Posts Tagged ‘Assad’


What do we really know about Assad?

December 15, 2019

The most heated exchange during a televised debate of US Democratic presidential candidates in Alabama happened when Pete Buttigieg ridiculed Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard for meeting Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, “a murderous dictator”. Gabbard had already before that been declared as “unfit for office” by the Washington Post because of her trip to Syria.

This attitude is reflected on social media where everyone who fails to dutifully defame President Assad is called an “Assadist” and excluded from any further discussion.

Yet, as more and more “Assadists” come out of the closet completely unashamed, and the discussions get more acrimonious, if not to say hateful, the question has to be ask again if Syrian President Dr. Bashar al-Assad is indeed a monstrous war criminal or to the contrary just another heroic Arabian leader in the footsteps of Gamal Abdel Nasser, holding out against US imperialism and therefore being targeted by a well coordinated mass media smear campaign?

Is Dr. Bashar al-Assad a good or bad person? 

This is a crucial issue because Western military and economic actions against Syria are mainly justified by calling the Syrian government the “regime of bloodthirsty despot Assad (butcher Assad).” This regime has, so Western media and politicians argue, lost all legitimacy and is therefor free game. 

It’s free for all, especially for the US and NATO allies, Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar. Everybody is allowed to bomb, invade with regular troops or mercenaries, support criminal bands and murderous Islamic radicals, and block crucial supplies for the Syrian population (medicines, food) with a stringent embargo.

There is an alternative view about President Assad, promoted by independent bloggers (Eva Bartlett, Vanessa Beeley, Steven Gowans), independent websites (,,, independent journalists (Max Blumenthal, Caitlin Johnstone, Finian Cunningham, Whitney Webb, Rania Khalek, Jonathan Steele), academics (Tim Hayward, Theodore Postol), UK Peer Baroness Cox, US Green Party presidential candidate Ajamu Baraka, Mother Agnes Mariam de la Croix, and all Syrian patriarchs and bishops.

Western media and politicians dismiss this alternative view either as naive, as a result of Russian disinformation (the useful idiots), or as the malicious attempt to discredit US Middle East policies.

And yet, nobody can deny that President Assad has held his country together for 9 punishing years of fighting against Western funded Islamic fundamentalists, invading mercenaries (the “moderate rebels”), direct invasions by troops from USA, NATO allies, and Turkey, and an economic blockade by Western countries.

This is an astonishing achievement no matter from which angle it is viewed.

Assad’s reputation among the populations of the Meddle East (the so called “Arab street”) consequently is sky high, manifested in thoroughly researched reports and analyses from independent journalists as well as countless comments on social media and message boards. 

Paid trolls, genuine regime change enthusiasts, and uninformed gullible commenters, stirred up by propaganda lies, try to counter with phrases like “brutal bloodthirsty dictator,” “monstrous despot,” “butcher Assad,” and terms like Mukhabarat, shabiha, barrel bombs, sarin gas, Caesar, Sednaya, used as contractions and shorthand symbols to affirm the wickedness of President al-Assad.

They maintain that it is common knowledge and an undeniable fact that Assad is a psychopathic mass murderer and war criminal who should be instantly sent to The Hague to be convicted of genocide by the ICC (International Criminal Court).

They seldom go into details but occasionally refer to think tanks, NGO’s, and individuals like Eliot Higgins (Bellingcat, Brown Moses) or Rami Abdulrahman (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights), all lavishly funded by the USA and NATO allies.

One better looks for oneself

Most peoples will not be able to visit Damascus and meet President Assad in person, (like US Representative Tulsi Gabbard and US state Senator Richard H. Black did), their opinion about him will rely on mass media news and on witness reports via social media posts. Which is not a firm basis because all these sources may be biased and may distort facts in pursuit of an agenda.

In lieu of a personal meeting video recordings could be helpful to form an opinion because subtleties in vocal sound, facial expression, and body language reveal a lot about a person, if one is sensitive and observant. There are many recordings of President Assad, mainly interviews, speeches, and visits of troops on the front line.

In his recent interview with RT’s Afshin Rattansi, President al-Assad displayed consistency and candor, he apparently is still not broken by the persistent defamation, smearing, and slandering in Western media propaganda outlets.

In the interview President al-Assad affirmed that the majority of the Syrian people support the government and that’s why the government persisted for nine years in spite of vicious aggression by the West and the Gulf monarchies. 

He maintained that accusations of chemical weapons attacks are unfounded, particularly as the “White Helmets” Organization, which fabricated many false flag atrocities, were an off-shoot of the Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist organization.

He also indicated that the Islamic State terrorist organization had two partners in stealing Syrian oil since 2014: Erdogan plus his coterie, and the USA.

When President Assad was asked about allegations of torture he tried to belittle the issue and talked about isolated incidents. This was not convincing, because torture happens in every Middle Eastern country and in Western countries as well (US black sites, Guantanamo). It would have been better to acknowledge the existent of torture and to talk about the difficulties to abolish it.

The Mukhabarat, Syria’s internal intelligence agency, has indeed a fearsome reputation, but one has to admit, that despite numerous Islamic fanatics hiding and waiting for their chance to blowup people there are only rare occurrences of terror attacks in the provinces which have been cleared of rebel groups (Damascus, Latakia, Tartus, Aleppo, Homs, Hama, etc.). These Mukhabarat guys apparently know their stuff. 

On the other hand, when President Assad on May 31, 2011 in a conciliatory gesture announced a general amnesty for all political prisoners, including members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood, most of them were in good health and instantly started organizing Islamic militias. Among the freed prisoners from Sednaya was Zahran Alloush, who became leader of Jaysh al-Islam, one of the most powerful and dangerous Islamist groups.

In another interview Assad flatly denied the use of barrel bombs. He probably was fed up by the interviewers impudent questions and just wanted to end the talk. 

