WASHINGTON, September 20, 2013 — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said yesterday that there is no time to consider Russian President Vladimir Putin’s conclusion that Syrian opposition forces staged a false flag chemical attack on a Damascus suburb last month to incriminate the Bashar al-Assad regime and pull the U.S. further into the conflict.
The question of whether the Ghouta chemical attack was a false flag operation is now at the center of a dangerous diplomatic showdown between the United States and Russia.
Kerry made his remarks at the State Department the same day that the Associated Press reported Putin’s comment, “we have every reason to believe that it (the chemical attack) was a provocation, a sly and ingenious one.”
“We really don’t have time today to pretend that anyone can have their own set of facts approaching the issue of chemical weapons in Syria” said Kerry, redirecting attention to a U.N. report that confirms that a large chemical attack occurred, but does not assign blame on either Assad’s forces or Syrian opposition forces, many of which are affiliated with al-Qaeda.
Estimates of the number of people killed in the attack vary wildly; the UN News Centr reports that “hundreds of people were reportedly killed,” while the State Department and President Obama maintain the number is over 1,400.
During a State Department press conference, Kerry said:
“The world can decide whether it was used by the regime, which has used chemical weapons before – the regime which had the rockets and the weapons – or whether the opposition secretly went unnoticed into territory they don’t control, to fire rockets they don’t have, containing sarin that they don’t possess to kill their own people, and that without even being noticed, they just disassembled it all and packed up and got out of the center of Damascus controlled by Assad … Please! This isn’t complicated! … When we said we know what is true, we meant it.”
Meanwhile, Israeli website Debka is reporting that a deal between the United States and Russia to remove Assad’s chemical weapons from Syria may be falling apart. Debka claims that “western intelligence experts” who analyzed comments made by Assad to Fox News say that the Syrian leader “had no qualms about denying his forces were responsible for the Aug. 21 attack on districts east of Damascus, fully backed by the perseverance of Russian officials in pinning the blame on the rebels.”
An ancient military tactic: the “false flag operation”
The term “false flag operation,” which describes an ancient military tactic, has entered the common as well as scholarly vernaculars. The term is used in the title of a 2013 article in the scholarly journal “Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists” describing the Lavon Affair, a failed 1954 secret operation during which Israeli military intelligence attempted to coerce Britain into keeping military forces in the Suez Canal Zone.
Published accounts claim that Israel recruited Egyptian Jews into a top-secret sleeper cell, then activated them in a failed attempt to bomb western-owned civilian targets inside Egypt. The plan was to blame the attacks on the Muslim Brotherhood and other local groups.
According to Wikipedia, “False flag (or black flag) describes covert military or paramilitary operations designed to deceive in such a way that the operations appear as though they are being carried out by other entities, groups or nations than those who actually planned and executed them.”
Although Putin may not have used the term “false flag operation,” the Russian leader is publicly connecting the tactic to the chemical attacks, leaving Kerry on the defensive in an escalating war of words.
In the background of this diplomatic row, a no-longer covert proxy war between the United States and Russia is being fought inside Syria.
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