A Russian news outlet has aired a series of videos purporting to show Syrian rebels using sarin gas in the Aug. 21 chemical attack. Problem is, nobody can seem to verify their legitimacy.
The footage was posted online on Monday by Brown Moses, a blogger who covers the Syria crisis from an arms trade and weapons-specific perspective. In the videos, which were supposedly retrieved from the mobile phone of a rebel killed on the Kurdish border, fighters claiming to be part of opposition group Liwa al-Islam appear to fire what Moses calls "unusual munitions," ostensibly the chemical weapons the UN has concluded were used in the attack outside Damascus. However, in the same post, Moses points to several elements of the videos that call into question their credibility: the low quality of the footage, the odd darkness despite the fact that the night of the attack was a full moon, and the propagandistic nature of the content. (You can read his full breakdown here.)
Ignoring those doubts, state-run Russia Today aired the videos on Tuesday, using Moses' prominence in reporting on weapons in the Syrian conflict as "proof" of their verity. According to a transcript of the segment posted on the Brown Moses blog, RT correspondent Paul Scott characterizes the blogger as "a staunch critic of President Bashar al-Assad's regime," noting then how "interesting" it is that he has publicized footage "that suggests that it actually could be the Syrian opposition that had been using these chemical weapons."
Moses did not take kindly to RT cherry-picking the videos while failing to mention the numerous questions he had regarding their authenticity, responding on his blog to the outlet's mischaracterization of his original post:
To be absolutely clear, I do not consider these videos to be reliable evidence of anything. They came from irregular sources, and are filmed in a way not consistent with videos posted previously by Liwa al-Islam, among other issues. I do not support Russia Today's use of the credibility of my work to prop up videos I consider to be highly dubious. I believe all credible evidence points to the Syrian military being responsible for the August 21st attack, and have produced large amounts of work examining the evidence that supports that conclusion, which can be found here.
To wit, RT is funded by the Russian government and has been little more than a mouthpiece for the state. In an August profile on the network, Der Spiegel described RT as "a sort of ministry of media defense for the Kremlin" that has "a rare knack for propaganda." It would be in keeping with its modus operandi to air a skewed, one-sided segment that supports Vladimir Putin's oft-repeated claim that it was, in fact, the Syrian rebels who carried out last month's chemical attack.
Still, RT needs to get its state-fed story straight: less than two weeks ago, it published an interview dispelling the notion that an attack had taken place at all, based on an interview with a nun who had analyzed the footage and concluded it was fraudulent.