A senior United Nations official who deals directly with Syrian affairs has told Al-Akhbar that the Syrian government had no involvement in the alleged Ghouta chemical weapons attack: “Of course not, he (President Bashar al-Assad) would be committing suicide.”
Sharmine Narwani and Radwan Mortada
When asked who he believed was responsible for the use of chemical munitions in Ghouta, the UN official, who would not permit disclosure of his identity, said: “Saudi intelligence was behind the attacks and unfortunately nobody will dare say that.” The official claims that this information was provided by rebels in Ghouta.
A report by the UN Mission to investigate use of chemical weapons (CW) in Ghouta, Syria was released last Monday, but per its mandate, did not assign blame to either the Syrian government or opposition rebels.
Media commentators and officials from several western countries, however, have strongly suggested that the Syrian government is the likely perpetrator of CW attacks in Ghouta and other locations.
But on Sunday, veteran Mideast journalist for The Independent Robert Fisk also reported that “grave doubts are being expressed by the UN and other international organisations in Damascus that the sarin gas missiles were fired by Assad’s army.”
The UN official’s accusations mirror statements made earlier this year by another senior UN figure Carla del Ponte, who last May told Swiss TV in the aftermath of alleged CW attacks in Khan al-Asal, Sheik Maqsood and Saraqeb that there were “strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof,” that rebels had carried out the attack. Del Ponte also observed that UN inspectors had seen no evidence of the Syrian army using chemical weapons, but added that further investigation was necessary.
The UN Inquiry tasked with investigating chemical weapons use in Syria hastily dismissed del Ponte’s comments by saying it had “not reached conclusive findings” as to the use of CWs by any parties.
So why then are we getting these contradictory leaks by top UN officials?
The recently released UN Report on CW use in Syria may provide some clues. While it specifically does not assign blame for the use of CWs to either side, its disclosures and exclusions very clearly favor a rebel narrative of the Ghouta attacks. And that may be prompting these leaks from insiders who have access to a broader view of events…