A day after Iran, Russia and Syria called for an international investigation into the sarin attack on the north Syrian town of Shaykhun and threatened the United States that new strikes on Syrian army positions would not be tolerated, a former Syrian general revealed Assad lied when he said he had turned over all of his chemical weapons in 2013.
Former Brig. Gen. Zaher al-Sakat, who defected from the Syrian army in 2013 and is now living in an undisclosed European country, said during an interview with the British newspaper Telegraph that Assad has deceived United Nations inspectors who came to oversee the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal.
Under the Russian-brokered deal — used by the Obama Administration as an excuse to backtrack on an earlier decision to take military action against the Assad regime — the Syrian dictator was supposed to hand over his entire chemical agents inventory but managed to hide at least 700 tons of chemical agents.
Sakat, who used to be the director of the chemical warfare department of the Fifth Division of the Syrian army, says that after the strike on Shaykhun on April 4, Assad still has hundreds of tons chemical weapons at his disposal.
“They admitted only to 1,300 tons, but we knew in reality they had nearly double that. They had at least 2,000 tons. At least,” the defected general told The Telegraph.
Sakat claimed Assad ordered him to carry out attacks with chemical weapons on three occasions but sabotaged the order by switching deadly chemical agents for harmless chemicals in the bombs he had to prepare.
“I couldn’t believe at the beginning that Assad would use these weapons on his people,” he told the British paper.
“I could not stand and watch the genocide. I couldn’t hurt my own people,” he added.
Sakat’s allegations about the chemical weapons stockpile in Addad’s possession are deemed quite “plausible” by Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, the former commander of the UK’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Regimen.
Bretton-Gordon thinks Assad used old sarin gas in the attack on Shaykhun because of the relative low number of casualties.
As many as 90 people were killed in the attack, which is low number for a sarin attack on an urban area, according to the British expert.
“Sarin degrades fairly quickly and becomes less toxic over time, so we could be looking at an attack using old sarin,” Bretton-Gordon said.
As Western Journalism reported Thursday, Assad flatly denies he ever used chemical weapons and said during an interview with Agence France Press that the story about the sarin attack on Shaykhun was a “fabrication” invented by the United States to justify the cruise missile assault on the Sha’yrat airbase.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has started to investigate the attack on Shaykhun, while Russia vetoed an U.N. Security Council resolution that required Syria to cooperate with the investigation.
Moscow wants the probe to be widened to include experts from many nations.
“If our U.S. colleagues and some European nations believe that their version is right, they have no reason to fear the creation of such an independent group. The investigation into this high-profile incident must be transparent and leave no doubt that someone is trying to hide something,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters Friday.
He was referring to an American National Security Council investigation into the chemical attack that was declassified by the White House and released Tuesday.
In Syria, meanwhile, the killing of innocent civilians continues unabated.
At least 100 people were killed Saturday when an explosives-laden car was driven at a convoy of buses waiting in a parking lot near the city of Aleppo. The buses were supposed to transfer the residents of al-Foua and two Shiite villages in the Aleppo province to the Damascus region.
The intended transfer should have been part of a population swap between Sunni rebel groups and the Iranian-backed Assad regime.