Image
© AFP Photo / SANA
In this image made available by the Syrian News Agency (SANA) on March 19, 2013, medics and other masked people attend to a man at a hospital in Khan al-Assal in the northern Aleppo province, as Syria's government accused rebel forces of using chemical weapons for the first time.
American and European intelligence analysts now believe that President Bashar al-Assad's troops have used chemical weapons against rebel forces in the civil war in Syria, an assessment that will put added pressure on a deeply divided Obama administration to develop a response to a provocation that the president himself has declared a "red line."


Comment: Now that's one opening paragraph loaded with assumptions and inaccuracies - the ones that the public is supposed to swallow. Think of what the following words imply: "analysts", "believe", "rebel forces", "civil war", "assessment", "pressure", "deeply divided", "response", "provocation" and "red line".

What they are trying to make us believe is that the good and noble people of the Obama administration have been trying to reach the Truth ("analysts") about this messy business that Assad got himself into ("civil war"). Against the best intentions of Obama and Friends to not get involved, Assad has finally proven himself to be a tyrant of the type that uses weapons of mass destruction against his own people ("rebels"). Therefore, and in spite of the internal divisions, the pressure this new evidence delivers is too much to bear and a red line has been crossed. Action must be taken ("provocation")!


According to an internal memorandum circulating inside the government on Thursday, the "intelligence community assesses that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale against the opposition multiple times in the last year." President Obama said in April that the United States had physiological evidence that the nerve gas sarin had been used in Syria, but lacked proof of who used it and under what circumstances. He now believes that the proof is definitive, according to American officials.


Comment: Of course, you need to tell lies step by step to make sure that the public gets used to the idea they will want you to accept later. It is called priming.


But a flurry of high-level meetings in Washington this week only underscored the splits within the Obama administration about what actions to take to quell the fighting, which has claimed more than 90,000 people. The meetings were hastily arranged after Mr. Assad's troops - joined by fighters from the militant group Hezbollah - claimed the strategic city of Qusayr and raised fears in Washington that large parts of the rebellion could be on the verge of collapse.
Image
© AFP Photo / Fabrice Coffrini
Former United Nations (UN) Swiss prosecutor and member of a UN-mandated commission of inquiry on the Syria conflict, Carla del Ponte.
Senior State Department officials have been pushing for an aggressive military response, including airstrikes to hit the primary landing strips in Syria that the government uses to launch the chemical weapons attacks, ferry troops around the country, and receive shipments of matériel from Iran. But White House officials remain wary, and one American official said that a meeting on Wednesday of the president's senior advisers yielded no firm decisions about how to proceed.


Comment: Oh, but they will. And it won't be friendly.


It is unclear precisely how the Obama administration made its final determination about the chemical weapons use in Syria. According to the internal memorandum, intelligence agencies have "high confidence" in their assessment, and estimate that between 100 and 150 people have died to date from chemical weapons attacks. The memorandum goes on to say that the conclusion is based on a variety of intelligence.

"Our intelligence community has high confidence in that assessment given multiple, independent streams of information," the memorandum said.


Comment: Trust us. We are the intelligence community. Unfortunately, we cannot at this time provide any further details about how we reached our conclusions, for security reasons.


The Obama administration's cautious approach about Syria has already frayed relations with important American allies in the Middle East that have privately described the White House strategy as feckless. Saudi Arabia and Jordan recently cut the United States out of a new rebel training program, a decision that American officials said came from the belief in Riyadh and Amman that the United States has only a tepid commitment to supporting rebel groups.


Comment: "Cautious approach"??

As for the Jordanian and Saudi regimes cutting the US out of 'rebel training', we don't know where the NYT is getting its information from because it is the US that organises, funds, trains and arms military exercises in the region all the time. Here's a photo from 'Eager Lion 2012', an event held again this year:
Image
© Reuters / Ali Jarekji
Jordanian special forces receiving training from their US counterparts at the King Abdullah Special Operations Training Centre during their "Eager Lion" military exercise in Amman May 27, 2012.

Moreover, the United Arab Emirates declined to host a meeting of allied defense officials to discuss Syria, concerned that in the absence of strong American leadership the conference might degenerate into bickering and finger pointing among various gulf nations with different views on the best ways to support the rebellion.

Adding to those voices was former President Bill Clinton, who earlier this week endorsed a more robust American intervention in Syria to help the rebels, aligning himself with hawks like Senator John McCain, who fault Mr. Obama for his reluctance to get entangled in the bloody civil war there.

Speaking on Tuesday at a private session in New York with Mr. McCain, Mr. Clinton said, "Sometimes it's best to get caught trying, as long as you don't overcommit."

"Some people say, 'O.K., see what a big mess this is? Stay out!'" Mr. Clinton said. "I think that's a big mistake. I agree with you about this," he added, gesturing to Mr. McCain, who has called for supplying the rebels with weapons and conducting airstrikes.

The White House press secretary, Jay Carney, pushed back on Mr. Clinton's comments, saying, "The president makes a decision about the implementation of national security options based on our national security interests, not on what might satisfy critics at any given moment about a policy."

The conclusion by American intelligence agencies strengthens their assessment earlier this year and poses an important test for the White House.

Mr. Obama had repeatedly said the use of chemical weapons by Syrian forces would a cross a red line, but he has not indicated what action he would take in response.

In an April letter to Congress, the White House said that intelligence agencies had "varying degrees of confidence."

But the conclusion of the latest intelligence review is much stronger and is based on evidence that includes reporting on planning by the regime for the use of chemical weapons, accounts of specific attacks and descriptions of physiological symptoms.

The draft statement notes there is no reason to think the resistance has access to chemical weapons.

"We believe that the Assad regime maintains control of these weapons, and has taken steps to secure these weapons from theft or attack," it states. "We have no reliable, corroborated reported to indication that the opposition has acquired or used chemical weapons."

According to a C.I.A. report, which was described by an American official who declined to be identified, the United States has acquired blood, urine and hair samples from two Syrian rebels - one dead, and one wounded - who were involved in a firefight with Syrian government forces in mid-March near the town of Utubya, northeast of Damascus.

The samples showed that the rebels were exposed to sarin and supports the conclusion that the regime has used the weapon.

In recent days, the British and French government have also asserted that there is evidence that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons.