Saudi Arabia Threatens to “End Career” of AP Reporter Over Chemical Weapons Story

Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan-Bush

Journalist, who exposed how ‘rebels’ were behind August 21st chemical attack in Syria, faces intimidation

Associated Press reporter Dale Gavlak has been threatened over her involvement in a story which exposed how Syrian rebels were responsible for the August 21st chemical weapons attack after being handed the weapons by Saudi intelligence agents.

On August 29th, Mint Press News published an article written by Gavlak which detailed how FSA militants in Ghouta admitted to reporter Yahya Ababneh that they were behind the August 21st chemical weapons incident, which the United States blamed on President Bashar Al-Assad, having mishandled chemical weapons provided to them by Saudi Arabia.

Although Gavlak did not write the story in her capacity as an AP correspondent, according to Mint Press News executive director Mnar Muhawesh, within 48 hours Gavlak received threats to “end her career” if she didn’t disassociate herself from the article.

The threats came from a third party who was most likely acting on behalf of Saudi Intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan, according to Gavlak. Bandar is named in the article as having ordered the transfer of chemical weapons to Syrian rebels in Ghouta.

Gavlak also “confirmed with several colleagues and Jordanian government officials that the Saudis have been supplying rebels with chemical weapons,” according to Muhawesh.

Note that Gavlak was not threatened with a defamation lawsuit on the basis that her story was inaccurate, she was told that her career would be finished, which could also be taken as a death threat. The story’s entire credibility rests on Gavlak being an accredited AP journalist who has also worked for NPR and the BBC, which is why the people behind the threats were so insistent that Gavlak distance herself from the report.

The original Mint Press News article was published just two days before the United States was widely expected to launch cruise missile attacks on Syria, until the White House backed out at the last minute and President Obama announced he would seek congressional authorization.

“On August 30th, Dale asked MintPress to remove her name completely from the byline because she stated that her career and reputation was at risk. She continued to say that these third parties were demanding her to disassociate herself from the article or these parties would end her career,” writes Muhawesh, adding that despite the threats, he decided to keep her name attached to the report.

Gavlak’s colleague Yahya Ababneh, who personally interviewed the rebels in Ghouta, was also threatened.

“Yahya has recently notified me that the Saudi embassy contacted him and threatened to end his career if he did a follow up story on who carried out the most recent chemical weapons attack and demanded that he stop doing media interviews in regards to the subject,” writes Muhawesh.

Dale Gavlak, Yahya Ababneh, and Mint Press News should be applauded for their ethical stance in upholding journalistic integrity by refusing to back down in the face of apparent threats from the habitually corrupt Saudi government.

In revealing the threats, Gavlak and Ababneh have not only thrown a fresh spotlight on the thuggish behavior of governments like Saudi Arabia who are arming Al-Qaeda led rebels in Syria, but have also bolstered the credibility of their original story, which could very well have helped prevent an attack on Syria.

The fact that Saudi Arabia is so desperate for Gavlak to distance herself from the story that it has resorted to underhanded threats, instead of openly denying the veracity of the report, suggests that the original article is indeed accurate and that Saudi Arabia is arming the Syrian rebels with chemical weapons.

It also strongly indicates that the entire basis for US aggression towards Syria, currently playing out in the form of demands for Syria to relinquish its chemical weapons arsenal, is based on the completely fraudulent pretext that Assad ordered the August 21st chemical weapons attack, a premise that has already been discredited by German intelligence findings.

By Paul Joseph Watson

Infowars.com – September 23, 2013

Paul Joseph Watson is the editor and writer for Infowars.com and Prison Planet.com. He is the author of Order Out Of Chaos. Watson is also a host for Infowars Nightly News.

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bodies being buried in a suburb of Damascus

HERE THE RELATED ARTICLE:

EXCLUSIVE: Syrians In Ghouta Claim Saudi-Supplied Rebels Behind Chemical Attack

Rebels and local residents in Ghouta accuse Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan of providing chemical weapons to an al-Qaida linked rebel group.

By Dale Gavlak and Yahya Ababneh | August 29, 2013

Dale Gavlak assisted in the research and writing process of this article, but was not on the ground in Syria. Reporter Yahya Ababneh, with whom the report was written in collaboration, was the correspondent on the ground in Ghouta who spoke directly with the rebels, their family members, victims of the chemical weapons attacks and local residents. 

