World View: Reports Hint at Major Multi-National Military Operation in Syria


This morning’s key headlines from

  • Fake news: Newsweek says Mattis denied any evidence that Assad used Sarin gas
  • Haley announces major change in policy regarding Russia and Security Council
  • Major multi-national military operation may be planned for Syria after Sarin gas use
  • Russia’s Andrey Klimov: Sarin gas attack is just a Hollywood movie

Fake news: Newsweek says Mattis denied any evidence that Assad used Sarin gas

Children being medically treated in Douma Syria after chemical weapons attack (AP)
Children being medically treated in Douma Syria after chemical weapons attack (AP)

I have had trolls referring to a February Newsweek article that says that U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis claims that there is “no evidence” that Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad had ever used Sarin gas.

This is totally fake news, as suggested by the fact that the Newsweek article did not give a link to the transcript of the press briefing where Mattis supposedly made this remark, which they could easily have done.

I actually went to the trouble to track down the transcript – which incidentally was not hard at all, and took about 30 seconds, which is another indication that the Newsweek article was a full-fledged hoax.

Mattis was giving a press conference and answering questions thrown at him by reporters. The press conference covered various subjects, including Ukraine and Afghanistan, and the questions about Syria are scattered throughout the transcript. Here are some excerpts:

We think that they did not carry out what they said they would do back when – in the previous administration, when they were caught using it. Obviously they didn’t, cause they used it again during our administration.

According to Mattis, what they said they were going to do in 2013, when they were caught using Sarin gas, was to destroy all their stocks of chemical weapons, but obviously they did not do that, since they have used chemical weapons repeatedly, and used Sarin gas again during the Trump administration (on April 4, 2017).

Mattis continued answering questions about chemical weapons attacks in 2018. He said that chlorine gas has been used recently, and he was looking for evidence whether Sarin gas has also been used recently:

And that gives us a lot of reason to suspect them. And now we have other reports from the battlefield from people who claim it’s been used.

We do not have evidence of it [Sarin gas]. But we’re not refuting them; we’re looking for evidence of it. Since clearly we are using – we are dealing with the Assad regime that has used denial and deceit to hide their outlaw actions, okay? … Well, there’s certainly groups that say they’ve used it. And so they think there’s a likelihood, so we’re looking for the evidence.

I think [chlorine gas weapons have] been used repeatedly. And that’s, as you know, a somewhat separate category, which is why I broke out the sarin as another.

No, I have not got the evidence, not specifically [that Sarin gas is being used]. I don’t have the evidence.

What I’m saying is that other — that groups on the ground, NGOs, fighters on the ground have said that sarin has been used. So we are looking for evidence. I don’t have evidence, credible or uncredible.

That press conference occurred in February, and apparently no recent evidence of Sarin gas was found.

By the way, check out the beginning of the transcript, where Mattis mocks the New York Times for fake news, saying that the reporter interviewing him apparently was not even listening to him.

I salute whatever you write. You have the right to write anything. I thought it was especially humorous that we didn’t realize we were still on the – on the video teleconference, since one of the people on the screen was talking with us at the same time. I guess we were talking to ourselves and imagining the person on the screen. Yeah, I got a kick out of it, frankly.

Later in the transcript, he says, “See, right now, we’re at a point where ISIS is on the ropes. It’s obvious – you know – for all the questions and challenges I had in this room over the last year, I think now it’s pretty much undeniable that they’re in trouble. … So we want to get back to finishing off ISIS.” Newsweek (8-Feb) and Bellingcat (9-Feb) and U.S. Dept. of Defense (2-Feb)

Haley announces major change in policy regarding Russia and Security Council

On April 6 of last year, President Donald Trump ordered cruise missile attacks on the Shayrat Airbase in Syria, from which Bashar al-Assad had launched Sarin gas attacks on civilians on April 4. Trump had been moved to action after seeing pictures small children struggling to breathe, gasping for breath, and choking to death. The cruise missile attack was meant to be a warning to al-Assad not to use Sarin gas again.

