Thursday, August 29, 2013

France too puts on the brakes / WaPo

Finally, those who first jumped on the bandwagon start asking for proof.  From the WaPo:
French officials also are calling for a delay in action until U.N. inspectors conclude their report. “Before acting, we need proof,” said Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, a minister and government spokeswoman, according to Bloomberg News.
The latest developments suggest that Washington’s allies will insist on waiting at least until next week before launching what initially appeared to be an imminent strike on Syria...
British officials on Thursday released an intelligence assessment on the alleged chemical attack and a document outlining the legal justification for a robust response.
The three-page intelligence report offered various degrees of certainty about the Assad government’s culpability for the Aug. 21 attack. It said “there are no plausible alternative scenarios to regime responsibility.” But it also categorized the government’s involvement in the alleged attacks as “highly likely,” rather than definite, adding that it is not clear what would have motivated Assad and his deputies to carry out “an attack of this scale at this time.”
Skepticism in Britain and elsewhere is dashing U.S. hopes of quickly securing a broad international coalition.
UPDATE from Agence France Presse:
While other US allies, including France, have called for action on Syria, it appears unlikely they would join US military action absent a UN Security Council mandate, which has no chance of evading a Russian veto. 
Meanwhile, Mint Press News presents interviews suggesting chemical weapons were transferred by Saudi officials to rebels in Ghouta.  This is by no means smoking gun evidence, but is another possible scenario:
However, from numerous interviews with doctors, Ghouta residents, rebel fighters and their families, a different picture emerges. Many believe that certain rebels received chemical weapons via the Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, and were responsible for carrying out the dealing gas attack.
“My son came to me two weeks ago asking what I thought the weapons were that he had been asked to carry,” said Abu Abdel-Moneim, the father of a rebel fighting to unseat Assad, who lives in Ghouta.
Abdel-Moneim said his son and 12 other rebels were killed inside of a tunnel used to store weapons provided by a Saudi militant, known as Abu Ayesha, who was leading a fighting battalion. The father described the weapons as having a “tube-like structure” while others were like a “huge gas bottle.”
Ghouta townspeople said the rebels were using mosques and private houses to sleep while storing their weapons in tunnels.
Abdel-Moneim said his son and the others died during the chemical weapons attack. That same day, the militant group Jabhat al-Nusra, which is linked to al-Qaida, announced that it would similarly attack civilians in the Assad regime’s heartland of Latakia on Syria’s western coast, in purported retaliation.
“They didn’t tell us what these arms were or how to use them,” complained a female fighter named ‘K.’ “We didn’t know they were chemical weapons. We never imagined they were chemical weapons.”
“When Saudi Prince Bandar gives such weapons to people, he must give them to those who know how to handle and use them,” she warned. She, like other Syrians, do not want to use their full names for fear of retribution.
A well-known rebel leader in Ghouta named ‘J’ agreed. “Jabhat al-Nusra militants do not cooperate with other rebels, except with fighting on the ground. They do not share secret information. They merely used some ordinary rebels to carry and operate this material,” he said.
“We were very curious about these arms. And unfortunately, some of the fighters handled the weapons improperly and set off the explosions,” ‘J’ said...

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