Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Food stamps on the chopping block?

Reuters reports:

Food-stamp defenders appealed for two dozen Republican defectors to help kill their party's proposed $40 billion cut in the main U.S. antihunger program as a close vote nears later this week in the House of Representatives.
The reforms pushed by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and fiscal conservatives would end benefits for roughly 10 percent of recipients. They would restrict eligibility for a program that has doubled in enrollment and tripled in cost since 2004.

I cannot believe how little respect there is for Americans in need.

I remember when Bill Clinton was in the White House and how he and Congress destroyed the safety net.

And I don't care a bit for the insider left who kept their mouths shut while the safety net was chopped up but wanted to whine about it a decade after the fact.

It was Bill Clinton and Congress who used that power to destroy and it was idiots like MWE who refused to speak out in real time.

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for Tuesday:

Tuesday, September 17, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, commentators start to note how little world press attention the disintegration of Iraq is receiving, Nouri's culture of violence and disrespect fuels the continued violence, some Syrian refugees call on the US to leave them alone, and more.

This evening Brandon J. (Firedoglake) observed, "Why do I feel Iraq (and Afghanistan) is now a footnote for our media and politicians? The increase of violence in Iraq has 'threatened to renew civil war in Iraq'.Peter Z. Scheer (TruthDig) points out, "With the Syrian civil war drawing the world’s attention, the persistent suffering in neighboring Iraq has gotten less ink."

NINA reports an attack in Falluja left a police officer dead and a bystander injured, 2 Sadr City car bombings left 6 people dead and fifteen injured, a northeastern Baghdad (Husseiniya) left 3 dead and twelve injured2 car bombings in central Baghdad (Batawiyeen) left 3 people dead and eleven injured, a southwestern Baghdad (Amil) car bombing left 2 people dead and eight more injured, a southeastern Baghdad (Zafaraniya) car bombing claimed 1 life and left seven more people injured, another southwestern Baghdad bombing (Saydiya) bombing resulted in 1 death and ten people injured,  and rebels shot dead 7 soldiers in Ain Jahash village while injuring an eighth.  On the seven soldiers, Trend News Agency adds, "Unidentified gunmen executed seven off-duty soldiers at a fake checkpoint in the northern city of Mosul, officials said." Press TV reports, "In the western city of Fallujah, another eight people were killed after three bombs went off at a police station. Moreover, gunmen opened fire on a police vehicle, killing six officers near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) informs, "In northern Mosul, about 400 kilometers (249 miles) north of Baghdad, a bomb exploded in the convoy of army Gen. Mohammed Khamas, killing him instantly. Khamas was the deputy head of army intelligence department in Mosul."
That's at least 25 dead and over seventy injured.\

Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) speaks with Sunni Endowment head Abdul-Karim al-Khazrachi who reveals the last two weeks have seen the deaths of 17 Sunnis in Basra, "that the killings were preceded by threats, including letters that came with bullets in the envelopes, vowing revenge for insurgent attacks against Shiites across Iraq. The letters demanded that Sunnis leave the province. He said he didn't know the killers' identities."  Xinhua counts the numbers, " At least 49 people were killed and 148 others wounded in separate violent attacks across Iraq on Tuesday."

Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 592 violent deaths this month.  Al Jazeera explains, "The attacks on Tuesday were the latest in a surge of unrest that has left more than 4,200 people dead this year."   Each month has become a string of bloody days.  Monday, Gwen Ifill (PBS' NewsHour) noted Sunday's dead and wounded, "In Iraq, Shiites in several cities spent the day assessing the damage, after a bloody Sunday of bombings and shootings. More than 150 people were being treated in hospitals across the country; 58 were killed in the attacks in Baghdad and elsewhere. They were the latest victims in a wave of violence that has claimed more than 4,000 lives since April."

