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Syria, What it Means and Why it iFebruary 6, 2012- More Killing in Syria, Hysteria Over Potential Israeli Attack on Irans Important - History


February 6, 2012- More Killing in Syria, Hysteria Over Potential Israeli Attack on Iran

The killings continued in Syria today, with vivid pictures of the Syrian army bombing Sunni areas of Homs. One theory on the escalation of violence is that Assad is going all out before the arrival of the Russian Foreign Minister. Whatever Assad's current reasons, his father may have successfully brought the Muslim Brotherhood to heal thirty years ago by massacring 25,000 people in Hama. However, that was before the days of smart phones and satellite communication. Today the world as well as the Syrian people see the pictures of the Syrian army's brutality and there is no turning back. Those picutres and the underlying brutality are creating the pictures of regular Syrian troops defecting with their tanks.

The US and Great Britain have recalled their ambassadors, as a further sign that they have given up on Assad's regime. Meanwhile, the Muslim brotherhood in Egypt announced their full support for the rebels in Syria today. As one very notable Israeli news anchor said tonight: "Now I am totally confused. Am I now supposed to like the Muslim Brotherhood, since they are supporting the same peope I hope will win in Syria?" It is getting very hard to figure out what one should wish for as these events unfold.

Back in Israel uncomfortable questions are being asked of the Israeli Arab parties- (especially some of the parties who have had strong ties to Syria) questioning why they have been totally quiet. How can there be massacres so close to Israel’s borders and they have not said a word.

The Israeli press is full of stories of how the American press is claiming that Israel has decided to attack Iran, including details as to when such an attack will take place. From this vantage point, there seems to be a near hysteria on the matter in the US press. Some of that hysteria has been picked up by some of the Israeli media. Veteran Israeli observers, on the other hand, believe that much of it is a planned effort by the US and Israel to turn up the pressure on Iran. The two sides hoping that between sanctions which are getting ever tougher, and the real chance that Israel might attack will be enough to stop the Iranians. It may work. Certainly anything less, other than a regime change will not make a difference. However, there is, of course, a danger. There is a danger that the Iranians might take some sort of preemptive action in attacking some Israeli or American targets. Of course one could say that would not be the rational act, and in many ways I am sure there are Israeli policy planners that would love Iran to make their decision for them. But most would not. In addition, history is replete with wars that were not planned, but rather happened because of misunderstandings, or simply events spinning out of control. That is what could happen here. It is said that the current IDF intelligence estimates a low expectation of a planned war. However they believe there is a high possibility of a war due to factors spinning out of control.


While lack of freedoms and economic woes drove resentment of the Syrian government, the harsh crackdown on protesters inflamed public anger .

Arab Spring: In 2011, successful uprisings – that became known as the Arab Spring – toppled Tunisia‘s and Egypt‘s presidents. This gave hope to Syrian pro-democracy activists.

That March, peaceful protests erupted in Syria as well, after 15 boys were detained and tortured for writing graffiti in support of the Arab Spring. One of the boys, a 13-year-old, was killed after having been brutally tortured.

The Syrian government, led by President Bashar al-Assad, responded to the protests by killing hundreds of demonstrators and imprisoning many more.

In July 2011, defectors from the military announced the formation of the Free Syrian Army, a rebel group aiming to overthrow the government, and Syria began to slide into war.

While the protests in 2011 were mostly non-sectarian, the armed conflict surfaced starker sectarian divisions. Most Syrians are Sunni Muslims, but Syria’s security establishment has long been dominated by members of the Alawi sect, of which Assad is a member.

In 1982, Bashar’s father ordered a military crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood in Hama, killing tens of thousands of people and flattening much of the city.


ROTHSCHILDISM

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The Surreptitious Sixteenth Amendment – authorized income taxes (never ratified)

Jacob Schiff sets up the Anti Defamation League (ADL) in the United States. This organisation is formed to slander anyone who questions or challenges the Rothschild global conspiracy as, “anti-semitic.”

A Decision To Create A Rothschild Khazar Israel.

