A powerful propaganda campaign has once again been launched against Syria, with accusations that its army is supposedly using chemical weapons. All the previous campaigns gradually died down, leaving behind only murky foam. However, what is happening now resembles a real «tenth wave».
U.S. Secretary of State Kerry is making increasingly histrionic statements which are far removed from any logic. «We know», he says, «that the Syrian regime maintains custody of these chemical weapons. We know that the Syrian regime has the capacity to do this with rockets.
We know that the regime has been determined to clear the opposition from those very places where the attacks took place…Our sense of basic humanity is offended not only by this cowardly crime but also by the cynical attempt to cover it up.» As if the capacity and its implementation are the same thing! Another quote from Kerry: «Anyone who can claim that an attack of this staggering scale could be contrived or fabricated needs to check their conscience and their own moral compass. What is before us today is real, and it is compelling.» Could this phrase-mongering really still fool anyone after the examples we have seen of U.S. actions during the wars in Iraq and Vietnam?
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chair of the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, stated, «I think it’s essential that President Obama comes to Congress, asks for authorization [for a strike on Syria], receives it or not receives it… I believe a missile strike against al-Assad forces is imminent, and I think that all we will get from President Obama with getting the help of Congress is he will notify us: ‘in 20 minutes, the strikes will begin,’ and that will just about be it.»
U.S. President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry constantly claim to have irrefutable confirmation that the Syrian government is responsible for the use of sarin on August 21 in Joubar. But who is the source? It turns out that it’s the same as always. The Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida, for example, reports that the information that al-Asad used chemical weapons was given to Washington and European countries by Israel.
The newspaper writes that the Chief of General Staff of TZAHAL, Benny Ganz, told the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey that «Israel has indisputable evidence that chemical weapons were used against the civilian population by al-Asad’s army.» And the German newspaper Focus writes that supposedly the Israeli army’s 8200 intelligence unit intercepted a conversation between high-ranking Syrian government and army officials during which an order to use chemical weapons was given.
The blame is focused on the younger brother of the Syrian president, Maher al-Asad, who commands the units which have chemical weapons in their possession. However, can Israel, which is directly involved in the conflict, be considered a reliable source in this instance? By no means! The story of Israel’s interception of government communications on the use of chemical weapons sounds especially fantastic. Syrian leaders are well aware of the capabilities of their neighbors, and for such a delicate matter they probably could have found more secret means of communication.
The answer to the immortal question «cui bono» does not point to Damascus in the least, which cannot be said for the Syrian militant opposition. The infamous chemical attack on August 21 took place in the large and densely populated East Ghouta region, which encompasses dozens of villages and small towns, including the main site of the event, Joubar. It was this region which was the main base of the rebels operating near Damascus. If they lost it, they would have lost all hope for holding onto their positions, and not only in the capital area. At the same time, anti-government forces in East Ghouta had been behaving rather passively in recent weeks. The entire area was filled with the expectation that any day now a stable cease-fire would be established.
It seemed that this favorable tendency was visible throughout the country. In particular, in the past few days 1525 people in various provinces of Syria had laid down their arms and been granted amnesty. The government Commission for National Reconciliation Affairs, headed by Minister Ali Haidar, who is close to Bashar al-Asad, was conducting negotiations with over 100 large and small militant groups here as well, offering full amnesty in exchange for them turning in their weapons. It was expected that several thousand fighters would simultaneously declare their withdrawal from the war, which would have been an enormous victory for the government and possibly would have been a turning point in the war.
The last thing the government needed in such circumstances was to use chemical weapons against people whom it had almost persuaded to make peace. But for the leadership of the militant opposition, such an operation could have been needed not only in order to draw foreign powers into the conflict on its side, but to disrupt the peace process which was starting to take place in East Ghouta.