Cathy Otten (USA Today) offers an overview of the ongoing violence which includes:

"There has been little progress on the political front in Iraq, and al-Qaeda is banking on dissatisfaction with the government to increase their flexibility in large swaths of land in western Iraq, neighboring Syria," said Hayder Al-Khoei, associated fellow at the MENA program at the London-based think tank Chatham House.
With such violence and deadly blasts occurring every week and showing no signs of stopping, Iraqis say they are used to living with fear.
"The proper word for what people are is hopeless," said Haithman Abid, a counselor at a hospital in Sadr City, a Shia-dominated area on the outskirts of Baghdad. "When there's an explosion in Sadr City, or elsewhere, people say you get used to it but actually this is one type of hopelessness."

France 24 also tries to make some sense of the continued and increasing violence.  Among those consulted are Baghdad security expert Amir Jabbar al-Saidi and Iraqi journalisr Ali al-Moussawi.

Amir Jabbar al-Saidi:  In the last couple months, most explosions were either triggered remotely by a cell phone or by suicide bombers. A new, particularly cruel tactic has recently emerged. In a busy parking lot, someone parks their car in a way that blocks other cars from passing, and leaves a phone number on the windshield. When another driver calls that number, this phone call triggers the bomb.

 Ali al-Moussawi:  I’ve noticed over the last several months that the security forces have improved their response time to deal with the increased number of bomb attacks. They reach the explosion site very quickly, because there is no longer any place in Baghdad that is more than 500 metres away from a checkpoint. They quickly establish a security perimeter over an extended area, because they know that another attack is likely to occur nearby. It prevents me from filming, but this method saves many lives.  That said, prevention is lacking. The authorities have been unable to avoid these attacks, in spite of security forces’ heavy presence throughout the city. Furthermore, what is really shocking is that they continue to use so-called “bomb detectors” at checkpoints, even though we now know that they are totally useless. In fact, the man who designed these detectors was recently sentenced to prison.

The violence continues because of Nouri al-Maliki -- because of the various crises he creates and also because of the way he has 'addressed' violence since 2006:  with more violence.  Noting the Iraqi government's high execution rate, Samir Goswami (Guardian) gets at the heart of why the violence continues:

With reports showing that more than 1,000 people were killed in sectarian and terrorist attacks in July alone, it is easy to understand why Iraqi authorities might seek desperate measures. But violence thrives where justice, due process, and human rights are denied. Continuing that cycle of violence by executing people only serves to further erode confidence in the government's ability to protect its citizens, especially when its own institutions do not live up to their own standards.
Simply put, adherence to the rule of law grounded in human rights principles can help prevent violence. This is especially true for fragile governments that are trying to instil confidence in their core governance responsibilities.
The Iraqi government's struggle with this dilemma is exemplified in its deeply flawed criminal justice system: death sentences are commonplace and human rights abuses and extreme punishments of all kinds are the prevailing norm. In May of last year, the United Nations assistance mission for Iraq expressed "serious reservations about the integrity of the criminal justice system in Iraq, including abuses of due process, convictions based on forced confessions, a weak judiciary, corruption, and trial proceedings that fall short of international standards".

Let's leave violence for a moment to note AFP's Prashant Rao's visit to the Baghdad Zoo:

  1. Spent the morning at Baghdad Zoo with the new white tiger cub - pictures:

Two tiger cubs play/wrestle at Baghdad Zoo

Meanwhile  Alaric Gomes (Al Bawabia) reports on Iraq's national tennis team which has to endure "curfews, shoot-on-sight orders, bombings and constant checkpoints" in order to train:

The Iraq national tennis squad have been forced to accept this scenario as part of their lives, but have still managed to compete in Dubai at the ongoing Davis Cup Asia/Oceania Zone Group IV matches being played at the Aviation Club this week.
The Iraq Tennis Association (ITA) has not asked the government to try and sort the situation out, instead the organisation has gone about its job despite the surrounding chaos.
“To start with, the national team and the coaching staff is all based in Baghdad. Some of the players walk it out to the tennis courts for practice, some come on bicycles, while some of us [the coaching staff] use our cars to get there,” coach Auday Ahmad told Gulf News on the sidelines of the Davis Cup competition.
 “And since cars are only allowed to be on the roads of Baghdad depending on whether they have odd or even number plates, a few of us have managed to have one car each with an odd and even number plate so that we can just go and attend practice.”

