Warning: This site contains images and graphic descriptions of extreme violence and/or its effects. It's not as bad as it could be, but is meant to be shocking. Readers should be 18+ or a mature 17 or so. There is also some foul language occasionally, and potential for general upsetting of comforting conventional wisdom. Please view with discretion.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Hussein Harmoush, FSA Defector Profile

Hussein Harmoush, FSA Defector Profile
October 25, 2015
last edits November 1

The Massacre Backdrop
The events of June, 2011 in Jisr al-Shughour, centered around a decisive massacre there, present quite a story, traced out in large part on the ACLOS page (largely done by the brilliant German researcher "CE" - my own on-site summary article forthcoming)

It started at least by June 3, when armed "protesters" in a funeral procession attacked the post office, after they claim they were shot at by snipers there, and reportedly massacred workers there.Narratives differ down the line, but all agree someone besieged and took over the military security building, capturing over 70 soldiers by June 5, whom they executed in a brutal mass  execution.

The government said around 120 soldiers and state workers were killed, with at least 49 and perhaps over 100 bodies found after order was restored.  - some victims were beheaded (see AP report), likely the ones that were Alawi (Alawite, the religion of President Assad). One lucky survivor had his eyes gouged out first.(Robert Fisk, The Independent). Government sources claimed that over 120 soldiers, public servants, and civilians were executed in a rampage by Turkish-supported armed "terrorists." Bearded, black-clad  fighters who didn't speak Arabic - most likely Turks - were reported to be involved in the attacks.

The Opposition (LCC, etc.) of course lodged a different story; they claimed that soldiers were ordered to kill unarmed Sunni protesters, but refused and weakly mutinied, and were then massacred by their Alawi commanding officers, Iranian helpers, etc. But this sectarian rubbish was barely believed anywhere outside the Arabian peninsula. Syria expert Joshua Landis decided "there is little evidence of wide-scale mutiny of Syrian soldiers," and instead "some evidence that the young men of Jisr set a trap for Syrian soldiers" and then executed them. Even the BBC acknowledged the first opposition claims were untrue, and the attack "showed that the government was facing an armed uprising rather than mass peaceful protests."Also, it was clearly a twisted, sectarian, and deceitful uprising.

Activists spoke about a unit of defectors roaming the area who weren't killed, possible defenders if properly armed. This might refer to the group who committed the massacre, accordig to Damascus, and who escaped the Army re-conquest, and made it to their handlers in Turkey

"Hero" Harmoush: Claims, Shifting Story

Truth-Telling in Turkey?
The Unit in question was apparently led by Syrian Arab Army Lieutenant Colonel Hussein Harmoush. The subject became famous at the time for being the highest-ranking officer to defect and to spill the dirt on Assad's massacres of defectors - also the apparent organizer of that slaughter - and made to pay for the alleged crime - section of the ACLOS page, with it and its references being the main source for the following.
The defection of Lieutenant Colonel Hussein Al-Harmoush was a sensation when it was posted on youtube. Describing himself as the leader of "battalion 11," he said he was now standing with a "Free Arab Syrian Army" whose current mission was "protecting protesters." Reading from a prepared statement, he denied claims the FSA were killing civilians, and denounced all "regime" massacres, "especially" the one at Jisr al-Shughour on June 4.

In this and subsequent statements, from his new base in a Turkish refugee camp, he detailed the orders to kill demonstrators that he defied. He swore to mass defections, so far mainly snuffed out with help from Iranian Republican Guard and Hezbollah fighters, positioned always behind the soldiers, who often refused and were shot right in the back.

For example, he revealed that Hezbollah members had killed "17 Syrian troops" (actually 13 policemen) in Hama and dumped their bodies in the river (see here). But that's false, as a clear-eyed analysis of this Sunni terrorist crime of July 31 shows. But Harmoush was sure Sunni extremists were innocent of that as they were of the massacre in Jisr al-Shughour, and he was clear that with some weapons, his Free Syrian Army could quickly topple the brutal "Assad regime."

Based on his passionate defection and the propaganda value of the claims he lodged, Harmoush became a hero of the events as reported in the western media. Andrea Glioti's article mentions after the June 3 post office attack: "The protesters were then joined by the battalion led by Lieutenant Colonel Hussein Al-Harmoush, the first high-ranking officer to defect, " and they set to attacking the military security headquarters.As the BBC describes in an article published two weeks after the events:
A reporter for Time Magazine tracked the colonel down in a village near the Turkish border. According to the article, Lt Col Harmoush said he and his men had been sent to Jisr al-Shughour to restore order. When the army began shelling the town, he said, he decided to defect. He claimed to have taken 30 of his men with him.
Then he changed his story to one where he couldn't possibly oversee any massacre of soldiers
    ... when the BBC finally tracked the colonel down on the phone, he told a story that was rather different from the myth that was already writing itself into the history books. His defection, he said, had actually taken place four days after the killings in Jisr al-Shughour, on 9 June. Furthermore, he said he had defected on his own, and only joined up with a number of other defectors in the town later. "I was not there at that time. I arrived there on 9 June, and when I arrived, there was absolutely no Syrian army there." Furthermore, he said, none of the other defectors he joined had been present at the time of the alleged massacre. He admitted [claimed - ed] he had invented much of his initial story purely to keep the Syrian army at bay.
He "admitted he invented" a point that became inconvenient, they say, suggesting his second story is true. But really all we know is he changed his story, and it's likely neither was quite true, although the first one is likely to be closer to it.

Back in Syria
On or before September 16, 2011, Syrian state TV reported Harmoush's "return". In an interview broadcasted by Syrian TV, the Lt. Col. tells a third story. As summarized by CE from this video's poor English subtitles, he failed a security course in the Army in 2010 and defected later, months before the video.
He then fled to Turkey "because of the violence", adding that he thinks armed groups were responsible and he never received killing orders while he was serving, contrary to what he says in the defection video. After arrival in Turkey, he received initial support of $US1000 and a used laptop. He was then contacted by several people of the Muslim Brotherhood, the FSA and by Sheikh Adnan Al-Aroor, to all of whom he delivered intel about army strength and other details, while going back and forth between Turkey and Syria. He was promised support on several occasions but promises weren't met. While he says that the defection video was made in a district of Jisr Al-Shugour, his involvement with the actual events seems to be minor if not non-existant. He received SYP 50,000 for the video while the person who made it received SYP 2 Million.[16]
There are too many clues of propaganda talking points to take that as obviously true - digging at Syria's enemies for disappointing their helpers, having Adnan Aroor himself gathering direct inteligence, etc. Israel isn't implicated, but ... And it may downplay Harmoush's role (he's only sure the armed gans probably killed the people, as if he wasn't involved at all). While what he said on TV is questionable considering his captivity, his shifting statements before that raise questions about whether any of those was ever true either. And it's quite likely this last story is the closest to true of the three.

Another Version, Told in Turkey
In January 2015 Önder Sığırcıkoğlu, an ex-Senior MIT (Turkish intelligence) official assigned this case later revealed:
“On 10 or 11 June 2011 we received an MIT communique noting the arrival of a dissident Syrian Lt.Colonel in the camp. We were tasked with drawing up a report on his involvement in military operations.
Upon inquiry I identified the Lt.Colonel in question to be Hussein al-Harmoush, the leader of the armed opposition in Jisr al-Shughour and instigator of the clashes there. He disclosed in the interview that he was a fundamentalist Sunni, a Russia-trained explosives specialist last assigned to the engineering department of the 11th army division in Homs. Harmoush had been in constant conflict with his superiors over his strict Islamism and had played a leading part in organizing the armed opposition in Jisr al-Shughour.
He recounted how they neutralized Syrian security personnel and captured Jisr al-Shughour’s post office, and how they set off an explosive device of Harmoush’s making at the premises of the military unit. Survivors of the explosion were forced to surrender to the forces of Harmoush who, in his own account, had 138 of them summarily executed.”

Thinking he's bragging as if to Erdogan himself, this account of his exploits may exaggerate the number killed and/or Harmoush's role in it. But the number is fairly consistent with other evidence, so he at least had a good overview of events, in this one case that he especially denounced as an exceptionally clear regime crime.

