The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

September 2, 2013

Assad: Risk of regional war if West strikes Syria

(Continued)

If the U.S. and France strike, "Everyone will lose control of the situation ... Chaos and extremism will spread. The risk of a regional war exists," he added.

To back up its case, the French government published a nine-page intelligence synopsis Monday that concluded Assad's regime had launched an attack on Aug. 21 involving a "massive use of chemical agents," and could carry out similar strikes in the future.

In all, though, the French report provided little new concrete evidence beyond what U.S. officials provided over the weekend in Washington. Along with it, the French Defense Ministry posted on its Web site six clips of amateur video showing victims, some of which has already been widely available online and in the international media.

In the Figaro interview, Assad said "all the accusations are based on allegations of the terrorists and on arbitrary videos posted on the Internet."

The French report made no specific reference to the agencies involved or how the intelligence was collected about the attack, aside from referring to videos of the injured or killed, doctors' accounts, and "independent evaluations" such as one from Paris-based humanitarian aid group Doctors Without Borders three days after the attack.

A French government official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak about the matter because of its sensitivity, said the analysis was written by the spy agency DGSE and the military intelligence unit, DRM, and was based on satellite imagery, video images, and on-the-ground sources — plus samples collected from the alleged chemical attacks in April.

The assessment said it was "very unlikely" that Syria's opposition had falsified images of suffering children that turned up online. It also said intelligence indicated the opposition "does not have the means to conduct such a large attack with chemical agents."

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