 That's animals and sports.  Let's turn to art because good art reflects the world we live in.  Mushreq Abbas (Al-Monitor) reports:

“The singer was standing next to a cemetery, addressing a sad widow who had just buried her husband. He owes her deceased husband money, he says, so he will kiss her, as a settlement!” This is the subject of an Iraqi song that is widely popular among youth. The song has been harshly criticized by intellectuals and the Iraqi people for satirizing death and its inappropriate lyrics.
This song is no exception. For years, this style of song in Iraq has become more aggressive in terms of its lyrics, melody, the use of drums and even the sounds of bombs and airplanes. In many cases, this style has made use of the vocabulary and suffering of everyday life in Iraq.
In Iraqi songs, it is no longer strange to hear a lover flirting by saying, “You are like an air raid,” “Waiting for you is like waiting at a military checkpoint,” “Your eyes look like a cannon shell,” and “I wish I was an explosive device in front of your house.” In an environment surrounded by troops and weapons — where the smell of gunpowder constantly hangs in the air because of the frequency of bombings — the excessive use of these terms is enough to change flirting styles and even public discourse.

For those who think, "Animals at a zoo, don't you call out fluff?"  I call out (or just ignore) Kelly McEvers doing some dumb ass report on cooking in Iraq.  There's a difference.  McEvers and NPR offered no reports from inside Iraq for months.  They finally do one and it's a cooking segment?  That's fluff.  Prashant Rao covers the killings daily.  I don't consider his going to the zoo or enjoying his trip to the zoo to be shirking his responsibilities.  That's the difference.  Also true, it allowed us to ease into the music story which is both revealing and impotant.

Revealing?  Revelations continue to emerge, all these years later, about those who started the illegal war on Iraq. World Observer reports:

In March 2003, just before Britain went to war, Shell denounced reports that it had held talks with Downing Street about Iraqi oil as “highly inaccurate”. BP denied that it had any “strategic interest” in Iraq, while Tony Blair described “the oil conspiracy theory” as “the most absurd”.
But documents from October and November the previous year paint a very different picture.
Five months before the March 2003 invasion, Baroness Symons, then the Trade Minister, told BP that the Government believed British energy firms should be given a share of Iraq’s enormous oil and gas reserves as a reward for Tony Blair’s military commitment to US plans for regime change.
The papers show that Lady Symons agreed to lobby the Bush administration on BP’s behalf because the oil giant feared it was being “locked out” of deals that Washington was quietly striking with US, French and Russian governments and their energy firms.
Minutes of a meeting with BP, Shell and BG (formerly British Gas) on 31 October 2002 read: “Baroness Symons agreed that it would be difficult to justify British companies losing out in Iraq in that way if the UK had itself been a conspicuous supporter of the US government throughout the crisis.”
The minister then promised to “report back to the companies before Christmas” on her lobbying efforts.
The Foreign Office invited BP in on 6 November 2002 to talk about opportunities in Iraq “post regime change”. Its minutes state: “Iraq is the big oil prospect. BP is desperate to get in there and anxious that political deals should not deny them the opportunity.”

Today the British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom issued a call:

MPs Call For Deployment of UN Blue Helmet Forces In Camp Liberty
MPs call for an independent probe into the massacre at Camp Ashraf and the release of seven hostages
Call for deployment of UN Blue Helmet forces in Camp Liberty and guaranteeing protection and security of the Iranian dissidents in Iraq
In a cross party parliamentary conference organised by the British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom, MPs from both Houses of Parliament condemned the massacre of 1 September at Camp Ashraf by Iraqi armed forces under Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's command at the behest of the Iranian regime. In the attacks, 52 residents were slaughtered and seven were taken hostage, including six women.
The speakers in the Westminster conference strongly condemned the appalling Ashraf massacre and said the Iraqi government must be held to account. MPs and renowned human rights lawyers and personalities asked for urgent release of the seven hostages by Iraq while calling on the UN to station a permanent Blue Helmet team at Camp Liberty. The conference further called for the provision of urgent protective equipment at Camp Liberty, including double-layered roofs for trailers and the return of T-walls and concrete bunkers.