Abduction Controversy
After Harmoush's re-appearance in Syria, some in opposition circles aired certainty that Erdogan's Turkey had betrayed them in sending the hero back. some first reports say it was in trade for 9 Syrian-held PKK members they wanted to try. The BBC reports this, noting only that he probably didn't go back voluntarily, but "the Turkish foreign ministry said that no Syrian refugees had ever been sent back against their will," guilty of gross war crimes or not. So it seemed likely he was kidnapped by Assad loyalists inside the camp.  - Harmoush's brother ... Al-Arabiya, Sept 19

Turkey denied any such thing and launched a probe - al-Arabiya soon learned it was an Alawite plot -
same report
"The mystery is more or less solved, as information surfaced about the involvement of Syrian, Turkish, and Iranian intelligence in bringing the dissident back. 

According to information posted on the social networking website Facebook, Turkish intelligence officers who, like Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, belong to the Alawite sect, took part in the mission of bringing Harmoush, the most senior defector in the army, back to Syria."

The basis is not convincing but the story sounds plausible- he was invited to dinner outside the camp - supposed to meet a Turkish officer to discuss aid to the rebellion. He went along with two other "dissident officers." All three knocked out with "sleeping pills" in their food, and smuggled into Syria - the fate of the other two is unclear, but they were probably sent to prison. Harmoush’s brother Ibrahim old them: “Hussein disappeared after meeting a Turkish officer in the refugee camp,” he told Al Arabiya in a phone interview. “He would have never been taken back to Syria without Turkey’s assistance.”
Ibrahim added that the following day he asked that same Turkish officer –whom he had seen his brother with – about Harmoush’s whereabouts. “He told me he knew nothing about him and that he left him 10 minutes after they had met.”
The report adds "Three Syrian intelligence operatives, one of them an Iranian citizen, were arrested and are currently being interrogated by Turkish intelligence."

The only officer describing himself as the responsible one - religion not specified, is Harmoush's self-described case manager Önder Sığırcıkoğlu, the ex-MIT officer mentioned above. It was in January of 2015 that he made those statements to the Turkish press, testifying to Turkey's role in training and arming the "rebels" in the early stages of the crisis. 

Sığırcıkoğlu claims that it was him who handed Harmoush back to Syrian authorities because his conscience didn't allow him to let the "killer of 138 people" escape justice. After an investigation by Turkish authorities he and seven others were arrested and tried. Sığırcıkoğlu was handed a 20 years prison term but was able to escape after 32 months while being transported from one prison to another.

(more detail forthcoming)

Unclear Fate
Zaman al-Wasl's attempted match-up
As for Lt. Col. Harmoush, he's accused of crimes surely punishable by death. No formal announcement was ever made but he most likely was executed following conviction on these charges.
However, some have pursued different stories. On February 1, 2015, it was alleged that one of the "leaked Caesar photos" showed Lt. Col. Harmoush died "under torture" in prison. This was reported by anti-Syrian Lebanese daily Zaman al-Wasl (English version - Arabic version with working image) The visual match, however, is rather dubious. This report also mentions competing claims Harmoush was killed by firing squad in early 2012, and that he remained alive at the end of 2013, well after the last "Caesar" photo should have been taken in August. By this report, he was innocent of anything but statements of dissent, and became imprisoned after he was "kidnapped by Syrian regime in September 2011, from a refugee camp on the Turkish border," a claim Mr. Sığırcıkoğlu would obviously contest.

Identity Recycling?
Human Rights Watch, in their 2013 report on the massacres in Latakia, singled out Ahrar al-Sham as one of the five clearly-implicated Jihadist groups. It noted "By their own admission, Ahrar al-Sham took part in the August 4 Latakia countryside operation from the outset," declared their role in "liberating" four of the stricken villages, posted videos to prove it; one showed them breaking into homes in a fifth town. And "in one of the videos, lieutenant colonel Hussein al-Harmoush, the brigade commander from Harakat Ahrar al-Sham al-Maghdad al-Aswad battalion, is identified by name and seen shooting in the operation."

Now the name Hussein is common, and Harmoush is common, but both of them on two different massacre-perpetrating defected lt. colonels in Syria seems a stretch. Surely the one under study is not on the loose anyway, or we'd hear about it. Quite likely that's the fighter's stage name, not his real one, taken in homage to this godfather of the "moderate FSA" (with the rank included ?).

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Douma Market Attack: Precedents

Douma Market Attack: Precedents
September 7, 2015
(cleanup and completed, October 14)

Peter Bouckaert, "Emergencies Director" for Human Rights Watch wrote on August 20 Douma: Syria’s horrors need the world’s attention. This was released the same day HRW called for an arms embargo on the Syrian government over the attack (that's part of of what Bouckaert means by "attention"). I have been paying more attention than most and still see no reason to think a jet was involved; the physical evidence is fairly consistent with that, or a number of other things, but there's no video or photo of the jet or contrail, no radar track, no consistent missile remains specified, and for some reason there's even vagueness about the attack time.

And this is looking worse and worse compared to increasing reasons to see instead a laundered terrorist massacre of almost entirely male captives. I recently published what might be a smoking gun proving that rebels just laundered another of their massacres; the inset photo of around 40 gathered bodies was taken just minutes after the August 16 missile/rocket attack, meaning at least this big portion of the victims were dead well before the alleged cause existed. A critic on Twitter chided me and "Syricide" (who re-tweeted me on it) so: "Peddling any conspiracy theory that exonerates #Assad and his loyalists no matter how far fetched. Classic." I replied well; "Lol, "Far fetched" Far from what activists said, fetched by photo proof." 

That may have been a bit strong to say, "proof" - it's still being analyzed, pending certainty we've actually read it right. But in the meantime, I had promised an article on the rich if under-appreciated history of precedents for this being a false-flag provocation or even worse. Here it finally is, for those having a hard time seeing how near-fetched such a thing really would be, in two parts: Sarajevo (1992-1995) and Syria (2011 to present)

First, lest reach back and fetch a far example, decades old, but cited by those blaming the Syrian government and by those questioning that blame. HRW's Peter Bouckaert, in his "Syria's horror" thing cited above, pointed a solid precedent for such a government-sponsored atrocity that was dealt with adequately and serves as a model here.
Almost exactly 20 years ago, a similarly brutal bombing of a marketplace during the Bosnian war changed the course of that conflict. On 28 August, 1995, during its siege of the city of Sarajevo, forces of the breakaway Republika Srpska fired 5 mortar shells into the Markale market, killing 43 and wounding 75.

The horror and outrage generated by that attack - the second on the Markale market, following a 5 February, 1994 strike that killed 68 - unified much of the international community into action.
He cited eventual prosecution of Serbian officers as supporting evidence for their guilt, but failed to mention there was a serious air war along the way to that. NATO air strikes of 1995, per the Wikipedia article, "struck 338 Bosnian Serb targets, many of which were destroyed" in a one-month campaign starting on August 30. The planners of "Operation Deliberate Force" clearly did not deliberate very long before they had bombs falling two days after the provocation at Markale market. This international action would eventually force an end of the war, on terms favoring the ethnic Albanian separatists (from Yugoslavia) over the "breakaway" Republika Srpska (favoring the preservation of Yugoslavia).  "Sadly," Bouckaert concludes, "it seems unlikely that the horror of the latest market attack in Douma will bring about any effective international response" of the kind seen in 1995. 

In case it matters, and it wasn't mentioned by Bouckaert, the Wikipedia page for Markale massacres points out while first analysis was clear in blaming the Serbs, "a later and more in-depth UNPROFOR report noted a calculation error in the original findings. With the error corrected, the United Nations concluded that it was impossible to determine which side had fired the shell." Well, then how did the UN, the Hague's jurists, and others decide, then and now, who it was? Apparently they picked the side with the anti-motive, the side who lost the ensuing air war their third suicide attempt (see below) finally triggered. This is a preview how any Syria war crimes trials will be run, and this Douma attack, a plain as day "official massacre," is likely to be included.

