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19 Apr, 2017 16:48

Why not all chemical attacks worthy of Western media attention

Why not all chemical attacks worthy of Western media attention

Rebels using chemical agents rarely make headlines in the Western press as it undermines the prevailing narrative that only Assad has the capability of producing such materials, says Charles Shoebridge, former army, and counterterrorism intelligence officer.

Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) carried out a chemical attack against an Iraqi military unit with American and Australian advisers on Sunday. Foreign military specialists were unharmed by the toxic agent used by Islamic State. At least 25 people required medical treatment in the aftermath of the attack, according to media reports.

RT: Why do you think this chemical attack did not get a lot of coverage compared to the chemical incident in Khan Sheikhoun on April 4?

Charles Shoebridge: First of all, there are no fatalities reported, so far. But it has been reported in the past that ISIS and other rebels groups are using chemical weapons, and have got access to them. Indeed, experts such as Jerry Smith who led the mission in Syria to clear Syria’s chemical weapons, he recently stated – although again it didn’t get much media attention in the West - that it is conceivable that ISIS and other groups have even sarin. Sarin and mustard [gas] are not the same chemicals, of course, one is easier to make than the other, and one is more deadly than the other. The more it is in the news, if indeed it was reported prominently that the rebels have the ability to make this relatively complex chemical weapon, the more it might actually undermine the prevailing narrative that only Assad has the capability of producing such materials regardless of the fact that the OPCW themselves have declared that the mission to rid Assad of his chemical weapons that he did have up to 2014 was successful.

RT: Do chemical weapons in the hands of ISIS pose less of a threat than the chemical weapons Assad allegedly has though he's denying it?

CS: …Chlorine - a far less lethal chemical and not in the class as a chemical weapon, unless it is actually used as a weapon - is a good example. We often hear allegations being made of Assad’s government using chlorine for whatever reason because it has very little military advantage in doing so. But of course, the headline “chemical weapon” in this case attracts a lot of attention and condemnation even though chlorine is arguably much less lethal than conventional explosives. And yet the OPCW and the UN themselves found that in some cases the rebels themselves in Syria were fabricating these attacks using chlorine. So, chlorine is widely being used by rebels, and yet that very rarely makes any headlines in the Western newspapers. It is all, of course, we know full well, it is all about the prevailing narrative. And the narrative is that if the rebels could be shown that they are using and manufacturing these kinds of compounds and chemicals, then that undermines the narrative that only Assad could have been responsible for the appalling scenes that we saw on TV screens a couple of weeks ago.

Military analyst Kamal Alam agrees the media has had “a very one-sided narrative since the beginning of this war whether one looks at how the war has been executed.”

They do not want to believe anything else but that Damascus and the Syrian Arab Army committed such a crime. However, in 2013 when the big chemical weapons attack happened in Ghouta, the UN itself did not lay blame on the Syrian government: it said that it could have been, but there is nothing absolute to suggest that,” he told RT.

Alam also cited a recent report by Theodore Postol, a professor emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) “refuting the American allegations.” 

He cited the report as saying “there was an airstrike indeed from the Syrian government, but chemical weapons did not come from the air, they were on the ground and belonged to the rebels and the terrorists.”

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.