Camp Ashraf housed a group of Iranian dissidents who were  welcomed to Iraq by Saddam Hussein in 1986 and he gave them Camp Ashraf and six other parcels that they could utilize. In 2003, the US invaded Iraq.The US government had the US military lead negotiations with the residents of Camp Ashraf. The US government wanted the residents to disarm and the US promised protections to the point that US actions turned the residents of Camp Ashraf into protected person under the Geneva Conventions. This is key and demands the US defend the Ashraf community in Iraq from attacks.  The Bully Boy Bush administration grasped that -- they were ignorant of every other law on the books but they grasped that one.  As 2008 drew to a close, the Bush administration was given assurances from the Iraqi government that they would protect the residents. Yet Nouri al-Maliki ordered the camp repeatedly attacked after Barack Obama was sworn in as US President. July 28, 2009 Nouri launched an attack (while then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was on the ground in Iraq). In a report released this summer entitled "Iraqi government must respect and protect rights of Camp Ashraf residents," Amnesty International described this assault, "Barely a month later, on 28-29 July 2009, Iraqi security forces stormed into the camp; at least nine residents were killed and many more were injured. Thirty-six residents who were detained were allegedly tortured and beaten. They were eventually released on 7 October 2009; by then they were in poor health after going on hunger strike." April 8, 2011, Nouri again ordered an assault on Camp Ashraf (then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was again on the ground in Iraq when the assault took place). Amnesty International described the assault this way, "Earlier this year, on 8 April, Iraqi troops took up positions within the camp using excessive, including lethal, force against residents who tried to resist them. Troops used live ammunition and by the end of the operation some 36 residents, including eight women, were dead and more than 300 others had been wounded. Following international and other protests, the Iraqi government announced that it had appointed a committee to investigate the attack and the killings; however, as on other occasions when the government has announced investigations into allegations of serious human rights violations by its forces, the authorities have yet to disclose the outcome, prompting questions whether any investigation was, in fact, carried out."  Those weren't the last attacks.  They were the last attacks while the residents were labeled as terrorists by the US State Dept.  (September 28, 2012, the designation was changed.)   In spite of this labeling, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed that "since 2004, the United States has considered the residents of Camp Ashraf 'noncombatants' and 'protected persons' under the Geneva Conventions."  So the US has an obligation to protect the residents.  3,300 are no longer at Camp Ashraf.  They have moved to Camp Hurriyah for the most part.  A tiny number has received asylum in other countries. Approximately 100 were still at Camp Ashraf when it was attacked Sunday.   That was the second attack this year alone.   February 9th of this year, the Ashraf residents were again attacked, this time the ones who had been relocated to Camp Hurriyah.  Trend News Agency counted 10 dead and over one hundred injured.  Prensa Latina reported, " A rain of self-propelled Katyusha missiles hit a provisional camp of Iraqi opposition Mujahedin-e Khalk, an organization Tehran calls terrorists, causing seven fatalities plus 50 wounded, according to an Iraqi official release."  They were attacked again September 1st.   Adam Schreck (AP) reported that the United Nations was able to confirm the deaths of 52 Ashraf residents.

The US Embassy in Iraq issued the following yesterday:

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Brett McGurk visited Camp Hurriya in Baghdad, September 16, accompanied by Gyorgy Busztin, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General for the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI). DAS McGurk met with senior representatives from the Mujahedine-e-Khalq (MEK), as well as officials from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). He expressed his condolences to the survivors of the recent Camp Ashraf attack and emphasized the priority of the U.S. Government to ensure the safety and security of the residents of Camp Hurriya. He praised the efforts of UNAMI, and Mr. Busztin personally, to ensure the safe and secure relocation of the survivors from Camp Ashraf to Camp Hurriya last week. He also discussed issues related to the safe, permanent, and secure relocation of the camp’s residents outside of Iraq, and affirmed the U.S. policy to take active measures in support of such relocation to third countries as soon as possible. DAS McGurk encouraged the residents to cooperate fully with the UNHCR process to facilitate their safe and permanent relocation outside of Iraq. Finally, he thanked UNAMI and UNHCR for their tireless efforts in Iraq and ensured the ongoing cooperation and support for their efforts by the United States.