Aftermath of one the Markale attacks, from Lewis report
I just now heard of crime writer Robert Lewis, who shared his informed thoughts about the Douma allegations on August 28, the 20-year anniversary of the last Markale bombing.
The story reminded me that despite the fact markets have no [military] value, they’re bombed all the time.  ... [almost entirely] the victims have been Muslim (I have started to compile a spreadsheet). These bombings occur with incredible frequency, and an astonishing number of them are never claimed by any terrorist group. Isn’t that bizarre? It suggests a strategy of tension, or perhaps several of them. Certainly it warrants further study.
Of course, many of them are blamed on non-terrorist state actors, being branded as terrorists, but always uselessly denying the accusations, so no terrorist admission should be expected. Lewis focuses on Markale, adding a less-known attack there in 1992 for a total of three before war was finally sparked. He notes that:
"On each occasion there was ambiguity about whether the Bosnian Serbs were actually responsible. General Michael Rose believed the shells actually came from the Bosnian side. Multiple sources (such as Michael Rose, David Owen, Boutros Boutros Ghali, President Mitterand, and Yasushi Akashi, the UN Special Envoy for Bosnia) refer to a secret UN investigation which found exactly that. A second, non-secret UN report (the one intended for publication) confined itself to saying the attack could not be confidently attributed to any particular faction.
I have visited the market in Sarajevo. An arc of attack was not apparent. Sightlines were few and very narrow. It would take exceptional skill, I think, to accurately and reliably hit it with the groupings and timings we are asked to believe in. I do not seek to exonerate the Bosnian Serbs, who seem to have sniped and shelled Sarajevo at will, but the mortar attacks in question reveal what you might call a tradition of unattributed, misreported, propagandistic attacks on Muslim markets. And the CIA and the Saudi-funded Islamists were present then just as they are today.
Oct. 14 note on "arc of attack." He didn't see in Markale one to point one way or the other, but this is one precedent that doesn't carry over to the Douma market attack. In that case there's an arc, which points to ground artillery to the south, not to a fighter jet above at different angles. A rebel lie about rockets fired from a rebel area doubly points to rebels and false-flag. This case becomes a precedent for understanding the others, as well as vice-versa. See mapping the arc of attack.

Furthermore, the 1994 and 1995 Sarajevo attacks and the credulous response came after time to reflect on earlier discredited accusations, rebel false-flag attacks back in 1992, perhaps including the early Markale attack. As the UK Independent reported at the time:
United Nations officials and senior Western military officers believe some of the worst recent killings in Sarajevo, including the massacre of at least 16 people in a bread queue, were carried out by the city's mainly Muslim defenders - not Serb besiegers - as a propaganda ploy to win world sympathy and military intervention.

The view has been expressed in confidential reports circulating at UN headquarters in New York, and in classified briefings to US policymakers in Washington." 
Even those leaking these classified details are quick to de-emphasize such events as irrelevant flukes: "The officials were anxious to point out that they were not trying to exonerate the Serbs, who have been besieging Sarajevo for months, killing unknown numbers of townspeople, as well as carrying out 'ethnic cleansing' around the city and elsewhere in Bosnia." So this is an at-least kind of list by people interested in blaming the Serb side, among a barrage of false-flag attacks, discarding the worst fakes and keeping the rest as a deciding majority. But among those they were forced to reject, besides the bread line attack:

* "UN officials also believe the bullet which killed the American television producer David Kaplan near Sarajevo airport on 13 August was probably not fired by a sniper from distant Serbian positions. 'That would have been impossible,' one UN military officer said. 'That shot came in horizontal to the ground. Somebody was down at ground level.'"

* "UN officials also say a Ukrainian soldier shot in the head and heart at Sarajevo's Marshal Tito barracks on Thursday was killed by 'small arms fire' - by implication the Bosnians."

I've bumped into signs of a false-flag mosque-bombing suspect, a PFLP-GC member apparently active in Bosnia in May 1992, called "Abu Elias." He may also have been involved - centrally - in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, and was last known to be living in Virginia with a US government engineering job, under an odd pseudonym (Basel Bushnaq, in Arabic: brave Bosnian) (see here).


Examples to the Syria conflict will be more immediately relevant. There have been numerous reported government-ordered attacks on bread lines, public markets, and the like. I've only looked at a few of these and the details were generally hard to call with certainty - tension/provocation seem most likely in general, but I'm talking about supporting evidence, not starting hunches. So no clear lessons pop to mind (but later, some records analysis was added at this post), but a few other cases with common features are worth considering.

Non-Jet Jet Attack on Civilians: Aleppo University, Jan., 2013
Blast crater at Aleppo University, facing E-SE
The Douma claims are quite similar to the alleged fighter jet attack on Aleppo University, activists were clear a fighter jet fired a missile at the school of architecture on January 15 during exams, swooped around and fired again, killing dozens of students at "the University of the Revolution," as pro-revolution people called it. Unlike this case that did feature jet evidence to back up the claims - a vapor trail shown on video, but looking more rocket-oriented) On closer inspection that attack had no jet; the forensics (lack of jet indicators in video of the attack, size of blast and severity of damage, and - I think - the apparent direction of fire) favor the government's story: terrorists had fired two powerful surface rockets from the north-northwest.

The brunt of the attack was taken not by students but by a tent camp for displaced people outside the dormitories packed with other people displaced from their homes by fighting or rebel occupation (see ACLOS page, talk page, and un-developed physical evidence page). A later report gives a final figure of over 90 people killed besides the hundreds wounded, again mainly IDPs, and then 15 students were killed in a further attack on March 28.

* 100+ dead as magic number: Houla Massacre, May, 2012, Hama July 2011, etc.
We may all still remember the furor in May/June 2012 over Assad's brutl Houla Massacre, where Army shelling enabled a Shabiha invasion of a Sunni rebel village, where they massacred 108 random Sunni civilians, almost half of them children. It was an unprecedented scale of child-killing that was totally blamed on "Assad" and sparked an unprecedented wave of diplomatic warfare and greater support to the rebels.

But the fact is it was rebel shelling and Salafist terrorist massacre against targeted families in the last government-held part of the Houla region, immediately after they finally overran the remaining security posts there, as the video record actually shows. I know what the UN investigation found, and I can show where they went wrong. Well-read video evidence trumps their sloppy hodge-podge of reasoning any day. As for the victims, those whose stories agree with the video evidence say the victims were mainly former Sunnis who converted to Shi'ism, and others who remained Sunni but supported the government.

But it's the number that I cited it for. That third digit makes a world of difference in how the world reacts. Consider July 31, 2011, the first day in the campaign when just over 100 people died in one place on one day. Turns out there was a rebel offensive that day and a quarter of the dead were security forces, some slaughtered and dumped in the river. The rest; 87 ostensibly civilian men, were unclear. The world denounced "Assad's" brutality against the unarmed protesters, and dismissed his lies about them being armed terrorists.

Unlike that, the Houla Massacre famously involved women and especially children murdered on a horrific scale. And consider the first triple-digit massacre of "entire families" that "Assad" convincingly pulled off...

* Triple Digit Deaths + Female-Sparing Bombs; Khalidiya, Feb. 2012
Activists said regime shelling on a rebel-held area destroyed 20+ homes overnight Feb. 3/4, killing whole families in a main, first-reported batch of 138 people. But these, by opposition lists, were 130 men and 8 boys, many with odd injuries to the throat. A smaller number of more mixed victims were counted later, including about 8 women and 4 girls, making the final tally only about 90% adult male. (see ACLOS page)

That's strikingly similar to the Douma market attack death toll - not quite as all-man as it first seemed, but almost. It's suspicious, suggesting some kind of unnatural gender segregation. After the Khalidiya massacre, state media aired locals speaking of a terrorist assault on police stations the same day, and some of whom claimed they recognized the "Shelling" victims on rebel videos as family or neighbors who had been kidnapped. Such claims are consistent by these unverified details from a John Rosenthall report:, citing Mother Agnes-Mariam:
According to an account published in French on the monastery’s website, rebels gathered Christian and Alawi hostages in a building in Khalidiya and blew up the building with dynamite. They then attributed the crime to the regular Syrian army. “Even though this act has been attributed to regular army forces ... the evidence and testimony are irrefutable: It was an operation undertaken by armed groups affiliated with the opposition,” Mother Agnès-Mariam wrote.
In my experience/opinion, this source deserves the nickname Mother Agnes of the Mixed Reliability. Such reports are usually based on real claims, but the claims aren't always true. Nor are they always false, nor that there was ever a case that was totally certain anyway. The claims in this case seem well-worth considering, and quite possibly relevant to the apparent 2015 massacre in Douma of 100+ men and a few others, that was hidden under dubious fighter jet claims.

