The Balance of Probabilities 1084

Unlike the famous chemical weapons “attack” portrayed by the BBC in Saving Syria’s Children, it does appear that in the latest incident at Idlib there was real horror inflicted by chemical attack of some kind. The question is who did it and why?

I am no fan of the Assad regime, and I have no problem using the word “regime” to describe it. Dictators do hold and win elections. I have lived in severe dictatorships and seen from the inside how they do it. The human rights abuses of the Assad regime have been well documented for decades.

But Bashar al Assad is neither stupid nor unsophisticated. Aided by Putin, he outwitted Obama by quickly giving up his chemical weapons to be destroyed and accepting transparency in verification. There is no justification for the destruction of Iraq, but if Saddam Hussein had been able to swallow pride as completely as Assad, he too could have had a very good chance of averting disaster.

Assad had seen his position go from strength to strength, thanks to Putin’s astute deployment of Russia’s limited military power. Militarily the balance had swung dramatically in Assad’s favour, while Trump had said the unsayable and acknowledged that putting Syria into the hands of Wahabbist crazies was not in the United States interest.

So I cannot conceive that Assad would risk throwing all of this away for the sake of a militarily insignificant small chemical weapons attack. It would be an act of the most extreme folly. It is not impossible – hubris is a great temptation to dictators – but given how Assad has played it so far, it seems out of character and extremely improbable. What is less improbable is a local battlefield decision by pro-Assad forces. In my close observation of dictatorial regimes, a fascinating feature is that they operate an image of the perfection of the state. They are highly adverse to admitting mistakes.

What did happen I do not profess to know. There are at least eleven major identifiable state and non-state forces involved in the fighting around Idlib. In going through them all and considering opportunity and motive for each, I continually find that those whose motive would be false flag stand to benefit a great deal more than those who might have been seeking military advantage.

I am therefore for now unconvinced that this was a deliberate use of chemical weapons by Assad forces. I do not rule it out, but it would take much more concrete evidence than currently offered to prove they did something so strongly and obviously against their own interest. But western governments and media have determined to make that the narrative, so the truth is, as so often in modern geo-politics, entirely incidental to the course of future events.

1,084 thoughts on “The Balance of Probabilities

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  • mog

    Monbiot is still determined to shout down anyone who is doubtful of the empire’s version of the Idlib event, calling doubters ‘deniers’.

    He cites Elliot Higgins (published by the Atlantic Council) as his definitive ‘proof’. Read about them if you don’t know already, and wonder what is George Monbiot’s mind state?

  • Sharp Ears

    Coalition Strikes Daesh Depot With Chemical Weapons in Deir ez-Zor – Syrian MoD
    12:59 13.04.2017(updated 13:59 13.04.2017)
    The Syrian General Staff said that the US-led coalition struck a Daesh depot storing chemical weapons in Deir ez-Zor on Wednesday.

    The Syrian military said that this fact proves that terrorists possess chemical weapons.

    ‘According to the Syrian General Staff, the US-led coalition’s strike killed ++ several hundred people++, including civilians. Hundreds were poisoned as a result of the strike on Daesh’s headquarters and depot with chemical weapons.’

    • Paul Barbara

      @ Sharp Ears April 13, 2017 at 12:31
      And apparently not a peep out of the one-jerk-band Syrian Human Rights Observatory, or whatever it calls itself. Why?
      Not an attack on your comment, SE, just a target for any ‘Regime Change’ supporters on here. We’ll see if they bite!
      There, I’ve given my dastardly plot away!

  • Trowbridge H. Ford

    Now China has shown its true colors, calling for North Korea to give up is nuclear ambitions, and that it will protect it if it does which explains why it abstained on the UN resolution for a kangaroo western court to determine that Russia was behind the recent gas attack in Syria. Beijing wants a peaceful solution to current international problems

    Posters should thin of immigrating to China as its governors are much more sensible than the Anglo-American war mongers.

  • Trowbridge H. Ford

    Now the Pentagon is pre-empting Assad’s statement that the Syrian government was not involved in the deadly gas attack there by saying that it has secret intelligence that not only Syria but also Russia was behind the attack on the hospital afterwards to help cover up the war crimes.