From the Ashraf community to the Kurds who live in the three northern provinces of Iraq, the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government.  The KRG has taken in the bulk of Syrian refugees -- a great number of which are Kurds.  Today's Zaman reports:

For many Iraqi Kurds, being a refugee is an experience they vividly remember. For decades, they had to flee Saddam Hussein's tyranny and take refuge in neighboring countries, such as Iran and Turkey, and some even migrated as far as Europe, North America and Australia.
For many Iraqi Kurds, being a refugee is an experience they vividly remember. For decades, they had to flee Saddam Hussein's tyranny and take refuge in neighboring countries, such as Iran and Turkey, and some even migrated as far as Europe, North America and Australia.
But the newfound prosperity and security of the Iraqi Kurdistan region have meant they are now hosting refugees from elsewhere. Syrian Kurds are just the latest group.

Ayad Allawi, leader of Iraqiya, has noted that if the US government wants to help Syria, Barack should forget plans to attack the country and instead focus on setting up refugee camps.  That doesn't interest Barack, he just wants to wag his war-on.  He has no concern for the refugees.  And what do the refugees think?  The real ones, the ones in camps.  Not the trashy agitators in London or elsewhere.  Those crap artists exist in every country.  In 2002, the Iraqi 'refugees' pushed hard to get war on Iraq, for example.  What do the real Syrian refugees think?  Stoyan Zaimov (Christian Post) speaks to one group of Syrian refugees:

Syrian refugees have said that they are "horrified" at the prospect of a U.S. military attack on the government to take down President Bashar al-Assad, while Muslims have shared their amazement at a Christian missionary group providing relief in the region.
"It is about divided, the opinion. Some believe the rebels did it, but the majority of the people I talked to believe that Assad gassed his own people. That's the general feeling in the camps," Dr. Terry Law, the founder and president of World Compassion Ministries, shared with The Christian Post in a phone interview on Monday.
"They are horrified by it. Anybody in the camps says 'no more bombing, no more violence, our homes are destroyed already' and they are begging 'please let there be no response from the U.S. Just leave us alone,'" Law added of what refugees think of President Barack Obama's warnings of a military strike on Syria to punish Assad for using chemical weapons to kill 1,429 people in August.

In addition, Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya (RT) reports:

If the Obama Administration orders the US military to attack Syria, Iraq will burst into flames overnight. Several Iraqi groups have declared that they would attack US interests inside Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East in retaliation.
Violence in Iraq has intensified as a result of the US-led covert war on Syria. This has made the Iraqi government very eager to see an end to the fighting in the neighboring country. When it comes to its position on the Syrian conflict, Iraq is in the same camp as Russia, Iran, and China. Baghdad firmly supports Russian, Iranian, and Chinese calls for a negotiated settlement, and is opposed to any ideas of a US attack on Syria.

Along with that, there's the fact that the majority of American do not want war on Syria.  So why would a president push for it?  Because war is about economics.  For example, it creates a 'need.'  Defense World reports today, "L-3 Link announced today that it has been awarded a contract modification from the U.S. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center to build the Iraqi Air Force two F-16 Block 52 Weapon Tactics Trainers (WTTs). This contract modification follows L-3 Link's November 2012 award to build two F-16 Block 52 Full Mission Trainers (FMTs) for the IqAF."  Historically, war is also used to open up markets -- by destroying existing ones.  Labor around the world has long opposed imperialism because they see this up close in their daily lives.  Today, Alexandra Bradbury (Labor Notes) reports:

“I have a wish,” Hassan Juma’a Awad Sdawe told an audience of New York labor activists last night, “and this wish involves you.”
Sdawe is president of the 23,000-member Iraq Federation of Oil Unions. He and six other Arab labor leaders are asking U.S. workers to agitate for their unions to take a stand against the threatened bombing of Syria. The international visitors to the AFL-CIO convention last week were alarmed at the federation’s official silence on the issue.
And it has to be “a position that doesn’t come too late,” he added. “We need to nip this in the bud.”
Sdawe knows the value of international solidarity firsthand. He was recently prosecuted for allegedly advocating a strike—and he credits support from U.S. labor activists for the July 1 dismissal of his case. However, the government is appealing, and Sdawe will be tried again when he gets back to Iraq. He faces three years in prison.
U.S. Labor Against the War, which sponsored Sdawe’s visit and is circulating the Arab unionists’ statement on Syria, has been collaborating with Iraq’s labor movement throughout the decade since the U.S. invasion began in 2003. In his trips to the U.S., Sdawe has found “a tremendous gap” between the U.S. government and the mostly anti-war Americans he has met.