Barrel bombs are cheap and easy to manufacture. They are just unguided (dumb) bombs, only used from helicopters in “close air support” of urban battles (street-to-street fighting). When the helicopter arrives and hovers over the scene, the enemy has to run for cover, which allows the government troops to advance. Barrel bombs have a clear and legitimate tactical purpose, though like all other kinds of bombs they will eventually cause horrific civilian casualties.

With just 200 kilogram, barrel bombs are smaller than general purpose bombs (FAB-250 for example) with less blast wave, fragmentation impact, and kinetic energy. There would not be much fuss about them if Western propagandists wouldn’t have picked the term and transformed it into an easily discernible catchword (just like Mukhabarat, Sednaya, Caesar, shabiha, sarin gas, etc.).

On November 26, 2019 Italian RAI journalist Monica Maggioni flew to Damascus to interview President Assad. It was agreed with the Syrian presidency to air the interview on December 2. Pundits were on the way to the TV studio, RAI’s middle-east correspondent Lucia Goracci was ready to comment live from Turkey, but the TV special unexpectedly was called off with no plan to reschedule. The Syrian presidency released the full interview on December 9.

Watching the interview makes it very clear why it was not aired. Ms Maggioni appears as very friendly, one could say even sympathetic to Assad, and her questions give him many opportunities to present the Syrian point of view and set things straight. The full transcript of this interview is at the end of the post.

While the interview was broadcast by Syrian state TV, the Twitter account of the Syrian Presidency was suddenly and without any explanation cancelled. But YouTube still has it online: 

Another interesting video shows President Assad visiting soldiers on the Idlib frontline: 

And, as the saying goes: “Behind every successful man there is a strong woman,” finally three videos about Bashar al-Assad’s wife Asma:

One should not underestimate the influence of Asma al-Assad. She is not only behind important social initiatives, but also responsible for a money laundering commission which has unleashed a wave of investigations on 29 business clans including Dureid Assad, Jaber, Hamsho, and most significantly Rami Makhlouf, cousin of Bashar Al-Assad. Rumors say that Rami Makhlouf’s offices were raided by the money laundering commission, that he and other members of his family were under temporary house arrest, and that he has been dispossessed of the Syriatel mobile phone company.

Full disclosure:

I followed the Syrian conflict from the very beginning and after the shock of watching Libya, Africa’s most affluent and most responsibly governed nation being destroyed and Muammar Gaddafi, the most ethical and benevolent leader the Arab world ever had, being barbarically slaughtered by Western armed Islamist thugs, I suddenly saw things in a completely different light.

And the grim picture was: Syrian defectors were payed huge bribes by Qatar, weapons for the Islamists were trucked in from all borders, and ridiculous claims of regime atrocities were published around the clock by mainstream media.

Now, after nine years of meticulous critical observation being solidly biased and partisan, opposing Western imperialism and US exceptionalism, I would side with Syria even it were a brutal dictatorship.

But it is not, which makes things even easier.

Bashar al-Assad made some mistakes in his first years as president when he tried to implement “free market” reforms after Western blueprints, including bank privatizations and foreign investments. These reforms caused rising inequality and consequently public discontent. His amnesty of even the most ruthless Islamists in 2011 was also not helpful.

Since then though he made everything right, acting rational, cautious, yet unhesitating. He has become unyielding, tough, unshakable. This is not the reserved and calmly speaking eye doctor from London anymore. He surely is also not anymore an admirer of Western culture and Western political ideals.

Dr. Bashar al-Assad is a tall man, with 189 centimeters a towering figure in most meetings and conferences. He is also eloquent both in Arabic and English, able to counter claims and prevail in disputes. Not many world leaders of his intelligence and composure exist and there are none in the West (which may be another strong reason why he is hated so much).

Butcher Assad

It was astonishing how in 2011 the until then altogether favorable coverage of the Assad family (mild-mannered eye doctor, desert rose Asma al-Assad, both highly qualified, bright, trying to modernize Syria) switched suddenly to hateful comments, to slander, loathing, and utmost hostility.

Before the switch Vogue magazine wrote: 

Asma al-Assad is glamorous, young, and very chic—the freshest and most magnetic of first ladies. Her style is not the couture-and-bling dazzle of Middle Eastern power but a deliberate lack of adornment. She’s a rare combination: a thin, long-limbed beauty with a trained analytic mind who dresses with cunning understatement. Paris Match calls her “the element of light in a country full of shadow zones.” She is the first lady of Syria.

Syria is known as the safest country in the Middle East, possibly because, as the State Department’s Web site says, “the Syrian government conducts intense physical and electronic surveillance of both Syrian citizens and foreign visitors.” It’s a secular country where women earn as much as men and the Muslim veil is forbidden in universities, a place without bombings, unrest, or kidnappings, but its shadow zones are deep and dark. Asma’s husband, Bashar al-Assad, was elected president in 2000, after the death of his father, Hafez al-Assad…

After the switch to hateful propaganda this article disappeared from Vogue, but it can still be read on Gawker: 

together with a gut-wrenching comment by John Cook: 

Reuters wrote in 2012: a “desert rose” crushed by Syria’s strife 

The Guardian wrote in 2016: Asma al-Assad: from Syria’s ‘desert rose’ to ‘first lady of hell’ 

The coordination, the perfection, the complete compliance by all Western media channels was eye-opening, frightening, and mind-blowing. It was proof that the disciples of Edward Bernays had perfected the art of brainwashing, indoctrination, and mind control, bringing it to a level which not even George Orwell had been able to imagine.

But why this unprecedented propaganda effort which most likely will one day backfire?

