On March 12, US Permanent Representative to the UN, Nikki Haley, announced at a Security Council meeting that the US will take action on its own if that organization fails to establish a cease-fire and end the chemical attacks and suffering of civilians as it pushes for a new 30-day truce in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta. She forces the circulation of a new draft resolution, in view of the failure of the previous one. In a nutshell, the US has adopted a “do what I tell you or else” approach. Sounds sound like an ultimatum! The UK expressed its readiness to join the US. So did France.
Washington blames Russia, Syria, and Iran for ignoring a 30-day cease-fire mandated by the UN last month. Defense Secretary James Mattis declared that the US is concerned over the reports of chlorine-gas use by Syria’s government. CIA director Mike Pompeo, who has been nominated for secretary of state, stated that President Donald Trump will not turn a blind eye to chemical attacks.
It should be noted that Syrian rebels have used chemical weapons (CW) before. This fact has been established by UN investigators. In 2017, the use of toxic agents by rebels was acknowledged by the US State Department. But the US is denying any possibility that the rebels might have staged a provocation in Eastern Ghouta, just as the Russian General Staff had warned. Just a few days ago the Syrian army found a CW lab in that area.
Nikki Hailey’s statement prompted a warning from Moscow that it will take measures to protect the lives of its servicemen and strike back if need be. On March 13, the Chief of Russia’s General Staff, Valery Gerasimov, alleged that the militants were preparing a provocation in Syria that would use chemical agents, intended to justify a massive US strike on Syria’s military sites and troops.
So, the US is adopting a “J’accuse” tone, threatening the use of force with no evidence to support its CW accusations while pointing its finger at Syria’s government, blaming it for firing on the fighters of Al-Nusra, the group excluded from the cease-fire agreements. But it’s Russia, not the US, who enforced five-hour daily breaks in the fighting to enable the evacuation of civilians and the injured from the embattled areas, allowing some deliveries of humanitarian aid.
Now — about the US concern over civilians suffering from chemical attacks. Here we go again: the pot calling the kettle black.
Exactly one year ago, US officials had to confirm that they had used depleted uranium (DU) on the battlefield in Iraq and Syria. DU is a bit of a gray area, as no international agreement explicitly bans it. In 2012, the UN General Assembly tried to adopt a resolution restricting its use. The move was supported by 155 states. Twenty-seven states abstained, and only four voted against it. Of course, the US was among those four, not the 155. In 2014, the UN International Atomic Energy Agency issued a report on depleted-uranium munitions. The paper concluded that direct contact with DU could “result in exposures of radiological significance.”
The US-led coalition used white phosphorus, a potentially lethal substance, in populated areas during its operations in Iraq and Syria. One of those places was Mosul — the second largest Iraqi city. This fact was confirmed by high-ranking commanders on the field amidst rising criticism. The substance was used during the operation to push the Islamic State (IS) out of the Syrian city of Raqqa — the unofficial IS capital. American cluster bombs have been used in Yemen. The US Defense Department says it won’t give up cluster munitions because they have a legitimate use in military operations. Field commanders are authorized to use them at their discretion. While America is concerned over chemical attacks in Eastern Ghouta, the world is concerned over America’s use of deadly substances in Iraq and Syria that have resulted in civilian casualties.
The US-led coalition wants the rebels to stay in the embattled area — the only springboard from which to strike Damascus. It also wants to demonstrate to the Arab countries its own allegiance to the principle of “responsibility to protect,” while painting those who are backing Syria, such as Russia, as evildoers. It’s part of the current campaign to make Russia look like a rogue state. The clamor over its support of Syria’s offensive in Eastern Ghouta has been timed to coincide with the British accusations of Moscow’s complicity in the “spy poisoning scandal.” These are links in one and the same chain.