Contributed by Joe Montero
The American on Syria’s Shayrat Air Base with 59 cruise missiles, is a crime that can only make the region and the world more dangerous. Furthermore, it was based on a lie.
The lie was copied straight out of the weapons of mass destruction falsification, used as the pretext to invade Iraq. The expectation is that enough people will fall for it again. The Whitehouse justified the aggression, with the claim that the Syrian government used sarin gas against civilians in an attack on Khan Sheikhoun. Just like with Iraq, the assertion was made and no real evidence presented. As the dust begins to settle, the claim is coming under increasing question.
This is about geopolitics and has nothing to do with the protection of the Syrian population. Nor does it have the support of the world, which has voiced its condemnation of the use of chemical weapons by anyone, but does not go along with the bombing.
Testimony given by real victims in Khan Sheikdoun, suggests that it is the so-called rebels that are responsible for using sarin gas the latest attack, according to a key United Nations official, Carla del Ponte, who represents the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria. She told Swiss TV there were “strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof,” that rebels seeking to oust Syrian president Bashar al-Assad had used the nerve agent. During the same interview del Ponti said “Our investigators have been in neighboring countries interviewing victims, doctors and field hospitals. According to their report of last week, which I have seen, there are strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof of the use of sarin gas, from the way the victims were treated.”
In a separate interview with the BBC Carla del Ponti said that the Commission had not yet seen any evidence of Syrian government forces using chemical weapons.
Evidence which has emerged in the aftermath of the attack at Khan Sheikhoun indicates that not only was the nature of the attack misreported by the media, but that certain individuals on the ground in Syria may have had foreknowledge of the attack up to several days before it happened. On April 3rd, 2017, an anti-Assad journalist tweeted that the next day he would be launching a media campaign to cover airstrikes on the Hama countryside, including the use of chemical weapons. It is not clear how the reporter was able to know that chemical weapons would be used an entire day before the attacks occurred.
The conflict in Syria is not a civil war. The main factor is foreign aggression, made all the worse, because Syria has become the proxy for a geopolitical conflict that extends far beyond the boundaries of a single country. At stake is control over the Middle East and the Caucuses, and ultimately, the land based borders of Russia and China.
In the geopolitical scramble, the West publicly supports the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the political forces around it. But it is weak in Syria and has little presence on the ground. Those that do are the al Qaeda affiliated al Jabhat al-Nusra, otherwise known as the al Nusra Front, which imposes Wahadist Sharia Law and cracks down on citizens who do not support it. Elements of the FSA have also been accused of having a Wahadist connection.
Then there is the Islamic Front, which is also imposing Sharia Law. It is the main fighting force against the Assad government and mainly made up of non-Syrians. The paradox is that while the United States and its allies are publicly committed to fighting the Islamic State, they are dependent on it, for the war against Assad and his government. This is why they are complicit in the provision of material backing to the Islamic State through Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
The claim that government forces were responsible for the bombing comes from material provided by the discredited and al Qaeda linked White Helmets.
There are assrtions that al Nusra was directly responsible for the attack and that the poisoning of civilians, was the result of the explosion of an al Nusra nerve gas factory. However, both assertions remain unproven at this point.
What is known is that al Nusra does have a record of using chemical weapons.
In 2014, investigative and Pulitzer prize winner journalist, Seymour Hersh (who exposed the My Lai Massacre during the Vietnam War and the Abu Grhaib scandal in Iraq), reported on opposition forces’ ability to use chemical weapons. In an article for the “London Review of Books,” Hersh obtained documents from the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the Pentagon’s own spy organisation. They suggested that the Nusra Front, had access to the sarin nerve agent. A chemical weapons attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta in August 2013, which was blamed on Assad, was carried out by rebels, according to Hersh’s article.
On 29 January 2013, The Times revealed that “the Pentagon has been training the terrorists in the use of chemical weapons, they also acknowledge the existence of a not so secret “US-backed plan to launch a chemical weapon attack on Syria and blame it on Assad’s regime”.
The Islamic State did used poison gas projectiles against the Kurds in the north.
Strategically, the Syrian government has nothing to gain from such an attack, when it is winning on the battleground and consolidating its per-eminence over most of Syria. An opposition in retreat does have something to gain by an act that will prompt further international involvement and change the balance of forces. This is something that they have loudly been calling for.
At this point, it is vital that the world pressures a turn away from the battlefield, to working out a solution through diplomacy. There is too much at risk to do otherwise. Part of any resolution that is going to work must include the defeat and disarming of the Jihadist groups and allowing the people of Syria to make their own choice regarding their future.