Regime Massacre Victims, Killed by Rebels: Douma, August, 2012
victim of Aug. 16 massacre, opp. video
(see Douma Hostage Massacre page at ACLOS ) - perhaps an even better anniversary point for the Douma allegations, it was around August 17, 3 years earlier, when rebels found 16 local men kidnapped by Assad-loyalist thugs and recently killed by slicing their throats - likely on August 16, which could make the market attack a sort of anniversary homage to this earlier crime. 

But 6 of those same men were already shown, and clearly, on a FSA rebel unit's recent video as government loyalists they had captured and were threatening to kill. It was an obvious case of terrorists fobbing off their own massacre. And it happened in Douma, back in 2012, before it became as overwhelmingly Islamist-friendly as it is today (pro "army of Islam" activists say the regime killed civilians at the market because all of Douma loves "Army of Islam" who were also winning battles, by the way). Back then, neighboring Harasta seemed to be leading the way, with Douma dragging its feet. The death squad responsible for this massacre was based there.

There's no such proof I know of for the Douma market victims being slaughtered in that manner. From the few dozen I've seen, most are not throat-cutting victims. But some cases are unclear or even suspicious. Consider Akram Seroul, as given - it's him, an alleged fighter jet victim of August 16, shown above (I was being tricky! It's leading, but just for effect!).

Fighter Jet Kills People in Market: Ariha, Idlib, Aug.3, 2015
Here's a bizarre precedent speaking to fighter jets bombing markets on Assad's order and, in this case, crashing the jet into it deliberately to kill more, in an expensive new way to argue for a "no fly zone." Over 30 civilians, mostly men, were listed as killed. (expanded into this article for more details).

Getty Images/Anadolu Agency has a photo to prove that this time a jet was over the market and thus might have hit it; some flag-marked jet wreckage, next to melons. It looks arguably natural how it came together, but ... to me, the metal appears to be quite weathered, having spent some time in its crumpled state. If it was shot down long ago and had wreckage dripped here to prove jet-on-market action ... what does that say about later alleged jet-on-market attacks?

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Douma Market Attack {Masterlist}

August 20, 2015
last updates October 14

The August 16 alleged fighter jet attack on a crowded market in Douma, Damascus, was instantly and widely decried by world leaders and concerned people everywhere as an obvious war crime by the government. Of course, the alleged part is never considered fairly in these reflexive yelps. No one among them has considered the details realistically or wants to.

Part 1: Initial Questions - what proof is there it really was a jet? Why are at least 100 of the 112 or so reported victims listed as adult males? Why were at least 95 of the dead unclaimed for usual family burial, and interred in anonymous-style mass graves instead?

See also: A Closer Look On Syria research wiki: Douma Market Attack - Talk:Douma Market Attack (ACLOS pages remain somewhat under-developed but getting more useful)

September 18 update: The parts that get better, usually, is where we get specific, especially with the visual evidence. Where it stands one month after the attack: pretty solid.  
One-Month Investigation Review 

Oct. 13: one crucial point covered in the review but then expanded here is the "arc of attack" (all 4 impacts mapped to app. firing spot, at right) essentially proving local rebels firing rockets, and not a government jet, was behind this attack.

Below is some of the (starting) work going into this, to be expanded past that as well.

Video Overview
Big video list by content and victim analysis are linked but external - at this post some detailed  locations established, some thoughts explored here, some more important ones just summarized with links to the posts where they get more detail.

Or Video Catalog for just the list.

Victim lists linked, a list of 35 victim ID videos, some analysis and, with limited input from others, so far, I've discovered some complications to the all-man argument (that still seems valid, just complicated, with issues that raise their own troubling questions.
At least these points so far are worth their own sub-posts: 
- Victims Dead Before the Attack? Comparing a vague reported time to more reliable evidence suggests an attack around between 1:00 and 1:26 PM local time, or as they say "about noon." So how on earth could 40+ bodies of men and boys, already dry, be gathered from that attack by about 1:15 (or 1:00-1:30), as a photograph shows? They can't. So why did activists claim they did? And how really did they die?
A drawn-and-quartered boy? "Assad bombs" PULLING children apart in Douma?
- Head-hacked girls? One very clear case, others less clear, but they aren't shelling victims.  Someone executed them.
- Men and boys with burned faces, with boys getting it worst.

Part 2: Precedents to consider - partly worked into the above, a short custom list is needed, and should be handy already, but had to wait (finally added Sept. 7 - historical precedents, Sarajevo, then Syiria) (stopped doing numbered "parts" before part 3.

Other Market Attacks More specific precedents; General research on similar alleged market-oriented attacks in the Syria conflict. Similar and suspect patterns emerge.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Syria Disaster Blame: "Assad" or the Regime Change Campaign?

Syria Disaster Blame: "Assad" or the Regime Change Campaign?
October 8, 2015 
edits October 10, adding The Wikileaks Files

"A muddled international strategy, a brutal regime, and a turbulent Middle East drove Syria to become a hell on earth," writes Armin Rosen, in his recent analysis "The 3 main drivers that destroyed Syria" By Business Insider, October 5 (Yahoo Finance mirror). Or alternately, as he also writes "simply, the Syrian civil war has gotten this bad because the Assad regime has made it this bad." His muddled assessment of these one to three core causes annoyed me, and sparked the following general overview of what really sparked the fire and kept it stoked for going on five years now.

How "Assad" Started a Civil War
The basic rundown of drives is: brutal Assad, confused response and not enough fighting Assad, and, nearer to relevance, the whole Arab Spring upheaval mentality ("A region where there are no longer any certainties"). But ultimately, all the bombing and massacres, bloodshed, devastation, and displacement, the rise of Daesh (Islamic State/ISIS/ISIL) in Iraq and Syria, and everything else bad is all on the shoulders of "a regime whose cruelty and desperation knows no limit." 

That's supported by an insanely long catalog of allegations suggesting Assad's cruelty also knows no logic. Such claims have been examined by many, including myself and team members at A Closer Look On Syria. We've debunked most of the bigger massacres by now. Rosen emphasizes only two major crimes, apparently chosen for their size; the Ghouta alleged sarin attack ("over 1,000" claimed dead, with the best evidence blaming the rebel side) and  the "Caesar" torture photos, ("10,000 tortured and killed inside of the regime's prisons since the uprising began" - the true story is not yet clear, but "Caesar" is clearly not to be trusted).

"The uprising" began, we recall, in mid-March, 2011 with peaceful protests allegedly crushed by government violence. As Rosen reminds us:
"Syrian government forces killed six people during a peaceful protest in Dara'a. The "stability" that the Assads had supposedly been so effective at fostering was rapidly exposed as a fraud. Massacres of protestors were frequent occurrences by the end of April, and by summer the country was in a full-blown civil war."
That's his short story of the war; protesters wanted regime change, the regime started killing them, and so they decided instead to fight for regime change. Then the first fighters were chased off by terrorists, and here we are. It's all the "regime's" fault, either directly or indirectly as they started the war by resisting their peoples' demands.

That's obviously missing some parts. As a random example, consider Kindi hospital in Aleppo, as shown at right after a terrorist truck bomb hit it in 2014. (It was housing soldiers at the time, not functioning medically). That was one powerful blast - a lot of explosives, a stolen and armored truck, some technicians, and a suicide driver clearly played into this incident. And any role played by "Assad's repression" in bits like this is indirect at best.

The record on peaceful protests vs. armed uprising and false-flag provocation is crucial here, but like the massacres, covered elsewhere (see Syria masterlist, point 6, for a partial overview). For now we can say that whether these claims of violent repression of protesters are true or not, the next question remains the same;  how did civil war became a viable option? Repression doesn't lead to organized violence, blasting buildings open, and seizing swathes of territory without access to weapons, fighters, financial support, safe havens, public relations, more weapons, etc.