The suggestions of Kerry and others that only the Syrian army had missiles and shells for dispersing chemical agents does not stand up to scrutiny. Witnesses and world agencies unanimously report that no one heard the explosion of shells or missiles or the approach of aviation. Early in the morning of August 21 people in Joubar simply began to suffocate from poisonous substances in their cellars, where they were accustomed to hide from the vagaries of war. Note that there were no losses on the streets, which by the West’s logic were shelled by the army; all the victims were found in underground spaces.
To explain this fact, various exotic theories have been thought up, for example that sarin is heavier than air and therefore penetrates into cellars and does not stay outside. But what quantities of sarin would be needed in that case? But if one considers that the territory is riddled with tunnels, both ones which were purposely dug by the rebels and ones which are part of the utilities network, it becomes clear that technically such an attack would be easiest to carry out from the inside. To prepare for the horrible performance, all the rebels would need would be several powerful fans and a couple barrels of homemade sarin in an underground room.
The entrances to the tunnels could then be blown up, and no UN commission would be able to make any accusations. Everything could be blamed on Damascus. Knowing this, the army tried for three days to get to Joubar in order to seize at least part of these installations. One such site with chemical agents made in Saudi Arabia, antidotes and gas masks for the operators was in fact found on August 24. At that time over 50 government army soldiers suffered from sarin exposure, including 4 volunteers from Hezbollah, who are currently undergoing treatment in a hospital in Lebanon. Now there is something to show to the UN experts. The Syrian state news agency SANA has reported that the soldiers «experienced choking fits» when the enemy used the gas as a «last resort» after the government forces won a «significant victory» over them in a Damascus suburb.
Alas, as before, no one in the West listens to the statements of the Syrian government. The 30-year-old story which recently came to light where the Americans knew that Saddam Hussein was preparing a chemical attack against Iran but continued to pretend it knew nothing about it is repeating itself. For example, the absurd accusation is being made that Damascus did not allow the international commission into the area where the chemical weapons were used for five days in order to destroy the evidence.
However, Damascus did not have control of those regions and still doesn’t. Only the militant opposition could have covered anything up. As for the preservation of the evidence, in the air sarin dissipates in the first few hours after dispersal, but it remains in the area for months, so five days make no difference. According to experts, sarin remains in the blood of victims for 16 to 26 days.
The UN commission has only just begun its work, but no one is waiting for its conclusions. The White House continues to insist that it is absolutely certain of the commission’s results, as if they had already been dictated to them.
In all, the situation is painfully reminiscent of events in the war in Yugoslavia, when in 1994 after a provocational mortar attack was made on the Markale market in Sarajevo from the positions of the Bosnian Muslims, which was later proven by international military experts, NATO aviation bombed the positions of the Bosnian Serbs. Or when commissions came from abroad to investigate various events with texts prepared beforehand and preapproved by the «higher-ups».
Military actions on the part of Western powers against Syria, if they happen, will most likely take the form of a distance war, like in the attack on Yugoslavia which destroyed its military and civil infrastructure. The Guardianwrites that the main targets of strikes against Syria in the first stage will be the elite units of the Syrian army, missile bases and stockpiles of missile ordnance.
First and foremost strikes will be carried out against the Mazzeh military complex (in a southern suburb of Damascus), where the 4th armored division has its headquarters, and the Qasioun military complex (to the north of Damascus), where the Republican Guard of the President of Syria is deployed.
In all, around 10 military sites in the vicinity of Damascus are earmarked for attack, as well as military air bases and missile and armored forces to the south of Aleppo, to the north of Deir ez-Zor, and to the southwest of Homs. Strikes against air defense bases, command bunkers and control systems, communications centers, and government buildings are also planned.
Apparently the thinking is this: if we bombed the Serbs into peace, we can bomb the Syrians into it, too. The world has changed over these years, however, and the Middle East is a much more fragile and complex construction than even the Balkans. An attempt to «teach Syria a lesson» could have catastrophic consequences for those who started it when the chaos spills over the boundaries of the Middle East into other regions. For example, into Europe…