tion op­er­a­tions were car­ried out in a bid to de­flect crit­i­cism of the Syr­ian gov­ern­ment of its ally, Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad.

The in­for­ma­tion war­fare op­er­a­tions sought to blame the at­tacks on ac­tors other than the Syr­ian mil­i­tary. The dis­in­for­ma­tion also falsely as­serted that chem­i­cal agents other than sarin nerve gas were used. Syria was sup­posed to have given up all its chem­i­cal weapons as part of a Rus­sian­bro­kered dis­ar­ma­ment deal.

Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin chimed in on the in­for­ma­tion op­er­a­tion on Wed­nes­day, as­sert­ing U.S. in­tel­li­gence had fab­ri­cated ev­i­dence on the Syr­ian chem­i­cal at­tack.

Pres­i­dent Trump said in a Fox Busi­ness Network in­ter­view the same day that Rus­sia was sup­port­ing “an evil per­son” in Syria’s Mr. As­sad and called Moscow’s back­ing “very bad for Rus­sia.”

“I think it’s clear that the Rus­sians are try­ing to cover up what hap­pened there,” one of­fi­cial said.

“The cover-up is the dis­in­for­ma­tion that has hap­pened from the day of the at­tack to to­day,” the of­fi­cial added.

The de­clas­si­fied in­tel­li­gence re­port con­cluded: “The Syr­ian regime and its pri­mary backer, Rus­sia, have sought to con­fuse the world com­mu­nity about who is re­spon­si­ble for us­ing chem­i­cal weapons against the Syr­ian peo­ple in this and ear­lier at­tacks.”

Moscow ini­tially dis­missed re­ports of the chem­i­cal weapons at Khan Shaykhun as a “prank of a provoca­tive na­ture” and as­serted ev­i­dence, in­clud­ing videos, had been fab­ri­cated. How­ever, the in­tel­li­gence ev­i­dence showed Syr­ian rebels could not have fab­ri­cated the amount and quan­tity of videos and other re­port­ing of the grisly deaths from the at­tack site.

Moscow then shifted its dis­in­for­ma­tion theme to a claim that the chem­i­cal at­tack was caused by a Syr­ian bomb hit on a ter­ror­ist am­mu­ni­tion de­pot con­tain­ing chem­i­cal weapons on the out­skirts of the town.

How­ever, while the Is­lamic State has used chem­i­cal weapons in the past, the group does not pos­sess sarin — the nerve agent used in the Khan Shaykhun at­tack.

Also, a video ob­tained by U.S. in­tel­li­gence shows the chem­i­cal strike in­volved at least one chem­i­cal weapons bomb that hit in the mid­dle of a street in the north­ern sec­tion of Khan Shaykhun. The bomb crater caused by the chem­i­cal blast was not the same as a crater that would have been caused by a con­ven­tional high-ex­plo­sive pay­load.

Syria had been linked to three chem­i­cal weapons at­tacks in 2016 that were launched from a dif­fer­ent air­field from the one bombed by Navy Tom­a­hawk mis­siles.

“Rus­sia’s al­le­ga­tions fit with a pat­tern of de­flect­ing blame from the regime and at­tempt­ing to un­der­mine the cred­i­bil­ity of its op­po­nents,” the re­port said.

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