CNN uses anonymous source to push Syria/Russia 'chemical attack' conspiracy

An anonymous senior US official told CNN that, while the US allegedly has proof that Damascus is responsible for the chemical incident in Idlib, Syria, it has uncovered no such evidence implicating Moscow, because Russia is wilier in scrambling its communications.

The anonymous official reportedly told the American news channel that the US intelligence community had intercepted communications “featuring Syrian military and chemical experts talking about preparations for the sarin attack in Idlib last week.” While the source failed to provide any concrete details about the alleged communication – such when it was intercepted or what names or other information it contained – they did note that the US “did not know prior to the attack it was going to happen.”

 
Idlib, Syria April 4, 2017. © Ammar Abdullah

CNN speculated that the communication had been sent prior to the incident, but was not processed until the US began investigating it.

The source added that “there are no intelligence intercepts that have been found directly confirming that Russian military or intelligence officials communicated about the attack,” but noted “the likelihood is the Russians are more careful in their communications to avoid being intercepted.”

The most specific proof the source could come up with was his observation that Russia has a surveillance drone, which he claimed “flew over the hospital that was treating people injured in the attack.”

CNN suggested that even if the US had evidence of Russia’s involvement, it might not go public with it, as “the US feels right now that it has made the case that Russian support for [Syrian President Bashar] Assad must end.”

The report is the latest in a long series based on anonymous sources – with undisclosed agendas citing vague evidence which is never submitted to public scrutiny – that the mainstream media has deployed to level accusations against Russia. The story that Russia allegedly meddled in the US election has become a dominant narrative for opponents of Donald Trump, who are still trying to explain his surprise victory.

The major media outlets’ eagerness to blame Russia for everything occasionally leads to embarrassment, however. A fairly spectacular example came in January, when the Washington Post was forced to backtrack on a story that falsely claimed Russia had hacked into Vermont’s power grid. The newspaper also sparked outrage in December by touting a list of “Russian propaganda” websites, which turned out to include many respected independent media sources.

The alarming trend is not limited to the US media, however. Last year, the Guardian failed to accurately report on an Italian newspaper’s interview with Julian Assange. The British newspaper falsely painted WikiLeaks’ founder as a Trump supporter who would not criticize Moscow because he was presumably in league with the Russian government.

Some examples go back years. In 2014, the New York Times published photos of armed men, claiming that they were Russian troops on a clandestine mission in Ukraine. The newspaper had taken the images from the US State Department, and both had failed to properly verify them.

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Trump Very Likely Profited From Syria Attack — Here’s How

U.S. President Donald Trump owns stocks in Raytheon, the weapons manufacturing corporation that produced the Tomahawk missiles used in the attack.

When U.S. President Donald Trump announced missile strikes against the Shayrat Syrian airbase last Thursday, he alleged that the attack was in the country’s “vital national security interest.”

RELATED: Trump's 'Beautiful' Syria Airstrike and What It Means

Claiming to support Syrian lives, he also said the attack “would prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.”

What Trump conveniently forgot to mention, however, is that he may have profited handsomely from the missile strikes he ordered, which left up to 15 people dead.

Trump owns stocks in Raytheon, the weapons manufacturing corporation that produced the Tomahawk missiles used in the attack, Raw Story reports. His 2015 financial disclosure report filed with the Federal Election Commission revealed that his stock portfolio includes investments in defense firms, with Raytheon leading the charge. 

The company, worth almost US$30 billion, has seen its stocks surge since the attack. The attack itself also raked in millions for the company, given that the 59 Tomahawk missiles used cost taxpayers an estimated US$1.4 million apiece, Democracy Now reports. 

Although Trump’s reported Raytheon stocks are valued between US$1,000 to US$15,000, some believe he could have deeper financial ties to the wealthy defense corporation.

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“Of course, as with all things Trump, there’s a black box here, because he’s not reporting his tax returns, he hasn’t done a blind trust,” Center for International Policy official William Hartung told Democracy Now. 

“Virtually anything he does, not just in the military sphere, could benefit him, his family, his inner circle financially.”

RELATED: How 'Anti-Trump' Liberal Media Cheered Syria Attack

Trump justified the missile strikes by claiming Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was allegedly responsible for the chemical weapons attack two days prior that killed upwards of 70 people. His administration, however, has not presented any evidence of al-Assad’s complicity. 

Moreover, the destruction of the Shayrat Syrian airbase has made it increasingly difficult for experts to carry out an independent investigation of the chemical weapons attack.

Organizations like Raytheon that form the broader military-industrial complex have frequently served as cheerleaders of war, since the U.S. government contracts those companies to produce weapons. 

The 192 cruise missiles that were used to bomb Libya in 2011, for example, made the company over US$290 million alone.