    America is now totally at the mercy of its own government’s covert lies.

  • michael norton

    President Assad: Idlib attack 100% fabricated, Syria has already destroyed all chemical weapons.
    “Definitely, 100 percent for us, it’s fabrication… Our impression is that the West, mainly the United States, is hand-in-glove with the terrorists,” President Assad told the French news agency in his first interview since the retaliatory US missile strike on a Syrian airbase in Shayrat.

    “They fabricated the whole story in order to have a pretext for the attack,” he said.

    Not looking so rosy for President Trump.

    He has been duped.

  • Barry

    Look lot like Conservative Friends of Israel are cashing in their chips. Johnston should not ever be in a situation on Syria. His close relationship with CFI but also his questionable domicile raises questions of impartiality.

    • michael norton

      The Pentagon confirmed Thursday that the explosive colossus was dropped in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province, making it the first time America’s largest non-nuclear weapon has been used in a combat situation.

      Pentagon spokesman Adam Stump said it was the first ever combat use of the bomb, which contains 11 tons of explosives.

      Stump said the bomb was dropped on a cave complex believed to be used by ISIS fighters in the Achin district of Nangarhar province, very close to the border with Pakistan.

      This might also be a message to SYRIA,
      we dropped 59 Tomahawk weapons on your 50 hardened bunkers, but you continue to use the airport, one more mis-step and bunker buster for Syria.

      • Nick

        More like “look at us….we aren’t sponsoring terrorism. Hell we just dropped a big goddam bomb in the middle of nowhere to prove it. How could we be arming those fighting assad and russia?” Piss poor show.

    • Hieroglyph

      I will say this for Trump: he appears to be bombing the correct people, mostly. The US has a long, bloody history of bombing left wing groups, wedding guests, and pro-democracy forces, so bombing terrorists is an improvement, at the margins.

      I should note, I am quite clear that the US has gone insane, and I don’t approve of any of these military strikes. My approval, of course, is meaningless, but I condemn these strikes nonetheless. Nope, the US needs to draw down, get rid of all its bases, and stop acting crazy. It’s not yet clear if Syria is about to be invaded, and I remain hopeful that Trump will avoid that quagmire. This hope is not based on any experience, or logic, it is a fleeting thing that, doubtless, will evaporate soon. But, nonetheless, they haven’t invaded yet. We will see.

      And he’s still better than Clinton. She’s a whack job.

      • bevin

        Bombs like this one are genocidal-and some. They kill everything within a large area. Essentially they are without military purpose, simply toys that vain scientists devise to amuse their masters in the MIC, who lobby furiously for their use in the hope of profitable orders being renewed.
        With budgets the size of those the Pentagon struggles to spend such weapons systems are useful. Pity about the formerly living creatures, the flora too and the atmosphere.
        What a way to celebrate the Crucifixion.

  • Sharp Ears

    Ramzy Baroud was born in Gaza,

    This is his latest essay.

    Palestine retold: Palestine’s tragic anniversaries are not only about remembrance
    April 10, 2017

    For Palestinians, 2017 is a year of significant anniversaries.

    While historians mark May 15th as the anniversary of the date on which Palestinians were expelled from their historic homeland in 1948, the fact is the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians began in earnest in 1947.

    In strict historical terms 1947 and ‘48 were the years in which Palestine was conquered and depopulated.

    The tragedy, which remains a bleeding wound until this day, started 70 years ago.


    • Álvares Reyes

      John Mearsheimer gave recently an excellent talk on what’s happened in the 10 years after they published the Israel Lobby book with Stephen Walt (“Israel Lobby and American Policy” conference on March 24th, 2017 at the National Press Club), he summarizes brilliantly the current Israeli situation:

      Washington Report on Middle East Affairs event also had talks by Hanan Ashrawi (Palestinian Perspective on the Peace Process), Tom Hayes (Challenges in Working Against the Israel Lobby), Ilan Pappe (Decolonizing Israel), Jim Moran & Nick Rahall (Fighting the Israel Lobby in Congress) – those are the ones I’ve watched so far on youtube, all very interesting.
      Assad’s AFP interview:

      I’m more inclined to believe him in this instance, at this point in time. I may change my mind if I see actual evidence proving otherwise.