US Labor Against the War early on came out against war on Syria:

  • We oppose any U.S.  military intervention, direct or indirect, in the Syrian conflict
  • The U.S. should focus on providing more humanitarian assistance through established internationally recognized neutral institutions and organizations
  • There is no military solution to the crisis in Syria
  • Initial steps to arm rebels will surely create pressure for further escalation, leading the U.S. into another quagmire
  • We call on our government to reverse its decision to provide arms and other military support to the Syrian rebels
  • The Syrian crisis is for the Syrian people to resolve by political negotiations
  • There must be an immediate full arms embargo applied to all countries
  • We support initiatives in Congress to prevent the U.S. from becoming embroiled in another armed conflict in the Middle East
  • We call for using funds now spent on the military to address poverty, unemployment, inequality and numerous other social ills here at home and abroad
  • By addressing these problems we will also increase our national security and reduce the need to resort to arms.

Moving over to today's State Dept press briefing and spokesperson Jen Psaki:

QUESTION: The French and the U.S. are still trying to include a military option in the UN resolution, and Russia is still insisting that there not be any kind of use of force in that resolution. So how is that standoff going to be resolved, and is it affecting the relationship between the U.S. and Russia on dismantling the chemical weapons?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Well, let me first give everybody just a little bit of a sense of what’s happening today, because I know there have been differing reports. Today, the P-5 members of the UN Security Council will meet to discuss the joint P-3 draft Security Council resolution on Syria’s chemical weapons program. Obviously, those discussions and negotiations are ongoing, so we aren’t going to read those out or predict in advance.
In addition, as you all know, Secretary Kerry, as you referenced, held high-level discussions yesterday with members of the P-3, and the Turks also came, of course. And I can also tell you that a group of our technical experts from the U.S., Russia, and Europe are already in The Hague with the OPCW to discuss the international inspection mission.
Clearly, discussions about the next steps and what a resolution would look like, what it would entail are ongoing at the UN. You know that we have been clear that we want this to be – obviously want the strongest possible obligations and enforcement mechanisms included in the text, but those negotiations are – that text is still being negotiated. Clearly, the events and the agreement from this past weekend was a significant step forward. Just a week ago, the Syrians were not even admitting they had chemical weapons, the Russians were not showing a real indication that they wanted to participate or be helpful in this process. And we’re in a different place. But we’re continuing to work on this every day, and they’ll be meeting – the P-5 will be meeting in New York later this afternoon.

QUESTION: Why does it have to be included in that resolution if Obama has the ability to do this on his own?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s important to note that the President reserves, of course, the right to do this on his own and has made clear that if – that he keeps that option open, as the Secretary has over the past couple of days as well. Clearly, there is a strong signal or a strong message and also a strong – can be a strong binding commitment when there is a UN resolution. That’s why we have pushed for it so strongly in the past. But you are right; the U.S. reserves the right to take military action. Clearly, diplomacy is the preferred option. That’s why we just spent several days in Geneva. But we are working with our P-5 counterparts to encourage or push this to be as strong as possible. I just don’t want to predict what the end result will be.

QUESTION: But Lavrov – one thing that you’ve been wanting to get into this resolution is kind of blaming the regime for this August 21st attack --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- acknowledging that they are responsible. And Foreign Minister Lavrov said that that’s a nonstarter. So how do you square this whole idea that the Russians are willing to help dismantle the chemical program but not acknowledge that the regime was responsible, and is that – I don’t want to use the word “redline,” but is that a critical point –

MS. PSAKI: It’s used so much.

