Read this:  Maher Assad, brother of the president, was ordered to personally lead the CW attack in east #Damascus. #Syria

‘Ruthless’ brother of President Assad accused of being behind chemical weapons attack which killed 1,200 Syrians

Mail online – 27.8.2013 – An Israeli television channel has alleged that Maher al-Assad was behind the chemical attack

The brother of President Bashar al-Assad has been accused of being behind the chemical weapons attack which killed thousands of Syrians. Maher al-Assad, a feared figure within the regime, has not been seen for more than a year.

But an Israeli television channel has alleged that he was behind the attack which killed up to 1,200 in Damascus last week – including many children. The commander of the 10,000 strong Republican Guard and the Fourth Armoured Division Maher has been a core figure in Syria’s two and half year civil war. The Channel 2 news report claimed that the shelling originated from the base of the Fourth Armoured Division, just south of Damascus.

Syria has denied using stocks of sarin to shell the area.

It would not be the first time that Maher – said to be his brother’s ‘enforcer’ – had been linked with some of the war’s bloodiest episodes, the Guardian reports.

Maher Assad, who is known for his brutality and commands key government units fighting against the Syrian rebels, was injured in the Damascus bombing on July 18, 2012,  which also claimed the life of his brother-in-law Assef Shawkat and the defence minister Dawoud Rajha.

It has been reported that at the time of the 2011 uprising Maher was spotted shooting at unarmed protesters.
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Assad’s brother accused of orchestrating chemical attack

SAUDI GAZETTE & GUARDIAN & REUTERS – 28.8.2013 – Pigeons lie on the ground after dying from what activists say is the use of chemical weapons by forces loyal to President Bashar Al-Assad in the Damascus suburbs of Arbeen on Saturday. – Reuters

DUBAI – Maher Al-Assad, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s brother, is being accused of involvement in Syria’s recent chemical weapons attack, the Guardian reported on Saturday. Not seen for a year, Maher has remained in the shadows commanding Syria’s most formidable military division, while his brother has been in the public eye. According to the Guardian, the question on the lips of many Syrians is to what extent has Maher played a role in the most recent atrocity witnessed in Syria.

The 4th Armored Division that Maher commands has been a chief protagonist on behalf of the regime. He has allegedly acted as division commander since 2000, and at the same time leads Syria’s other premier fighting force, the Republican Guards. The unit was active last week as loyalist forces launched their biggest operation yet to root out rebel groups from the capital.

The 4th division has remained relatively unaffected by desertions and defections that plagued other divisions in the first 18 months of the war. Maher’s last public appearance was several weeks before an explosion in a meeting room in central Damascus killed security chief, and the Assads’ brother-in-law, Assef Shawkat.

Meanwhile, a senior US administration official said there was “very little doubt” that a chemical weapon was used by the Syrian regime against civilians in an incident that killed at least a hundred people last week.

The official said on Sunday that the US intelligence community based its assessment given to the White House on “the reported number of victims, reported symptoms of those who were killed or injured, and witness accounts.”

The official said the White House believes the Syrian government is barring a UN investigative team immediate access to the site of the reported Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs in order to give the evidence of the attack time to degrade. French President Francois Hollande also said that evidence indicated the Syrian regime had carried out chemical weapons attacks on its own people last week. Hollande said there was “a body of evidence indicating that the Aug. 21 attack was chemical in nature, and that everything led to the belief that the Syrian regime was responsible for this unspeakable act.”

The French president called for UN weapons inspectors to be given access to suspect sites “without delay and without any restrictions whatsoever,” in a statement released by his office after he held telephone talks on the situation in Syria with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

A separate statement issued after Hollande held phone talks with British Prime Minister David Cameron said the two leaders “unreservedly condemned the use of chemical weapons in Syria.” The presidency said Hollande and Cameron have agreed to hold talks soon on how to respond to the regime’s “intolerable act,” which it said France was determined “not to let… go unpunished.”

The Syrian opposition accuses Assad’s forces of killing more than 1,300 people on Wednesday in chemical attacks east and southwest of Damascus. Doctors Without Borders said 355 people died this week of “neurotoxic” symptoms.

