Western – Russian Stand-Off over Syria Intensifies as “Rebels” suffer Decisive Defeat
Christof Lehmann (nsnbc),- While the western-backed insurgents are suffering a decisive defeat, the stand-off between the West and Russia intensifies. The U.K. and France renew claims that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons, claims which contradict both a UN report and all available circumstantial evidence. Russia reiterates that any direct military intervention will be futile, calls continued support to the insurgents a “dead-end”, and offers to replace the Austrian Battalion in the Israeli occupied Syrian Golan with Russian Troops.
Brokering a peaceful resolution at the second international conference on Syria in Geneva, or even holding the conference, as planned, in June, becoming increasingly improbable, the military build-up and bellicose rhetoric continue to escalate the Middle East toward a Sarajevo-like situation, where one spark can ignite an unstoppable chain reaction.
Insurgents suffering decisive defeats. Insurgents in Syria continue suffering decisive defeats. During the second half of 2012 the Syrian Arab Army successfully began implementing a counter-insurgency strategy which is partially based on Russian experience from fighting insurgents in Chechnya.
Analysts largely agree that the insurgent´s increased introduction of chemical weapons into the theater is a sign of desperation and an attempt to create a political discourse for a western military intervention.
After Hezbollah has begun securing part of the Lebanese – Syrian border, after Iraq´s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki committed Iraq to increase security along the Iraqi – Syrian as well as along the Saudi-Arabian – Iraqi border, the logistical back-land of the insurgency has been significantly reduced and limited to Jordan, Israel, Kurdish Iraq and Turkey.
A weakened Erdogan – Gül administration due to mass protests in Turkey is already resulting in increased security along the 900 km long Syrian – Turkish border. On 7 June, nsnbc international received the first reports about several shootouts between Turkish police forces and Syrian “rebels”.
The arrest of 12 Jabhat al-Nusrah members who were in possession of metal cylinders, containing 2 kg of the banned Sarin nerve gas, only days before the first mass protests in Turkey on the evening of Friday 31 May indicates, that the Erdogan administration is loosing it´s grip on at least factions within Turkey´s security and law enforcement services and that the Erdogan – Gül administration has to cope with increased opposition to Turkey´s aggression against its Arab neighbor.
The last intact, major fighting force of the insurgents is currently contained in a pocket in the city of Qasair. According to Russia´s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the majority of those fighters are from European and regional countries.
With logistical supply lines cut of and the Syrian Arab Army slowly and systematically advancing through the upland and suburbs, the situation of the insurgents is becoming increasingly desperate and calls are being made for sending in observers, for emergency relief for injured “civilians” and other appeals.
According to statements from the Syrian Arab Army, it is using all possible precautions to prevent collateral casualties. A high-ranking, retired Turkish military expert who has to remain anonymous, fearing repression, stated to nsnbc international that the city could have been taken long ago, was it not for the fact that the Syrian military is advancing with all possible precaution with regard to international law, knowing that the west is carefully monitoring their advance to gain political advantages and to demand prosecution for war crimes.
Western Chemical Weapons Rhetoric contradicts U.N. Report. After investigating the use of chemical weapons in Aleppo, the United Nations special rapporteur Carla del Ponte stated, that much to her surprise, she could not find any evidence that indicated, that the Syrian Arab Army or government had used chemical weapons, and that she, on the other hand, had found strong circumstantial evidence, that indicated, that the “rebels” repeatedly had used chemical weapons. Moreover, del Ponte stated, it was probable, that the Sarin gas used against civilians in Aleppo had come to Syria via Turkey.
Besides del Ponte´s report, there is strong circumstantial evidence that supports, that the insurgents are using chemical weapons, while there is equally strong circumstantial evidence that suggests, that the Syrian government or military does not use chemical weapons.
Circumstantial evidence against Syria´s use of chemical weapons is among other: The fact that all chemical weapons stockpiles in Syria are under strict control and all weapons and chemicals are registered with serial numbers. No such weapon could for example fall into the hands of “rouge officers”.
All attacks with chemical weapons so far were directed against civilians or Syrian troops. It is highly improbable that the Syrian army would use weapons against itself. With respect to using chemical weapons against the Syrian population, while the national dialog in Syria is making a steady and continuous progress would be equivalent to political suicide.
