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Middle east

Intercepted call ‘proves Syria used chemical weapons’

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-08-28

An intercepted phone call between Syrian officials in the wake of the alleged chemical weapons attack on August 21 convinced Washington that the country’s government was behind the massacre, according to Foreign Policy magazine.

US intelligence intercepted a panicked phone call between Syrian army officials shortly after the chemical weapons attack on civilians in a suburb of Damascus on August 21, according to the magazine Foreign Policy.

The attack has raised the prospect of imminent Western military intervention in Syria and the intercepted phone call appears to support the claims of the US and others that the regime of President Bashar al-Assad was responsible.

“Last Wednesday, in the hours after a horrific chemical attack east of Damascus, an official at the Syrian Ministry of Defence exchanged panicked phone calls with a leader of a chemical weapons unit, demanding answers after a nerve gas strike killed more than 1,000 people,” Foreign Policy said on Tuesday.

The US magazine, which specialises in international relations, claims the intercepted phone call is “the major reason why American officials now say they're certain that the attacks were the work of the Bashar al-Assad regime - and why the U.S. military is likely to attack that regime in a matter of days”.

‘We don't know exactly why it happened’

However, it noted that this new intelligence also raises a number of further questions.

“Was the attack on August 21 the work of a Syrian officer overstepping his bounds? Or was the strike explicitly ordered by senior members of the Assad regime?” asked the magazine.

An unnamed US intelligence official admitted that it is still unclear exactly what led to the decision to use chemical weapons.

"We don't know exactly why it happened," the intelligence official told Foreign Policy. "We just know it was pretty f***ing stupid."

Along with local doctors' accounts and video documentation of the tragedy, the intercepted phone calls have convinced the US that chemical weapons were indeed used in Syria.

However, as Foreign Policy pointed out, US intelligence agencies are still yet to find the evidence “traditionally considered to be the gold standard in chemical weapons cases: soil, blood, and other environmental samples that test positive for reactions with nerve gas”.

Meanwhile, German magazine Focus has reported that Israeli intelligence services also intercepted a phone call between Syrian officials regarding the use of chemical weapons.

The conversation was then relayed to the US, according to an unnamed former Mossad official quoted in the magazine.

Date created : 2013-08-28

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