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Syria Strikes Departure from Trump's 'America First' Agenda - Ex-CIA Director

Former CIA Director Michael Hayden called the missile strikes carried out by the United States against a Syria government airfield "a remarkable flip" from the policies US President Donald Trump spoke about during the presidential campaign.

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — The missile strikes carried out by the United States against a Syria government airfield last week marked a major departure from the policies US President Donald Trump spoke about during the presidential campaign, former CIA Director Michael Hayden said in an interview on Monday.

"What’s really remarkable is that [it’s] about as far away from ‘America first’ as you can get," Hayden stated on CNN. "That’s America doing something unilaterally for what I call the good of the order, rather than a narrowly-defined American self-interest. It was a remarkable flip from the man we saw in the campaign."

In 2013, Trump warned former President Barack Obama against military intervention in Syria.

On April 7, the US fired 59 tomahawk cruise missiles at Shayrat Air Base near the city of Homs in response to a chemical weapons attack against Syrian civilians.

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US completely unwilling to cooperate on Syria & consider other interests – Kremlin

Actions of the US in Syria demonstrate a “complete unwillingness” to cooperate and take into account “interests and concerns” of the other actors in the region, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday.

“The US side thus has demonstrated a complete unwillingness to somehow cooperate on Syria and take into account each others' interests and concerns,” Peskov said, while commenting on the suspension of the Memorandum on Air Safety in the aftermath of the US missile strike on Syrian military airfield overnight on Thursday.

 
FILE PHOTO © Carlos M. Vazquez

The memorandum has lost its merit after the incident, Peskov said.

While the technical means to exchange military data with the US remained, there would be no further info swap, he added.

The Memorandum of Understanding on Flight Safety was signed in October 2015, after Russia came to Syria to fight international terrorism at the invitation of the country’s government. It was designed to prevent possible incidents between the Russian and US Air Forces operating independently in the region.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is scheduled to visit Moscow on April 11-12, although President Vladimir Putin does not have a meeting planned with him “so far,” according to Peskov. The only confirmed official contact with the Russian leadership on Tillerson’s agenda is with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

“So far there is no meeting with Tillerson on the president’s schedule,” Peskov told reporters in a phone call. “We never announce such meetings, whether they will take place or not – we won’t announce it.”

The Kremlin spokesman assured reporters though that if there is such a plan, media would be “properly notified.”

While Tillerson’s visit is expected to take place as planned, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson cancelled his own trip to Russia, citing the need to “talk with G7 counterparts” over “developments in Syria.” The Russian Foreign Ministry called the explanation for the last-minute cancellation “absurd.”

Washington has been sending mixed messages over the past few days following the missile strike. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the US envoy to the UN, Nikki Hayley, have lately expressed somewhat contradictory views on Syria. While both of them named the fight against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) a “top priority,” Tillerson said that the future of Syria and President Bashar Assad should be decided by the country’s people. Hayley, however, said that ousting Assad is still among the top priorities for Washington.

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Syrian Allies Ratify Condemnation of US Aggression

Damascus, Apr 10 (Prensa Latina) The Joint Operations Command Center of Syria's allies ratifies support for this country of the Levant and condemns US aggression, according to a statement released today in Damascus.

We will respond adequately to any aggression from the United States and 'we will increase our support for the Syrian Army and brotherly people', says the document of that command that groups forces from Iran, Russia, the Hezbollah Lebanese resistance movement and Iraqi and Palestinian militias.

'The United States, with its arrogance, did not expect permission from anyone, nor respected the affiliated countries under the United Nations leadership, even before issuing the results of the investigation into the Khan Sheikhun incident, it attacked Syria and announced that attack with all insolence,' the document said.

The statement emphasizes that 'it has not escaped our attention what the United States is trying to achieve in northern Syria and northwestern Iraq, and it must know what we are accurately monitoring all its steps and movements, and we are giving them follow-up. Their attempts to control this geographical area make them illegal forces because they are occupying a sovereign territory of Syria.'

Washington, with its aggression against Syria, 'has surpassed the red lines, and from now on, we are going to respond strongly to any aggression and any action that exceeds those limits by whoever it is. And they are well aware of our ability to respond,' the communiqué emphasizes.

'The one who attacks and violates the legitimate rights of the peoples of the region and has used the veto against the rights of the Palestinian people dozens of times, has no moral right to present itself as the defender of human rights, presuming to ensure dignity of the peoples of the region, especially in Syria, Iraq and Palestine,' the statement added.

'Russia and Iran will not allow the United States to dominate the world and impose a unipolar system through continued direct aggression against Syria, violating international law, and acting outside the framework of the United Nations,' the statement concludes.