Urine, blood and hair samples collected in Damascus on Wednesday were being transported to various European capitals including Paris for testing, French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche reported Sunday.

The results of previous samples taken from Syria in May led France to accuse the regime of using the nerve gas sarin. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Sunday the US military was ready to take action against the Assad regime if ordered to by Barack Obama. – Agencies


GERMAN ntv – TELEVISION +++ 09:32 UN-Offizieller: Assads Bruder befahl Giftgaseinsatz +++

Offenbar soll der Bruder des syrischen Diktators Assad, Maher al-Assad, den grausamen Befehl zum Giftgasangriff gegeben haben. Das berichtet die Nachrichtenagentur Bloomberg und beruft sich auf einen Vertreter der Vereinten Nationen, der den bewaffneten Konflikt in der Region überwacht. Vielleicht habe es sich sogar um eine überstürzte Aktion des Bruders gehandelt, weniger um eine strategische Entscheidung des Präsidenten, heißt es weiter. Maher al-Assad ist der jüngere Bruder des Präsidenten und befehligt die Republikanische Garde und die Vierte Panzerdivision der syrischen Armee.


Assad wants Assad dead Click for Full Text

 August 27, 2013 Times of Israel – Farid N. Ghadry

In my best estimation, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad wants his brother Maher dead. Also, in my best estimation, it was Maher who unleashed the gas attack without any warnings or orders from anyone, which is why Russia has issued a statement saying a US military intervention will not cause it to start a war. The Russians are happy if this surgical US approach means Bashar can survive. –


Exclusive: Intercepted Calls Prove Syrian Army Used Nerve Gas, U.S. Spies Say

FOREIGN POLICY – By Noah Shachtman  Tuesday, August 27, 2013 – 8:54 PM 

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.

But the intercept raises questions about culpability for the chemical massacre, even as it answers others: Was the attack on Aug. 21 the work of a Syrian officer overstepping his bounds? Or was the strike explicitly directed by senior members of the Assad regime? “It’s unclear where control lies,” one U.S. intelligence official told The Cable. “Is there just some sort of general blessing to use these things? Or are there explicit orders for each attack?” 

Nor are U.S. analysts sure of the Syrian military’s rationale for launching the strike — if it had a rationale at all. Perhaps it was a lone general putting a long-standing battle plan in motion; perhaps it was a miscalculation by the Assad government. Whatever the reason, the attack has triggered worldwide outrage, and put the Obama administration on the brink of launching a strike of its own in Syria. “We don’t know exactly why it happened,” the intelligence official added. “We just know it was pretty fucking stupid.”

American intelligence analysts are certain that chemical weapons were used on Aug. 21 — the captured phone calls, combined with local doctors’ accounts and video documentation of the tragedy — are considered proof positive. That is why the U.S. government, from the president on down, has been unequivocal in its declarations that the Syrian military gassed thousands of civilians in the East Ghouta region. 

However, U.S. spy services still have not acquired the evidence traditionally considered to be the gold standard in chemical weapons cases: soil, blood, and other environmental samples that test positive for reactions with nerve agent. That’s the kind of proof that America and its allies processed from earlier, small-scale attacks that the White House described in equivocal tones, and declined to muster a military response to in retaliation.

There is an ongoing debate within the Obama administration about whether to strike Assad immediately — or whether to allow United Nations inspectors to try and collect that proof before the bombing begins. On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney called the work of that team “redundant … because it is clearly established already that chemical weapons have been used on a significant scale.” 

But within the intelligence community, at least, “there’s an interest in letting the U.N. piece run its course,” the official said. “It puts the period on the end of the sentence.”

When news about the Ghouta incident first trickled out, there were questions about whether or not a chemical agent was to blame for the massacre. But when weapons experts and U.S. intelligence analysts began reviewing the dozens of videos and pictures allegedly taken from the scene of the attacks, they quickly concluded that a nerve gas, such as sarin, had been used there. The videos showed young victims who were barely able to breathe and, in some cases, twitching. Close-up photos revealed that their pupils were severely constricted. Doctors and nurses who say they treated the victims reported that they later became short of breath as well. Eyewitnesses talk of young children so confused, they couldn’t even indentify their own parents. All of these are classic signs of exposure to a nerve agent like sarin, the Assad regime’s chemical weapon of choice. 

