Pin It
Sep
23

Syrians Claim Saudi-Supplied Rebels Behind Chemical Attack

Mideast-Syria_Muha1-e1377263904358

EXCLUSIVE: Syrians In Ghouta Claim Saudi-Supplied Rebels Behind Chemical Attack
Rebels and local residents in Ghouta accuse Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan of providing chemical weapons to an al-Qaida linked rebel group.

Dale Gavlak assisted in the research and writing process of this article, but was not on the ground in Syria. Reporter Yahya Ababneh, with whom the report was written in collaboration, was the correspondent on the ground in Ghouta who spoke directly with the rebels, their family members, victims of the chemical weapons attacks and local residents. 

Gavlak is a MintPress News Middle East correspondent who has been freelancing for the AP as a Amman, Jordan correspondent for nearly a decade. This report is not an Associated Press article; rather it is exclusive to MintPress News. 

Ghouta, Syria — As the machinery for a U.S.-led military intervention in Syria gathers pace following last week’s chemical weapons attack, the U.S. and its allies may be targeting the wrong culprit.

Interviews with people in Damascus and Ghouta, a suburb of the Syrian capital, where the humanitarian agency Doctors Without Borders said at least 355 people had died last week from what it believed to be a neurotoxic agent, appear to indicate as much.

The U.S., Britain, and France as well as the Arab League have accused the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for carrying out the chemical weapons attack, which mainly targeted civilians. U.S. warships are stationed in the Mediterranean Sea to launch military strikes against Syria in punishment for carrying out a massive chemical weapons attack. The U.S. and others are not interested in examining any contrary evidence, with U.S Secretary of State John Kerry saying Monday that Assad’s guilt was “a judgment … already clear to the world.”

However, from numerous interviews with doctors, Ghouta residents, rebel fighters and their families, a different picture emerges. Many believe that certain rebels received chemical weapons via the Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, and were responsible for carrying out the dealing gas attack.

“My son came to me two weeks ago asking what I thought the weapons were that he had been asked to carry,” said Abu Abdel-Moneim, the father of a rebel fighting to unseat Assad, who lives in Ghouta.

Abdel-Moneim said his son and 12 other rebels were killed inside of a tunnel used to store weapons provided by a Saudi militant, known as Abu Ayesha, who was leading a fighting battalion. The father described the weapons as having a “tube-like structure” while others were like a “huge gas bottle.”

Ghouta townspeople said the rebels were using mosques and private houses to sleep while storing their weapons in tunnels.

Abdel-Moneim said his son and the others died during the chemical weapons attack. That same day, the militant group Jabhat al-Nusra, which is linked to al-Qaida, announced that it would similarly attack civilians in the Assad regime’s heartland of Latakia on Syria’s western coast, in purported retaliation.

“They didn’t tell us what these arms were or how to use them,” complained a female fighter named ‘K.’ “We didn’t know they were chemical weapons. We never imagined they were chemical weapons.”

“When Saudi Prince Bandar gives such weapons to people, he must give them to those who know how to handle and use them,” she warned. She, like other Syrians, do not want to use their full names for fear of retribution.

A well-known rebel leader in Ghouta named ‘J’ agreed. “Jabhat al-Nusra militants do not cooperate with other rebels, except with fighting on the ground. They do not share secret information. They merely used some ordinary rebels to carry and operate this material,” he said.

“We were very curious about these arms. And unfortunately, some of the fighters handled the weapons improperly and set off the explosions,” ‘J’ said.

Doctors who treated the chemical weapons attack victims cautioned interviewers to be careful about asking questions regarding who, exactly, was responsible for the deadly assault.

The humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders added that health workers aiding 3,600 patients also reported experiencing similar symptoms, including frothing at the mouth, respiratory distress, convulsions and blurry vision. The group has not been able to independently verify the information.

More than a dozen rebels interviewed reported that their salaries came from the Saudi government.

 

Saudi involvement

In a recent article for Business Insider, reporter Geoffrey Ingersoll highlighted Saudi Prince Bandar’s role in the two-and-a-half year Syrian civil war. Many observers believe Bandar, with his close ties to Washington, has been at the very heart of the push for war by the U.S. against Assad.

Ingersoll referred to an article in the U.K.’s Daily Telegraph about secret Russian-Saudi talks alleging that Bandar offered Russian President Vladimir Putin cheap oil in exchange for dumping Assad.

“Prince Bandar pledged to safeguard Russia’s naval base in Syria if the Assad regime is toppled, but he also hinted at Chechen terrorist attacks on Russia’s Winter Olympics in Sochi if there is no accord,” Ingersoll wrote.

“I can give you a guarantee to protect the Winter Olympics next year. The Chechen groups that threaten the security of the games are controlled by us,” Bandar allegedly told the Russians.

“Along with Saudi officials, the U.S. allegedly gave the Saudi intelligence chief the thumbs up to conduct these talks with Russia, which comes as no surprise,” Ingersoll wrote.

“Bandar is American-educated, both military and collegiate, served as a highly influential Saudi Ambassador to the U.S., and the CIA totally loves this guy,” he added.

According to U.K.’s Independent newspaper, it was Prince Bandar’s intelligence agency that first brought allegations of the use of sarin gas by the regime to the attention of Western allies in February.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that the CIA realized Saudi Arabia was “serious” about toppling Assad when the Saudi king named Prince Bandar to lead the effort.

“They believed that Prince Bandar, a veteran of the diplomatic intrigues of Washington and the Arab world, could deliver what the CIA couldn’t: planeloads of money and arms, and, as one U.S. diplomat put it, wasta, Arabic for under-the-table clout,” it said.

Bandar has been advancing Saudi Arabia’s top foreign policy goal, WSJ reported, of defeating Assad and his Iranian and Hezbollah allies.