Fatima: The Virgin appeared to Sister Lucia in 1917 in Portugal. Out of the three seers she was the only survivor of the Spanish flu that later ravaged Europe. This flu was induced by vaccines given to soldiers during the Great War. Lucia did not take the vaccine and survived to a ripe old age of 97. The other two visionaries took the vaccine and died in childhood.

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The Flag of Israel is unveiled. Despite tremendous opposition the emblem on the flag is a blue coloured version of the Rothschild, “Red Hexagram or Sign.”

In 2006 Putin had paid off Russia’s debt to the Rothschilds. Russia’s financial dependence on the Rothschild financiers was now over. Putin could then establish what became his Russian Unity Party’s 2007 campaign slogan: Putin’s Plan Means Victory For Russia! This slogan continues to make the New World Order Rothschilds very nervous…Here

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Contents

The Ghouta area is composed of densely populated suburbs to the east and south of Damascus, part of the province of Rif Dimashq. [48] Ghouta is a primarily conservative Sunni region. [49] Since early in the civil war, civilians in rebel-held Eastern Ghouta have almost entirely sided with the opposition to Syria's government. [50] [51] The opposition has controlled much of Eastern Ghouta since 2012, partly cutting off Damascus from the countryside. [48] Muadamiyat al-Sham in Western Ghouta had been under government siege since April 2013. [52] Ghouta had been the scene of continuing clashes for more than a year before the chemical attack, with government forces launching repeated missile assaults trying to dislodge the rebels. The week of the attack, the Syrian government launched an offensive to capture opposition-held Damascus suburbs. [51]

The attack came one year and one day after US President Barack Obama's 20 August 2012 "red line" remarks, in which he warned: "We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation." [53] [54] [55] Syria was one of five non-signatories to the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention at the time. After the "red line" remarks, and before the chemical attack in Ghouta, chemical weapons were suspected to have been used in four attacks in the country. [56]

Khan al-Assal chemical attack Edit

The Khan al-Assal chemical attack occurred on 19 March 2013, when a government-controlled area of Khan al-Asal, a district of Aleppo in northern Syria, was struck by a rocket containing the nerve agent sarin. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights the attack resulted in at least 26 fatalities, including 16 government soldiers and 10 civilians. [57] The Syrian government later reported to the United Nations that one soldier and 19 civilians died and that 17 soldiers and 107 civilians were injured. [2] ( p32 ) A medic at the local civilian hospital said he personally had witnessed Syrian army soldiers helping the wounded and dealing with fatalities at the scene. [58]

The sarin used in the Khan al-Assal attack "bore the same unique hallmarks" as the sarin used in the Ghouta attack. [31] [30] ( p19 )

Independent International Commission of Inquiry Edit

The United Nations Human Rights Council established the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic on 22 August 2011 to investigate human rights violations during the Syrian civil war. One of the topics the commission investigated was possible use of chemical weapons. In early June 2013, the Fifth Report of the Commission of Inquiry stated that there were reasonable grounds to believe that toxic chemicals were used in four attacks, but more evidence was needed "to determine the precise chemical agents used, their delivery systems or the perpetrator." [59] ( p21 ) [60] [61] On 22 June, the head of the Commission of Inquiry, Paulo Pinheiro, said the UN could not determine who used chemical weapons in Syria based on evidence sent by the United States, Britain and France. [62]

Assessments prior to the attack Edit

US assessment Edit

US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel stated on 25 April that US intelligence showed the Assad government had likely used sarin on a small scale. [63] However, the White House announced that "much more" work had to be done to verify the intelligence assessments. [64]

On 13 June 2013, the United States government publicly announced it had concluded that the Assad government had used limited amounts of chemical weapons on multiple occasions against rebel forces, killing 100 to 150 people. US officials stated that sarin was the agent used. [65] Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes did not say whether this showed that Syria had crossed the "red line" established by President Obama in August 2012. Rhodes stated: "The president has said that the use of chemical weapons would change his calculus, and it has." [66] The French government announced that its own tests confirmed US assertions. [67]

Russian assessment Edit

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said "the accusations of Damascus using chemical weapons put forth by the United States are not backed by credible facts." [68] Lavrov further stated that the Syrian government had no motive to use chemical weapons since the government already maintained a military advantage over the rebel fighters. [69]