Now there have been new pictures of choking children, following al-Assad’s latest Sarin gas attack on civilians on Sunday, and Trump is furious again. This time, Trump went farther, blaming not only al-Assad, but also his backers in Russia and Iran:

Very concerned, when a thing like that can happen, this is about humanity. We’re talking about humanity. And it can’t be allowed to happen. So we’ll be looking at that barbaric act and studying what’s going on. If it’s Russia, if it’s Syria, if it’s Iran, if it’s all of them together, we’ll figure it out and we’ll know the answers quite soon.

At the United Nations Security Council on Monday, U.S. ambassador Nikki Haley went a lot farther in the administration condemnation of Syria, Iran, and Russia:

I could hold up pictures of babies, lying dead next to their mothers. Brothers and sisters. Toddlers and infants still in diapers. All lying together, dead. Their skin is the ashen blue that is now tragically familiar from chemical weapons scenes. Their eyes are open and lifeless. White foam bubbles from their mouths and noses. Pictures of dead Syrians who are not soldiers. People who are not armed. People who are the very definition of innocent and non-threatening – women and children hiding in basements from a renewed assault by Bashar Al-Assad. Families that were hiding underground to escape Assad’s conventional bombs and artillery.

I could hold up pictures of survivors. Children with burning eyes, choking for breath. I could hold up pictures of first responders washing the chemicals off of the victims. Putting respirators on the children. First responders walking through room after room of families lying motionless, with babies still in the arms of their mothers and fathers. I could show pictures of a hospital attacked by the chemical weapons. I could show pictures of hospitals struck by barrel bombs following the chemical attack.

Ambulances and rescue vehicles have been repeatedly attacked, maximizing the number of dead civilians. Civil defense centers have been attacked in order to paralyze the medical response – to increase the suffering of the survivors.

Who does this? Only a monster does this. Only a monster targets civilians and then ensures that there are no ambulances to transfer the wounded. No hospitals to save their lives. No doctors or medicine to ease their pain.

I could hold up pictures of all of this killing and suffering for the Council to see, but what would be the point? The monster who was responsible for these attacks has no conscience, not even to even be shocked by pictures of dead children.

The Russian regime, whose hands are all covered in the blood of Syrian children, cannot be ashamed by pictures of its victims. We’ve tried that before. We must not overlook Russia and Iran’s roles in enabling the Assad regime’s murderous destruction. Russia and Iran have military advisers at Assad’s airfields and operations centers. Russian officials are on the ground helping direct the regime’s “starve and surrender” campaign, and Iranian allied forces do much of the dirty work. When the Syrian military pummels civilians, they rely on the military hardware given by Russia.

Russia could stop this senseless slaughter if it wanted. But it stands with the Assad regime and supports without any hesitation.

What’s the point of trying to shame such people? After all, no civilized government would have anything to do with Assad’s murderous regime. Pictures of dead children mean little to governments like Russia who expend their own resources to prop up Assad.

That was all by way of introduction to the following significant and explicit United States policy change:

Russia’s obstructionism will not continue to hold us hostage when we are confronted with an attack like this one. The United States is determined to see that the monster who dropped chemical weapons on the Syrian people held to account.

We are on the edge of a dangerous precipice. The great evil of chemical weapons use that once unified the world in opposition, is on the verge of becoming the new normal. The international community must not let this happen.

We are beyond showing pictures of dead babies. We are beyond appeals to conscience. We have reached the moment when the world must see justice done. History will record this as the moment when the Security Council either discharged its duty or demonstrated its utter and complete failure to protect the people of Syria.

Either way, the United States will respond.

