Since early 2013 — and especially since its chemical weapons attacks near Damascus on August 21 — the Assad regime, working with Russia, has tried to shift the blame onto insurgents.
The efforts have had success beyond Syria, with a mixture of speculation, distortion, and planted “information” leading some Western journalists to absolve the regime and discredit insurgents, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the US.
The latest conspiracy theory was published on Monday, via the Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar, a firm supporter of the Assad regime:
On Saturday, the Syrian army and its allies foiled a plan by al-Nusra Front in collaboration with Turkish intelligence, to stage a sarin gas attack in the Syrian capital during President Bashar al-Assad’s inauguration….
The Syrian army and its allies carried out a surprise rocket attack on a farm in the region of Drousha on the outskirts of Qatna, a town in Damascus’ southern countryside. The attack hit a meeting hall in which 11 al-Nusra Front leaders were present. Well-placed sources told Al-Akhbar that the men were holding their final meeting “before carrying out a sarin gas attack on the capital on the day President Bashar al-Assad was going to be sworn in”.
The “well-placed sources”, i.e., regime officials, feed “information” to al-Akhbar such as:
The broker was a high-level Turkish intelligence officer, who had helped smuggle the vials to al-Nusra Front for the planned attack. …The sources also said the armed groups underwent training on launching locally made rockets at a number of targets in the capital, including civilian concentrations, the People’s Assembly, the General Intelligence headquarters, and the National Security headquarters.The al-Nusra Front was able to obtain 16 vials of sarin gas, each with a dispersal radius of 500 meters. The toxins were acquired from a private cache in the Bulgarian capital Sofia.
The broker was a high-level Turkish intelligence officer, who had helped smuggle the vials to al-Nusra Front for the planned attack….The sources also said the armed groups underwent training on launching locally-made rockets at a number of targets in the capital, including civilian concentrations, the People’s Assembly, the General Intelligence headquarters, and the National Security headquarters.
The article then re-hashes previous conspiracy theories.
So far, the regime initiative has had little impact, with Western journalists failing to recycle the “revelations”.
Even so, the article makes its mark with some unprecedented forecasting. It captions its photo of a container with the generic label “Sarin”:
Al-Nusra acquired 16 canisters of Sarin gas with a spread radius of 500 meters. Photo taken on October 30, 2014. (Photo: AFP)
Thus the Assad regime and al-Akhbar become the first newsteam not only to report an insurgent chemical weapons plot, but to reveal it four months before it even begins.