The attacks affected two separate opposition-controlled districts in the Damascus suburbs, located 16 kilometres apart. [1] ( p1 )

Eastern Ghouta attack Edit

The first attack took place around 2:30 a.m. on 21 August 2013 [70] [71] in Eastern Ghouta, a rebel-held suburb to the east of Damascus. [72] The area was on a rebel weapons supply route from Jordan and had been under siege by the Syrian military and Hezbollah for months. [73] [74]

At least 8, and possibly 12, rockets struck within a 1500 by 500-meter area in the Zamalka and nearby Ein Tarma neighborhoods. [note 1] The rockets were all of the same improvised type, each with an estimated capacity to carry 50–60 liters (11–13 imp gal 13–16 U.S. gal) of sarin. [1] ( p9 ) [18] ( p24 ) The rocket engine was similar in type and parameters to a 122 mm GRAD unguided surface-to-surface rocket, while the chemical warhead and the stabilization fin was of an artisan-type. [1] [75] One (or both) of the labs examining the environmental samples taken from Zamalka (and Ein Tarma [18] ( pp28–29 ) ) found at least traces of sarin in 14 of the 17 cases. [2] ( pp45–49 ) One of the labs described the sarin level as a "high level concentration" in 4 of the 17 samples. [2] ( pp45–49 )

Western Ghouta attack Edit

The second attack took place in the Western Ghouta area around 5:00 in the morning on 21 August. On 22 August, a witness who works for Moadamiya media center said he had counted seven rockets that fell in two areas of Moadamiya during the early morning of 21 August. He said four rockets hit next to the Rawda Mosque and another three in the area between Qahweh Street and Zeytouneh Street, which he said was approximately 500 meters to the east of the Rawda Mosque. He said all the rockets were of the same type. [1]

While no chemical warhead was ever found in the Western Ghouta area, one rocket engine has been identified as a 140mm M-14 unguided surface-to-surface rocket. This type of rocket can be fitted with three types of warheads: high explosive-fragmentation, white phosphorus smoke, or a chemical warhead containing 2 liters (0.44 imp gal 0.53 U.S. gal) of sarin. [1] ( p5 ) None of the 13 environmental samples taken from Western Ghouta tested positive for sarin, although three had "degradation and/or by-products." [2] ( pp43–45 )

At the time of the attack, Syria was not a party to the Chemical Weapons Convention, [76] which prohibits the development, production, stockpiling, transfer and use of chemical weapons, although in 1968 it acceded to the 1925 Geneva Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases. In 2012 Syria publicly stated it possessed chemical and biological weapons and would use them if it faced a foreign attack. [77]

According to French intelligence, the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC) is responsible for producing toxic agents for use in war. A group named "Branch 450" is allegedly responsible for filling munitions with chemicals and maintaining security of the chemical agent stockpiles. [78] As of September 2013, French intelligence estimated the Syrian stockpile at 1,000 tonnes, including Yperite, VX and "several hundred tonnes of sarin." [78]

The UK's Joint Intelligence Committee publicly dismissed the possibility of rebel responsibility for the attack in Ghouta, stating that rebels are incapable of an attack of its scale. [79] The Committee stated that "there is no credible intelligence or evidence to substantiate the claims or the possession of CW by the opposition." [80]

Åke Sellström, a Swedish scientist who led the UN mission to investigate the attacks, said it was difficult to see how rebels could have weaponized the toxins, [81] but admitted that he didn't know who the perpetrator was. [39] According to the Associated Press, "chemical and biological weapons experts have been relatively consistent in their analysis, saying only a military force with access to and knowledge of missile delivery systems and the sarin gas suspected in Ghouta could have carried out an attack capable of killing hundreds of people." [82]

Both the opposition and the Syrian government said a chemical attack was carried out in the suburbs around Damascus on 21 August 2013. Anti-government activists said the Syrian government was to blame for the attack, while the Syrian government said foreign fighters and their international backers were to blame. [71] [83]

