Timing is the key for delivering comedy punchlines. So too it would seem for delivering geopolitical punchlines. Only the latter ain’t funny.
Last week, US secretary of state Rex Tillerson issued a shrill accusation against Russia, claiming that it bears responsibility for chemical weapons attacks in Syria.
Moscow sternly rejected Tillerson’s claims, saying that the Americans were leveling outrageous accusations without having the slightest proof. Even Tillerson himself admitted his information was not definitive, yet that didn’t stop from making categorical accusations against Russia. (This is typical of how Washington increasingly operates on so much else.)
The Syrian government of President Assad also slammed Washington’s allegations, calling them a “load of lies”.
Through the toxic plume of allegations, however, a clear agenda can be discerned. That is, to undermine Russian-backed peace talks for Syria; and, secondly, to disenfranchise Russia’s veto power at the UN Security Council.
As noted, the issue of timing is the giveaway.
The latest war of words erupted after an alleged incident last Monday, January 22, in the suburb of East Ghouta near the Syrian capital Damascus. It was widely reported by Western news media that Syrian state forces had used a chemical weapon against the “rebel-held” district, injuring some 20 people, including children.
The next day Tillerson and his French counterpart, foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, availed of amenable Western media outlets to castigate Russia for backing the “Syrian regime” and its alleged criminal use of chemical weapons. It is no coincidence that the claims came only days before the next round of Russian-facilitated peace talks on Syria are due to open in the Black Sea city of Sochi. It is also no coincidence that the Western-backed peace talks resumed last week in Vienna.
As well as attempting to discredit the Russian-backed talks through the tendentious claims about chemical weapons, another objective appears to be discrediting Russia’s veto power at the UN Security Council. Not only did Tillerson make the wild allegation of Russian bearing responsibility for chemical weapons use in Syria; he also disparaged Russia’s position on the Security Council, claiming that Moscow was using its veto “to shield” the Syrian government from prosecution.
Right away, the chemical weapons claims aired by Western media raise suspicions.
For a start, the enclave of East Ghouta is controlled by Al Qaeda-linked terrorists, going by the name of Jaish al-Islam or Liwa al-Islam, who are not innocent-sounding “rebels” as the Western media dubs them. The video footage purporting to show the aftermath of the alleged attack last week bore the insignia of the “White Helmets”, which the France24 news channel, among other outlets, unquestioningly referred to by citing the group’s other pseudonym, the “Syrian Civilian Defense”.
In other words, the scenario looked very much like another staged propaganda stunt which the Western-backed jihadists have become adept at, and which the Western news media have become adept at propagating over the past seven years of war in Syria.
East Ghouta takes on acute significance because this is the place where the infamous chemical weapons incident occurred in August 2013.
Back then, Western media reports “shocked” the world with footage purporting to show hundreds of children dying from exposure to Sarin nerve agent. Recall that then US secretary of state John Kerry pilloried the Syrian army for “heinous crimes”. The US was about to launch a full-scale military intervention in Syria. That was averted by Russia’s proposal for the Syrian state to decommission any stockpiles it may have had of chemical weapons. The Syrian government agreed to do that, even though Damascus maintained that its forces were not involved in the supposed chemical weapon incident in East Ghouta. The UN-approved destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons was completed in 2016, and verified by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
It later turned out, despite the Western media onslaught accusing the Syrian state forces, that the perpetrators of the August 2013 incident in East Ghouta were the Jaish al-Islam brigade that occupies the district. Several investigative reporters uncovered that, including American veteran journalist Seymour Hersh. It was a false-flag propaganda stunt aimed at incriminating the Syrian government and giving the US a pretext for military intervention to boost its proxy war for regime change.
Nearly five years on, the same “rebel-held” enclave is being used again to stage a propaganda false flag.
By the way, the same ploy was used last April in the northern city of Khan Sheikhoun, in Idlib province. The same formula of unverified video footage from an insurgent-controlled area was broadcast by Western media making strident claims that the “Syrian regime” carried out “another chemical weapon atrocity”. The Khan Sheikhoun incident resulted in US President Trump two days later ordering cruise missile strikes on Syria.