Consider Bahrain. In the same report, Mr. Rosen notes:
No regime seemed safe — even Bahrain, a Gulf monarchy that hosted a large US military base, needed to call in the Saudi National Guard to quash a peaceful popular uprising. Back then, the entire Middle Eastern state system looked brittle, perhaps even primed for collapse....
How many towns or provinces did the Bahraini insurgents take over? How many army posts did they blow up? Zero, I think it is. They were repressed, but it didn't blossom into civil war there. Yet in Syria, it did. Why?

A bloody, prolonged civil war can take root if, for example, a neighboring country declares the government illegitimate, based on echoed but unverified opposition reports of genocide and extreme evil, and then it starts training supporting opposition fighters. Maybe they would allow Islamist fanatics to cross back and forth to heal and re-supply, share intelligence, send in weapons and occasionally air support, and lobby to create "safe zones" in the other territory, not its own ...

In short, the intensive intervention of NATO member Turkey is a crucial driving force enabling and prolonging the civil war. And this has happened with approval of their NATO allies, and with help from fellow Islamists in the Persian Gulf, Libya, and elsewhere. Everyone knows Turkey has supported all the Jihadist parties, even Daesh, in many ways but none of this is mentioned by Rosen. In fact, Turkey isn't mentioned at all. 

Financial and fighter support plus sectarian religious decrees flowing from the Persian Gulf tyrannies is absent from Rosen's analysis. The kingdom of Jordan's role in training and harboring fighters isn't mentioned. A known channel of weapons looted from post-war Libya into Syria goes ignored. CIA training and other US and Western hands in facilitating or covering up such things is not worth considering, Rosen decided.

But clearly, whether Assad started the conflict or not, outside powers have done much to make war an option, to make it the real state of affairs, and to keep it nice and prolonged (since outright victory is unlikely?).

Managing Expectations and Perceptions
The mental set-up for prolonged war goes back at least to mid-2011 declarations that the government was illegitimate, sparking hopes of a repeat of the Libya scenario. These criminal statements are mentioned by Rosen, but only derided in their lack of follow-through, not as having a role in enabling the civil war.

He does consider the Arab Spring mentality, in which protests + crisis + maybe intervention = regime change in favor of Islamists and against secular leaders. This mindset and expectation was of course engineered by Western-sponsored "democracy promotion" structures. These were, as usual, organized through the U.S. State department, this time working with Arab-world actors, most notably the Muslim Brotherhood, and solidified with the Libya example (itself backed and laundered by the more peaceful Egypt and Tunisia examples).

This mentality could be seen as a sort of poison sprayed into the whole region, and some states (the Gulf monarchies) got the antidote while others were expected to die. The clear aim of this, in Syria as with the others, was regime change. It was an optional decision taken before "Assad" killed a single "peaceful protester," and was taken for preexisting reasons (being an ally of Iran seems the primary one).
Consider the signs of thawing relations the US placed in the first years of Obama's presidency. As Robert Naiman's The Wikileaks Files (chapter 10, available here) explains,this "thaw" seems false. The public image was to show the U.S. "tried to engage Syria and failed, and that after the Syrian government cracked down on protests in 2011, the US had no choice but to abandon its efforts at engagement," In fact, the leaked cables show regime change plans, including fostering sectarian tensions, going back at least to 2006, and shows Washington "pursuing regime change for years and never fully switching to diplomacy."

In that light, consider Robert Ford, the first U.S. ambassador to Syria in years, sent as a sign of the that thaw. But he arrived in Damascus in late January, 2011, just weeks before the start of the "uprising" in Syria. In mid-March, protests and murky deaths of civilians and security personnel began. By early August the death toll was climbing when Ford vehemently denied any armed opposition fighters in Hama, a claim he considered a smear against the peaceful protesters there. This call was based on his own thorough inspection of the same city in early July; "the only weapon I saw was a slingshot," he said.

Extremists dump massacred policemen 
 in the river, Hama, August 1, 2011
The problem is the charges arose from an unprecedented July 31 armed rebel offensive that killed several police and soldiers in Hama in at least 3 different areas. 13 of the victims were dumped in the Orontes River the next morning (see detailed explanation here). At least one had his throat cut. The dumpers shout Allahu Akbar. Alarmed local activists warned that these were al-Qaeda fighters returned from Iraq. But the warnings were ignored, thanks to assurances like Ford's. In denying Islamist armed groups in Hama just as they seriously emerged there, Ford helped allow the civil war to take root without being clearly noticed as such. (see Robert Ford, Weapons Inspector: The Rebellion Begins in Hama, Part 2) Was this by accident or design?

Before that and to the present, the U.S. and its allies have maintained a reflexive refusal of alleged  rebel crimes, alongside a blanket acceptance of rebel allegations of regime crimes, to often ridiculous effect. For years now this has maintained the cover for armed gangs turned loose on the Syrian people, as was clear by the end of July, 2011.

Why the War "Assad Started" Failed to Topple Him as Planned
One notable feature of this war is how it goes on and on, rather than having a decisive regime-change moment like in Libya ... after which it all goes to hell. This hell has a slower onset, and that is enabled by the mixed steering it gets, from Washington especially. The massage sent to rebels, Syrian and otherwise, is something like "you deserve help and victory, so continue the fight, but ... don't expect help or victory just yet. Maybe next month."

Besides such blinking green lights to rebels, Rosen complains how Obama issued his chemical weapons "red line" threat against Syria, but then didn't follow-up on it. (side-note: it seems, rebels framed "Assad" by crossing the red line for him, on its birthday and just after UN CW "inspectors" arrived next to the attacks. Again, "Assad" crimes know no limits and also no logic).

Further, Obama failed to develop any credible secular alternative to ISIS, leaving the battlefield to Jihadists vs. Jihadists vs. Assad, and "now the US policy towards Assad's role in a post-war Syria remains unclear." Maybe that's because they've failed but don't want to admit it yet, but have to start adjusting anyway.

In contrast to this chronic Western vacillation, Rosen writes,
"Assad's supporters haven't flinched. ... . There was never any doubt in the minds of Assad's backers, who were far more organized and more committed to the fight than their adversaries."
This is true, but he cuts the truth off at its knees. External players are highlighted (Russia, Iran, Hezbollah - but not the lesser roles played by Iraq or Lebanon, among others). But Rosen doesn't mention the Syrian people, especially its loyal Syrian Arab Army, among these supporters. They've lost more soldiers and officers than the U.S. did in its entire Vietnam War, and they keep on fighting. They and their backers know they're dealing with terrorists and a life-and-death conspiracy. They know they don't have the option - enjoyed by the conspirators - to play around with denying that.

 Damascus, late March, 2011: not all of
"the people" wanted to "topple the regime"
Of course some of the Syrian people reject the current government as worse than the devil, but the population at large apparently does not agree. Early in the crisis they put on demonstrations like the one shown at right, only to be widely ignored in favor of Islamists on Youtube and calls for a "No Fly Zone." In 2014,  those Syrians not in rebel-held areas or displaced to hostile countries managed to cast 10.2 million votes (88.7%) for the "dictator" Bashar al-Assad to be their elected president (this is disputed, but not very well). Today, about 90% of those remaining in Syria live by choice in the dwindling government-held areas, despite the fact that more than half the country's territory has now been "liberated" by this regime change campaign.

Perhaps nothing but a Libya-style air can have any hope of crushing the will of all these people, and so this remains the call of the "opposition" and its supporters with their "humanitarian" concerns. But you know, considering Syria's excellent air defense ... massive nuclear strikes would be the easiest answer.

"Assad" as Creator of the Islamist Menaces
In Western minds, the most alarming thing about the Syria crisis is the rise of the obnoxious Deash (Islamisc State/ISIL/ISIS). They're so brutal and extreme in their Islamism even al-Qaeda has disowned them, they seem like a self-demonizing cartoon of themselves, and yet they control a good chuck of two nations. They could plot attacks on the West from inside Iraq and Syria, instead of somewhere else. It's a problem we finally have to stop, maybe. 

We've all seen the many lazy attempts to paint Daesh and "Assad" as cooperating on some illogical "evil" side in the conflict, either in a general sense (Assad's sectarian brutality drives recruitment, etc.) or direct, tactical and financial teamwork (secret oil deals, etc.). There were similar efforts to link "Assad" to the once-embarrassing al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra before the emergence of ISIS, and also to the FSA's Farouq brigade before that.