Muammar Gaddafi was demonized for years, so it was not difficult to justify the destruction of Libya with some lies about mass rapes and slaughter of unarmed protesters. The Assad’s on the other hand had a largely positive image as reformers, to reverse that and paint them as psychopathic monsters made it necessary to pull out all stops and to bombard the media audience with horror stories of atrocities, mass murder, sadism, and pure bloodlust.

Well, at least we now know what they are capable of. And every media mercenary (even Amy Goodman and George Monbiot) had to reveal him/herself.

False flag attrocities

From the start of the Syrian conflict Islamic insurgents committed massacres which were blamed on government forces.

In 2012 108 people, including women, children and old men, were killed in the Houla massacre. Most of the victims were government supporters but the atrocity was nevertheless blamed on shabiha militiamen. Later eye witness accounts published by the German paper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung claimed Islamist culpability and the UNHRC concluded that there was insufficient evidence to determine who had committed the massacre.

In 2013 some 200 people died in the Bayda and Baniyas massacres. The shabiha militia was also initially blamed for this.

The Alawite village of Ma’an was wiped out in 2014 by Jund al-Aqsa  and most inhabitants were killed. The same happened with the Alawite village Eshtabraq in 2015 and the Alawite village of Zara in 2016.

Islamists committed many other massacres against religious minorities (mainly Christians, but also Shia, Alawites, and Druze) with thousands of victims, but they were never reported by Western media.

The Ghouta Sarin attack in 2013, the Khan Shaykhun chemical attack in 2017, and the Douma chemical attack in 2018 were all blamed on government forces.

The chemical weapons manufacturing and storage sites which the US bombed in retaliation for the Douma attack had recently been inspected by the OPCW and cleared. Two OPCW whistleblowers have come out telling about evidence tampering and suppression of clear indications that the attack in Douma was staged by White Helmets.

There are many inconsistencies, gaps, and contradictions in the stories about the three mentioned gas attacks. Victims were admitted to hospitals before the attacks happened, witnesses changed their stories to bring them in line with the official narrative, samples were provided by Islamists without any OPCW oversight, White Helmet first responders were on the scene moving around without any protective gear.

A MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) report by former UN weapons inspector Richard Lloyd and Professor Theodor Postol revealed that the range of the rocket which was supposed to have carried the nerve gas was too short to have been launched from government-controlled areas. 

Agnes Mariam de la Croix, Mother Superior of the Syrian monastery of St James the Mutilated, reported that Alawite families claimed, the dead people shown in videos of the Eastern Ghouta sarin attack were their abducted relatives.

Similar claims were made by Shia families after they watched White Helmet videos of the alleged Khan Shaykhun gas attack.

The OPCW investigation in this case was done without any actual on-site inspection of either Khan Sheikhun or the Syrian air base at Shayrat where the alleged chemical weapons were supposedly sourced, relying instead on laboratory analysis of biomedical samples taken from victims in neighboring Turkey. 

Concerning the alleged chemical attack in Douma: Samples tested at the site contained just trace quantities of chlorinated organic compounds. A whistleblower writes in a leaked email to the OPCW cabinet chief that the levels “were, in most cases, present only in parts per billion range, as low as 1-2 ppb.”

Ian Henderson is the OPCW ballistics expert whose Engineering Assessment was leaked this past May. Henderson concluded that, contrary to what the OPCW’s Final Report strongly implies, the cylinders found at the scene in Douma were most likely to have been manually placed there.

Patients’ symptoms were not matching up with chlorine gas poisoning.

Only one member of the fact finding team that went to Douma, a paramedic, is said to have contributed to the final version of the report. Apart from that one person, an entirely new team was gathered to assemble the final report, referred to as the “FFM core team”. 

Newsweek’s Tareq Haddad, who was not allowed to cover the story, announced on Twitter that, rather than accepting top-down censorship on an important issue, he was publicly walking away from his job at the New York-based magazine.

I have collected evidence of how they suppressed the story in addition to evidence from another case where info inconvenient to US government was removed, though it was factually correct,” Haddad posted, adding that he will publish full details about the event shortly but that “I was threatened with legal action” from his employers, who had inserted a confidentiality clause into his contract for just such an occasion as this. (highly recommended reading)

Haddad is not the only one encountering such roadblocks from mass media editors; he’s just the only one going public about it.

Newsweek also recently published an article attacking Tucker Carlson for publicizing the OPCW story.

The USA, NATO allies, and Israel have invaded Syria, bombed it, seized Syrian assets, and enforced a tight embargo, all in bridge of international law. Portraying the Syrian Baath government as illegitimate and President Assad as a monstrous war criminal (“Animal Assad,” as Trump said) is essential for justifying these actions, and the alleged gas attacks, together with the now well established catchwords Mukhabarat, Sednaya, Caesar, shabiha, are the main vehicles to support the imperial narrative.

This narrative is uphold with overwhelming force, in spite of all contrary evidence, by mainstream media, by myriads of well established but also hastily new installed think tanks, websites, and blogs, by an army of internet trolls (or shills), by censoring social media messages, by shutting down “rogue” websites or at least blocking them with DoS attacks, by “fake news” blacklists, and by manipulated rankings in search engines.

And yet, people’s trust in mass media is at an all-time low while the ability to create grassroots networks and share information is at an all-time high. There is a good chance to break the spell of relentless propaganda which helps to enable the military aggression against nations that do not accept imperial rule and don’t buckle down.

A few social media comments to demonstrate that people are waking up:

– I’m waiting for something like the #AfghanistanPapers to be released about US involvement in Syria. The story won’t be one about corruption and false reports of progress but of knowingly helping Al Qaeda, its radical rebel friends, and even the Islamic State.

– Nothing new, USA has always fabricated evidence to start wars based on lies, to murder thousands of innocent people for profit. A criminal state, no surprise! But it’s good to have proof. Fortunately there is WikiLeaks otherwise everything will be a conspiracy theory! #FreeAssange

The orders from the American administration are clear: mislead justice and demonize the Syrian state.

