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'Dirty Geopolitical Game': West-Backed Jihadis Carried Out Syria Chemical Attack

© REUTERS / Bassam KhabiehMen inspect damage after an airstrike on the rebel held besieged city of Douma, in the eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta, Syria April 7, 2017
Men inspect damage after an airstrike on the rebel held besieged city of Douma, in the eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta, Syria April 7, 2017 - Sputnik International
Tuesday's chemical weapons attack in Idlib province, which rebel groups claim was committed by the Syrian army, bears similarities to the "false flag" attack carried out by jihadists in Ghouta in 2013, Middle Eastern expert Michael Lueders told Germany's ZDF television.

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The reaction of the US, Germany and other Western nations to the chemical weapons attack reported in Idlib province has been too hasty, given the history of false flags organized by jihadist groups operating in Syria, expert in Middle East affairs Michael Lueders told Germany's ZDF television.

Lueders, former Middle Eastern correspondent for Germany's Die Zeit newspaper, said the Western interpretation of events in Syria has more to do with the geopolitical objectives of the US, EU and their Middle Eastern allies than with the reality of events there.

"From the start, the Western interpretation suggests that this is about the Syrian people rising up against Assad the dictator, and we in the West must help the Syrian people and also support them with weapons in order to defend our values against the oppressor."

"This is an appealing point of view, but it has relatively little to do with the reality. It was always a part of the Syrian population which rose up against the regime of Bashar al-Assad, not the whole Syrian population. Above all not the religious minorities, because they know that if (the Syrian government) falls then it won't be the good guys who come to power but the jihadists," Lueders said.

"In the West, what is always overlooked is that the so-called rebels are no lovers of democracy but are jihadists with links to either the al-Nusra Front or the Islamic State."

Lueders recalled the chemical weapons attack carried out August 21 2013, in which over 1000 people in Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus, were killed after rockets containing sarin gas struck opposition-controlled areas.

Following that incident, the US condemned the Syrian government, accusing Damascus of carrying out the attack, an allegation it denied.

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On August 30 2013, the White House said it had assessed "with high confidence" that the Syrian government carried out the chemical attack on Ghouta, raising the prospect of a US strike against Syrian forces. In 2012, President Barack Obama had called the potential use of chemical weapons by Assad "a red line" which may change his view on US military intervention there.

In the aftermath of the attack, the Pentagon made preparations for a strike on Syrian forces. However, Obama made a surprise U-turn and asked for the approval of Congress first, which declined to give permission for the strike.

Obama did so after receiving new intelligence which shed doubt on the US presumption of guilt of the Syrian army, Lueders said. The new evidence pointed not to the involvement of the Syrian government in the Ghouta attack, but of the al-Nusra front in collaboration with Turkish intelligence services.

"Why didn't he give the order? Because his own intelligence told him to be careful since US and UK intelligence had examined the chemical gas used in Ghouta and had come to the conclusion that the sarin found there was not the same as that found in the Syrian army's stocks."

"As a result, US intelligence was very wary and warned Obama, 'we now think it highly probable that the regime wasn't responsible for this chemical gas attack, there is no proof and now there are indications that this chemical gas attack was a so-called false flag attack.'"

"They suspected that this was a collaboration between the al-Nusra front, one of the most evil jihadist groups, al-Qaeda's subsidiary in Syria, and the Turkish intelligence services."

"Why would the Turkish government work together with the al-Nusra front? Because the Turkish government, Erdogan and the intelligence services, had already thought 'we can use this war in Syria for our own purposes, we will use the radical jihadists and use them to fight the Kurds in northern Syria who are linked to the PKK.' Everything is interconnected in this conflict, that's why it's so complicated."

"Turkey had evidently armed the al-Nusra front with sarin gas. In June 2013, there was an investigation by the US intelligence services, which you can read, that clearly says, 'we know that Turkey has equipped the al-Nusra front and other groups with sarin gas and they are producing sarin gas themselves.'"

Lueders told viewers that Turkish journalists including the former editor of Cumhuriyet Can Dundar, who is currently exiled in Germany, had reported the weapons deliveries. "All journalists in Turkey who have reported about this are either in prison or in exile," he said.

"You can research these things if you want to, but of course then you will break the concept of the enemy and you can't say any more, 'here are the good guys and we are on their side, and there are the bad guys and we are supporting good in a fight against evil.''

"We have supported opposition forces there, 90 percent of whom are jihadists. If they were to come to Germany, all the security services would be informed immediately. Therefore, what is happening here is not black and white, but an incredibly dirty geopolitical game," Lueders said.

Civil defense members inspect the damage at a site hit by airstrikes on Tuesday, in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in rebel-held Idlib, Syria April 5, 2017 - Sputnik International
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On Tuesday, the Syrian National Coalition of Revolution and Opposition Forces, which was formed in Qatar in 2012, reported that some 80 people were killed and 200 injured in a chemical attack on civilians in Khan Shaykhun, a town in the Idlib governorate of northwestern Syria.

One of the last remaining rebel strongholds in Syria, many Islamist rebels fled to Idlib after the Syrian government retook control of Aleppo in December. 

Rebel groups have accused the Syrian Armed Forces of carrying out the attack, an allegation denied by Damascus.

In retaliation at the alleged attack the US launched an airstrike on the Syrian army's Sha'irat airbase. However, the US has failed to find proof of the existence of chemical weapons at the airfield.

Russia has submitted a draft resolution to the UN Security Council calling for an investigation into the incident in Idlib.

On Wednesday, Russian defense ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov reported that Syrian aircraft had conducted an airstrike on a warehouse containing ammunition and military equipment belonging to terrorists near the town of Khan Shaykhun. Konashenkov said that chemical weapons' ammunition had also been stored in the warehouse prior to delivery to Iraq.

On Thursday, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said that the first reports of a chemical attack in the province of Idlib appeared a few hours before the April 4 airstrike by the Syrian Air Forces on an al-Nusra Front ammunition warehouse. 

Syria joined the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons after the 2013 Ghouta chemical attack, the result of an agreement between Russia and the US on the destruction of chemical weapons in the country under the control of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). In January 2016, the OPCW announced that all chemical weapons in Syria had been destroyed.

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