The Syrian government has repeatedly said it doesn’t have chemical weapons since its stockpile of munitions were handed over to the UN for destruction in 2014. Damascus also has categorically stated that it has never used such weapons against any opposition-held areas.
Nevertheless, the claims against the Syrian government keep being made in the Western media using footage supplied by jihadist propaganda groups like the White Helmets. The latter has been exposed by investigative journalist Venessa Beeley as being funded by Western governments and orchestrated by Western military intelligence organizations like the CIA and MI6.
The claims are also amplified by Western-aligned human rights groups like New York-based Human Rights Watch. Relying on “witness” accounts from insurgent-held areas, these groups shore up the narrative blaming the Syrian government and its Russian ally.
Last week, following the latest alleged incident in East Ghouta, HRW director Kenneth Roth was interviewed by France24, bizarrely while he was attending the rarefied World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Roth, who was chummily addressed as “Ken” by the France24 anchor, went on to assert without any evidence or substantiation that the chemical weapons incidents in East Ghouta and Khan Sheikhoun were carried out by the Assad government forces.
Yet, as we have noted above, critical investigative evidence shows that the attacks were not carried out by Assad’s forces, and were most likely perpetrated by Western-sponsored jihadist proxies for the purpose of mounting a propaganda false flag.
Timing is the key to uncovering the latest twist in the toxic geopolitical agenda. The Western-backed so-called peace talks over Syria opened again in Vienna – three days after the alleged chemical weapon atrocity in East Ghouta.
This week, parallel peace talks are due to reconvene in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.
The difference between the two processes is that Washington and its NATO allies have control over the Vienna (also referred to as the Geneva) talks, whereas the Sochi (or Astana) talks are backed by Russia, Turkey and Iran. The Western-sponsored talks evidently push the extraneous agenda of Assad relinquishing power and regime change, while the Russian-facilitated dialogue seems to be genuinely aimed at fostering a national reconciliation for Syria in which President Assad’s government is the acknowledged sovereign authority, as per UN resolutions.
US claims about chemical weapons in Syria and laying the responsibility on Russia would seem to be motivated by the objective of discrediting the Russian-backed peace process, and elevating the Western-backed regime-change agenda in Vienna.
The other objective is to disenfranchise Russia’s veto power at the UN.
Since the infamous chemical weapon incident in East Ghouta back in August 2013, Russia has several times used its veto to prevent the US, Britain and France abusing the Security Council as a mechanism to frame up the Syrian government. Russia, with good reason, has claimed that Western powers are fabricating “chemical weapons investigations” that are prejudiced towards inculpating the Syrian government, again to serve an illicit agenda of regime change.
Russia’s counter-proposals for fully independent investigations into several chemical weapons attacks have been serially blocked by the Western powers. Yet, they claim that it is Russia which is “shielding the Syrian government”.
Without doubt, the Western powers are bitterly frustrated that their machinations have been stifled by Russia’s refusal to kowtow to their capricious use of standards and law.
Last week in Paris saw a summit of 28 NATO-aligned nations attend the so-called International Partnership Against Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons. A French government initiative. It was from here that Tillerson and French minster Le Drian made their provocative accusations against the Syrian government and Russia’s alleged responsibility.
As US government-owned news outlet Radio Free Europe reported with noticeable Washington spin: “Western governments have long accused Moscow of using its clout as a veto-wielding UN Security Council member to protect Assad.”
RFE then quoted Tillerson saying that Russia “must stop vetoing and at least abstain” in votes on future UN Security Council resolutions on holding the users of chemical weapons accountable.
In a tellingly defensive tone, the French government said of the summit that it is “in no way intended to replace existing international mechanisms, nor does it plan to conduct its own investigations”.
But that would seem to be precisely the overarching purpose of the Paris summit last week.
As Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov said in rebuke to the Paris gathering, it is “a direct encroachment on the prerogatives of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and a blow to the UN platform.” In other words, to find Syria and Russia guilty as charged with no chance of challenging.
Washington and its allies may think their political agenda over chemical weapons is smart subterfuge to smear Russia. It’s not. It’s just downright stupid, transparent and toxically self-incriminating of Washington.