– You are leaving out the part [of the story about the rebellion in 2011] where in some areas you had even post office workers being hung, beaten, and beheaded for being associated with the government. Not everything is so black and white.

– Now you may create a 500 page essay on how bad those regimes were and how those revolts were necessary. But while the one in Syria failed, it’s not like any of the other revolts that succeeded improved anything in those countries, they just changed one dictator for another one or for a bunch of warlords.

– Of course, for Western companies it’s easier to negotiate with warlords than with a central authority, so I guess they at least are happy enough with the result, but for the people in these countries, it’s just a nightmare.

– Assadist (noun): Anyone who opposes another regime change intervention in another strategic crucial Middle Eastern nation which refuses to be absorbed into the US-centralized empire.

The point is to create endless conflicts which the US can then join in. Endless wars = endless bombs, ammo, planes, tanks, AA, etc. being bought from US companies. It’s a massive multi billion dollar industry which would implode if there was no war, so there must be war.

– As usual. America is a war for profit peddler machine. It’s our best export: death and destruction. Perpetual war for profit and oil. It’s pure evil.

Further reading: 

A just released third batch of documents shows in detail the doctoring of facts in the released version of the OPCW about the alleged chlorine attack in Douma. It includes a memo, stating that 20 inspectors feel, the released version “did not reflect the views of the team members that deployed to Syria.”

Some Key points redacted in the final report:

Apart from the Schedule 3.B.17 chemical triethanolamine and a Schedule 2.B.04 chemical known as “AmgardV19”, the presence of which was satisfactorily explained, no other scheduled chemicals listed in the Annex on Chemicals of the Chemical Weapons Convention, or their degradation products, were detected in the samples analyzed so far.

1.10 Some of the signs and symptoms described by witnesses and noted in photos and Video recordings taken by witnesses, of the alleged victims are not consistent with exposure to chlorine-containing choking or blood agents such as chlorine gas, phosgene or cyanogen chloride. Specifically, the rapid onset of heavy buccal and nasal frothing in many victims, as well as the colour of the secretions, is not indicative of intoxication from such chemicals.

1.11 The large number of decedents in the one location (allegedly 40 to 45), most of whom were seen in videos and photos strewn on the floor of the apartments away from open windows, and within a few meters of an escape to un-poisoned or less toxic air, is at odds with intoxication by chlorine-based choking or blood agents, even at high concentrations.

1.12 The FFM team is unable to provide satisfactory explanations for the relatively moderate damage to the cylinders allegedly dropped from an unknown height, compared to the destruction caused to the rebar-reinforced concrete roofs. In the case of Location 4, how the cylinder ended up on the bed, given the point at which it allegedly penetrated the room, remains unclear. The team considers that further studies by specialists in metallurgy and structural engineering or mechanics are required to provide an authoritative assessment of the team’s observations.

1.13 The inconsistency between the presence of a putative chlorine-containing toxic chocking or blood agent on the one hand and the testimonies of alleged witnesses and symptoms observed from video footage and photographs, on the other, cannot be rationalized. The team considered two possible explanations for the incongruity:

a. The victims were exposed to another highly toxic chemical agent that gave rise to the symptoms observed and has so far gone undetected.

b. The fatalities resulted from a non-chemical-related incident

6.9 When the analytical results of the first round of environmental and biological samples were received and no nerve agents or their degradation products were identified in either environmental or biological samples, the plans for exhumations were halted as the risk of not finding substantive evidence of the alleged attack was now considered high and proceeding with the exhumations presented a risk to benefit ration that was no longer acceptable.

7.32 It was not apparent how a cylinder that seems to have entered the room at an angle perpendicular to the floor might have sufficient lateral momentum to travel more than three meters from the presumed impact point inside the bedroom (the floor directly beneath the hole in the ceiling) to its final resting position on the bed. Witness testimonies state that the cylinder was originally found on the bed by the first responders who were the first to enter the building, ruling out the possibility therefore that it was moved by someone from the impact point on the floor on to the bed.

7.49 Some witnesses stated many people died in the hospital on 7 April as result of the heavy shelling and/or suffocation due to inhalation of smoke and dust. As many as 50 bodies were lying on the ground of the emergency department awaiting burial. Others stated that there were no fatalities in Douma Hospital on 7 April, and neither were bodies brought to the hospital that day.

7.50 The SCD were in charge of burying the deceased in coordination with the local council. Most of the witnesses reported to be unaware of the location of the burial sites.

7.51 Some medical staff who were interviewed only heard about the alleged chemical attack from videos circulating on the internet or from other people, a couple of days after the alleged attack on 7 April.

7.52 Most of the medical staff present in the emergency department on the 7 April, who were interviewed, emphasised that the symptoms of the casualties were not consistent with those expected from a chemical attack. They also reported not having experience treating casualties of chemical weapons and some witnesses mentioned not being aware of any chemical attacks in Douma or Syria. Some interviewees stated that no odor emanated from the patients, while other witnesses declared that they perceived a smell of smoke on the patients’ clothes.

7.69 The FFM team analyzed the videos and photos in detail to try to ascertain their authenticity and potential as corroborative evidence. The analysis involved, inter alia, gathering metadata to verify the dates and time the videos and photos were created, assessing the consistency of the symptoms of chemical exposure displayed by the victims in the videos with chemical analyses and witness statements (elaborated on under the section on epidemiology), and the consistency of bodily injuries with death from exposure to a chemical agent. The following observations are noted by the FFM team:

· From an examination of the metadata, the FFM team was confident that the videos and photos provided by witnesses in relation to Locations 2 and 4 were created posterior to the alleged incident and were generally consistent with the alleged timings of events (See Annex 11 for the results of metadata analysis).