Opposition claims Edit

On the day of the attack, George Sabra, the head of the Syrian National Council, said 1,300 people had been killed as shells loaded with poisonous gas rained down on the capital's eastern suburbs of Douma, Jobar, Zamalka, Arbeen and Ein Tarma. [84] A spokesman for the Free Syrian Army's Supreme Military Council, Qassim Saadeddine, said, "people are growing desperate as they watch another round of political statements and UN meetings without any hope of action." [72] Ahmad Jarba, who was the president of the Syrian National Coalition at the time of the attack, called on the UN investigators to travel to "the site of the massacre" and for an urgent United Nations Security Council meeting on the subject. [10] The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the attack was committed by the Syrian regime and called on Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, "to apply all pressure within his powers to pressure the Syrian regime." [85]

The next day, a spokesman for the Syrian National Coalition, Khaled al-Saleh, said at least six doctors died after treating victims, and that they didn't yet have the number of dead first responders. [86]

Government claims Edit

Syria's Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs, Qadri Jamil, said foreign fighters and their international backers were to blame for the attack. [83] Syrian state television, SANA, said the accusations were fabricated to distract a team of UN chemical weapons experts which had arrived three days before the attacks. [6] Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said the claims that his government had used chemical weapons would go against elementary logic and that "accusations of this kind are entirely political." [87]

On 19 March 2013, the Syrian government reported to the UN Security Council that the rebels had fired a rocket containing chemical materials into a government controlled part of Khan al-Asal, a district of Aleppo in northern Syria, [88] and requested a UN mission to investigate it. [89] As a response, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon created the "United Nations Mission to Investigate Alleged Uses of Chemical Weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic." [89] [90] The Syrian government first refused to allow the UN mission to be expanded to places outside Khan al-Assal, [91] but agreed in July 2013 to also allow investigation of the alleged attack in Sheikh Maqsood on 13 April 2013 and the alleged attack in Saraqib on 29 April 2013. [92] [2] ( p7 )

On 23 April 2013, the New York Times reported that the British and French governments had sent a confidential letter to the UN Secretary-General, stating there was evidence that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons in Aleppo, Homs and perhaps Damascus. Israel also claimed that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons on 19 March near Aleppo and Damascus. [93] On 24 April, Syria blocked UN investigators from entering Syria, while UN Under-Secretary for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman said this would not prevent an inquiry from being carried out. [94]

On 18 August 2013, three days before the Ghouta attack, a UN mission headed by Åke Sellström [18] arrived in Damascus with permission from the Syrian government to investigate earlier alleged chemical weapons use. [95] On the day of the attack, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed "the need to investigate [the Ghouta incident as] soon as possible," hoping for consent from the Syrian government. [95] The next day, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay urged government and opposition forces to allow an investigation [96] and Ban requested the government provide immediate access. [24] [97] On 23 August, clashes between rebel and government forces continued in and around Ghouta, government shelling continued and UN inspectors were denied access for a second day. [22] White House officials were convinced that the Syrian government was trying to hide the evidence of chemical weapons use by shelling the sites and delaying their inspection. [24] Ban called for a ceasefire to allow the inspectors to visit the attack sites. [20] On 25 August the government and various rebel factions agreed to a ceasefire for five hours each day from 26 to 29 August. [98] [99]

Early in the morning of 26 August several mortars hit central Damascus, including one that fell near the Four Seasons Hotel where the UN inspectors were staying. [100] Later in the day the UN team came under sniper fire en route to Moadamiyah in western Ghouta (to the southwest of central Damascus), forcing them to return to their hotel and replace one of their vehicles before continuing their investigation four hours later. [101] [102] The attack prompted a rebuke from Ban toward the fighters. [103] [104] After returning to Moadamiyah the UN team visited clinics and makeshift field hospitals, collected samples and conducted interviews with witnesses, survivors and doctors. [101] The inspectors spoke with 20 victims of the attacks and took blood and hair samples, soil samples, and samples from domestic animals. [104] As a result of the delay caused by the sniper attack, the team's time in Moadamiyah was substantially shortened, with the scheduled expiry of the daily cease-fire leaving them around 90 minutes on the ground. [99] [104] [105]