Gavlak is a MintPress News Middle East correspondent who has been freelancing for the AP as a Amman, Jordan correspondent for nearly a decade. This report is not an Associated Press article; rather it is exclusive to MintPress News. 

Ghouta, Syria — As the machinery for a U.S.-led military intervention in Syria gathers pace following last week’s chemical weapons attack, the U.S. and its allies may be targeting the wrong culprit.

Interviews with people in Damascus and Ghouta, a suburb of the Syrian capital, where the humanitarian agency Doctors Without Borders said at least 355 people had died last week from what it believed to be a neurotoxic agent, appear to indicate as much.

The U.S., Britain, and France as well as the Arab League have accused the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for carrying out the chemical weapons attack, which mainly targeted civilians. U.S. warships are stationed in the Mediterranean Sea to launch military strikes against Syria in punishment for carrying out a massive chemical weapons attack. The U.S. and others are not interested in examining any contrary evidence, with U.S Secretary of State John Kerry saying Monday that Assad’s guilt was “a judgment … already clear to the world.”

However, from numerous interviews with doctors, Ghouta residents, rebel fighters and their families, a different picture emerges. Many believe that certain rebels received chemical weapons via the Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, and were responsible for carrying out the dealing gas attack.

“My son came to me two weeks ago asking what I thought the weapons were that he had been asked to carry,” said Abu Abdel-Moneim, the father of a rebel fighting to unseat Assad, who lives in Ghouta.

Abdel-Moneim said his son and 12 other rebels were killed inside of a tunnel used to store weapons provided by a Saudi militant, known as Abu Ayesha, who was leading a fighting battalion. The father described the weapons as having a “tube-like structure” while others were like a “huge gas bottle.”

Ghouta townspeople said the rebels were using mosques and private houses to sleep while storing their weapons in tunnels.

Abdel-Moneim said his son and the others died during the chemical weapons attack. That same day, the militant group Jabhat al-Nusra, which is linked to al-Qaida, announced that it would similarly attack civilians in the Assad regime’s heartland of Latakia on Syria’s western coast, in purported retaliation.

“They didn’t tell us what these arms were or how to use them,” complained a female fighter named ‘K.’ “We didn’t know they were chemical weapons. We never imagined they were chemical weapons.”

“When Saudi Prince Bandar gives such weapons to people, he must give them to those who know how to handle and use them,” she warned. She, like other Syrians, do not want to use their full names for fear of retribution.

A well-known rebel leader in Ghouta named ‘J’ agreed. “Jabhat al-Nusra militants do not cooperate with other rebels, except with fighting on the ground. They do not share secret information. They merely used some ordinary rebels to carry and operate this material,” he said.

“We were very curious about these arms. And unfortunately, some of the fighters handled the weapons improperly and set off the explosions,” ‘J’ said.

Doctors who treated the chemical weapons attack victims cautioned interviewers to be careful about asking questions regarding who, exactly, was responsible for the deadly assault.

The humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders added that health workers aiding 3,600 patients also reported experiencing similar symptoms, including frothing at the mouth, respiratory distress, convulsions and blurry vision. The group has not been able to independently verify the information.

More than a dozen rebels interviewed reported that their salaries came from the Saudi government.

Saudi involvement

In a recent article for Business Insider, reporter Geoffrey Ingersoll highlighted Saudi Prince Bandar’s role in the two-and-a-half year Syrian civil war. Many observers believe Bandar, with his close ties to Washington, has been at the very heart of the push for war by the U.S. against Assad.

Ingersoll referred to an article in the U.K.’s Daily Telegraph about secret Russian-Saudi talks alleging that Bandar offered Russian President Vladimir Putin cheap oil in exchange for dumping Assad.

“Prince Bandar pledged to safeguard Russia’s naval base in Syria if the Assad regime is toppled, but he also hinted at Chechen terrorist attacks on Russia’s Winter Olympics in Sochi if there is no accord,” Ingersoll wrote.

“I can give you a guarantee to protect the Winter Olympics next year. The Chechen groups that threaten the security of the games are controlled by us,” Bandar allegedly told the Russians.

“Along with Saudi officials, the U.S. allegedly gave the Saudi intelligence chief the thumbs up to conduct these talks with Russia, which comes as no surprise,” Ingersoll wrote.

