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article imageOp-Ed: Israeli intelligence and Damascus chemical attack

By Ken Hanly     Aug 29, 2013 in Politics
Damascus - Israel has been sharing intelligence it has acquired on the chemical weapons attack near Damascus with the US. One crucial bit of intelligence is the content of an intercepted phone call from the Ministry of Defense shortly after the attack.
While many sources have claimed that the Israeli intelligence was a crucial aspect of US intelligence deciding that the Assad regime was responsible the Fox news account will do for a start: "The initial confirmation that the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad was responsible for a suspected chemical weapons attack Aug. 21 came from a tip from the Israeli intelligence service, western intelligence sources tell Fox News."
An Israeli intelligence unit of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) number 8200, a military intelligence listening unit has been cooperating with the NSA sources told Fox news.
The article continues:This Israeli intelligence unit helped provide the intelligence intercepts that allowed the White House last weekend to conclude that the Assad regime was behind the attack.
Of course we do not know much about the contents of the intercepted communications, What we do know raises many more questions than it settles. Fox news presents nothing about the exact content of the intercept but we do have some information. The Guardian give us some specifics of the intercept: Just hours after the attack last Wednesday an official at the Syrian Ministry of Defense exchanged panicked phone calls with a leader of the unit, demanding answers, according to website Foreign Policy.
The Foreign Policy source quoted makes the same claim but conveniently says counter to numerous other sources that the calls were overheard by US intelligence: 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.
Even this limited knowledge of the conversation raises many questions. If the order was given by the Assad government to launch the attack why would the official at the Syrian Ministry of Defence make a panicked phone call demanding answers. Surely he would know what was happening. The phone call in effect proves that the Assad regime did not directly order the attack. At most it shows that if Assad forces did mount the attack then it was done by a rogue commander. This has been suggested by some. However, it in no way proves that either. We do not know what the leader of the chemical weapons unit replied. It could very well be that he replied that he had no idea what happened. Nothing about that response has been revealed as yet.
So far there seems no reason for the confidence that many leaders have shown that there is incontrovertible evidence that the Assad regime carried out the chemical attack. Even before the UN finishes its investigation, which the US has tried to have halted, Obama nevertheless has concluded that Assad is guilty: "President Barack Obama on Wednesday declared unequivocally that the United States has “concluded” that the Syrian government carried out a deadly chemical weapons attack on civilians. "
First we get the conclusion, we have yet to see the evident although we may get some as early as today. Of course we may find that crucial aspects of the evidence will be kept from the public because it is classified. However, if the commander acknowledged the attack one would expect that classified information would be leaked, not by Edward Snowden or Glenn Greenwald, but someone with more positive relationships to the intelligence community.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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