· From the various videos showing the deceased victims throughout the interior of Location 2, it is apparent that some of the victims have been moved and repositioned between video recordings.

· There were variations (see table and footnotes below) in the numbers of bodies and their distribution throughout Location 2 as observed in video footage and photos, compared to the numbers provided by various witnesses who were interviewed. According to statements from witnesses, “many people they presumed dead, were lying on the floor of the basement”. The FFM did not obtain any video footage or photos of dead casualties lying in the basement of Location 2 or being removed from there. There were also no photos or video footage available to the FFM team of the other two basements or of decedents, where three witnesses interviewed claimed to have been exposed to chlorine.

7.74 Chemical analysis results: The conclusions from the results of samples analyzed by designated laboratories were that some samples collected at Locations 2 and 4 had been in contact with one or more chemicals containing reactive chlorine. Examples of such chemicals include, molecular chlorine, phosgene, cyanogen chloride, hydrochloric acid, hypochlorous acid and sodium hypochlorite. From the analytical results the actual chemical could not be confirmed. No organophosphates or their degradation products were identified by either of the designated laboratories.

7.75 On the day following the alleged attack, first responders entered Location 2 wearing no personal protective equipment and extracted supposedly contaminated victims. There were no reports of secondary contamination.

7.76 Symptoms: The team notes that it did not witness first-hand any patients or decedents showing symptoms of exposure to toxic chemicals and that all the evidence came either from witness statements or recorded material available to the team.

7.77 The range of symptoms reported varies substantially depending on where and from whom the information was gathered. Witnesses interviewed in Damascus present a narrative whereby, on 7 April around the time of the alleged chemical attacks, casualties arrived at Location 1 displaying symptoms commensurate with asphyxiation from dust and fumes as a result of bombing. The symptoms included dyspnoea, cough and asthmatic exacerbation secondary to exposure to smoke and dust. Witnesses and victims interviewed in Country X describe symptoms that included shortness of breath, a burning sensation in the chest, oral hypersecretion, ocular irritation, visual disturbances, lacrimation, dysphonia, nausea, vomiting, pruritus, and in the case of some surviving victims, constricted pupils.

7.78 Open source videos and photographs as well as recorded media given to the FFM team by interviewees, were analyzed for external presentations of toxic chemical exposure. In one video showing decedents from the alleged chemical attack, several of the subjects display corneal opacity and some degree of thoracic or cervical extension. Many present various amounts of either white or clear oral secretions, similar in appearance to fulminate pulmonary edema. The secretions either lie in pools near the victims´ mouths on the floor or extruding ‘froth like’ from the mouth. The skin of some of the victims is brown stained, which may be vomitus or old blood. None of froth or secretions displays hues of pink that would have originated from the presence of blood. According to witness statements, the onset of frothing was quite rapid, and this is consistent with the images seen in the video footage and the time of their recording. Several victims show degrees of periorbital discoloration and early signs of livor mortis, and in one case an adolescent male displays obvious signs of rigor mortis. Most of the subjects appear to have wet hair.

7.79 In another video, widely circulated on social media immediately after the alleged chemical event, decontamination procedures are being carried out on a number of adults and children in a medical facility (Location 1). In the video at least 3 infants seem to display signs of respiratory distress, with rapid breathing and cyanosis/pallor. Children are seen being treated with an unknown medication via metered dose inhalers or small volume nebulizers. Other children are shown being either washed with water or treated with an oxygen mask. None appear ill.

7.80 The adults seen being treated in the video show apparent signs of mild or moderate respiratory distress and cough. There are no visible signs of external trauma or frothing from the mouth.

7.81 Analysis:A highly debilitating agent, in the opinion of the FFM team, would have to have been released in order to cause the rapid onset of symptoms described by witnesses and observed in the videos where large numbers of decedents are concentrated in different apartments at Location 2. The rapid onset of heavy salivation and frothing from the mouth would be more consistent with exposure to a highly toxic nerve agent than a chocking agent such as chlorine or phosgene. However, analytical results shown no indication of organophosphorus nerve agents or their degradation products present in samples collected at the scene of the alleged attack or in biomedical samples from victims.

7.82 Pulmonary edema and excessive frothing from the mouth have been reported in cases of exposure to lethal doses of chlorine gas or other toxic chlorine-based agents such as phosgene or cyanogen chloride [7] [8] [9]. However, indications are that pulmonary edema, particularly in the case of phosgene, is a late pathological effect of exposure and in cases of high exposure levels death can result before pulmonary edema develops [8] [9]. The white or light-cream color of the froth presented by victims is not in keeping with exposure to choking agents, where secretions are characteristically pinkish in color when frothing does occur. The rapid, and in some reported cases, immediate onset of frothing described by victims is not considered consistent with exposure to chlorine-based choking or blood agents. The opinion of a number of toxicologists, specialists in chemical-weapons-related intoxication supported this assessment.

7.83 In order to produce such rapid incapacitation that victims would be unable to escape the toxic gas from the location of the alleged chemical attack (see 3D layout of the building and description), a respiratory irritant such as chlorine or phosgene would almost certainly need to have rapidly accumulated to very high concentrations. It is considered unlikely, given the location of the suspected source of the toxic chemical as well as the configuration and condition of the building, that such concentrations would not have been attained, particularly in the basement. Moreover, if such high concentrations had developed, as mentioned above, reports suggest that asphyxiation would have been the likely cause of death before pulmonary edema and frothing could develop [10].

7.84 Witness statements recount that victims ran from the basement towards the upper floors of the building, and therefore counter to the direction of dissemination of the toxic gas, which reportedly came from the roof-top downwards. It should be expected that on encountering the irritant gas, victims would instinctively have retreated and exited the building, which was within a few metres away. An assessment report on a major chlorine-release disaster illustrated that in a mass-casualty situation, people will escape however possible and present to emergency departments of their own choosing [10].

