SYRIAN CHEMICAL ATTACK
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.