Considering the risk of an international investigation and eventual war crimes charges brought against members of the Syrian government or military, it is improbable that anyone would take the risk of using chemical weapons. Moreover, the Syrian Arab Army is winning decisive victories without the use of chemical weapons.
There is neither a strategic nor a tactical advantage that could possibly be perceived, that would justify even considering the use of these weapons.
Circumstantial evidence in support of the insurgents using chemical weapons is among other: In February 2013 Malaysian police arrested the former Malaysian military officer Yazzid Sufaat and his female partner Halimah Hussein. Both were charged with aiding and abetting terrorist organizations by recruiting Malaysian youth for mercenary service with al-Qaeda associated terrorists in Syria. In 2001, after returning from Afghanistan, Yazzid Sufaat was charged with helping al-Qaeda with the development of biological and chemical weapons capabilities.
Insurgents have repeatedly brandished their chemical weapons capabilities by issuing public statements as well as by disseminating videos. In one of the videos the insurgents are showing containers with chemicals from the Turkish chemical corporation Tekkim.
The insurgents are killing rabbits with the chemicals and threaten Syrians who don´t support the insurgency. The video is bearing a striking similarity to videos shot in US chemical weapons laboratories.
In several public statements issued by insurgent commanders, statements are made, according to which Saudi-Arabia has provided insurgents with small, portable chemical weapons laboratories. Such reports began surfacing after the decisive defeat of the Free Syrian Army in Aleppo in two major battles, in June and July 2012.
The laboratories are reportedly similar to or identical with those that were developed for al-Qaeda during the 1990s.
As Iraq´s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki pointed out Saudi-Arabia reactivated the old smuggling routes which start in the Anbar region. The routes, now used for logistical support of insurgents in Syria and for destabilizing Iraq, were previously used during the US occupation of Iraq. Portable weapons laboratories could easily have been provided along the smuggling route.
In April 2013 insurgents, belonging to Jabhat al-Nusrah, were reported to be fighting along side Turkish ground troops and pilots in the attempt to secure the strategically important Ming air base near Aleppo. Besides the fact that Turkish, that is NATO troops were involved in combat operations against the Syrian Arab Army on Syria territory, the Turkish war crime also ties Turkey to chemical weapons use in Syria.
According to reports from the Syrian military and government, the chemical tipped rocket that had killed civilians in Aleppo had been fired from an area held by the insurgents as well as Turkish ground troops.
It is most likely that UN Special Rapporteur Carla del Ponte has been shown detailed evidence in support of the facts and that it, among other is this evidence that prompted her to state, that much to her surprise, she had seen evidence that indicated that rebels had used chemical weapons in Aleppo, and that the chemical weapon may have come from Turkey.
In late May, Turkish police arrested 12 members of Jabhat al-Nusrah in possession of 2 kg of Sarin gas. Only days later, the Syrian Arab Army secured 2 containers with 2 kg of Sarin gas from insurgents in Syria.
There is an overwhelming amount of evidence in support of insurgents using chemical weapons while the evidence in support of the Syrian military using chemical weapons is basically non-existent other than in the form of rhetorical arguments and questionable or falsified evidence which hardly can be used as a basis for justifying the continued state sponsorship of terrorists or a direct military intervention with regular forces.
French, British and U.S. Chemical Weapons and Humanitarian Intervention Rhetoric Increases Proportionally to Insurgents Defeat. Seemingly unaffected by the facts about chemical weapons, western chemical weapons and human rights rhetoric in support of state-sponsored terrorism and open war on Syria increase proportionally to the insurgents desperation and their decisive defeat.
On Tuesday, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius stated that he had passed an analysis to identify military toxins on to the head of a United Nations inquiry into chemical weapon use in Syria, saying:
“These analysis demonstrate the presence of Sarin gas… In view of this evidence, France is now certain that Sarin gas has been used in Syria several times and in a localized manner”.
Fabius however, forgot to mention that the Syrian government agrees that Sarin gas has been used and that Syria, along with Russia is demanding a full investigation of every single incident by an independent commission of experts.
Investigations of that nature would, with overwhelming probability, result in documentation for the insurgents use of Sarin and Turkish/NATO involvement.