Making the case even more conclusive were the images of the missiles that supposedly delivered the deadly attacks. If they were carrying conventional warheads, they would have likely been all but destroyed as they detonated. But several missiles in East Ghouta were found largely intact. “Why is there so much rocket left? There shouldn’t be so much rocket left,” the intelligence official told The Cable. The answer, the official and his colleagues concluded, was that the weapon was filled with nerve agent, not a conventional explosive.

In the days after the attacks, there was a great deal of public discussion about which side in Syria’s horrific civil war actually launched the strike. Allies of the Assad regime, like Iran and Russia, pointed the finger at the opposition. The intercepted communications told a different story — one in which the Syrian government was clearly to blame.

The official White House line is that the president is still considering his options for Syria. But all of Washington is talking about a punitive strike on the Assad government in terms of when, not if. Even some congressional doves have said they’re now at least open to the possibility of U.S. airstrikes in Syria. Images of dead children, neatly stacked in rows, have a way of changing minds.

“It’s horrible, it’s stupid,” the intelligence official said about the East Ghouta attack by the Syrian military. “Whatever happens in the next few days — they get what they deserve.”

“Wir wissen nur, dass es verdammt dumm war”

DIE WELT 28.38. 2013 – Der US-Geheimdienst will Gespräche abgehört haben, in denen Syriens Führung über den Giftgas-Einsatz streitet. Möglicherweise war die Attacke nicht koordiniert. Trägt ein übereifriger Offizier Schuld?

 Nach einem Die USA sind sicher: Das Regime von Baschar al-Assad in Syrien ist für den Giftgasangriff auf Zivilisten im Land verantwortlich. Hintergrund für diese Erkenntnisse sind offenbar von US-Diensten abgehörte Telefonate in der vergangenen Woche, berichtet die US-Fachzeitschrift “Foreign Policy”.

Demnach hätte ein Mitarbeiter des syrischen Verteidigungsministeriums am vergangenen Mittwoch in Panik bei einer Giftgaseinheit angerufen und gefragt, was denn dieser Angriff auf die Bevölkerung solle. Damit scheint klar: Assad selbst steckt zumindest indirekt hinter dem Angriff, bei dem über 1000 Menschen auf qualvolle Art ums Leben kamen.

Doch gleichzeitig wirft das abgehörte Telefonat neue Fragen nach der Schuldigkeit des Regimes auf. War der Angriff auf die Zivilisten etwa das Werk einen übereifrigen Offiziers, der seine Vorschriften überschritten hat? Oder steckt doch direkt Assad dahinter?

“Es ist unklar, wer dafür genau Verantwortung trägt”, zitiert “Foreign Policy” einen US-Geheimdienstmitarbeiter. Die Frage sei, ob das Militär einen eigenen Entscheidungsspielraum habe oder solche Angriffe nur nach speziellen Befehlen erfolgten. “Wir wissen nicht genau, warum es passiert ist”, so der Mann weiter. “Wir wissen nur, dass es verdammt dumm war.” Und: “Was auch immer in den nächsten Tagen passiert: Die syrische Führung wird das bekommen, was sie verdient hat.”

UN stützen Erkenntnisse der US-Behörden

Was aus Sicht der Amerikaner zudem für einen Angriff mit chemischen Waffen spricht, sind Bilder von völlig intakten Sprengköpfen aus der angegriffenen Region. “Wenn die Raketen konventionelle Sprengköpfe getragen hätten, wären sie vermutlich alle explodiert und komplett zerstört worden. Aber viele der Raketen wurden völlig intakt aufgefunden. Warum ist das so? Es sollte nicht so sein”, zitiert “Foreign Policy” den Mann. Der Grund dafür könne nur sein, dass die Sprengköpfe nicht konventioneller Art waren.