“Bandar is American-educated, both military and collegiate, served as a highly influential Saudi Ambassador to the U.S., and the CIA totally loves this guy,” he added.

According to U.K.’s Independent newspaper, it was Prince Bandar’s intelligence agency that first brought allegations of the use of sarin gas by the regime to the attention of Western allies in February.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that the CIA realized Saudi Arabia was “serious” about toppling Assad when the Saudi king named Prince Bandar to lead the effort.

“They believed that Prince Bandar, a veteran of the diplomatic intrigues of Washington and the Arab world, could deliver what the CIA couldn’t: planeloads of money and arms, and, as one U.S. diplomat put it, wasta, Arabic for under-the-table clout,” it said.

Bandar has been advancing Saudi Arabia’s top foreign policy goal, WSJ reported, of defeating Assad and his Iranian and Hezbollah allies.

To that aim, Bandar worked Washington to back a program to arm and train rebels out of a planned military base in Jordan.

The newspaper reports that he met with the “uneasy Jordanians about such a base”:

His meetings in Amman with Jordan’s King Abdullah sometimes ran to eight hours in a single sitting. “The king would joke: ‘Oh, Bandar’s coming again? Let’s clear two days for the meeting,’ ” said a person familiar with the meetings.

Jordan’s financial dependence on Saudi Arabia may have given the Saudis strong leverage. An operations center in Jordan started going online in the summer of 2012, including an airstrip and warehouses for arms. Saudi-procured AK-47s and ammunition arrived, WSJ reported, citing Arab officials.

Although Saudi Arabia has officially maintained that it supported more moderate rebels, the newspaper reported that “funds and arms were being funneled to radicals on the side, simply to counter the influence of rival Islamists backed by Qatar.”

But rebels interviewed said Prince Bandar is referred to as “al-Habib” or ‘the lover’ by al-Qaida militants fighting in Syria.

Peter Oborne, writing in the Daily Telegraph on Thursday, has issued a word of caution about Washington’s rush to punish the Assad regime with so-called ‘limited’ strikes not meant to overthrow the Syrian leader but diminish his capacity to use chemical weapons:

Consider this: the only beneficiaries from the atrocity were the rebels, previously losing the war, who now have Britain and America ready to intervene on their side. While there seems to be little doubt that chemical weapons were used, there is doubt about who deployed them.

It is important to remember that Assad has been accused of using poison gas against civilians before. But on that occasion, Carla del Ponte, a U.N. commissioner on Syria, concluded that the rebels, not Assad, were probably responsible.

Some information in this article could not be independently verified. Mint Press News will continue to provide further information and updates . 

Dale Gavlak is a Middle East correspondent for Mint Press News and has reported from Amman, Jordan, writing for the Associated Press, NPR and BBC. An expert in Middle Eastern affairs, Gavlak covers the Levant region, writing on topics including politics, social issues and economic trends. Dale holds a M.A. in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Chicago. Contact Dale at dgavlak@mintpressnews.com

Yahya Ababneh is a Jordanian freelance journalist and is currently working on a master’s degree in journalism,  He has covered events in Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Libya. His stories have appeared on Amman Net, Saraya News, Gerasa News and elsewhere.

By Dale Gavlak and Yahya Ababneh | August 29, 2013

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2 thoughts on “Saudi Arabia Threatens to “End Career” of AP Reporter Over Chemical Weapons Story

  1. We should have expected something like this from Prince Bandar Bin Sultan. He failed with his not so subtle bribe money and threats of terrorism against Russia against Putin. Now Prince Bandar has decided to go after a humble journalist! Do not expect the Western corporate media to come to the aide of Dale Gavlak! In Syria’s situation, thanks to Russia’s firm stance and the heroic fighting of the Syrian Army- as well as Egypt’s decision to shutdown Islamic Brotherhood and Turkey’s feeling of isolation, there is every reason to believe that Syria will eventually defeat Al Qaida terrorists. But we already see terrorists are striking Western friendly countries such Kenya. So Prince Bandar’s claim that terrorists can be successfully used against enemies only has been proven completely false. Western corporate media and political leaders and intelligence agencies know very well terrorists in Syria have committed heinous crimes. Dale Gavlak’s only crime is she dared to break the conspiracy of media silence on Saudi Arabia’s support of terrorism against Syria.

  2. Pingback: Saudi Arabia Threatens to “End Career” of AP Reporter Over Chemical Weapons Story |

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