QUESTION: -- a critical point for you?

MS. PSAKI: Well, first I’ll say that I’ve seen – we’ve seen, of course, Foreign Minister Lavrov’s comments. He’s swimming against the tide of international public opinion, but more importantly, the facts. We know that there was not a mandate for the UN to place blame, but let me go through a few reasons why we feel that the additional information does indicate the chemical weapons were used by the regime.
Of course, the report, as we spoke to yesterday, confirms unequivocally that chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin, were used in Syria. We all know that. But based on our preliminary review of information contained in the report, several crucial details confirm the Assad regime’s guilt in carrying out this attack. The United States has associated one of the munitions identified in the UN report, 122-milimeter improvised rockets, with previous Assad regime attacks over the course of the current conflict in Syria. We have no indications that the opposition has manufactured or used this style of rocket.
Equally significant, the environmental, chemical, and medical samples that the UN investigators collected provide clear and compelling evidence that the surface-to-surface rockets used in the attack contained the nerve agent sarin. We know the regime possesses sarin. We have no evidence, however, that the opposition possesses sarin.
We will continue to press this argument publicly and privately in terms of the – not only the clear confirmation we saw yesterday of the use, but that the regime is behind it. And those discussions will be ongoing, and I’m certain they will be a part of what the P-5 talks about today as well.

QUESTION: How do you explain this doubt from the Russian part?

MS. PSAKI: I certainly wouldn’t venture to explain it, but what we – what came from yesterday was even more specifics, even more – even more backup from that report that indicates that the regime was behind the attack.

QUESTION: Did the Russians provide any evidence that the opposition used the chemical weapons?

MS. PSAKI: I’m certainly not going to get into specifics back and forth, but I just outlined for you what information was provided in the UN report that was very public that indicated to us through our own analysis that the regime used the report. I’m not aware of any public information or any information that indicates the opposition.

QUESTION: Because they keep rejecting and not accepting the evidence that the U.S. made and now the UN is providing. I mean, do they have an evidence on their own?

MS. PSAKI: I would certainly point you to ask them that question.

While Psaki defocused and spun, RT interviewed former Pentagon official Michael Maloof:

RT: France, the US and UK are saying the UN report clearly points to the Assad government's involvement in the August attack . But how can they be so sure, especially as the document states that improvised rockets may have been used, possibly pointing to rebel involvement?

Michael Maloof: I have a report from a source who has direct connections with classified information and he basically told me that [the] US military did an assessment based upon 50 indicators and clandestine interviews that the sourcing of sarin originated out of Iraq and into Turkey before some of it was confiscated in May in Turkey. He believes that since that report was disseminated in August in 2013, that there has actually been a more significant amount of sarin production both in Iraq and in Turkey going to the opposition, principally Al-Qaeda and Al-Nusra.
That was their specific target, to see to what extent Al-Qaeda was actually involved in production, in research and dissemination. He says what was confiscated was bench level or small specimens at the time, but that the production now they believe is much more robust and that the non-proliferation, genie, as he says, is no longer exclusive. So there's quite an increasing concern that this is still ongoing, that production is occurring among some Sunni salafists in Iraq and continues to be transported into Turkey.

RT: Can you tell us more about that classified document you’ve seen, which shows that the US knew that Al-Qaeda linked rebels in Syria had sarin gas? 

MM: The document itself was published in August 2013 by the National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC). It’s part of the intelligence community. The fact that some of it was actually captured in May along the border in Turkey and it was actually Al-Qaeda, and since it was disseminated my sources are telling me that production has probably increased significantly and sarin gas is being produced quite widely now.  That it's actually ongoing and there's actually a Saudi financier whose name I’m trying to obtain right now.
This raises a whole host of questions, and even though Mr Kerry says we know what the origin of the August 21 shot was into the outskirts of Damascus that killed hundreds of people including children, he tells me that they have been scouring Syria for more than a year looking at all the Syrian military activities and that they have no information on any artillery having been fired that day at that time into that location. So this raises all kinds of further questions as to what this information is which Kerry possesses, but refuses to share with the world.