Wednesday April 12, 2017
The April 6 illegal US missile strikes on a Syrian air base have not only put a chill on US-Russian relations, they have increased the risk of a full-fledged war between the US and Russia—essentially a Third World War.
As US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson headed to Moscow for a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov on April 12, the Kremlin announced April 10 that no meeting was scheduled with Russian President Vladimir Putin. This would be the first time that a visiting US Secretary of State would not meet the Russian president on his first visit.
At a press briefing following his meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarell on April 11 at the Kremlin, Putin was asked whether further US strikes on Syria were possible.
This is what he said: “We have information from a variety of sources that such provocations (I cannot find another word for this) are being prepared in other parts of Syria, including in southern suburbs of Damascus, where they are planning to plant certain substances and accuse Syrian authorities of using them. However, we believe that things like this should be thoroughly investigated. We plan to officially address the appropriate UN institution in The Hague and call on the international community to thoroughly investigate these matters. A weighted decision can then be taken depending on the findings of the investigation.”
Iran and Russia have called for an impartial investigation into the chemical weapons attack. Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has been in touch with many world leaders and his counterparts calling for an impartial investigation. Both Tehran and Moscow have also warned that if the US carried out another strike against Syria, there would be “consequences”.
Following the April 6 US missile strikes Russia has cut off all cooperation with the US relating to military matters in Syria and has warned of “consequences” if there was further US aggression. This was also echoed in a statement issued by the presidents of Iran, Hassan Rouhani and Putin following their April 8 telephone conversation. Both leaders warned that if the US carried out another strike in Syria, there was no guarantee that there would be no reaction.
Hitherto considered a Russian poodle and a wimp, Donald Trump is suddenly being lavished with praise and the US establishment and media have called him “presidential”. If American presidents act tough and kill innocent people, then they are acting like a president. This is what has happened with Trump.
Mired in scandals and with little to show by way of any policy initiatives in his early days of presidency, the missile strikes on a Syrian air base in Idlib province have suddenly elevated Trump into a statesman and he now looks “presidential”. CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, of Indian origin and more supportive of US aggression against Muslims than most Americans, was full of praise for Trump. He called him a “real president” (presumably Barack Obama wasn’t because he did not fire enough missiles at Muslims although in terms of kills, Obama was far ahead of others.)
The US fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the al-Shayrat air base. Four Syrian airmen were killed in the strike although no Russian personnel present at the base were injured or killed.
What was the reason behind Trump’s aggression? He and his minions accused the government of President Bashar al Asad of using chemical weapons at the Khan Shaykhoun village in which 86 people were killed. Both Syria and Russia denied the allegation.
The Syrian government said its planes struck a militant ammunition dump on April 5 where they had stored chemical weapons. It was the release of these chemicals that caused the deaths. There have also been unproven allegations of sarin gas being used although empirical evidence shows that was not the case.
Sarin gas is highly toxic and affects the skin immediately. Rescue workers did not wear masks or gloves while handling victims, thereby disproving the sarin gas theory.
Just before Trump launched missile strikes at the Syrian air base on April 6 evening, Russia’s deputy ambassador at the UN Vladimir Safronkov warned of “negative consequences” if the US resorted to military action in response to a chemical attack in Syria.
“We have to think about negative consequences, and all the responsibility,” ambassador Safronkov told a large group of reporters outside the UN chamber after the Security Council failed on April 5 in an attempt to address the crisis diplomatically, primarily because of US belligerence.
America’s UN ambassador Nikki Hailey outdid her belligerent predecessor Samantha Powers in being even more hawkish. She warned at the emergency Security Council meeting that if the world community (meaning the Security Council) did not authorize the use of force against Syria that she accused of being behind the chemical weapons attack without offering any proof, then the US would act unilaterally.
Russia’s deputy chief of mission Safronkov shot back: “If military action occurred, [it] will be on [the] shoulders of those who initiated such doubtful and tragic enterprise.”
“Look at Iraq, look at Libya,” referring to the chaos gripping the two countries where both governments were overthrown by US military aggression.
Leading to the US attack on Iraq in March 2003, then US Secretary of State Collin Powell had flashed a vial during a Security Council debate that he alleged contained chemical or biological substances that if released would cause thousands of civilian deaths. Powell alleged, completely falsely, that the Iraqi regime possessed chemical and biological weapons. Iraq of course was destroyed and is gripped by terrorist violence to this day.
Later Powell admitted that his UN Security Council appearance in February 2003 was the worst moment of his entire career and a blemish on his record. Damage however, had been done.
During an emergency meeting at the Security Council on April 8 following the US missile strike, Bolivia’s ambassador Sacha Llorenty held up the February 2003 picture of Powell to remind the world that the US has a record of lying to advance its agenda of aggression and regime change. He called the US the accuser, jury, judge and executioner.
Olof Skoog, Sweden’s ambassador to the UN had sounded a similar warning. “I remember Hans Blix [the Swedish diplomat and UN weapons inspector in 2002-2004]. Of course I’m concerned” about the possibility of a US attack in Syria, he said. Skoog was referring to the former UN inspector who famously warned about the negative consequences of an American invasion of Iraq.
Russia tried to propose a resolution to address the chemical attack in Idlib. Safronkov insisted that a commission to investigate must be “regionally balanced,” as well as “impartial”. He accused the current UN inspection team in Syria of bias, saying it too often relies on unverified reports taking at face value allegations made by Syrian opposition groups as well as Western regimes.
Syria has no chemical weapons. It handed all of them in August 2013 and destroyed all facilities that made such weapons. The Council on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has verified this. Yet the US continues to make scandalous allegations against the government of Syria without proof.
Trump’s aggressive moves are designed to win support from the American establishment that is hell-bent on aggression and war. The Syrian government has no reason to use chemical weapons at a time when it is winning the war on the ground.
One final point is in order. There have been no allegations against Asad for using chemical weapons against the terrorists he is fighting. The allegation always is that he is using them against his “own people”. What would he possibly achieve by doing so when he knows—and the world knows—that there would be very serious consequences.
Allegation of the use of chemical weapons against his “own people” is meant to portray Asad as a monster who must be removed from power. This mantra has now assumed hysterical proportions with two-bit players like Canada also joining the chorus.