The ‘Wilderness of Mirrors’ in the Syrian cruise missile strike

The current information war, that is raging globally, makes it difficult to assess which description of the Trump Tomahawk strike on the Syrian airfield at Shayrat is closest to the facts. Even the facts as to whether there was actually a chemical war-gas attack was being called into question. Emerging facts seems to reinforce that indeed there had been a release of war-gas in Khan Sheikhoun Syria and that people had died. Other than that probability we have to enter a ‘Wilderness of Mirrors’ where truth is a very slippery commodity. As Churchill was reported as to have said,” In war the first casualty is the truth”.

USN

At first blush three possible scenarios come to mind:-

#1 Assad launched an aircraft bombing raid carrying Sarin gas munitions and attacked civilians in Khan Sheikhoun killing many innocents.

#2 The Syrian air force bombed a rebel / islamist logistics installations in Khan Sheikhoun using conventional bombs. Secondary explosions suggested that a major rebel munitions and possibly a manufacturing facility had been hit, releasing stored Chlorine & Sarin war-gasses, killing many innocents.

#3 This was an inside job by rogue US security services to tear the initiative from Assad’s grasp and forestall his victory in the Syrian Civil War. Collateral damage saw the killing many innocents.

Occam’s Razor suggests that either scenario #1 or #2 as most probably likely scenarios, with #2 shading scenario #1 based on current information.

As expected hard facts are difficult to come by. Depending on which side is reporting, their take on the facts behind the initial attack remains contentious. The response from the US naval assets is clearer and less ambiguous with just a few variations reported in specific timings and warnings.

From the Russian Perspective: RT reports <https://www.rt.com/news/383522-syria-idlib-warehouse-strike-chemical/>  that Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov stated that there were chemical weapons being made and stored there:

The Syrian Air Force has destroyed a warehouse in Idlib province where chemical weapons were being produced and stockpiled before being shipped to Iraq, Russia’s Defense Ministry spokesman said.

The strike, which was launched midday Tuesday, targeted a major rebel ammunition depot east of the town of Khan Sheikhoun, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov said in a statement.

The warehouse was used to both produce and store shells containing toxic gas, Konashenkov said. The shells were delivered to Iraq and repeatedly used there, he added, pointing out that both Iraq and international organizations have confirmed the use of such weapons by militants.

From an American Syrian Rebel Perspective:  The LA Times has mixed reporting on the facility <http://www.latimes.com/world/middleeast/la-fg-syria-chemical-attack-explainer-20170406-story.html> , but one journalist they talked to suggests it was definitely used to store weapons:
‘A number of opposition activists in Khan Sheikhoun said their groups had had no rebel weapons facilities, though the town has long been a target of government warplanes.

Syrian journalist Nizar Nayouf quoted an unnamed doctor who told him there had been a storage area for the rebels in town.

“It contained a workshop … a section to store weapons and ammunition, and even foodstuffs and medical as well as logistical equipment,” said Nayouf in a message on social media Wednesday.

Another activist, who asked not to be named for security reasons, said in a WhatsApp voice recording Wednesday that a bakery in the eastern part of town had been repurposed as a weapons storage area.

But Khaled Ibrahim, a pro-opposition activist, said in an interview that the bakery had been destroyed a year and a half ago in a strike and was unusable.


So what happened here? Honesty I don’t know because all of this is circumstantial evidence. But between the tweet and the existence of this weapons facility that may have been storing gas, it seems possible that the Assad regime could have been set up by people who are worried that Assad will win complete victory.

After all, the LA Times makes an interesting point <http://www.latimes.com/world/middleeast/la-fg-syria-chemical-attack-explainer-20170406-story.html>  about the narrative that Assad would use chemical weapons on these people after making such victories lately:

The core question of the reason and intent of the initial strike:

Moallem insisted “it is not reasonable that the Syrian army could use chemical weapons now at the time when it has been achieving victories on various fronts.”

Militarily, the government has achieved significant gains, while its rebel adversaries are largely in disarray. It has taken back the cities of Aleppo and Homs, and was on the cusp of negotiating issues of aid and reconstruction with world powers under the aegis of the U.N.

Why would it put all of that in jeopardy with a gas attack like this on innocent civilians and ‘little babies’?

As I suggested, I don’t know what happened. The initial brief report that secondary explosions were felt in Khan Sheikhoun suggests that there may have been covert munitions stored in the town which suggests credence to  But the US government seems awfully sure of itself that Assad really did this himself, as we saw with the attack last night on Assad’s airbase.

But they were also awfully sure back in 2013 when even McClatchy reported <http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/world/article24761710.html>  that it was unlikely that the Assad regime had done it.

There are many forces that are against Assad, forces that have been funding the jihadi rebels to keep this civil war going for six years now. And now that , I think it’s quite plausible that Assad has been winning for some time, especially with Russian help and desperate activists/rebels in the region planned to use chemical weapons the next time they saw Assad dropping bombs. That would give them what they needed to start a media campaign to get the world against Assad to help defeat him.

And if that’s the case, then Trump and the US government were punked, but possible willingly punked.

 

The tertiary fallout :  Over the last month North Korea has ramped up the rhetoric and military ‘demonstrations’ threatening South Korea, Japan and the US with dire warnings. The key to resolving the Korean standoff is China. President Xi of China was visiting the US and actually dining with President Trump at his Florida mansion, when President Trump advised that he had just initiated a 60 round cruise missile attack on Assad’s Syria, in response to an alleged sarin gas attack.

This military ‘demonstration’ by the Trump White House was a clear indication that the new incoming US administration was very different than the last president and that the weak foreign policy positions of the Obama Administration were now a thing of the past. Trump’s call for China to use its influence with North Korea to ‘fix’ the Korean problem or the US would ‘fix’ it unilaterally was a clear challenge to Xi.

The Trump Administration was demonstrating its resolve in a very powerful and unambiguous way to China.

What the truth regarding the Sarin gas attack in Khan Sheikhoun Syria remains to be seen but in the meantime we must remain inside the ‘Wilderness of Mirrors’ of conflicting claims and counter-claims.