7.85 Based on the above observations, expert opinions of toxicologists specialised in chemical weapons exposure, and published scientific knowledge in this area, the FFM team considers that chlorine gas or other reactive chlorine-containing toxic agents such as phosgene or cyanogen chloride would not have resulted in the severe and rapid frothing symptoms reported by witnesses and observed in video footage and photos.

Temporal Relationship:

7.86 To establish a coherent temporal relationship, the exposure must always precede the outcome in time. Although the FFM team did consider to some extent witness accounts to evaluate this relationship, the main activity involved an analysis of metadata of recorded materials given to the FFM team by witnesses.

7.87 With the assistance of IT specialists from the TS, the metadata of over two hundred videos and photographs was examined for temporal evidence. Although it was not possible to acquire data on all the materials, what was obtained demonstrated in all cases that the videos and photos of victims and munitions related to the alleged chemical attack were created after the date and time of the alleged events.

7.88 Although many of the bodies in Location 2 present signs of rigor mortis, it is difficult to determine from the video the time of death. To establish this and the origin of certain features identifiable on many of the bodies, the team considers that an expert in forensic pathology would be required to provide an authoritative assessment.

Possible alternative explanations:

7.89 One criterion used in forensic epidemiology to assess causation considers the possibility of an alternative explanation or, more specifically, the lack of one [6]. The team considered alternative injury events, but stresses they are founded on few or no substantiated supportive facts.

7.90 Firstly, the team considered the possibility that some unknown highly toxic chemical, which so far has eluded detection, might have been co-present or released simultaneously with the putative chlorine-containing agent. The team had no evidence however that this is the case and to date the prospect is merely speculative.

7.91 Secondly, the possibility that the casualties observed in video footage and photos may not have died in situ or are the victims of a non-chemical event cannot be discounted, although the FFM team does not have sufficient evidence to reach an authoritative conclusion on this possibility.

Transcript of the Assad interview on November 26:

Question 1: Mr. President, thanks for having us here. Let us know please, what’s the situation in Syria now, what’s the situation on the ground, what is happening in the country?

President Assad:  If we want to talk about Syrian society: the situation is much, much better, as we learned so many lessons from this war and I think the future of Syria is promising; we are going to come out of this war stronger.

Talking about the situation on the ground: The Syrian Army has been advancing for the last few years and has liberated many areas from the terrorists, there still remains Idlib where you have al-Nusra that’s being supported by the Turks, and you have the northern part of Syria where the Turks have invaded our territory last month.

So, regarding the political situation, you can say it’s becoming much more complicated, because you have many more players that are involved in the Syrian conflict in order to make it drag on and to turn it into a war of attrition.

Question 2:  When you speak about liberating, we know that there is a military vision on that, but the point is: how is the situation now for the people that decided to be back in society? The process of reconciliation, now at what point? Is it working or not?

President Assad: Actually, the methodology that we adopted when we wanted to create let’s say, a good atmosphere — we called it reconciliation, for the people to live together, and for those people who lived outside the control of government areas to go back to the order of law and institutions. It was to give amnesty to everyone who gives up his armament and obeys the law. The situation is not complicated regarding this issue, if you have the chance to visit any area, you’ll see that life is getting back to normal.

The problem wasn’t people fighting with each other; it wasn’t like the Western narrative may have tried to show — as Syrians fighting with each other, or as they call it a “civil war,” which is misleading. The situation was terrorists taking control of areas, and implementing their rules. When you don’t have those terrorists, people will go back to their normal life and live with each other. There was no sectarian war, there was no ethnical war, there was no political war; it was terrorists supported by outside powers, they have money and armaments, and they occupy those areas.

Question 3: Aren’t you afraid that this kind of ideology that took place and, you know, was the basis of everyday life for people for so many years, in some ways can stay in the society and sooner or later will be back?

President Assad: This is one of the main challenges that we’ve been facing. What you’re asking about is very correct. You have two problems. Those areas that were out of the control of government were ruled by two things: chaos, because there is no law, so people — especially the younger generation — know nothing about the state and law and institutions.

The second thing, which is deeply rooted in the minds, is the ideology, the dark ideology, the Wahabi ideology — ISIS or al-Nusra or Ahrar al-Cham, or whatever kind of these Islamist terrorist extremist ideologies.

Now we have started dealing with this reality, because when you liberate an area you have to solve this problem otherwise what’s the meaning of liberating? The first part of the solution is religious, because this ideology is a religious ideology, and the Syrian religious clerics, or let’s say the religious institutions in Syria, are making a very strong effort in this regard, and they have succeeded; they succeeded at helping those people understanding the real religion, not the religion that they’ve been taught by al-Nusra or ISIS or other factions.

Question 4: So basically, clerics and mosques are part of this reconciliation process?

President Assad: This is the most important part. The second part is the schools. In schools, you have teachers, you have education, and you have the national curriculum, and this curriculum is very important to change the minds of those young generations. Third, you have the culture, you have the role of arts, intellectuals, and so on. In some areas, it’s still difficult to play that role, so it was much easier for us to start with the religion, second with the schools.

Question 5: Mr. President, let me just go back to politics for an instant. You mentioned Turkey, okay? Russia has been your best ally these years, it’s not a secret, but now Russia is compromising with Turkey on some areas that are part of Syrian area, so how do you assess this?

President Assad: To understand the Russian role, we have to understand the Russian principles.  For Russia, they believe that international law — and international order based on that law — is in the interest of Russia and in the interest of everybody in the world. So, for them, by supporting Syria they are supporting international law; this is one point. Secondly, being against the terrorists is in the interest of the Russian people and the rest of the world.