Foreign Minister Fabius has made such an impression on Irish journalist Finian Cunningham, that Cunningham suggests that Fabius begins writing fiction when he retires, suggesting the pen-name Fabulous.
Later, French President Francois Hollande echoed Foreign Minister Fabius and declared:
“We have elements of proof and we urge the international community to act.”
Both Hollande and Fabius stressed, that hey would not act unilaterally and that they would be holding talks with Washington. Fabius also stated, that:
“a line has been indisputably breached… France and its allies must decide whether to react, including in an armed manner…. but at the same time, we must not block for an eventual peace conference“.
The reference to “elements of proof” is not only indicating the fact that Fabius and Hollande are cherrypicking parts of the evidence by correctly stating that Sarin has been used while omitting the overwhelming evidence that supports, that it were the insurgents who have used it.
There is also good reason to suggest that France indeed may be involved in falsifying, or rather creating evidence.
Some of the blood samples which were used by France were “smuggled out of Syria by Le Monde journalists” who claim that the samples had been provided to them by local doctors.
It is a highly questionable “chain of evidence” which most likely would not have standing in any court worse its salt, but it is excellent for rhetoric use and for justifying an illegal war by using a weapon of mass persuasion like Le Monde.
Fabius claims, that he “has no doubt that the Sarin was used by Assad an his accomplices” and French mainstream media will repeat the tale. After all, photos suggesting the hanging of the evil warlord Assad were already disseminated in Danish media in 2012, so France has some catching up to do on the Propaganda Front.
The United Kingdon´s Foreign Office released statements, according to which fluids, that had been collected from victims of one or more of the attacks in Syria were found by scientists at the U.K.´s Porton Down facility, to contain evidence of Sarin gas use.
However, it was also stated, that there could be no 100 % certainty that the Assad regime had used chemical weapons. The British Foreign Office would not even confirm where or when the samples were collected.
Lyall Grant, the U.K.´sAmbassador to the United Nations could merely confirm that “the samples revealed evidence that suggested the use of different chemical agents, sometimes including Sarin, sometime not”.
The head of the UN investigation, Ake Sellstrom issued a statement in which he cautioned that:
“The validity of the information is not ensured in the absence of convincing evidence of the chain of custody of the data that have been collected.“
US President Barak Obama responded to the British and French statements by reiterating that chemical weapons use was a red line but that there are divisions about how far and how fast to proceed against Syria.
After discussing the French and British claims at a meeting of NATO Defense Ministers in brussels on Tuesday, US Secretary of defense Chuck Hagel stated to the press, that he had not seen the evidence and that NATO´s role continues to be to help Turkey with the protection of its borders. Beyond that, so Hagel, we did not discuss additional war plans.
Public support for a possible open war on Syria in the USA is small and French – British rhetoric about Chemical Weapons could eventually result in increased popular support. Keeping the disclosed facts about the Bush administrations lies about Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq in mind however, a WMD / Chemical Weapons rhetoric could as well backfire politically.
Regional War more of a Game Changer in US Public Opinion than Chemical Weapons. US diplomacy in a nutshell could be explains thus:
The USA wants to eliminate Assad as an ally of Iran, without unduly provoking Russia, and is seeking to cook up a replacement regime that is acceptable to Moscow. That given, it is then expected that a destabilized Syria continues creating tensions between the EU and Russia over energy-security. If a destabilization of Syria does not result in sabotaging the further integration of Russian-Iranian-EUropean energy sectors and national economies a regional war is the logical progression.
The widening of the conflict into neighboring Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq or the Golan, and rhetoric about the involvement of Hezbollah could possibly be used for railroading the US´s public opinion toward a reluctant yes for a military intervention if Russia does not play along with the western blackmail attempt.
Both the Republican Senator and Chairman of the US Senate´s Armed Services Committee John McCain and Condoleeza Rice are reportedly lobbying the Obama administration for a US military intervention, using both chemical weapons and the threat of a regional war as primary arguments. That is, arguments for public consumption. So far, non of the involved parties has openly addressed the actual energy-security, geo-politic and economical causes for the war on Syria.
