The UN report, which was not revealed to the public, supported the initial findings of Western countries that the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the sarin attack on April 4, 2017, that killed 86. The attack inspired a retaliation from the US, a Tomahawk missile strike at the Shayrat airbase controlled by the Syrian government.
Damascus has consistently denied the charge. At the time, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said the chemical attack was in all likelihood "a cruel and cynical 'false flag' operation used by the jihadists in a bid for US support."
Brian Becker and John Kiriakou of Sputnik Radio's Loud & Clear spoke to Rick Sterling, a journalist and member of the Syria Solidarity Movement, an organization that supports the Syrian government. Sterling echoed the views of the Syrian Foreign Ministry: the Khan Sheikhoun attack was a false flag done by the Syrian opposition to draw the US into the war on their side.
"The first step in an investigation is to look at who would benefit from a crime," said Sterling. "In this case, the evidence suggests that the Syrian government is absolutely the one that would not benefit. It's the opposition that benefits. On that basis, one should approach these accusations with skepticism. One thing that's really striking about this news is that they have not released the report, so if the evidence is so solid, if they're so convinced — and they actually don't say they know this, they say they're confident of it, which is an important distinction — then let's see the report."
"Why have they not allowed the world to look at this report, if the evidence is so compelling? They've so far restricted it to some governments that are at the United Nations, and they've given copies of the report to some Western media sources such as The New York Times."
John Kiriakou, who once worked for the UN's counter-terrorism office in his capacity as a CIA officer, explained that the OPCW "for all of its money and all of its employees, doesn't necessarily have a very robust investigative arm. What it does is it relies on the intelligence services of member states to provide it with information. My guess is that the [OPCW] used information from perhaps the CIA, MI6, Mossad, who knows, and came up with their analytic line."
"They then released the information to the governments that provided the information and to friendly press outlets. We really don't know what this report says, we don't know what the evidence is. It's yet another example where an organization in a position of authority says, ‘take our word for it.'"
Becker reiterated the position of Damascus: Syria gave up all of its chemical and biological weapons in 2013; therefore, al-Assad cannot be behind the chemical attack.
"The ones who benefit from this are the armed opposition," added Sterling. "As well as all of those people who want to continue the war in Syria, who are desperate to stop the war from coming to a conclusion with the defeat of the armed opposition. It was not just Syria that claimed that they gave up all their sarin. The sarin was actually destroyed on a US vessel and [the American military was] carefully monitoring all of that, getting that chemical identity of that sarin gas in case they could point to its use in the future. The OPCW got a Nobel Prize for their role in and monitoring and overseeing the destruction of the complete chemical weapon arsenal that Syria had."
Sterling says the first suspicion should fall on the opposition. "They're in retreat, they're losing ground to the Syrian army all over the country. As has been the case for several years, the only way the armed opposition can win is if they drag the US and/or NATO into the conflict."