Russia's Evidence For Syrian Rebels Using Chemical Weapons Last Month Is Based On Internet Conspiracy Theories

Russia putin lavrovREUTERS/Thierry RogeRussia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L) and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin attend a meeting with the European Commission in Brussels February 24, 2011.

Russian Foreign Minister
told David Ignatius of The Washington Postthat he has presented U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry with evidence that Syrian rebels used chemical weapons on August 21 in the East Ghouta suburb of Damascus, adding that the information is “
available on the Internet.”
He went on to cite several dubious accounts and theories, including:

• A report by Mint Press that rebels were given chemical weapons by Saudi Arabia and then mishandled them, leading to the deadly attack that killed more than a thousand people.

Several chemical weapons experts thoroughly refuted this claim when interviewed by Syrian weapons specialist and blogger Eliot Higgins.

Furthermore the report’s “primary author,” Dale Galvak, said Mint Press incorrectly used her byline but wouldn’t publish a retraction. The other author is a bit of a mystery and has since deleted his LinkedIn account.

This report by a Catholic nun from the area who claimed that the images and videos from the attack are staged using Syrian civilians that were abducted by Syrian rebels hundreds of miles away.

No government, not even Syria and Russia, have claimed that the attacks were a complete fabrication.

• Lavrov then cited an open letter sent to President Obama by former operatives of the CIA that cites the Mint Press report and states that they are “unaware of any reliable evidence that a Syrian military rocket capable of carrying a chemical agent was fired into the area.”

The UN chemical inspectors investigation described the size and structure of two rocket delivery systems used and report the direction some of the rockets likely came from. The report doesn’t ascribe blame but present evidence that is damning for Assad.

Human Rights Watch, using UN data, produced a map showing the likely trajectory of the rockets used that indicates that they were fired from Syrian government positions.

independently collectedevidence of the munitions and
concludedthat “the Syrian government was capable of the attack, and had a history of using the munitions linked to the attack” while evidence against the rebels is spurious.

• Lavrov also claimed that the sarin was homemade, which directly contradicts the idea that the chemicals came from Saudi Arabia — meaning that even Russian claims contradict the theories it cites.

• Kremlin-funded Russia Today also falsely cited Higgins to bolster claims that there are videos of rebels firing chemical rockets. These videos are highly dubious.

Lavrov concluded to Ignatius that “you don’t need to have any spy reports to make your own conclusions, you only need to carefully watch what is available in public.”

He is right. But based on publicly available information, Russia’s claim that the rebels were responsible for the August 21 attack are based on conspiracy theories.

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