  • michael norton

    The Taliban, of Afghanistan, are now calling themselves the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA),
    is a Sunni Islamic fundamentalist political movement in Afghanistan currently waging war (an insurgency, or jihad) within that country.
    Not sure if these are the people the MOAB was dropped on by Trump, yesterday?

    Al-Qaeda is a militant Sunni Islamist multi-national organization founded in 1988 by Osama bin Laden, Abdullah Azzam,
    and several other Arab volunteers who fought against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s.

    Islamic State are also Sunni.

    So these three Islamist terror groups are all Sunni.

    President Assad is not Sunni,
    he is trying to hols Syria together,
    while it is being ravaged by various outside groups, including
    Turkey, U.S.A., Jordan, Israel, Kuwait, Qatar, U.A.E., U.K. and France?

  • michael norton

    U.S.A. MOAB “mother of all bombs” killed 36 Islamic State militants in Afghanistan
    As many as 36 suspected Islamic State militants were killed in Afghanistan when the United States dropped “the mother of all bombs,” one of the largest non-nuclear devices ever unleashed in combat, the Afghan defence ministry said on Friday.

    Thursday’s strike came as U.S. President Donald Trump dispatches his first high-level delegation to Kabul, amid uncertainty about his plans for the nearly 9,000 American troops stationed in Afghanistan.

    The deaths have not been independently verified, but ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri said no civilians were harmed in the massive blast that targeted a network of caves and tunnels.

    “No civilian has been hurt and only the base, which Daesh used to launch attacks in other parts of the province, was destroyed,” Waziri said in a statement.

    He was using an Arabic term that refers to Islamic State, which has established a small stronghold in eastern Afghanistan and launched deadly attacks on the capital, Kabul.

    The 21,600-pound (9,797-kg) GBU-43 bomb, was dropped from an MC-130 aircraft in the Achin district of the eastern province of Nangarhar bordering Pakistan, Pentagon spokesman Adam Stump said on Thursday.


    So Donald Trump has opened up three fronts at once, is that wise?

  • Trowbridge H. Ford

    Is North Korea to experience a surface earthquake at its test site, like Iran suffered while the Obama administration was trying to get the Senate to approve a new START treaty with Moscow?

    North Korea has suffered two significant, surface earthquakes in the past year, and another Pentagon-made one would be quite effective today rather than dropping another MOAB bomb or a nuclear one.

    Just the kind of surprise that bully Trump is capable of.

  • Dave

    In an odd way Trumps attacks are a form of false flag, intended to steer the narrative, like the mock drill false flags, with few getting killed. The attack on Syria, coordinated with Russia, was a $60 million attack on an empty airfield causing little practical damage and the MOAB is a $18million attack on an almost empty mountain range in the middle of nowhere. Both attacks kill people, all sides have blood on their hands, but neither really risks war because the damage in the scheme of things is slight. In return Trump gets to look tough and anti-Russian and the Pentagon are happy because they’re using up ordinance that presumably now needs replacing. For the arms dealers spending $billions destroying a $10 mud hut or pick-up truck, suits them fine. They’re not really bothered why or on what their weapons are used, as long as they’re used and need replacing. Its the neo-cons who will be upset, because the attacks are not designed to start WWIII. In other words I’m saying there still maybe a pro-Russian, end the foreign wars, method to Trump’s madness! I hope.

  • michael norton

    The Donald to open up a fourth front.

    U.S.A. troops to “help” Somalia fight al-Shabab – Black Hawk Down.

    This is the first time regular US troops have been deployed in Somalia since 1994, although some counter-terrorism advisers are already there.

    President Donald Trump last month approved a directive allowing tougher action against al-Shabab.

    In 1993, 18 US special forces personnel were killed in the incident dramatised in the Hollywood film Black Hawk Down.

    • Herbie


      His kind are an endangered species.

      At least in msm, but perhaps more generally.

      Anyway, this war hungry drunk act is a means of putting competitors on edge.

      Contradicting himself ten times before breakfast, flip flopping all over the place, 180 degree turns, sudden strikes without warning, duckin and divin here there and anywhere.

