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World View: As Syria’s Assad Attacks Idlib, He May Consider Chemical Weapons Essential

Bashar Assad
The Associated Press

This morning’s key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • Russia ties itself in knots diplomatically over Syria chemical attack
  • Syria blocks OPCW inspectors from visiting site of chemical attack
  • As Syria’s al-Assad attacks Idlib, he may consider chemical weapons essential
  • Syria TV says that its Shayrat airbase has been attacked by missiles

Russia ties itself in knots diplomatically over Syria chemical attack

Russia's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov (Tass)
Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov (Tass)

On Friday, Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said that he had “irrefutable evidence” that the April 7 chemical attack Syria’s Damascus suburb Douma had been staged:

We have the irrefutable data that this [chemical attack] was staged.

And special services of a country, which is now seeking to be in the first ranks of the Russophobic campaign, were involved in this staged event.

Lavrov did not name the country, but other Russian officials have said that Lavrov was referring to the UK, and said that the British government has paid a group of volunteer rescue workers, known as the White Helmets, “to stage a provocation with an alleged use of chemical weapons.”

In an interview of Lavrov by BBC’s HardTalk, Steven Sachur repeatedly asked what this “irrefutable data” was, and Lavrov never answered the question but kept personally attacking Sachur. Not surprisingly, no such irrefutable data exists.

According to a statement by the British government:

Russia has argued that the attack on Douma was somehow staged, or faked. They have even suggested that the UK was behind the attack. That is ludicrous. The attack on Douma was not reported by just a sole source in opposition to the Regime. There are multiple eye witness accounts, substantial video footage, accounts from first responders and medical evidence.

Russia is tied up in knots about this subject because lie after lie have caught up with one another. After Bashar al-Assad used Sarin gas on his own people in 2013, Lavrov first denied that any Sarin attack had taken place, then denied that al-Assad had any stockpiles of Sarin gas, and then committed to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that all stockpiles of chemical weapons would be removed. Under international pressure, Lavrov committed that Russia would guarantee that all chemical weapons would be removed.

So you can see the problem. Russia has to deny that any attack took place on April 7, because Russia has guaranteed that al-Assad has no stockpiles of chemical weapons. That is why Russia is diplomatically tied up in knots.

Lavrov made an additional interesting statement during the interview. He was asked whether relations between Russia and the West are worse than during the cold war:

Well I think it’s worse because during the cold war there were channels of communication, and there was no obsession with Russophobia, which looks like genocide by sanctions.

His accusation of “genocide by sanctions” is startling, and the “Russophobia” remark is common to both of Lavrov’s comments quoted above and reflects a pervasive paranoia in Russia’s leadership. I have previously quoted a high-level Russian official claiming that the West has been attacking Russia for 200 years. All this talk about staging the chemical attack as a kind of Hollywood horror film and blaming it on the UK, combined with paranoia, seems highly delusional and worrying. Russia’s leadership is in a very dangerous state right now and could make a miscalculation and mistake. UK Government and Tass (13-Apr) and NBC News (13-Apr) and Russia Today (13-Apr) and BBC HardTalk

Syria blocks OPCW inspectors from visiting site of chemical attack

Syria has been for several days blocking the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) from inspecting the Douma site. The OPCW held an emergency meeting in Hague on Monday and demanded immediate unfettered access to the site of the attack.

Russians have already been inspecting the site since the day after the April 7 chemical attack. We know that because the Russians have said that these “experts” had visited and determined that there was no evidence of a chemical attack. So these “experts” have already had ten days to clean up as much evidence as they can.

There were also reports by a correspondent on al-Jazeera that local Syrians in Douma are being threatened by Syrian security forces with violence to themselves and their families if they give the OPCW inspectors any evidence of the chemical attack.

Late on Monday, Syria said that they could go on Wednesday, April 18. Deutsche Welle and Tass (9-Apr) and Al-Jazeera

As Syria’s al-Assad attacks Idlib, he may consider chemical weapons essential

The military strategy used by Bashar al-Assad in Douma and Ghouta, and earlier in Aleppo, depends heavily on repeated use of chemical weapons, particularly chlorine attacks. His objective in these cities is genocide and ethnic cleansing – to kill as many Sunnis as possible, since he says that all Sunnis in these cities are terrorists, including women and children.

The problem that al-Assad has faced is that people hide in basements, and so clearing out the entire population of Sunnis requires destroying all buildings as much as possible, then ordering house-to-house searches to find all the Sunnis still hiding from the army. That process will work, but it can take many months.

Use of chlorine gas speeds things up considerably. Chlorine is heavier than air, and the chlorine gas seeps into the basement of every home, forcing the women and children out into the open, where al-Assad can mop them up and kill them all simultaneously. This could save considerable time, and undoubtedly has already.

Idlib province presents special problems for al-Assad. Whereas Ghouta and Aleppo each had just a few hundred thousand residents, Idlib has over two million. In fact, many of the people who fled the violence in Aleppo and Ghouta ended up fleeing to Idlib. So for al-Assad, Idlib contains over two million terrorists.

To exterminate all those residents of Aleppo with just conventional weapons will take al-Assad a long time, possibly years. Al-Assad would like to mop up the entire population a lot more quickly than that.

There have been news reports that al-Assad has been smiling and happy since Saturday’s coalition airstrikes, because even though a few buildings were demolished, the airstrikes actually gave al-Assad the green light he needs to proceed with ethnic cleansing and genocide in Idlib:

  • Saturday’s attack was little more than a slap on the wrist for al-Assad. He undoubtedly has other labs that can produce chemical weapons, and he undoubtedly has other stocks of chemical weapons elsewhere.
  • The West has only condemned chemical weapons use by al-Assad, meaning that any other form of mass slaughter is perfectly acceptable.
  • In fact, al-Assad has conducted numerous chlorine attacks. The one on April 7 has been called out only because of the horrific videos. So al-Assad can even conduct further chemical weapons attacks, provided that he does something to prevent any viral videos.
  • Furthermore, if al-Assad uses chlorine gas again, it is likely that the international opposition to another strike on al-Assad’s assets will make it impossible.

So Bashar al-Assad has plenty of reason to be smiling and happy now. He will undoubtedly use chlorine gas to force women and children out into the open where his missiles can kill masses of them simultaneously. Basically, there is nothing stopping him from committing any war crimes or ethnic cleansing or genocide in Idlib. France Diplomatie and Reuters and AFP and Syria Deeply (29-Mar)

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Syria TV says that its Shayrat airbase has been attacked by missiles

Syria’s state television says that its airbase at Shayrat in Homs province and Dumair military airport near Damascus have been attacked by missiles. Syria says that all missiles were shot down without reaching their targets.

Shayrat airbase was the target of the U.S. missile strikes launched by the U.S. a year ago in response to Sarin gas attacks by Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad on April 4, 2017.

However, in this case, the U.S. says that there was no U.S. military activity in the area at that time.

This situation is similar to the one that occurred on Monday of last week, when Syria’s T4 airbase was attacked by missiles, but not by American missiles. It turned out that the missile attack came from Israel. Reuters and Middle East Eye

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KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Syria, Bashar al-Assad, Russia, Sergei Lavrov, Douma, White Helmets, Britain, Steven Sachur, John Kerry, Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, OPCW, Idlib, Aleppo, Ghouta, chlorine, Shayrat airbase, Dumair military airport
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