The reason that this is significant is because it makes clear that the U.S. will no longer be bound by Russia’s vetoes in the Security Council. As I have been writing numerous times since 2011, Russia adopted a policy of using the UNSC to control U.S. and NATO foreign policy by demanding that any military decision be approved by the UNSC, where Russia could veto it. At the same time, Russia could invade Ukraine, invade and annex Crimea, and perform other international crimes, and go ahead with them without bothering to get UNSC approval. Not only would Russia control US and Nato foreign policy, Nato countries would turn against each other in confusion over how to respond.

So when Nikki Haley says, “Either way, the United States will respond,” she is declaring the end of the policy of allowing Russia’s veto to control U.S. policy. She is saying to Russia: veto the resolution or not, as you wish, but we are going ahead with a military operation. CNBC and U.S. State Dept.

Reports: Major multi-national military operation planned for Syria after Sarin gas use

As I am writing this on Tuesday evening (ET), there are reports that a military attack may be imminent. Britain, France, and Qatar are openly supporting the Trump administration’s plans for a military operation in Syria.

The military attack will have to be significant and massive, since last year’s “warning” attack had no effect.

Some analysts are suggesting that the military operation might be led by France, rather than by the U.S. If true, it would be a further humiliation for Vladimir Putin, who has been using the UNSC to turn the NATO countries against each other. This display of unity by France, Britain, Qatar and the U.S. would be a united front against Bashar al-Assad and Vladimir Putin. AP

Russia’s Andrey Klimov: Sarin gas attack is just a Hollywood movie

Every time one of these situations occurs, Russia unleashes its army of paid trolls to make laughable claims and spread disinformation. One of the best of these troll storms occurred after Russians in East Ukraine shot down the Malaysian Airlines MH17 passenger plane with a Russian-made Buk missile, bragged about it in a tweet, then pulled down the tweet. Russian media and trolls went into full-on troll mode, making one ridiculous claim after another: Russian commander Strelkov’s tweet had never occurred; the US had shot down MH17 to embarrass Russia; the airplane was struck by a meteor; no living people were aboard the plane as it flew on autopilot from Amsterdam, where it had been pre-loaded with “rotting corpses.”

So now we have a new troll storm. Andrey Klimov, a Senator in Russia’s Duma, was interviewed on the BBC, and I transcribed excerpts of the interview.

Klimov’s main point is that the Sarin gas attack never happened, but was staged as a Hollywood movie:

It looks like an artificial performance, like a kind of movie, to make that provocation visible. But I can’t say for sure that it may be any real occasion of chemical weapons in this area. It looks like a provocation. It looks like a Hollywood movie.

[Referring to the images of choking children, and children having to be hosed down with water.] You’re just repeating somebody’s rumors. I’m speaking about facts, because there are no real facts on the ground. But we’d like to find those who produced such kinds of fake news, because those people are interested in keeping such kind of confrontation in the world. And we’d like to find that bastard, to show to the world that they’re a bastard.

Well, Andrey, you have control of Damascus and Douma, so don’t just complain, start searching for the bastard. We’d all like to know who he or she is.

Klimov also reacted to Trump’s threat of a military operation in Syria:

They have no right to do that in any case, because no kind of power granted on the part of the United Nations. Nobody asked them from Damascus to do that. It’s a kind of invasion. It’s a kind of occupation. It cannot be acceptable in today’s world. It is out of any kind of international law. Nobody appointed them as international policeman, or international judge, or international prosecutor. They’re going to do it themselves, and that cannot be acceptable at all.

This is a laughable invocation of international law from the Russians, who ignore international law, but it is precisely the policy that Russia has been following since 2011. Russia breaks international law recklessly, never asking the UN Security Council for approval, but then demands that the West get approval for anything from the UNSC, where Russia can veto it. This is Russia’s policy that Nikki Haley specifically rejected on Monday.

Related Articles

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, James Mattis, Newsweek, Ian Wilkie, Russia, Syria, Ukraine, Afghanistan, Iran, Douma, Shayrat Airbase, Nikki Haley, Britain, France, Qatar, Andrey Klimov, Malaysian Airlines MH17
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