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Russian military bases in Syria under ‘ensured’ air defense cover — MoD after US strike

Russia’s S-400 and S-300 anti-missile complexes are among the systems providing protection for its military bases in Syria, the Defense Ministry said following Washington’s missile attack.

The S-400 Triumph missile system and the Pantsir complex, which is a short to medium range surface-to-air missile and anti-aircraft artillery weapon system, are ensuring the protection of Russia’s Air Force at the Khmeimim airbase in Syria, Defense Ministry spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov told the media on Friday.

Additional defense systems, including S-300 complexes, have been deployed to provide “guaranteed” cover for a station in the Syrian port of Tartus that provides technical support for the Russian Navy, Konashenkov added.

Combat units of Russia’s air defense systems in Syria are on duty 24/7,” Konashenkov said.

The S-300 missile systems were deployed at Syria’s port of Tartus in 2016, to provide protection for both the base and Russian military ships in Syrian waters. The S-400 air defense complex, the Russian Army’s most modern air defense system, was delivered to Syria in November of 2015, after a Russian Su-24 fighter jet on an anti-terrorist mission in Syria was shot down by a Turkish aircraft.

 
FILE PHOTO: Shayrat Airfield in Homs, Syria is seen in this DigitalGlobe satellite image released by the U.S. Defense Department on April 6, 2017. © DigitalGlobe / U.S. Department of Defense

While the Pantsir complexes protect the Russian military and its infrastructure from lower-flying missiles, Russia also has Bastion coastal defense missile systems in Syria that can engage a target both in the water and on land at a distance of up to 450 kilometers (280 miles).

At the same time, Syria’s S-200 air defense systems have been restored with Russia’s help, TASS reported, adding that those complexes are also deployed to provide protection for the Russian military in eastern Syria.

The efficiency of the Syrian air defense systems will be beefed up, Konashenkov told reporters several hours after the US conducted a missile strike on a Syrian airfield.

To provide cover for the most sensitive targets of the Syrian infrastructure a set of measures to bolster” the defense systems would be “shortly implemented,” he said.

Earlier in the day, the US launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles on the Syrian military’s Shayrat airfield in Homs province. The attack killed at least six people and injured several others.

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US missile strike in Syria: What we know so far about target, victims & reactions

The US launched a missile strike on a Syrian airbase, killing at least six people, including civilians, and wounding several others. Reactions to the operation continue to roll in, with Russia condemning it while EU countries and others express support.

US President Donald Trump ordered the military strike on an airfield in Shayrat, near Homs, which resulted in a Friday pre-dawn strike in which 59 Tomahawk missiles were deployed.

Six MiG-23 fighter jets were destroyed in the operation, along with a material storage depot, a training facility, a canteen and a radar station, according to Russia's Ministry of Defense (MoD).

READ MORE: 1st footage of destruction at US-hit Shayrat airbase in Syria (VIDEO)

However, the airfield's runway remained intact, according to the MoD, which described the operation's efficiency as “quite poor.”

Syrian officials have so far confirmed that six people were killed and several others wounded in the operation.

However, the governor of Homs told RT that at least five people had been killed, three of whom were Syrian soldiers. He also stated that at least seven people had been wounded.

Meanwhile, Syria's SANA news agency has reported nine civilian deaths, including four children. 

Global reaction 

The office of Syrian President Bashar Assad called the US strike “reckless”,“irresponsible” and “shortsighted,” claiming the motives the strike weren't based on true facts.

 

U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) conducts strike operations against Syria on April 7, 2017. © Ford Williams / Courtesy U.S. Navy / Handout via REUTERS

The Syrian Army called the strike “blatant aggression,” stating that it makes the US a partner of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and other terrorist organizations.

Homs Governor Talal Barazi told Syrian state television that Syria's leadership and policy will not change as a result of the missile attack, pledging that the targeted airfield will be rebuilt and continue to play a role in fighting terrorists.

Russia also condemned the strike, saying it is suspending an agreement with the US to prevent incidents and ensure flight safety during military operations in Syria. Under the agreement, the two sides had exchanged information about planned flights in the area.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that strike reminds him of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which was launched without approval from the UN Security Council. He went on to state that Washington has not presented any evidence to back its allegation that Damascus was behind the chemical attack.

Iran, a key ally of Assad, called the strikes “dangerous” and “destructive,” saying they violate international law.

Meanwhile, European countries have expressed support for the assault, including France, Germany, the UK and Italy.

@DefenceHQ Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon has welcomed US strikes on a Syrian airfield last night, saying they were 'limited and appropriate'.

French President Francois Hollande said Assad bears full responsibility for the strike, and said Russia should take it as a “warning” to push for a political solution to the Syrian conflict.