In Armen Rosen's article, the allegation appears in this form;
 "The regime freed jihadists from its prisons in the early days of the war, hoping to hasten the buildup of a jihadist element in the insurgency so that the regime could position itself as the only guarantor of the country's stability."
They claimed it was to help quell protests by meeting some demands, but Rosen sees through that to his imagined true intent. So the rise of ISIS was all an Assad plot? Well if so, no one in on the regime change campaign was taken in by it. Everyone in that camp knows there is so another protector of stability besides Assad. No one knows who it is, but since anyone would be better, they're pretty sure he'll appear right after the carpet bombing of Syria and destruction of its central government, saving the day from chaos ... just like someone probably did in Iraq and in Libya. Right?  

And just like the war he started but others continued, somehow "Assad" was able to get Turkey, Gulf monarchies, and their Western sponsors and other allies to sign on and help maintain these Islamist distraction forces that now run half of Syria.

There's ample evidence for US and allied support for the "jihadist element," but for those needing a reminder, let's just recall the released U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) documents from 2012 that reveal what the leaders' analysts knew at the time. To verify, see Judicial Watch PDFs - relevant ones are August 12, 2012 and October 12, 2012.  (see if needed external analysis here and here). Between the redacted majority are some golden snippets

The first notes that "western countries, the Gulf States and Turkey" - as the specified "supporting powers to the opposition" in Syria, were pursuing (or "wanted") the rise of an "Salafist Principality" (Islamic State) in the Syria-Iraq border area. Exact words:
"If the situation unravels there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime" 
Areas of control and support for Daesh 
in Syria and Iraq, mid-2014 (CNN map)
This willful unraveling was clearly to "isolate" Syria from any support from Iran or Iraq, to break the Iran - (Iraq?) - Syria - Lebanon / Hezbollah Shia-oriented "axis of resistance" as they call themselves.

This DIA report is widely read as predicting the rise of Daesh/Islamic State and its announced global caliphate (a type of "salafist principality" with radical implications). The more immediate emergence though was al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra (JaN, who declare emirates, not as radical). JaN emerged on the Syrian battlefield prior to this report - noted therein as AQI elements fighting under the name "Jaish al-Nusra" - and was using the final name before 2012 was out. The broad strategy, whoever's it was, may have been to emerge both movements in this way, creating a Hegelian dialectic (or a "good cop-bad cop" routine). That would be to make the JaN creation a palatable "middle choice" between verbotten ISIS and verbotten "Assad."

Salafist principality, isolating the Syrian regime, in Iraq
The DIA noted in 2012 that al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), as well as the more radical Islamic State of Iraq (ISI, immediate predecessor to Daesh) "supported the Syrian opposition since the beginning," seeing it as a "sectarian uprising" they boosted in their Friday sermons, recruiting fighters to help kill the heretics in Syria. These same sectarian groups were "trying to control the eastern areas (Hasaka and Der Zor), adjacent to the Western Iraqi provinces (Mosul and Anbar), in addition to neighboring Turkish borders," the report adds. These are just the areas where JaN and Daesh soon emerged. 

As the DIA noted in 2012, "Western countries, the Gulf States, and Turkey are supporting these efforts." Although allies "wanted" it, the analysts warned against this "unraveling" - not because of the problems it would cause for Syria but because of probable spill-over into Iraq.
The DIA apparently saw no intelligence supporting Bashar Assad creating this menace just to make himself look good (maybe that's in the redacted parts?) Also, this dire warning is not mentioned in Rosen's analysis of what caused the violence and terrorism in Syria today, as he writes:
"Even during the crisis of late 2011 and early 2012, few predicted just how bad things would get." 
Luckily some of those few who did were paid to predict, and their information was passed on the leaders who could make informed decisions (presumably the DIA weren't the only ones seeing these signs).

So informed, what did the White House, State Department, CIA, and allies against Assad do? They amplified armaments to the insurgents, kept up the green lights, downplayed terrorism worries until it became undeniable, then blamed Assad when an "Islamic State" appears in the Syria-Iraq border areas. Even then, they mainly ignored Daesh as long as it only bled Syrians; only when they destabilized Iraq as well with their brutal conquest of Mosul, it became an emergency requiring action. That action had been mainly in Syria, with little effect on Daesh outside of Kobane. But it does let them prolong their ISIS campaign, in which removing "Assad" remains the top goal, even above fighting ISIS - let alone the proper al-Qaeda terrorists or their allies - because ISIS is the main worry, and Assad is of course the main precondition that caused ISIS. 

Yes in fact I can finally see how this is true. Assad and Syria's government and culture underlies all of this by continuing to exist and to do so off the West's geopolitical script. This requires, in some genius minds ... things like fostering the rise of Islamic State just to "isolate the Syrian regime," and then to trying to monopolize the ineffective fight against that creation, and use the fight to instead topple the isolated government.

Clearly the regime change campaign is the primary cause of the crisis in Syria, even though this is denied by people who insist that the only answer is more of the regime change campaign.

Does this mean the world is insane? It was seeming so, and quite clearly. But finally, there's the materialization of Russia's anti-Daesh campaign, and hey ... that's not just part of the world but a sizable part. The final results are yet to be seen, but sanity has a new chance here, much to the dismay of the regime change camp. 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Mina Hajj Tragedy: Saudi Arabia Blames Iran

Mina Hajj Tragedy: Saudi Arabia Blames Iran
October 3/4, 2015
(last edits Oct. 4, princes updated and minor edits)

The massive human compression tragedy in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) just over a week ago is one of the deadliest in recent memory. The September 24 "stampede" during the Hajj (Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca) claimed  at least the 769 lives the kingdom claims, probably over 1,000 and maybe over 1,500, as claimed by Iran, who lost far and away the most citizens - nearly 500.

This tragic event was not a deliberate massacre, one presumes. But it was at least preventable (to all but the the few minds in the kingdom who declared it an "act of God"). It's being marketed and anti-marketed  on the world stage, in a drama involving Saudi Arabia and Iran - players in the Syria and Iraq conflicts that can be "defamed" by this - by false versions or by the truth, depending. How can I not be tempted to dive in?

With small but valuable input from others, I've been hashing over this with the ACLOS wiki article and its talk page. The news has covered this incident and Iran's massive share in the loss - currently at least 464 considered or confirmed dead. Tehran claims embassy staff were denied visas to come help identify the victims, amid talk of mass burial together inside the kingdom. This is all being negotiated, but if Iran's numbers are right, KSA so far also claims it just never found at least half of the Iranian victims, besides however many of the hundreds still just "missing" from other countries. 

Everyone knows Shi'ite Iran blames its Sunni rival Saudi Arabia for incompetence or worse, and most even seem to understand why. But less visibly, the seeds of the dubious inverse story - where Saudi Arabia blames Iran - might be sown already. The charge isn't yet overt, but I sense this is coming, and is worth calling out in advance, even at the risk of halting their plans and mooting my prediction.

Disputed Cause: Inept or Worse vs. Unruly or Worse
Until I see reason to do otherwise, my general presumption of the cause is mainly an accidental storm of the many mental ailments accumulating for nearly 300 years of al-Saud family totalitarian rule. General incompetence and bungling might be enhanced by entrenched and extreme sectarian bigotry against Shi'ites, little regard for the truth, and willingness to use barbaric means to achieve any amoral goal they decide on, all left unhinged by a lack of accountability.

By my cursory reading so far, survivor accounts bear that out, citing poor management and general callousness adding to the disaster in various ways. But some alleged details go beyond that and point in a disturbing direction - police keeping help at bay and discriminating against Iranians in delivering aid, and so helping ensure as many victims as possible - especially Iranians - died from the ordeal (see here, for example). 

Further, Saudi authorities may have initiated the tragic wrong move. Many reports blame the blockage of a street 206 (see here and here) by royal escort for Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud, a son of king Salman. Some say he's the Chairman of the Higher Committee for Haj, and so they may mean a different prince (Khaled bin Faisal?). It's a crucial allegation with some confusion best covered in detail elsewhere, but some prince allegedly made an unusual visit to Mina for unclear reasons, with his massive security buffer leading to the closure of "street 206" in Mina, disrupting the traffic flow, and thus causing the crush.

