A gas attack in the Syrian province of Idlib could be carried out by armed opposition. Some experts do not exclude that some former similar crimes in Syria may be accounted for by the rebels.
Professor Günter Meyer, who heads the Center for the Study of the Arab World at the University of Mainz says that:
“Such a gas attack can be beneficial only to armed opposition groups. They are pressed against the wall, and they actually have no chance of giving a military rebuff to the regime. And, as the recent reaction of US President Trump shows, such actions allow them to again enlist the support of the Assad opponents”.
Back in 2012, the former head of the White House, Barack Obama, warned that if the Assad regime uses poison gas, the US will intervene. In practice, this statement means “inviting Assad’s opponents to carry out a gas attack, the responsibility for which can later be entrusted to the Assad regime”, Professor Meyer believes.
American journalist Seymour Hersh in 2014 detailed in an article for the British magazine London Review of Books that the armed Syrian opposition can conduct chemical attacks. He quotes the documentation of the US Department of Defense Intelligence Directorate of 2013, according to which sarin gas was at the disposal of the Syrian terrorist group Al-Nusra Front (the structure is banned in the Russian Federation).
At the moment nothing is known on the chemical weapons of the Al-Nusra Front, which is mentioned in intelligence documents. However, as established by Turkish doctors who conducted an autopsy of victims of a gas attack in Khan Shaykhun, during this attack sarin was used again.
In an article written for the London Review of Books, Seymour Hersh tries to prove that the gas attack in the suburb of Damascus in August 2013, in which Assad’s army is accused, was in fact a rebel act. Its goal, according to the journalist, was to draw the US into a war against the Syrian leader, creating the impression that government troops allegedly crossed the boundaries of non-interference in the conflict designated by President Obama.
In the just-released book by Michael Lüders, an expert on the Middle East, “Die den Sturm ernten” describes how, at the end of August 2013, the head of the US National Intelligence Agency, James Clapper, kept Obama from striking a missile strike on Syria. Then Clapper managed to convince the president of the innocence of Assad in the chemical attack. As one of the proofs, he supposedly used the analysis of the samples of sarin taken in Guta. The results of this analysis, conducted in a chemical weapons laboratory belonging to the British Army, showed that the gas that had been traced in a suburb of Damascus had a different composition than the substances that were at the disposal of the Syrian army.
In addition, the gas attack in Guta fell at a time when UN inspectors on chemical weapons were on check at the country. Günter Meyer from the University of Mainz recalls that they arrived in Syria at the request of President Assad after the gas attack in March 2013 north of Aleppo. Among the dead were soldiers of the Syrian army. With help from UN inspectors, Assad wanted to find those responsible for that attack, Meyer said, adding: “It’s pointless to expect that the authorities will conduct such an attack precisely when the commission is in the country.”
The former UN weapons inspector Richard Lloyd and ex-adviser to the US Navy Commander Theodore Postol, who teaches at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, also doubt that the responsibility for the chemical attack in August 2013 lies with Assad. In a joint report released in early 2014, experts noted that the shelling of Guta with ammunition laden with gas could only be carried out from territories controlled by the insurgents.