On 28 and 29 August the UN team visited Zamalka and Ein Tarma in Eastern Ghouta, east of central Damascus, for a total time of five-and-a-half hours. [18] ( p6 ) On 30 August the team visited a Syrian government military hospital in Mazzeh and collected samples. [106] The mission left Syria early on 31 August, [107] promising to return to complete the original objective to investigate the previously alleged attack sites. The Syrian government wanted the mission to stay and investigate them at that time. [108]

UN Ghouta Area report Edit

The UN report on the investigation into the Ghouta chemical attacks was published on 16 September 2013. The report stated: "the environmental, chemical and medical samples we have collected provide clear and convincing evidence that surface-to-surface rockets containing the nerve agent sarin were used in Ein Tarma, Moadamiyah and Zamalka in the Ghouta area of Damascus." [18] ( p8 ) [29] UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the findings "beyond doubt and beyond the pale," and clear evidence of a war crime. "The results are overwhelming and indisputable," he said. Ban stated a majority of the blood samples, environmental samples and rockets or rocket fragments recovered tested positive for sarin. [109] The report, which was "careful not to blame either side," said that during the mission's work in areas under rebel control, "individuals arrived carrying other suspected munitions indicating that such potential evidence is being moved and possibly manipulated." [110] The UN investigators were accompanied by a rebel leader:

A leader of the local opposition forces . was identified and requested to take 'custody' of the Mission . to ensure the security and movement of the Mission, to facilitate the access to the most critical cases/witnesses to be interviewed and sampled by the Mission and to control patients and crowd in order for the Mission to focus on its main activities. [18] ( p13 )

The British UN Ambassador stated that the report's lead author, Åke Sellström, said the quality of the sarin used in the attack was higher than that used by Iraq in the Iran–Iraq War, [111] implying a purity higher than the Iraqi chemical weapons program's low purity of 45–60%. [112] (By comparison, Aum Shinrikyo used nearly pure sarin in the 1994 Matsumoto incident. [113] )

Responses Edit

According to Human Rights Watch, hundreds of kilograms of sarin were used in the attack, which it said suggested government responsibility, as opposition forces were not known to possess significant amounts of sarin. [114]

The Russian government dismissed the initial UN report after it was released, calling it "one-sided" and "distorted." [115] On 17 September, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reiterated his government's belief that the opposition carried out the attacks as a "provocation." [116] The United Nations High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Angela Kane said the inspection team would review Russia's objections. [108]

An August 2013 Scientific American article described difficulties that could arise when attempting to identify the manufacturer of sarin from soil or tissue samples. [117]

An Iranian chemical weapons expert, Abbas Foroutan, said in October 2013 that the UN should publish more details about the investigation than were provided in the report, including victims' pulse rates and blood pressure and their response to the atropine treatment, the victims' levels of acetylcholinesterase (sarin is an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor) and more technical details on the lab testing process. [118] [119]

Final UN Mission report Edit

The UN inspection team returned to Syria to continue investigations into other alleged chemical attacks in late September 2013. A final report on Ghouta and six other alleged attacks (including three alleged to have occurred after the Ghouta attack) was released in December 2013. [108] The inspectors wrote that they "collected clear and convincing evidence that chemical weapons were used also against civilians, including children, on a relatively large scale in the Ghouta area of Damascus on 21 August 2013." The conclusion was based on:

  • Impacted and exploded surface-to-surface rockets, capable to carry a chemical payload, were found to contain sarin
  • Close to the rocket impact sites, in the area where patients were affected, the environment was found to be contaminated by sarin
  • The epidemiology of over fifty interviews given by survivors and health care workers provided ample corroboration of the medical and scientific results
  • A number of patients/survivors were clearly diagnosed as intoxicated by an organophosphorous compound
  • Blood and urine samples from the same patients were found positive for sarin and sarin signatures. [2] ( p19 )

UN Human Rights Council report Edit

The 7th Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, a different group than the UN fact-finding mission, stated the sarin used in the Ghouta attack bore the "same unique hallmarks" as the sarin used in the Khan al-Assal attack. The report, dated 12 February 2014, also indicated that the perpetrators likely had access to the chemical weapons stockpile of the Syrian military. These conclusions were based on the fact-finding mission's evidence, as the Commission of Inquiry did not conduct its own investigation of either chemical attack. [30]