      Hard to figure what he’s gonna do next.

      That’s the point.

      Trump’s buffoonish demeanour allows him to carry this off rather well. His language is imprecise, colloquial, idiomatic, and delivered in a matey way.

      Easy to brush off anything he’s previously said, as if it were only the lads in their cups from the night before.

      Bit like Johnson’s act, in many ways.

      It’s kinda more like guerilla tactics than what you’d expect from an empire at its height.

  • Salford Lad
    Mathew Rycroft the UK representative at the UN, pushing the false US version of the chemical weapon attack in Syria. I believe he was also involved with the promotion of the ‘dodgy dossier ‘ that Tony Blair used to involve us in the Iraq War.
    Possibly Craig has some background on this toadie.

    • Bobm

      Salford Lad

      Rycroft was Blair’s Private Secretary.

      His most notorious involvement was in penning the memo, on Blair’s behalf, confirming that it was Blair’s “unequivocal view” that Saddam was in material breach of the SC resolution on which Goldsmith relied in advising that the invasion of Iraq was legally defensible.

      You can find all the material you could wish for on Chris Lamb’s site:

      and still more on Chris Ames’ site:

        • Salford Lad

          Thank you Bobm, same old bastards ,keep popping up. Britain is up to its eye-balls in Syria, but remains largely under the radar to many, The White Helmets propagandists and ‘false flag; producers are the brain child of MI6, trained and directed by their ex-British mercenary James Le Mesurier, financed by the coalition of the US ,with a British contribution to date of $24m.
          They even gave them a Hollywood Oscar for a documentary,,promoted by their stooge George Clowney. They are really taking the Harry Michael.

  • michael norton

    SYRIA war: HUGE BOMB kills dozens of evacuees in Syria

    A huge car bomb has blasted a convoy of coaches carrying evacuees from government-held towns in Syria, killing at least 39 people.

    It shattered coaches and set cars on fire, leaving a trail of bodies including children, as the convoy waited in rebel territory near Aleppo.

    Russian troops have reportedly moved to shield rebel evacuees from retaliation.

    Thousands of evacuees from both sides of Syria’s civil war have been stuck in hostile territory since Friday.

    The “Four Towns” deal brokered by Iran and Qatar was meant to relieve suffering in besieged towns – Foah and Kefraya in the north-west which are under government control, and rebel-held Madaya and Zabadani near Damascus.


    I suppose Trump will blame Assad, personally, for this crime?

    • Paul Barbara

      @ michael norton April 15, 2017 at 17:34
      ‘…I suppose Trump will blame Assad, personally, for this crime?’
      And so he jolly well should! Assad’s driving licence was found unscathed in the remnants of the car.

  • michael norton

    Islamic State militant linked to the Paris Charlie Hebdo attack could still be alive – Iraq

    “Iraqi intelligence supplied information to the Syrian airforce to carry out a series of strikes on Islamic State headquarters and hideouts in Syria, including one believed to belong to el-Hakim, an Iraqi military statement said.

    Aircraft from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s airforce targeted several locations in Raqqa and Albu Kamal, near the Iraqi border, said the statement, without indicating the location of el-Hakim’s headquarters or the date of the raids.

    An Iraqi military spokesman told Reuters el-Hakim’s headquarters were destroyed but it wasn’t clear if he was killed.

    In 2015 Iraq and Syria established a joint committee with Russia and Iran, Assad’s main foreign backers, to share intelligence about Islamic State.”

    So it would seem Iraq are cooperating with the Syrian airforce.

    However the Americans are bombing the Syrian airforce

    why don’t the Americans bomb Islamic State?

    • michael norton

      More Particularly,
      Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Iran and Russia are cooperating to defeat Islamic State.

      However that alliance does not suit the coalition of the willing, headed by America

      If we go back three decades, Afghanistan asked Russia for help to suppress the Taliban / Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan

      now the Americans did not like that so they armed al-Qaeda

      So multiple years down the line MOAB is dropped on Afghanistan, yet just as Russia/Iraq/Lebanon/Iran and Syria start to get a handle on
      Islamic State /al-Qaeda the Americans fire off 59 Tomahawks and threaten more

      so what is going on?

