US holds Russia ‘ultimately responsible’ amid reports of dozens gassed in Syria’s Douma
The US once again said Russia is "ultimately bearing responsibility" for all chemical incidents in Syria, regardless of who carried them out, after rebel sources accused Damascus of gassing dozens in Eastern Ghouta's Douma.
"The regime's history of using chemical weapons against its own people is not in dispute," said the US State Department, indicating, however, that it was relying on "reports," being unable to confirm the incident. "Russia ultimately bears responsibility for the brutal targeting of countless Syrians with chemical weapons."
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Earlier on Saturday, rebel-linked activists, including the notorious 'civil defense' group White Helmets, accused the Syrian government of carrying out a chemical attack that allegedly affected dozens of civilians in the militant-controlled town of Douma in Eastern Ghouta. The Syrian government, which regards the White Helmets as a foreign-funded terrorist propaganda mouthpiece, rejected these "fabrications."
"Jaish al-Islam terrorists are repeating the allegations of using chemical weapons in order to accuse the Syrian Arab army, in a blatant attempt to hinder the Army's advance," Sana reported, citing an official government source, who added that militants have likely launched this latest propaganda campaign fearing their imminent "dramatic collapse."
Despite the lack of verified evidence thus far, Washington did not miss a chance to label Moscow as complicit and 'ultimately' responsible for the incident, due to its support of President Bashar Assad. Previously, former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson regularly took advantage of well-timed reports of chemical incidents, including in East Ghouta, to push through the US agenda in Syria.
"We continue to receive reports and assess information regarding the alleged attack," the US Department of State's representative told Sputnik in a separate statement on Saturday. "Russia's protection of the Assad regime and failure to stop the use of chemical weapons in Syria calls into question its commitment to resolving the overall crisis."
In a follow-up comment, the State Department urged the international community to act “immediately” – if the incident is confirmed – and advised Russia to end its “unmitigated” support for the Syrian government.
US blames Russia for new reported chemical incident in Syria... regardless of who actually did it https://on.rt.com/8xl3
Reports of chemical attacks, blamed on Damascus, previously surfaced on a number of occasions, and were often backed by a stream of horrific visuals disseminated via social media channels by the White Helmets. Saturday's incident follows the same pattern, where, as always, the White Helmets found themselves at the right place at the right time to take graphic pictures of the alleged chemical attack victims. Shocking images of dead kids with foaming mouths surfaced immediately after the accusations were made.
"Seventy people suffocated to death and hundreds still suffocating,"Raed al-Saleh, head of the White Helmets, told Al Jazeera, adding that the death toll was expected to rise as many people were in critical condition. According to al-Saleh, the mass casualties are a result of a chlorine gas attack, as well as an "unidentified but stronger gas," that was allegedly dropped by government planes on Douma on Saturday.
Quite surprisingly, the controversial UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is usually among the first sources that confirm atrocities by Damascus, could not confirm that chemical weapons had been used, and said casualties might have been a result of fire and toxic smoke following a conventional airstrike. Thus Reuters, while admitting it "could not independently verify reports of a chemical attack," sought a comment from another obscure organization, the Syrian American Medical Society. A US-based SAMS representative claimed that, while a "chlorine bomb hit Douma hospital," another nearby building was targeted by a barrel-bomb containing a mix that included "nerve agents."
The situation in Douma escalated after Jaish al-Islam militants breached all agreements, shelling Damascus and terrorizing civilians to derail evacuations, the Russian Reconciliation Center in Syria said in its daily report, issued before the claims of a chemical attack emerged.
"The Jaish al-Islam militants carried out a number of attacks against the SAA [Syrian Armed Forces] positions and conducted mortar and missile shelling against Damascus," the Russian Center for Reconciliation in Syria said Saturday. "Over the last 48 hours, militants fired 25 mines and rocket projectiles at the capital and its suburbs. As a result, seven civilians were killed and 42 people injured. Shelling attacks are intensifying."
Terrorists also continue to use civilians as human shields, the MoD noted, adding that militants are "publicly executing civilians" who support the withdrawal of militants from Douma.