President of the European Council Donald Tusk says the strike is a needed action against “barbaric” chemical attacks, adding that the EU will work with the US to end the Syrian conflict.

@eucopresident US strikes show needed resolve against barbaric chemical attacks. EU will work with the US to end brutality in Syria.

Meanwhile, Turkey has also voiced support for the operation, with Ankara accusing Damascus of “humanitarian crimes.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the operation "positive" and a "concrete step taken against the war crimes of the Assad regime," but said it isn't enough on its own. He added that "serious steps" are needed for the protection of innocent Syrians, Reuters reported.

The prime minister of Israel, a staunch ally of the US, said Trump has sent a message that chemical weapons will not be tolerated. Benjamin Netanyahu went on to say that he hopes the message will extend not only to Damascus, but to other countries, including Iran and North Korea.

Saudi Arabia called the strike a “courageous decision” by Trump, expressing its full support, SPA news agency reported, citing a statement from Riyadh. The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain also expressed support for the strike.

Japan has also voiced support for the operation.

China, which has historically sided with Russia at the UN in opposing condemnation of Assad's government, said it had “noted” the latest developments, but did not mention the missile attack specifically. It went on to state that the most urgent task to was to prevent the situation from deteriorating.

Further steps 

Following the strike, Moscow called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he regards the strike as an “aggression against a sovereign nation,” according to his spokesman Dmitry Peskov. He also said Putin believes the strike was carried out “in violation of international law” and “under an invented pretext.”

Rand Paul  © Eric Thayer

Moscow also vowed to take “a number of measures” to strengthen and improve Syria's air defense system in order to protect “vital parts of Syrian infrastructure,” according to Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov.

The missile strike, which Trump said was in America's national interest in order to prevent the use of chemical weapons, came after a chemical attack took place in Idlib, Syria, earlier this week. The US operation took place before any investigations were concluded.

Up to 86 people, including 26 children, are alleged to have been killed in the chemical attack, with images showing civilians choking and fainting, and some foaming at the mouths.

Washington has accused the Syrian government of being behind the “barbaric” attack.

However, Russia's Ministry of Defense has confirmed that the chemical release was the result of the Syrian Army destroying a rebel warehouse where chemical weapons were being produced and stockpiled before being shipped to Iraq. The ministry called the information “fully objective and verified.”

The Syrian Army also completely denied deploying chemical or toxic material, stating that it “has not used nor will use” such materials “in any place or time, neither in the past or in the future.”

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6 MiG-23 aircraft destroyed in US strike on Syrian airfield, runway undamaged – Russian MoD

Six MiG-23 fighter jets were destroyed in the US missile strike on a Syrian airfield in Homs province, but the runway remained intact, according to the Russian Ministry of Defense.

Follow RT’s LIVE UPDATES on US missile strike against Syria 

The strike on the Shayrat airfield in Syria’s Homs Province destroyed a material storage depot, a training facility, a canteen, six MiG-23 aircraft in repair hangars and a radar station.

 
© Россия 24

The runway, taxiways and the Syrian aircraft on the parking apron remained undamaged, Russia’s Defense Ministry spokesman said in a statement.

The ministry described the combat efficiency of the strike as “quite poor.”

“On April 7, 2017, between 3:42am and 3:56am Moscow time, two US Navy destroyers (USS Porter and USS Ross) fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at Shayrat airfield in Homs Province, Syria, from an area near the Island of Crete in the Mediterranean Sea.

“According to our sources, only 23 of them reached the Syrian airbase,” Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov said, adding that the points of impact of the other 36 cruise missiles remain unknown.

The ministry also slammed the US actions as “a gross violation” of the memorandum of understanding signed by Moscow in Washington back in 2015 to prevent flight incidents in Syrian airspace.

READ MORE: Russia suspends flight safety memorandum over Syria after US missile strike – Foreign Ministry

All justifications for the strike are “groundless claims,” the ministry continued.

 
U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) conducts strike operations against Syria on April 7, 2017. © Ford Williams / Courtesy U.S. Navy / Handout via REUTERS

“Russia made an earlier statement that the Syrian forces did not use chemical weapons. We are waiting for clarification from the US on undisputed – as they claim – evidence that it was the Syrian Army that deployed chemical weapons in the town of Khan Sheikhoun.”

The ministry also pointed to the events that followed the strikes, a large-scale offensive against the Syrian Army carried out by Islamic State and Al-Nusra Front terrorists.

“We hope that this offensive was in no way coordinated with the US,” the ministry said.

"A number of measures aimed at strengthening and improving the effectiveness of the Syrian air defense system will be implemented in the near future in order to protect the vital parts of the Syrian infrastructure," Konashenkov said.

Aftermath Footage: Shayrat airbase in Syria after US missile strike

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