The main point here is KSA denies this possibility quite clearly in the media (second link above). Consider also the incident mapping by royal-owned al-Arabiya shown below, that gives the wrong incident location and denies any connection between it and this disputed street 206. This visual denial just underlines the problem by displaying touchiness on the subject. 

But the denial they aim for helps keep the blame slot open to fill, so far, with random improprieties by poorly-trained pilgrims violating movement rules all on their own. First, it was reported African Hajis were reportedly blamed. This was met with ridicule, but actually may have never been said (KSA denies it and I can't find the source). But it's undeniable they've blamed unruly Iranians, and they may consider it more than a simple mistake. We'll get to the details of that shortly.

Disputed Death Toll: Hundreds "Missing"
For the first week, Iran had a large batch of citizens, numbering around 300 (now lower, once higher)  whom they persistently listed as missing - not vouched for as dead or injured, but out of contact. Each day they failed to turn up after disappearing on the day so many died the more likely they were to be simply dead. 

The first published count of missing Iranians was 344. That shrank by 103 to 241 missing by the 29th. In the same span, confirmed deaths rose from 136 to 239, an increase of ... 103. The pattern down the line seemed to be that the "missing" were all laying dead in Saudi Arabia but with delayed confirmation. Carried over to the last 241, it seemed likely that as many as 480 Iranians were killed. And Tehran now say it was 464, then 465 and likely to inch up a bit higher.

So many Iranians killed in a prentable mishap in the virulently anti-Iranian Kingdom is something its rulers might want to cover up. They've offered no official number of Iranian dead, but have stuck to their overall death toll of 769, too low to allow nearly that many Iranians. So, they implicitly deny it.

Iran's consistent range: "at least" 1,200/1,300 killed, "expected" to exceed 1,500, or perhaps "2,000" if rounding up. (The dramatic 4,000 claim is a fluke with no support). But an AP study found Iran's total plus other nation's confirmed death tolls is over 1,000, with 600 still "missing" like Iran's 300 once were (see here) Numerous ways of counting of 1,000 or more have piled up, but are formally refuted; since the 25th, KSA has stuck with 769 and denied all arguments for a higher number - perhaps because denying half their dead is part of their plan to blame Iran. And they may feel locked into that dispute.
Other nations have/had comparable numbers of "missing" and likely dead (Egypt and Nigeria especially) but only Iran has that on top of so many confirmed dead, and has made the dramatic leap to all dead. And only they are now apparently set to take the blame.

The open cause and disputed fatalities may be foundations for a looming accusation that Tehran somehow set this all up to embarrass the noble kingdom. On the one hand it was an "act of God," on the other hand it was perhaps an Iranian plot, but in no way shape or form was it any fault of the noble kingdom 

Suggested Motive for this Iranian Plot
The apparent motive is fairly clear, and the one part of the proposition that works. The episode plays perfectly into Iran's ongoing campaign to improve their perception in the world, to weaken Saudi influence and prestige, and lately to de-Saudize the Hajj. When a giant crane collapse killed 111 pilgrims at the grand mosque two weeks earlier, including one of Iran's top space scientists, Tehran was already calling Saudi management inept at best. As the Hajj belongs to all Muslims, they argued, it should be managed by all, working through the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC). That call has gained far more acceptance outside Iran after the September 24 incident.

This reasonable solution to a real problem, on top of nuclear agreements and a supposed thaw with the West, turns in the Syrian conflict, and their mammoth tragedy added up quick; the world uncomfortably finds itself sympathizing with and almost cheering for Iran.

With a compelling motive, it all comes down to moral willingness to follow through, and that's a no-brainer to Saudi-sponsored "thinkers" - those villainous Shia will sacrifice any number of their people just to smear the kingdom and to garner this global sympathy. In fact, it's unlikely that would have happened without a dramatically large death toll among Iranians, and so we can even see a potential motive to take that hit.

This semi-logical reason to suspect Tehran, coupled with the need to keep the blame off themselves, might make blaming Iran irresistible to KSA. See now some Saudis who can see that motive, like this editorial in Asharq Al-Awsat English (London-based but Saudi-supported):
It is a never-ending story. Whenever an emergency occurs during the Hajj season, certain parties blame Saudi Arabia who, nevertheless, continues to give pilgrims top priority. [...] When the tragic stampede occurred in Mina, Saudi Arabia was blamed again by those who seem to have wished for the accident to happen in order to exploit it politically.
Perhaps with this in mind, the foreign minister Adel Al-Jubeir, standing with Secretary of State John Kerry, said: “I believe the Iranians should know better than to play politics with a tragedy that has befallen people who were performing their most sacred religious duty.” Jubeir vowed a full and open investigation and truth, and that anyone who made mistakes "will be held accountable." That's sure to be true if they decide the guilty were Iranians and their mistakes were intentional.

Suggested Plot Mechanics: 300 Suicide Saboteurs?
One problem with this potential allegation is the question of how he plotters could engineer a mass casualty event inside KSA without the Saudis detecting and halting the operation. The question doesn't seem very well-answered yet.

Recalling the once-missing Iranians, once numbering 344, it's interesting how KSA also both made them "missing" by not verifying their deaths and also had at that time a batch of "around 300" Iranians who they say caused the tragedy. The numerical similarity itself might be a coincidence, but the guilty Iranians are clearly alleged and must be considered. Some pass the story on eagerly as the way out of the mess: pro-Saudi Arab News is widely cited in blasting Crush Cause: 300 Iranians violated rule. They cite "sister publication" Asharq al-Awsaat, who ran Hajj stampeded caused by Iranian pilgrims not following instructions: Hajj mission official on September 26.

The alleged source is an anonymous (and so unverifiable) official from Iran’s Hajj mission, so an insider, who they say "revealed" (to AA exclusively, it seems)  a story totally contrary to the one real Iranians were telling. The article says he told them all the problems began:
...after a group of around 300 Iranian pilgrims failed to follow orders requiring them to wait for clearance to leave Jamarat—the site where pilgrims perform the “stoning the devil” ritual. Instead, the group went back to their mission’s headquarters as other groups were on their way to the site as scheduled, according to the official. “The group stopped for a while, causing the coming pilgrims to take a route no more than 20 meters wide,” he said, adding that such behavior often leads to tragic consequences in crowded areas. The Iranian pilgrims were scheduled to leave Jamarat hours after the accident took place, the official said.
So KSA media tells us these victims were instructed to wait at the bridge but for unclear reasons they turned back to the their tents, which jammed up the chute as the next batch was coming in. That would presumably be accidental, leading as it did to the death of hundreds of fellow Iranians, probably including themselves. But some people may be arguing otherwise.

Alleged Iranian Movements
This is a little complicated. At right, an area map set to true north. Mecca and the grand mosque are to the west. Here is the Jamarat bridge structure, site of the "stoning the devil" ritual, and the tent city of Mina to the southeast. The incident was in the near end of Mina from Jamarat. Movements will be explained.

Daily Star (Bangladesh) reports on Saudi claims the suspect group of 300 "did not follow the instruction to go to their tents from Muzdalifah (to the south, apparently) and went to Jamarat with their baggage, the Saudi media said. “They had been instructed to take rest in their tents and wait for the time allotted for them to perform their stoning ritual.”" That would be northbound towards the bridge area. The problem: they were in a hurry to get to the site, and got there at the wrong time.

Then another wrong move. A report from 5khtawat.com, auto-translated from Arabic, says Al-Arabiya reported this first; 300 Iranians "decided to return in the opposite direction after" the stoning ritual. An included al-Arabiya video (Youtube direct link) shows a computer animation of the scene and the allegation. The defiant Iranians' wrong moves - north past the tent city (from another site to the south) and then southeast into Mina from Jamarat - are shown in this.

So they were allowed in at the wrong time, and told they had to stay for their full wrong time slot. But again they walked the wrong way at the wrong time and - get this - no one stopped them on safety grounds, or put in a call to adjust traffic or anything, as the disaster unfolded at walking speed over more than a kilometer. Even if this story is true, Saudi handling of the incident was terrible - and the story is most likely not true.