Investigate chemical incidents in Syria instead of blaming Damascus & distorting our views – Moscow
"Jaish al-Islam terrorists breached [the] Douma agreement by attacking with mortar and rocket shells several residential areas of Damascus, claiming lives and injuring dozens of civilians, including women and children," Sana meanwhile reported.
Previously faced with accusations, Moscow has repeatedly denied involvement in attacking civilians in Syria, and reiterated on a number of occasions that unsubstantiated reports of atrocities and 'false flag' chemical incidents always surface at the time when militant factions in Syria are losing ground, and are likely aimed at derailing the reconciliation process in Syria.
US Planning a Terrorist False Flag Chemical Attack in Syria: Russia Says It Will Respond
By Federico Pieraccini
March 20, 2018 "Information Clearing House" - Events in Syria increasingly resemble a direct confrontation between major powers rather than a proxy war. Lavrov’s words, delivered a few days ago, reveal the critical phase of international relations the world is going through, with a potentially devastating conflict ready to ignite in the Middle East region.
An alarming warning by Sergei Lavrov and Chief of the Russian General Staff, Valery Gerasimov, was announced via the RT broadcaster and several Russian media. The content is explosive and deserving of the widest possible dissemination. Gerasimov claimed that Moscow had "reliable information that fighters are preparing to stage the use by government troops of chemical weapons against the civilian population." He alleged that the US intends to accuse Assad's troops of using chemical weapons against civilians, and then "carry out a bombing attack" on Damascus. Gerasimov warned that Russia would "take retaliatory measures" if the US targeted areas where its military are located in the Syrian capital. "Russian military advisers, representatives of the Center for Reconciliation and members of military police" are currently in the Syrian capital, Gerasimov said, adding that in the event that the lives of Russian military personnel are placed in danger, the Russian Armed Forces will respond with certain measure to both “missiles” and their “launchers”. A few hours earlier, Lavrov responded, "criticizing the remarks by the US envoy to the UN, Nikki Haley, about Washington’s readiness to “bomb Damascus and even the presidential palace of Bashar Assad, regardless [of the] presence of the Russian representatives there.” “It is an absolutely irresponsible statement,” the Russian top diplomat added.
The words of Gerasimov are even more dire, since he explains how the United States and its allies are preparing the ground to justify an attack on Syria. According to reports, terrorists stationed in Al-Tanf (an illegal US military base in Syria) received 20 tons of chlorine gas and detonators, disguised as cigarette packs, in order to attack in an area under the control of the terrorists that is densely inhabited by civilians. What would then happen is already obvious, with the White Helmets (AKA Al-Qaeda) and mainstream media ready to broadcast the images of the victims of the attack, tugging at the heartstrings of Western viewers otherwise unaware of the conspiracy being played out. Efforts to frame Russia have already reached the highest alert levels, with the false-flag poisoning of the Russian spy in the United Kingdom. It seems that there is a significant effort by the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Germany to provoke a military confrontation with Moscow. How else are we able to interpret threats from Macron to strike Damascus, together with his ominous advice to foreign journalists not to go to Damascus in the coming days and, for those already there, to leave the capital immediately? There has even been chatter within diplomatic circles that suggest that UN personnel are leaving Damascus. This could be psychological warfare, or it could be a prelude to war. With the stakes so high, we cannot afford to ignore any detail, even if it may be disinformation. The American attack seems imminent, with mounting signs of movements of American and Russian warships in the Mediterranean in attack formation.
Russian military representatives have reiterated that in the event of an attack, they will respond by hitting both the missiles launched as well as the ships from which the missiles were launched. Things are getting pretty dicey, and the risk of a direct confrontation between the United States and the Russian Federation are rising with every passing hour. The transfer of numerous US aircraft from Incirlik, Turkey, to Al-Azrak, Jordan, is another indication of preparations for an attack, since the forces moved to Jordan are close to the Al-Tanf base. The proposed strategy could involve an assault on the city of Daraa, for the purposes of securing the borders between Syria and Jordan and Syria and Israel.
