Thursday, April 13, 2017

Syria accuses US of bombing an ISIS chemical weapons base near Deir ez Zor

Deir ez-Zor clashes (2017)
Deir ez-Zor after the last offensive. Via Wikipedia user MrPenguin20.

Syria has accused the US led coalition of bombing a ISIS chemical weapons factory in the Dier ez Zor province and killing hundreds of people. Reuters. The Syrians say that the attack proves that ISIS has access to chemical weapons. A spokesman for the US Air Force denied that any airstrikes were conducted by the coalition in the area and time frame of the alleged attack. Outside news organizations have not been able to confirm the Syrian's claims and the Russian Defense Ministry also claims no knowledge of the incident. 

My Comment:
You know how I know that Syria is lying about the Khan Shiekhoun gas attack? Because this story reeks of propaganda. First of all, the above image shows the front lines near Deir ez Zor as of January. Things have changed a little bit since then but you can see that the Syrians only really control a small area of the city that has been under siege for a very long time now and was recently split in two by a semi successful ISIS offensive. 

If you look at a wider map focused on Deir ez Zor province, like this one, you can see that the red areas near the city itself are the only areas that the Syrian government controls. The attack supposedly occurred to the east of the city. What's to the east of Deir ez Zor? A sea of ISIS controlled territory. Which raised the obvious question: If there was an airstrike that killed hundreds of people east of Deir ez Zor, why would the Syrians know about it? They aren't anywhere near that area. 

Second, although ISIS has used chemical weapons in the past and have even produced their own, most of those attacks were using chlorine. While bombing a chlorine storage place could cause quite a few casualties, I don't think you could really claim it was a weapons factory unless you knew for a fact that that is what ISIS was doing with it. Same thing with the pesticides ISIS has used in attacks as well. If something did happen in ISIS controlled territory it could be something as simple as a regular old chemical plant getting bombed by mistake and it would have nothing to do with chemical weapons. Chlorine and pesticides have obvious uses outside of warfare and it's not surprising at all that ISIS controls some stockpiles of them. 

ISIS has also used and created mustard gas. However, there hasn't been a major attack by ISIS using mustard gas in quite some time. More than a year ago I speculated as to why that could be. I think the most obvious reason is that they simply ran out of the precursor chemicals used to make them and their chemical weapons experts died in US airstrikes. The withering cycle of airstrikes and combat have most likely eviscerated ISIS's chemical weapons capabilities. If ISIS has any chemical weapons left, outside of the more slapdash and makeshift chlorine and pesticide weapons, I would be somewhat surprised. There is no doubt in my mind that ISIS had chemical weapons, but nothing recent has suggested that they still have stocks of mustard gas. 

And we have to remember that ISIS's chemical weapons program was rudimentary at best. Their attacks with mustard gas mostly consisted of a few mortar shells and nothing else. There was never the mass scale strikes that killed hundreds, and most of the attacks only injured people. Quite frankly, ISIS sucked at making mustard gas even before most of their experts got killed and I doubt that if they had a warehouse making chemical arms that it would be large enough to kill hundreds of civilians. 

Still, there is a small chance of this story being true. If it is then I think it is possible that the coalition hit a weapons lab or cache. I think that lab or cache being ISIS made weapons is extremely unlikely and it being a captured stash of Syrian government weapons only slightly more likely. I give this story less than a 5% chance of being even partially true. 

So why would Syria lie about this? Well, if people believed it, it would give credence to their claims about the Khan Shiekhoun chemical attack. Their official stance is that it was either a weapons cache on the ground that got accidentally bombed or a false flag conducted by ISIS. 

I think also that the Syrian government wants to plant the seed of doubt in peoples minds. If ISIS is using chemical weapons as well, isn't Syria justified in using them in return? Possibly, but right now that's not the way the media is portraying the story and this claim would possibly shift it to a more pro-Syria slant. It would also play well domestically, painting ISIS in an even worse light and also downplaying the Syrian government's own atrocities. 

Either way, this seems like a very transparent and obvious lie and I don't think it makes Syria look good at all. It's so obvious that I have marked down the chances of the chemical attack being anything other than a deliberate strike. Why would Syria lie so obviously and badly if they didn't have something to hide? I guess new evidence could be discovered and if it is I will revisit this story, but I am guessing that this is the last time we hear about this supposed airstrike... 

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