  • michael norton

    Five Eyes
    You might have thought that the United Kingdom “Listening” centre in Cyprus
    would have been able to detect if
    Shayrat Airbase was the forward point for dropping SARIN on the villages in Idlib Province.

    Six Eyes

    According to the news magazine L’Obs, in 2009, the United States proposed to France to join the Five Eyes, that would then have become the “Six Eyes”. Nicolas Sarkozy however made the requirement to be granted the same status as other allies, including the signing of a “no-spy agreement”. This requirement was approved by the director of the NSA, but not by the director of the CIA,
    and furthermore not by President Barack Obama, resulting in a refusal from France.

    |One would imagine, now The United Kingdom is splitting the crazy European scene,
    that further enlargement of Fives Eyes into non-English- speaking Europe is off the table?

    but keeping, including Cyprus and Gibratar.

    • Salford Lad

      Michael Norton, desist from spreading the US propaganda. Assad did not drop Sarin on his fellow citizens or anyone else. He does not have Sarin. All stocks were removed under UN supervision in 2013, The Sarin atrocity in Ghouta in 2013 was a Jihadist set-up to drag the US into the war.
      The attack on Shayrat airfield was planned days before and the chemical weapon attack was another set-up by the Jihadists and their behind the scenes supporters.
      If in doubt, ask Cui Bono. In this case certainly not Assad, but certainly Donald Trump ,who has got the Russiagate monkey off his back and the Jihadists, who scored a propaganda victory.

      • michael norton

        Assad’s denials of chemical attack ‘100% lies’, says French foreign minister
        Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s comments that last week’s chemical weapons attack was a fabrication to justify a US military strike are “100 percent lies”, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said Friday.

        “It’s 100 percent lies and propaganda,” Ayrault said during a visit to Beijing, responding to an exclusive AFP interview with Assad on Wednesday.

        “It’s 100 percent cruelty and cynicism.”

        So France is sure, Britain is sure, America is sure
        Russia ans Syria are sure they didn’t.

        both sides maybe sure but they cannot both be correct.

        Maybe some body should look into it.

        However The Donald has already fired 59 Tomahawks, he was so sure.

        What next after the horror of Saturday?

        • michael norton

          Assad described any suggestion that chemical weapons had been used as “100% fabrication” intended to justify US attacks on a Syrian airbase.

          “Our impression is that the west, mainly the United States, is hand-in-glove with the terrorists. They fabricated the whole story in order to have a pretext for the attack,” Assad said in his first interview since the attack.

          Images from Khan Sheikhun of victims convulsing and foaming at the mouth caused widespread international outrage. Trump cited the suffering of dozens of children who were among the dead and injured as one of the main reasons he dropped his long-standing opposition military action against Assad.

          But the Syrian leader questioned whether the videos were real, insisting it was “not clear whether it happened or not, because how can you verify a video? You have a lot of fake videos now”.

          He said: “We don’t know whether those dead children were killed in Khan Sheikhun. Were they dead at all? Who committed the attack if there was an attack?”

          What could be the reasoning behind President Assad gassing the people.

          The only (Assad) reason I could imagine would be to draw in The Donald into fierce fighting with Russia,

          but surely that would be madness as Syria would be the battleground.

  • Hieroglyph

    So, apparently small children were lured to a bus located in ‘rebel’ territory, with promises of crisps – but got a suicide bomber instead. Actually a double treachery, because this was during a people-exchange, agreed by the Government, and various ‘rebel’ groups.

    Small children, lured to their deaths. Of course, the West will continue to support the Wahhabist head-choppers. It’s an odd thing, isn’t it, when the hero’s of the hour are Assad and Putin, and the bad guys – well that’s us. Everything we’ve done in the Mid-East has turned to shit, and everything we do is wrong. If there is a war, I’m moving to Russia.

    • michael norton

      Sorry, rebel held land in North West Syria.
      Rashideen district west of Aleppo, Syria.

      Apparently, no one has claimed responsibility for this horror

  • michael norton

    Yemen not going to plan

    A military helicopter crash in Yemen that killed 12 Saudi soldiers was reportedly caused by friendly fire.