The warnings raised by Lavrov and Gerasimov appear unprecedented, given that they detail a plan already set in course, evidently approved at the highest levels and aimed at provoking and justifying an attack on Syria; and attack that would encompass the Russian forces in Syria. Tensions continue to grow, following Russia’s shooting down of a drone by two surface-to-air missiles launched from its Hmeimim Air Base. Moscow has even deployed to the Mediterranean the Admiral Grigorovich-class frigate Admiral Essen and the Krivak II-class anti-submarine frigate Pytivyy. Both are prepared for anti-ship and anti-submarine operations. Sources claim that this deployment was planned some time ago and is part of a routine deployment of the Russian navy. But during such a delicate moment, it pays to focus on every detail. Without resorting to excessive alarmism, if Lavrov said that “the movements of the warships of the United States and its allies in the Mediterranean seem compatible with the strategy of using this chemical attack to justify an attack on the Syrian Arab army and government installations”, then it is reasonable to speculate on whether the Russian ships are moving in to the area to counter any provocations.
There are two fundamental flaws in the reasoning of US policy-makers and the US military establishment. They are convinced that an American demonstration of strength (involving a large number of cruise missile launched against Syria through a significant involvement of aircraft carriers as well as bombers) would stun Russia into passivity. Furthermore, US military generals are convinced that Syria and Russia do not have the ability to defend themselves for an extended period of time. They seem to be fooling themselves with their own propaganda. As their Israeli colleagues have already learned, such an assumption is mistaken. While the idea that a high level of firepower would meet with some kind of success, the possibility of a response from Syrian and Russian forces remains. And this possibility seems not to have been given sufficient weight by the US and her allies.
How would the American military and the Trump presidency react to a US warship being sunk by anti-ship missiles? It would only serve to demonstrate how vulnerable American naval forces are when confronted with such advanced weapons. It would represent a tremendous shock for the US military, possibly the biggest shock since the end of WWII. What would Trump and the generals in charge do? They would respond with further bombardment of Russian forces, leaving themselves open to a devastating Russian response. The conflict could escalate within the space of a few minutes, leading to a situation where there could be no possible winners.
The normal reasoning I employ when considering total annihilation is placed to one side when US special forces deliver 20 tons of chlorine gas to Al Qaeda terrorists in Syria order to execute a false flag for the purposes of blaming Damascus and Moscow. If we connect this event to what is currently happening in the United Kingdom, and the hysteria in the United States surrounding alleged Russian hacking during the American elections, we can understand just how much international relations have deteriorated. This situation is reminiscent of Ukraine in 2015. Ukrainian forces suffered repeated defeats at the hands of the Donbass resistance, being contained in the thousands in different “cauldrons. Within NATO headquarters in Brussels during that time, there were open discussion over sending a contingent to support Ukrainian troops. The plan, however, was never realized, given the possibility of direct confrontation in Ukraine between the Russian Federation and NATO.
In recent months, the possibility of a war on the Korean Peninsula has also been evoked and perhaps simultaneously averted by the unpredictable consequences for both Seoul and the American forces in the region.
In Syria, the approach of Washington and its diplomatic and military emissaries seems more reckless and less tied to a chain of command where the buck stops at the American president. It seems that the US deep state in Syria has a greater and more hidden control over American forces, sabotaging every agreement made between Moscow and Washington. We saw this during the Obama presidency, where the US Air Force bombed government troops in Deir ez-Zor only a few hours after a ceasefire had been reached between Lavrov and Secretary of State Kerry.
The grave circumstance about which we write seem to be without precedent, seeming as they do to lead towards a direct confrontation between nuclear-armed powers. Alas, in such circumstances, we can only hope for the best but prepare for the worst; we can only wait to read on the mainstream media notifications of the latest chemical attack in Syria. We can only hope that there is someone in Washington retaining enough sense to factor in the devastating consequences of an attack on Damascus and the Russian forces in the region.
Never before has the region been on the verge of such an explosion as in the next few hours -- as a result of the typically reckless actions of the United States.
Federico Pieraccini : Independent freelance writer specialized in international affairs, conflicts, politics and strategies
This article was originally published by "Strategic Culture Foundation" -
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