So, being with Turkey and making this compromise doesn’t mean they support the Turkish invasion; rather they wanted to play a role in order to convince the Turks that they have to leave Syria. They are not supporting the Turks, they don’t say “this is a good reality, we accept it and Syria must accept it.” No, they don’t.  But because of the American negative role and the Western negative role regarding Turkey and the Kurds, the Russians stepped in, in order to balance that role, to make the situation… I wouldn’t say better, but less bad if you want to be more precise. So, in the meantime, that’s their role.  In the future, their position is very clear: Syrian integrity and Syrian sovereignty. Syrian integrity and sovereignty are in contradiction with the Turkish invasion, that is very obvious and clear.

Question 6: So, you’re telling me that the Russians could compromise, but Syria is not going to compromise with Turkey. I mean, the relation is still quite tense.

President Assad:  No, even the Russians didn’t make a compromise regarding the sovereignty. No, they deal with reality. Now, you have a bad reality, you have to be involved to make some… I wouldn’t say compromise because it’s not a final solution. It could be a compromise regarding the short-term situation, but in the long-term or the mid-term, Turkey should leave. There is no question about it.

Question 7: And in the long-term, any plan of discussions between you and Mr. Erdogan?

President Assad: I wouldn’t feel proud if I have to someday. I would feel disgusted to deal with those kinds of opportunistic Islamists, not Muslims, Islamists — it’s another term, it’s a political term. But again, I always say: my job is not to be happy with what I’m doing or not happy or whatever. It’s not about my feelings, it’s about the interests of Syria, so wherever our interests go, I will go.

Question 8: In this moment, when Europe looks at Syria, apart from the considerations about the country, there are two major issues: one is refugees, and the other one is the Jihadists or foreign fighters coming back to Europe. How do you see these European worries?

President Assad: We have to start with a simple question: who created this problem? Why do you have refugees in Europe? It’s a simple question: because of terrorism that’s being supported by Europe — and of course the United States and Turkey and others — but Europe was the main player in creating chaos in Syria. So, what goes around comes around.

Question 9: Why do you say it was the main player?

President Assad: Because they publicly supported, the EU supported the terrorists in Syria from day one, week one, or from the very beginning. They blamed the Syrian government, and some regimes like the French regime sent armaments, they said — one of their officials — I think their Minister of Foreign Affairs, maybe Fabius said “we send.” They sent armaments; they created this chaos. That’s why a lot of people find it difficult to stay in Syria; millions of people couldn’t live here so they had to get out of Syria.

Question 10: In this moment, in the region, there is turmoil, and there is a certain chaos. One of the other allies of Syria is Iran, and the situation there is getting complicated.  Does it have any reflection on the situation in Syria?

President Assad: Definitely, whenever you have chaos, it’s going to be bad for everyone, it’s going to have side-effects and repercussions, especially when there is external interference. If it’s spontaneous, if you talk about demonstrations and people asking for reform or for a better situation economically or any other rights, that’s positive. But when it’s for vandalism and destroying and killing and interfering from outside powers, then no — it’s definitely nothing but negative, nothing but bad, and a danger on everyone in this region.

Question 11: Are you worried about what’s happening in Lebanon, which is really the real neighbor?

President Assad: Yes, in the same way. Of course, Lebanon would affect Syria more than any other country because it is our direct neighbor. But again, if it’s spontaneous and it’s about reform and getting rid of the sectarian political system, that would be good for Lebanon. Again, that depends on the awareness of the Lebanese people in order not to allow anyone from the outside to try to manipulate the spontaneous movement or demonstrations in Lebanon.

Question 12: Let’s go back to what is happening in Syria. In June, Pope Francis wrote you a letter asking you to pay attention and to respect the population, especially in Idleb where the situation is still very tense, because there is fighting there, and when it comes even to the way prisoners are treated in jails. Did you answer him, and what did you answer?

President Assad: The letter of the Pope was about his worry for civilians in Syria and I had the impression that maybe the picture in the Vatican is not complete. That’s to be expected, since the mainstream narrative in the West is about this “bad government” killing the “good people;” as you see and hear in the same media — every bullet of the Syrian Army and every bomb only kills civilians and only hospitals! they don’t kill terrorists as they target those civilians! which is not correct.

So, I responded with a letter explaining to the Pope the reality in Syria — as we are the most, or the first to be concerned about civilian lives, because you cannot liberate an area while the people are against you. You cannot talk about liberation while the civilians are against you or the society. The most crucial part in liberating any area militarily is to have the support of the public in that area or in the region in general. That has been clear for the last nine years and that’s against our interests.

Question 13: But that kind of call, in some ways, made you also think again about the importance of protecting civilians and people of your country.

President Assad: No, this is something we think about every day, not only as morals, principles and values but as interests. As I just mentioned, without this support — without public support, you cannot achieve anything… you cannot advance politically, militarily, economically and in every aspect. We couldn’t withstand this war for nine years without the public support and you cannot have public support while you’re killing civilians. This is an equation, this is a self-evident equation, nobody can refute it. So, that’s why I said, regardless of this letter, this is our concern.

But again, the Vatican is a state, and we think that the role of any state — if they worry about those civilians, is to go to the main reason.  The main reason is the Western role in supporting the terrorists, and it is the sanctions on the Syrian people that have made the situation much worse — and this is another reason for the refugees that you have in Europe now. You don’t want refugees but at the same time you create the situation or the atmosphere that will tell them “go outside Syria, somewhere else,” and of course they will go to Europe. So, this state, or any state, should deal with the reasons and we hope the Vatican can play that role within Europe and around the world; to convince many states that you should stop meddling in the Syrian issue, stop breaking international law. That’s enough, we only need people to follow international law. The civilians will be safe, the order will be back, everything will be fine. Nothing else.

