This is not the article I originally intended to post today, which had to do with four Russian women visiting a city in the Bay Area and having an exchange with a local audience on Russia and U.S.-Russia relations. That post will be moved to later in the week. Due to the grave nature of possible escalations between the U.S. and Russia over an incident that supposedly occurred in the town of Douma in Syria this past weekend, I feel compelled to provide information and analysis on that.
Off-Guardian has provided a good time-line of the alleged chemical attack and contextual events surrounding it, which I excerpt below:
February-April 2018: The Syrian Arab Army has been making quick, decisive gains on the ground in recent weeks. Eastern Ghouta has all but fallen. Barring foreign intervention, the Syrian government’s victory is now all but assured.
March 13th 2018 Russian military command claims US is aiming to strike Damascus on an “invented pretext”. Advises them against it.
March 13th 2018 Syrian forces reported finding caches of chemical weapons in labs around liberated areas of Ghouta.
March 19th 2018 Russian and Syrian military figures reported they feared the rebels would stage a “false flag” chemical attack in order to drag US/NATO into action in Syria.
March 30th 2018 Donald Trump told a crowd at a speech in Ohio – and later repeated in a tweet – that the USA would be pulling out of Syria “very soon.” This is met with consternation in the capital and across the media.
April 6th 2018 UNSC meeting convened – at Russian request – to discuss the alleged attack in Salisbury, UK. Every member of the UNSC who spoke was categorical in their condemnation of any use of chemical weapons.
Night of April 7th/morning of April 8th…a chemical attack is reported by the US/UK funded “White Helmets”. The US blames Syrian govt. and holds Russia “responsible”.
Off-Guardian then proposes some questions that readers should be asking in light of the above time-line. Read it here:
CommonDreams posted a subsequent article summarizing the Russian government’s publicly stated position about the alleged chemical attack in Douma and its possible use as a casus belli for a U.S./NATO attack on Damascus in the near future which, would threaten Russian personnel stationed there.
Staking out its position ahead of an emergency UN Security Council meeting later in the day, Russian government officials early on Monday are warning the U.S. government and President Donald Trump from direct retaliation or further intervention in Syria following an alleged weekend gas attack outside Damascus that has caused heartbreak and uproar inside the war-torn nation, across the region, and beyond.
While Trump declared Sunday there would be a “big price to pay” for whoever was responsible for Saturday’s attack in the city of Douma—where local aid groups said at least 49 people were killed and footage emerged of people, including young children, who appeared to be victims of a chemical weapon or agent—the Russian foreign ministry responded by warning of “most serious consequences” if the U.S. took military action against the Syrian government of President Bashar Al-Assad before all the facts are known.
In the midst of what foreign policy analyst Phyllis Bennis described to Common Dreams as an “extremely perilous moment” in the region and for global conflict between major powers, the foreign ministry in Moscow said in a statement that elements of the chemical attack were “fabricated”—suggesting it was a false flag operation perpetrated by rebel militant forces within Syria—and designed to provoke further intervention or a retaliatory strike against Assad’s forces.
“It is necessary to warn again that military intervention under invented and fabricated pretexts in Syria, where at the request of the lawful government there are Russian military personnel, is absolutely unacceptable and can lead to the most serious consequences,” read the statement. “The aim of these false speculations, that have no basis, is to shield the terrorists and the irreconcilable radical opposition, who reject a political solution, at the same time while trying to justify possible armed strikes from outside.”
At a Monday morning press conference, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that the Russian and Syrian government have been trying to warn the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which has been investigating the use of chemical weapons in Syria, that such an event was likely coming.
“We already had a chance to comment on the current situation before this current situation became reality,” Lavrov told reporters. “Our servicemen staying in the Syrian Arab Republic, ‘on soil,’ repeatedly warned—and the Syrian government also said about it—that a serious provocation is being prepared, aimed at blaming Damascus for the use of a chemical poisoning agent against civilians.”
U.S. ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley threatened unilateral action by Washington if the UN Security Council did not act against the Assad government for the unproven accusations against it.
Russia analyst Gilbert Doctorow detailed the response of the Russian ambassador to the UN, Vasily Nebenzya, in a recent article :
To anyone watching the UN Security Council “debate” last night it is crystal clear we are in the last days before all hell breaks out. The wall of mutual contempt between Russian Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya and US Ambassador Nikki Haley was on full display. Nebenzya took to pieces the entire argumentation of the US side regarding Douma and the ‘chemical attack.’ He detailed the rebel caches of chemical weapons and equipment for their manufacture that Russian troops have found in recently liberated territory of Eastern Ghouta and elsewhere. He spoke about the past provocations of faked chemical attacks including the one used to justify the US cruise missile launches on the Syrian air base at Sheirat a year ago. He linked the US training and support for terrorists in fabrication of chemical arms to the faked nerve agent attack on the Skripals in the UK, which he described as a vaudeville act. He heaped scorn on Haley for her denying Russia the status of “friend,” saying that the US has no friends, only sycophants, whereas Russia has genuine friends, and seeks nothing more in relations with the United States than civilized discourse. In response to this unprecedented denunciation of the USA and its policies of global hegemony, we heard from Nikki Haley the familiar story of how the UN Security Council could now either adopt a US resolution condemning the Assad regime, in effect, or admit its total irrelevance while the US continued on its own unilateral path to resolving the Syrian question.
In the meantime, there are reports of Russia successfully jamming U.S. drones in Syria and Washington sending a second missile destroyer to the Syrian coast to meet up with the USS Donald Cook, which is already there:
The next few days may see already a second US Navy destroyer entering the Mediterranean Sea, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing sources at the Pentagon.
“The US already has one guided-missile destroyer, the USS Donald Cook, in the eastern Mediterranean, where it could take part in any strike on Syria, according to US defense officials. A second, the USS Porter could get there in a few days,” the newspaper wrote.
The Turkish newspaper Hurriyet wrote that Russian warplanes had allegedly buzzed the Donald Cook at least four times, but the report was later denied by the Pentagon.
Newsweek is now reporting that, in response to Washington’s threats, Russia has placed its military on high alert:
The Russian military has reportedly gone on high alert in anticipation of a potential U.S. attack on the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a Moscow ally accused of using chemical weapons in a seven-year civil war.
Leading Russian politicians and military officials reacted to President Donald Trump’s promise Monday to respond “forcefully” within “the next 24 to 48 hours” to the Syrian military’s alleged use of toxic gas earlier this week in rebel-held Douma, a suburb of Damascus.
Vladimir Shamanov, head of the lower parliamentary house’s defense committee and a former airborne troops commander, said Russia had an obligation to protect its ally. Syria has denied the chemical weapons charges and has called for the U.S. to withdraw from the country.
….ABC News reported Tuesday that the Syrian military deployed missile defense systems near Assad’s presidential palace in Damascus and that the U.S. destroyer was in striking distance of the country. Russian Beriev A-50 early-warning aircraft were deployed to the coast, according to Iran’s semiofficial Fars News Agency. The elite Black Sea Fleet has declared a state of alert, according to Al Jazeera.