Russia raises Stakes, Offering Russian Troops to substitute Austrian Battalion in the Israeli Occupied Syrian Golan. After Russia warned, that any direct military intervention against Syria would be futile, and that Russia honors the Russian – Syrian contract for the delivery of S-300 SAM systems to introduce a stabilizing factor in the region, Russia´s President Vladimir Putin has sent one more, unequivocal signal to the anti-Syria alliance.
According to the website of the semi state sponsored Russian TV channel RT, Vladimir Putin has said, that Moscow will be sending Russian forces to replace the Austrian battalion that is operating within the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in the Israeli occupied Syrian Golan is the UN asks Russia. RT quoted Putin for saying:
“Because of the complicated situation in the Golan, we can replace the Austrian units which will withdraw from the area with Russian units in the case all the region´s countries agreed and the UN Secretary General asked to”.
RT also reports, that Putin has said, that the UN Secretary General Ban Kyi-moon has asked Russia during his last visit to the country, to raise the volume of its forces in the UN-organized peace-keeping missions.
Martin Nesirky, the spokesman for UN Secretary General Ban Kyi-moon however, has voiced his gratitude for Russia´s offer but pointed out that the disengagement agreement in the Golan does not permit accepting the Russian suggestion, because the agreement stipulates, that non of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council can deploy peacekeeping forces to the Golan.
Considering it overwhelmingly likely that Russian officials are well aware of the status of the Israeli occupied Syrian Golan and UN troops, Putin´s statement is by many analysts, the scribe included, understood as an implicit warning issued by a shrewd statesman, who wanted to reiterate that any direct military aggression against Syria would be futile and force Russia as well as Iran to respond, and that a continuation of the support of insurgents via the Golan has to be stopped.
The Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has discussed the Golan with the UN Secretary General along with preparations for Geneva 2. In a statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry said, that the two sides had discussed the military and political situation in Syria in terms of the escalating tension in the disengagement area in the Golan.
Russia Reiterates Need for Political Resolution of Syria Crisis while Drawing Clear Line. While Russian top diplomats increasingly assert that the continued support of the insurgents or a military intervention are unacceptable, and while the anti-Syrian alliance seems to do everything to undermine the planned Geneva 2 conference, Russian top diplomats continue their efforts at finding a political resolution.
Russia´s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stressed the necessity that all international players make efforts to launch the political process in Syria. At a press conference at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation on Friday, Lavrov stated:
“Today we stressed once again that all international players should work for the peaceful settlement to the crisis and create the favorable conditions to launch dialogue between the Syrian government and the opposition”.
Answering journalists questions on U.S. officials statements about the situation in al-Quasair Lavrov replied, “There are several points, most importantly that we have warned of the great dangers of internationalizing the crisis in Syria”.
Lavrov – Most Gunmen are Foreign Fighters. Lavrov stressed, that:
“Hundreds rather than thousands of gunmen are fighting the Syrian army and that those are of European nationalities and from the regions countries, which is why there is increased importance to end the crisis and create favorable conditions to hold the international conference on Syria”.
Lavrov added, that there is information, that foreign experts and trainers have been helping these gunmen, including them in Quasair. Asked about western and other countries condemnation of the Syrian military´s operations against the insurgents in Quasair, Lavrov stated, that such statements are hypocritical and reiterated that:
“Any hypocrisy regarding the international humanitarian law to distort the real picture in al-Quasair is impossible.. In principle, we should understand and determine whether we want to support the political process, in which case everybody should work to launch the dialogue…or we want to change the regime”.
Lavrov ended his statements by reiterating, that “any continuation of the military support of the opposition will lead to nothing and it is a dead end”
Also the Russian President´s Special Envoy to the Middle East, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov signaled increased Russian assertiveness.
On Friday, Bogdanov stated, that there should be no room for radical forces fighting on Syrian land or in any future settlement for Syria. Bogdanov stated to Russian media, including RT, that Russia and the USA continue meeting at all levels to prepare for a Geneva 2 conference, possibly on 25 June, and that chemical weapons were part of the ongoing discussions.
The Western – Russian Stand-Off over Syria intensifies as “Rebels” suffer a Decisive Defeat, and as France and the UK use ever more desperate propaganda to justify a military intervention or the continued state-sponsorship of terrorism. A new, volatile strategic balance in the Middle East is emerging. Until it is established, small sparks could ignite a regional disaster of historic proportions.