I found the actual September 26 Al-Arabiya report (Arabic): Iran Hajj mission official: 300 reversing Iranian pilgrims behind the stampede As auto-translated, this explains:
The official said, in an interview with the Middle East (Asharq al-Awsat) "The violation details began when this group ... moved Thursday morning directly to the stoning ritual and did not come down in their allocated camps as is the case for the whole of pilgrims to put their belongings and wait for an appointment time, and then went contrary to the trend at 204 Street . "
The official added that this made up of about 300 pilgrims Iranian group, did not wait for the completion of throwing cinder Aqaba, according to the instructions which demands that you wait in the camp until the deadline, and decided to go back in the opposite direction, which coincided with the exit other missions by the ad hoc schedule for the stoning ritual , and resulted in a direct collision with human blocs. 
I thought at first AA was claiming these Iranians left the site of the crush alive, but it seems that referred to Jamarat. However, Riyadh does insist on a low number of victims and refused to acknowledge nearly 300 Iranians as dead. So this might be, or might have been, an unspecified plank of their case - the instigators somehow caused the event and just walked away. That would be a third wrong (alleged) move authorities also failed (allegedly) to prevent.

Why is the incident mapped wrong? 
The incident is mapped wrong in al-Arabiya's video, if not in their whole narrative. For reference, here's the area the evidence suggests, and its connecting streets. All agree people died on street 204. By most sources the crush was at the intersection of that and 223, with dead on both streets. The photo at top was taken on street 223, facing southwest towards 204 in the early afternoon (metal roofed structure starts at picture's right edge). I'm not clear yet on which directions the victims on 204 were concentrated in, or how each group was moving, but people clearly died on 223 as well as on 204.

But Saudi sources seem to deny this. As shown at right, al-Arabiya's animation has the collision happening entirely on a straight stretch of street 204, well south of the intersection. A blind corner would make more sense, but here two groups just kept on walking and pushing towards each other, despite being able to see it coming for some time. (on the left, northbound pilgrims headed to the stoning ritual, right, stationary Iranians jamming things up. Red is center of disaster. Orange I guess is ways the left group was forced to divert into but couldn't, due to poor site design that leaves pilgrims jammed into inescapable chutes.

The corner it happened at makes more sense than this, but the real site includes street 223, and that connects to street 206, allegedly blocked for the crown prince. And in this Saudi animated version of the incident - coincidentally - that intersection explicitly does not even exist. An imaginary row of tents prevents any real intersection, and so 206 must be unconnected. Not that anything happened there anyway, right? What a move. What can this verifiable map alteration do except show how touchy they are about the 206 connection?

Re-Considering the Original Story
Details like this may be added to the "revealed" story, and the core issue remains: is the Hajj official's alleged statement real, or just an unverifiable work of fiction? Was it perhaps distorted from a true conversation? Here's a narrative to consider:

The Hajj mission (there won't be an embassy, obviously) got several calls from this group of about 300 Iranians, as they turned back unexpectedly - and maybe there were details about why that the Mission didn't mention or that Aawsat chose to ignore. The mission told the Saudi authorities that they feared these people were among the dead, simply giving a last known location and direction of travel, hoping for information. Maybe these parts were also left out of the version handed to al-Awsat, and then the distorted plea was re-packaged as some whistle-blower's smoking gun testimony that the Iranian victims may have deliberately set this up.

Do note that anyone in the crush is also a witness to their part of this incident. Those speaking so far seem to be relatively unaware of what caused the initial wrong move, although the closure of street 206 is mentioned. These accounts are from the ones who lived, who will tend to be those on top, originally furthest back from the initial spark of the tragedy.

In contrast, the pilgrims who changed direction - after encountering the crown prince's guard or not - share these traits:
* Were allegedly Iranians and numbered around 300
* In turning around they allegedly caused the tragedy
* They would know the most about why they turned around
* If it was because of 206 being closed, they'd be southwest-bound on street 223, the denied area.
* By the stats, they overwhelmingly wound up dead and unable to tell us why they turned around.

I don't suppose this was actually set up by the House of Saud either just to kill some Iranians and then have to come up with some bizarre explanation. These Iranians couldn't both cause a deadly stampede and walk away. In the end they'll have to blame suicide saboteurs if they follow through on this, and having to do that hardly seems like something they'd want to do. But once there was an incident sufficient to spark panicked thinking, this is what a senile dynasty's thinkers might come up with to deflect blame. And consider how the field would be left open for them to give it a try if the best witnesses wound up dead.

Suicide Ringleader? Ambassador Roknabadi
One of Iran's more prominent missing likely victims of the tragedy is Ghazanfar Roknabadi, their former ambassador to Lebanon and apparently still an influential figure. He joins two news reporters and a prominent political analyst on that list, state media reported. Like them, he was consistently reported missing for the first week - not confirmed as dead or injured but not answering his phone, and now considered dead.

Allegedly, Saudi authorities have denied Roknabadi was even in the kingdom at all, unless he sneaked in on some secret work. The original report is credited to al-Arabiya, and heartily refuted in Iran. Press TV (Iranian state-run) reports
The Saudi-owned Arabic-language TV channel Al Arabiya claimed earlier in the day that there had been no official records showing that Roknabadi had arrived in the Saudi territory for performing Hajj rituals. The report said that the diplomat could have entered the kingdom through unofficial channels.
This implies clandestine work, perhaps with a fake Hajj stamp, and up to no good. Perhaps with the media people he sneaked his way right up to this disaster, and helped set upthe mob of saboteurs hell-bent on crashing themselves into the kingdom's public reputation to help Tehran make its arguments. If Iran insists on showing he was there, it's proven. All documents to the contrary were likely burned, all witnesses to the contrary locked up or beheaded.

I checked Al-Arabiya's website, searching for his family name in English and Arabic ( رکن‌آبادی،) and found no recent matches on English or Arabic pages (he does appear in older reports under this name. But where it matters most, in their 28 September report- which I finally found - it has the wrong name. Why? 
Saudi sources told Al Arabiya News that official records show that the name of the former Iranian ambassador to Beirut Ghazanfar Abadi does not appear among this year’s pilgrims.
If his presence during the pilgrimage is confirmed, that would mean that he has entered the country by “unknown manners,” possibly registering with a different name and description.
This might be a legitimate difference in reading his name. They have  Ghazanfar (Rukn-)Abadi vs. Ghazanfar Asl Roknabadi (Or actually Ghazanfar Mohammad Aslroknabadi as his visa says - see below). Iran is being quite open about the pseudonym of this potential ringleader. Or ... is this a glimmer of Saudi incompetence we've been hearing about?  Or was it just a fake cause to suggest he was up to no good, and claim simple error once it fell apart? Why bother? I guess its ineptitude.

Continuing with Press TV's report, which shared the visa as shown at right: Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham on Monday described the Al-Arabiya report as “incorrect” and "hasty" ... saying the ministry has documents showing that Riyadh had approved an ordinary Hajj visa for the missing diplomat.“Mr. Roknabadi set off for the Hajj pilgrimage with his ordinary passport and detailed information on the passports of all pilgrims, including his, are at the disposal of the authorities of the Saudi government,” Afkham said. Further. videos aired in Iranian media seem to show the man on Hajj in Mecca before he vanished.

Just in case it was proven he was there (and it sounds like that) he must have snuck in, KSA may be saying (not clear). They may or may not push that, may keep this reason or come up with another one. Maybe they'll see their error, check again, and find that no Ghazanfar Mohammad Aslrokn ever passed through either.

Will it Come Together?
There's still no clear sign I've found that they're going further with this, and I now suspect they won't, on their own advice or that of an ally. Bt in case they do, keep an eye on how may planks will they  with:
* 769 dead, or under 1,000 anyway / around 300 Iranians missing
* Mr. "Abadi" sneaked in and is among the unconfirmed/missing
* An Iranian group, likely his, caused the incident, through no fault of KSA

Will they expand on the implications they did it willfully, in collusion with Tehran, in ... this "act of God" ... that mainly killed Iranians? Someone may well be laying a different basis as this one crumbles, official clerics would  bless it, ... I kind of hope they miss this preview and make the prediction come true. But if they don't - this was why I suspected they were seriously thinking about doing it.