Noah Schachtman of Foreign Policy, a neo-con lite source, is reporting that:
Last Wednesday, in the hours after a horrific chemical attack east of Damascus, an official at the Syrian Ministry of Defense exchanged panicked phone calls with a leader of a chemical weapons unit, demanding answers for a nerve agent strike that killed more than 1,000 people. Those conversations were overheard by U.S. intelligence services, The Cable has learned. And that is the major reason why American officials now say they’re certain that the attacks were the work of the Bashar al-Assad regime — and why the U.S. military is likely to attack that regime in a matter of days.
But the intercept raises questions about culpability for the chemical massacre, even as it answers others: Was the attack on Aug. 21 the work of a Syrian officer overstepping his bounds? Or was the strike explicitly directed by senior members of the Assad regime?
American intelligence analysts are certain that chemical weapons were used on Aug. 21 — the captured phone calls, combined with local doctors’ accounts and video documentation of the tragedy — are considered proof positive. [Except they're not. As we have reported, certain kinds of things called tear gas can cause neuro sysmptoms and even death].
Making the case even more conclusive were the images of the missiles that supposedly delivered the deadly attacks. If they were carrying conventional warheads, they would have likely been all but destroyed as they detonated. But several missiles in East Ghouta were found largely intact. “Why is there so much rocket left? There shouldn’t be so much rocket left,” the intelligence official told The Cable. The answer, the official and his colleagues concluded, was that the weapon was filled with nerve agent, not a conventional explosive.
So, there’s the case for war:
1) There were phone calls asking about the use of a chemical agent.
2) The Defense Ministry did not know that a chemical agent was used.
3) There were intact missile casings in the vicinity.
So far, nothing about a vital national interest or any indication that our intervention will help anything or anyone.
Or, for that matter, evidence that we are certain can actually survive the light of day.
Update: Harriet Sherwood of the Guardian on the provenance of the intercepts:
The bulk of evidence proving the Assad regime’s deployment of chemical weapons – which would provide legal grounds essential to justify any western military action – has been provided by Israeli military intelligence, the German magazine Focus has reported.
The 8200 unit of the Israeli Defence Forces, which specialises in electronic surveillance, intercepted a conversation between Syrian officials regarding the use of chemical weapons, an unnamed former Mossad official told Focus. The content of the conversation was relayed to the US, the ex-official said.
That will certainly reassure the doubters among us.
And now the Obama Admin makes it clear it has as little regard for international law as its predecessor. Karen deYoung, WaPo:
A closed-door meeting of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, called to consider a British-drafted resolution authorizing the use of force to prevent any further use of chemical weapons in Syria, adjourned without action after Russia and China opposed the measure.
In response, U.S. officials made clear they considered such initiatives irrelevant to Obama’s decision on military action.
In a letter Wednesday to Obama, House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) echoed concerns that numerous outside experts have raised about the administration’s assessment of potential post-attack scenarios.
“These considerations include the Assad regime potentially losing command and control of its stock of chemical weapons or terrorist organizations — especially those tied to al-Qaeda — gaining greater control of and maintaining territory,” Boehner wrote.
It’s a shame that no one has considered the possibility that Assad might have lost control of his stock of chemical weapons prior to the deaths.
Is your congressman against the rush to war? Surprisingly few Democrats have signed onto Republican Scott Rigell’s letter urging Obama to consult Congress. Beto O’Rourke, Zoe Lofgren, Peter DeFazio, Kurt Schrader, Rush Holt, William Enyart, Timothy Walz, Michael Capuano, Richard Nolan, Jim McDermott, Bruce Braley, Sam Farr, Anna Eshoo, Earl Blumenauer, Peter Welch, Jim Matheson, and Collin Peterson. Pahing Keith Ellison! I count 17 Dems out of more than 90 signatories. Paging Rosa DeLauro! Paging John Lewis! And several dozen more Democrats who claim to be for peace.
When Republicans are advocating sanity and Democrats are silent, you know something is seriously wrong.
BTW, anyone remember the rush to Iraq and the role of intercepts there?