    The Black Hawk crashed in Marib Province, east of the capital Sanaa.

    Ministry of Truth

    One thing for sure the United Kingdom will not be invading
    North Korea, Syria, Somalia, Afghanistan or Yemen,
    till after the forthcoming General Election.

  • michael norton

    Aleppo bomb blast kills 6 – Syrian state TV

    A bomb blast killed six people and injured 32 in the Salah al-Din district of Aleppo, Syrian state television reported on Wednesday. Salah al-Din is located west of Aleppo’s Old City in a district that was part of the last rebel enclave there until it was taken over by the Syrian army in an advance in December. (Reuters)

    I am unable to understand why The Donald who mentioned babies as part of his reasoning for launching 59 Tomahawk missiles on a Syrian Air Base
    has been so quiet about the children bus-bombed to the West of Aleppo?

    • michael norton

      Let’s see who could be involved.

      Harakat Ahrar al-Sham al-Islamiyya-Islamic Movement of the Free People of the Levant, commonly referred to as Ahrar al-Sham, is a coalition of multiple Islamist and Salafist units that coalesced into a single brigade in order to fight against the Syrian Government led by Bashar al-Assad during the Syrian Civil War. With an estimated 20,000 fighters in 2015, Ahrar al-Sham became the largest rebel group in Syria after the Free Syrian Army became less powerful. The group along with Jaysh al-Islam are the main rebel groups supported by Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
      The group aims to create an Islamic state under Sharia law, and was for a time openly allied with the al-Nusra Front, an affiliate of al-Qaeda, until a rift in January 2017 that has since been healed.

      So both the Free Syria Army and Ahrar al-Sham are supported by Saudi and Turkey but are they also supported by America?

      The evacuation of civilians and fighters from besieged Syrian towns resumed on Wednesday after a weekend bombing at a transit point killed 126 people, 68 of them children, an AFP correspondent reported.

    • michael norton

      Syria’s ally Russia said an air strike hit a rebel depot full of chemical munitions – but this has been rejected by many in the international community.

      Gen Mattis was also asked about reports that Syrian forces had moved warplanes to a Russian base in Syria.

      There was “no doubt,” he said, “they have dispersed their aircraft in recent days”.

      So this must mean that The Syrians and the Russians and the Lebanese and the Iranians

      think that America is going to go for broke in Syria.

  • michael norton

    France says it has evidence showing the Syrian air force “undoubtedly” dropped bombs containing the nerve agent Sarin on a rebel-held town last month.

    French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told reporters that samples taken from the scene bore the “signature” of Sarin produced by Syria’s government.

    At least 87 people were killed in the incident in Khan Sheikhoun, according to an opposition-run health authority.

    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has dismissed it as a “fabrication”.

    He insists the government has never used chemical weapons and that it turned over all of its stocks in 2013, after it was blamed by Western powers for a Sarin attack on rebel-held suburbs of Damascus that left hundreds dead.

    In my world, this is FRANCE desparate to arse lick TRUMP

    nothing else

  • michael norton

    Donald Trump deploys US troops along Syria border with Turkey to DETER ISIS aggression

    Days after a Turkish airstrike killed 20 Kurdish fighters who were assisting US troops, American armed vehicles have been filmed patrolling the same area where the fatal clash took place earlier this week.

    Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman said: “We have US forces that are there throughout the entirety of northern Syria the operate with our Syrian Democratic Force partners. The border is among the areas where they operate.”


    So what is The Donald up to with Syria, he fires 59 Tomahawk missiles at an airfield that has fifty hardened shelters, only half the Tomahawks hit?
    So, very little actual damage, plus they told the Russians in advance of their plans.

    The danger in the area is Turkey/Saudi and America.

    • michael norton

      One of the things to discuss, is what is meant by
      The Syrian Civil War?

      There are many countries offering real aggression/danger to Syria.
      Israel, Jordan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, France, U.K. Australia, USA.

      The war was started by people of Turkish ethnicity /Turkish citizens, in Hatay Province, which Turkey had previously stolen from Syria.
      Israel had previously stole The Golan from Syria.
      There are many actors, hoping to break up Syria
      and not many of these actors are Syrian.

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