US admission on Al-Nusra’s chemical weapons – 'preemptive move before investigation results'?
The US State Department has admitted terrorists are using chemical weapons in Syria when referring to the Al-Nusra group, now known as Tahrir al-Sham, in the latest travel alert for the country. Russia's Defense Ministry says it's the first admission of its sort after years of allegations only the Assad government and ISIS carry out chemical attacks in Syria.
RT: How significant is this admission by the US State Department?
Charles Shoebridge: It is significant on one level that it is an admission as is being said. It is obviously a slip-up. It has been let slip not by as you would imagine the usual route. The usual means it would be a State Department announcement or a Pentagon briefing. They have been briefing over the years that the only people that are using chemical weapons, in their view, in Syria is the Assad government. It is on that assertion, rather than an evidenced assertion that only Assad is capable of producing and using these chemical weapons that they have based allegations that, for example, atrocities such as Ghouta in 2013 and Khan Shaykhun this year, that killed many civilians, could only have been carried out by Assad. It is a very weak evidential basis for a claim in any case, but that now is undermined by this.
… And in addition to that in some cases, for example, ISIS have in the past used chemical weapons such as mustard gas. The real significance would be [to say] what kind of chemical weapon they were talking about. Because if it is something like chlorine, this is very easy to produce. If it is something like sarin nerve agent that we saw used recently in Khan Shaykhun, that prompted the American strikes on Assad’s air force, allegedly in retaliation for that attack despite any evidence being missing that Assad was responsible for it. That is far more difficult to produce. That may be that they are talking in a generality here.
RT:Why do you think Washington has only now reached this conclusion?
CS: I suspect it might be that it has slipped out. But actually looking more deeply into it, don’t forget, very soon we’ve got the joint investigative mechanism between the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, that is the international chemical weapons watchdog, and the UN Security Council have come together to investigate what has been going on in Syria in respect of chemical weapon use. And the Khan Shaykhun incident, that President Trump launched his cruise missile attack against Syria within days of that incident happening despite that there has been no investigation at that stage. That detailed investigation is due to report very soon and it may, for what we know report that actually it’s untrue the rebels don’t have access to and don’t use chemical weapons. And so maybe this is an early attempt to preempt that by saying “American government has never denied this.” In fact, we know for well in many of the record briefings they’ve absolutely claimed from the outset that only people that use or have even the ability to use weapons of this type in Syria is the government of President Assad. And that then would make him alone responsible for these alleged chemical weapon uses despite the fact that the rebels, in this case, have had every incentive to use these weapons as a false flag to prompt Western intervention. And that intervention in the last attack did happen.