Question 14: Mr. President, you’ve been accused several times of using chemical weapons, and this has been the instrument of many decisions and a key point, the red line, for many decisions. One a year ago, more than one year ago, there has been the Douma event that has been considered another red line. After that, there has been bombings, and it could it have been even worse, but something stopped. These days, through WikiLeaks, it’s coming out that something wrong in the report could have taken place. So, nobody yet is be able to say what has happened, but something wrong in reporting what has happened could have taken place.

President Assad: We have always — since the beginning of this narrative regarding the chemical weapons — we have said that we didn’t use it; we cannot use it, it’s impossible to be used in our situation for many reasons, let’s say — logistical reasons.

Intervention: Give me one.

President Assad: One reason, a very simple one: when you’re advancing, why would you use chemical weapons?! We are advancing, why do we need to use it?! We are in a very good situation so why use it, especially in 2018? This is one reason.

Second, very concrete evidence that refutes this narrative: when you use chemical weapons — this is a weapon of mass destruction, you talk about thousands of dead or at least hundreds. That never happened, never — you only have these videos of staged chemical weapons attacks. In the recent report that you’ve mentioned, there’s a mismatch between what we saw in the video and what they saw as technicians or as experts. The amount of chlorine that they’ve been talking about: first of all, chlorine is not a mass destruction material, second, the amount that they found is the same amount that you can have in your house, it exists in many households and used maybe for cleaning and whatever. The same amount exactly.  That’s what the OPCW organization did — they faked and falsified the report, just because the Americans wanted them to do so. So, fortunately, this report proved that everything we said during the last few years, since 2013, is correct. We were right, they were wrong. This is proof, this is concrete proof regarding this issue. So, again, the OPCW is biased, is being politicized and is being immoral, and those organizations that should work in parallel with the United Nations to create more stability around the world — they’ve been used as American arms and Western arms to create more chaos.

Question 15: Mr. President, after nine years of war, you are speaking about the mistakes of the others. I would like you to speak about your own mistakes, if any. Is there something you would have done in a different way, and which is the lesson learned that can help your country?

President Assad: Definitely, for when you talk about doing anything, you always find mistakes; this is human nature. But when you talk about political practice, you have two things: you have strategies or big decisions, and you have tactics — or in this context, the implementation. So, our strategic decisions or main decisions were to stand against terrorism, to make reconciliation and to stand against the external meddling in our affairs. Today, after nine years, we still adopt the same policy; we are more adherent to this policy. If we thought it was wrong, we would have changed it; actually no, we don’t think there is anything wrong in this policy. We did our mission; we implemented the constitution by protecting the people.

Now, if you talk about mistakes in implementation, of course you have so many mistakes. I think if you want to talk about the mistakes regarding this war, we shouldn’t talk about the decisions taken during the war because the war — or part of it, is a result of something before.

Two things we faced during this war: the first one was extremism. The extremism started in this region in the late 60s and accelerated in the 80s, especially the Wahabi ideology. If you want to talk about mistakes in dealing with this issue: then yes, I will say we were very tolerant of something very dangerous. This is a big mistake we committed over decades; I’m talking about different governments, including myself before this war.

The second one, when you have people who are ready to revolt against the order, to destroy public properties, to commit vandalism and so on, they work against their country, they are ready to go and work for foreign powers — foreign intelligence, they ask for external military interference against their country. So, this is another question: how did we have those? If you ask me how, I would tell you that before the war we had more than 50,000 outlaws that weren’t captured by the police for example; for those outlaws, their natural enemy is the government because they don’t want to go to prison.

Question 16: And how about also the economic situation? Because part of it — I don’t know if it was a big or small part of it — but part of it has also been the discontent and the problems of population in certain areas in which economy was not working. Is it a lesson learned somewhere?

President Assad: It could be a factor, but definitely not a main factor. Some people talk about the four years of drought that pushed the people to leave their land in the rural areas to go to the city… it could be a problem, but this is not the main problem. They talked about the liberal policy… we didn’t have a liberal policy, we’re still socialist, we still have a public sector — a very big public sector in government. You cannot talk about liberal policy while you have a big public sector. We had growth, good growth.

Of course, in the implementation of our policy, again, you have mistakes. How can you create equal opportunities between people? Between rural areas and between the cities? When you open up the economy, the cities will benefit more, that will create more immigration from rural areas to the cities… these are factors, that could play some role, but this is not the issue. In the rural areas where you have more poverty, the money of the Qataris played a more actual role than in the cities, that’s natural. You pay them in half an hour what they get in one week; that’s very good for them.

Question 17: We are almost there, but there are two more questions that I want to ask you. One is about reconstruction, and reconstruction is going to be very costly. How can you imagine to afford this reconstruction, who could be your allies in reconstruction?

President Assad: We don’t have a big problem with that. Talking that Syria has no money… no, actually Syrians have a lot of money; the Syrian people around the world have a lot of money, and they want to come and build their country. Because when you talk about building the country, it is not giving money to the people, it’s about getting benefit — it’s a business. So, many people, not only Syrians, want to do business in Syria. So, talking about where you can have funds for this reconstruction, we already have, but the problem is that these sanctions prevent those businessmen or companies from coming and working in Syria. In spite of that, we started and in spite of that, some foreign companies have started finding ways to evade these sanctions and we have started planning.  It’s going to be slow, without the sanctions we wouldn’t have a problem with funding.

Question 18: Ending on a very personal note, Mr. President; do you feel like a survivor?

President Assad: If you want to talk about a national war like this, where nearly every city has been harmed by terrorism or external bombardment and other things, then you can talk about all the Syrians as survivors. I think this is human nature: to be a survivor.

Intervention:  And you yourself?

President Assad:  I’m a part of those Syrians.  I cannot be disconnected from them; I have the same feeling. Again, it’s not about being a strong person who is a survivor. If you don’t have this atmosphere, this society, or this incubator to survive, you cannot survive. It’s collective; it’s not a single person, it’s not a one-man show.