To that aim, Bandar worked Washington to back a program to arm and train rebels out of a planned military base in Jordan.

The newspaper reports that he met with the “uneasy Jordanians about such a base”:

His meetings in Amman with Jordan’s King Abdullah sometimes ran to eight hours in a single sitting. “The king would joke: ‘Oh, Bandar’s coming again? Let’s clear two days for the meeting,’ ” said a person familiar with the meetings.

Jordan’s financial dependence on Saudi Arabia may have given the Saudis strong leverage. An operations center in Jordan started going online in the summer of 2012, including an airstrip and warehouses for arms. Saudi-procured AK-47s and ammunition arrived, WSJ reported, citing Arab officials.

Although Saudi Arabia has officially maintained that it supported more moderate rebels, the newspaper reported that “funds and arms were being funneled to radicals on the side, simply to counter the influence of rival Islamists backed by Qatar.”

But rebels interviewed said Prince Bandar is referred to as “al-Habib” or ‘the lover’ by al-Qaida militants fighting in Syria.

Peter Oborne, writing in the Daily Telegraph on Thursday, has issued a word of caution about Washington’s rush to punish the Assad regime with so-called ‘limited’ strikes not meant to overthrow the Syrian leader but diminish his capacity to use chemical weapons:

Consider this: the only beneficiaries from the atrocity were the rebels, previously losing the war, who now have Britain and America ready to intervene on their side. While there seems to be little doubt that chemical weapons were used, there is doubt about who deployed them.

It is important to remember that Assad has been accused of using poison gas against civilians before. But on that occasion, Carla del Ponte, a U.N. commissioner on Syria, concluded that the rebels, not Assad, were probably responsible.

Some information in this article could not be independently verified. Mint Press News will continue to provide further information and updates . 

Dale Gavlak is a Middle East correspondent for Mint Press News and has reported from Amman, Jordan, writing for the Associated Press, NPR and BBC. An expert in Middle Eastern affairs, Gavlak covers the Levant region, writing on topics including politics, social issues and economic trends. Dale holds a M.A. in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Chicago. Contact Dale at dgavlak@mintpressnews.com

Yahya Ababneh is a Jordanian freelance journalist and is currently working on a master’s degree in journalism,  He has covered events in Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Libya. His stories have appeared on Amman Net, Saraya News, Gerasa News and elsewhere.

 

Comments

  1. Don David Young says:

    Hey Rosanne,
    I don’t expect you to post this but I assume you are moderating comments to this Blog. I DO post your insights on Facebook to Angelfire Network ,the page that I administrate…there.
    You were SO sweet to the girl from Nevada that called in to talk on Sunday Sept. 23rd… you remembered her and I think you may remember me from years ago when I wrote to your manager at the Rosanne Show to tell you that your laughter from the show Roseanne saved me from suicide on several ocassions. She sent a sweet letter back with a pic of you & Tom Arnold… just so you know I am the real deal and NOT some weirdo, you can check me out next to Jerry Garcia at http://www.worldwidehippies.com the Sunday digest issue from Sept. 01.2013 page #2
    One of the main reasons I am writing is that I too was diagnosed with MPD/DID… I only know one other REAL multi and she lives on a Mountain with her critters in West Virginia… My studies have found from a web site called Healing Hopes, which is not around anymore, that there is most likely only one REAL multi in every 7000 square miles which makes it hard or next to impossible to get a Therapist that knows what to do with you except study you like a “lab rat”. I found some Dr.s Worldwide on Earth Angels Radio Network that ARE familiar with people that suffer or suffered from multiple personalities. I had a meltdown on the air July 31st 2013 ( in their archives) about my MPD dx and how it was discovered and through my Art in art school I was able to “integrate”…
    So, that doesn’t have much to do with this germ warfare, which as you warned people, I was talking & painting about it 1st and still get bashed about it! You are a very smart lady Rosanne! I admire you SO much for all you have done and continue to do for the people and the planet!!!
    Many blessings!
    dondavid-

  2. James O. Ogle [Free Parliamentary] says:

    Politics in plurality elections is all about attacks and retaliations. Persuading the news media that negative events can only be relived by asserting the power of dictators. Like they say. “Bad publicity is good publicity”.

    Are tired of the perpetual, vile, antagonistic uses of force and violence, whether it’s words or weapons, as a decision-making tool?

    Believe it or not, there is a peaceful alternative which unites all parties and independents, and it’s called pure proportional representation (PR). A system which is superior where good publicity is good publicity.

    Anything less will only perpetuate the conflict and division.

    Now, there’s a world wide effort to promote and implement the most mathematical and perfect voting system; the Sainte-Lague parliament seat distributions system, ranked choice voting (RCV), Hagenbach-Bischoff method in multi-winner districts of two or more (the more the better) only.

    In Hawaii it’s called the Hawaii Mini-state Parliament and it works great:
    http://www.usparliament.org/ss12-2.php

  3. Hi Rosanne, I was reading today, while making an informative Kombucha Mushroom History/ make your own at home 16 page instruction manual, that after the Chernobyl meltdown of the 1980’s. The group that seemed resistant to the effects of radiation sickness where a group of elderly women, the common thread turned out to be that of those who consumed Kombucha regularly survived the radiation. I was making this photo documentation directions re: Kombucha for a friend with a real bad case of cancer. Kombucha creates a ph in the body making it impossible for cancer cells to survive! I have been HIV+
    since The Rosanne Show went on the air and I am still ticking with or without Modern Medicine. I wonder what Kombucha may do to bio or germ warfare victims. I also just read and started eating cactus pears from the “prickly” pear cactus. It is supposed to cure just about everything. FYI… I am also dxed with MPD/DID… Much love to you Roseanne! dondavid-