The continuous fighting has severely limited the quality of medical care for injured survivors of the attack. A month after the attack, approximately 450 survivors still required medical attention for lingering symptoms such as respiratory and vision problems. [120] By early October 2013, the 13,000 residents of Moadhamiya, one of the places targeted in the August attack, had been surrounded by pro-government forces and under siege for five months. Severe malnourishment and medical emergencies become pressing as all supply lines had stopped. [121] Care for chronic symptoms of sarin exposure had become "just one among a sea of concerns." [120]

As countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom debated their response to the attacks, they encountered significant popular and legislative resistance to military intervention. In particular, British Prime Minister David Cameron's request to the House of Commons to use military force was declined by a 285–272 margin. [122] [123] UK government policy subsequently focused on providing humanitarian assistance inside Syria and to refugees in neighboring countries. [124]

Within a month of the attacks, Syria agreed to join the Chemical Weapons Convention and allow all its stockpiles to be destroyed. [125] The destruction began under OPCW supervision on 6 October 2013. [126] On 23 June 2014, the last shipment of Syria's declared chemical weapons was shipped out of the country for destruction. [127] By 18 August 2014, all toxic chemicals were destroyed aboard the US naval vessel MV Cape Ray. [128]

Nine months after the attack, there is evidence that mothers from the affected areas are giving birth to children with defects and as stillborn. [129] [130]

Domestic Edit

Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi was quoted by the official state news agency, Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA), as saying that the government did not and would not use such weapons, if in fact they even existed. Al-Zoubi said, "everything that has been said is absurd, primitive, illogical and fabricated. What we say is what we mean: there is no use of such things (chemical weapons) at all, at least not by the Syrian army or the Syrian state, and it's easy to prove and it is not that complicated." [131] SANA called the reports of chemical attacks as "untrue and designed to derail the ongoing UN inquiry." A Syrian military official appeared on state television denouncing the reports as "a desperate opposition attempt to make up for rebel defeats on the ground." [71] Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad declared it a tactic by the rebels to turn around the civil war which he said "they were losing" and that, though the government had admitted to having stocks of chemical weapons, stated they would never be used "inside Syria". [132] Democratic Union Party leader Salih Muslim said he doubted that the Syrian government carried out the chemical attack. [133]

The National Coalition called the attack a "coup de grace that kills all hopes for a political solution in Syria." [134] In a statement on Facebook, the Coventry-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an anti-government activist network, blamed the attack on the Syrian military and said of the incident that "we assure the world that silence and inaction in the face of such gross and large-scale war crimes, committed in this instance by the Syrian regime, will only embolden the criminals to continue in this path. The international community is thus complicit in these crimes because of its [polarisation], silence and inability to work on a settlement that would lead to the end of the daily bloodshed in Syria." [135]

International Edit

The international community condemned the attacks. United States President Barack Obama said the US military should strike targets in Syria to retaliate for the government's purported use of chemical weapons, a proposal publicly supported by French President François Hollande, but condemned by Russia and Iran. [136] [137] The Arab League stated it would support military action against Syria in the event of UN support, though member states Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, and Tunisia opposed it. [138]

At the end of August, the House of Commons of the United Kingdom voted against military intervention in Syria. [139] In early September, the United States Congress began debating a proposed authorisation to use military force, although votes on the resolution were indefinitely postponed amid opposition from many legislators [140] and tentative agreement between Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin on an alternative proposal, under which Syria would declare and surrender its chemical weapons to be destroyed under international supervision. [141]

In contrast to the positions of their governments, polls in early September indicated that most people in the US, UK, Germany and France opposed military intervention in Syria. [142] [143] [144] [145] [146] One poll indicated that 50% of Americans could support military intervention with cruise missiles only, "meant to destroy military units and infrastructure that have been used to carry out chemical attacks." [147] In a survey of American military personnel, around 75% said they opposed air strikes on Syria, with 80% saying an attack would not be "in the U.S. national interest". [148] Meanwhile, a Russian poll suggested that most Russians supported neither side in the conflict, with less than 10% saying they supported Assad. [149]

Allegations of false flag attack Edit

The attacks prompted some U.S. intelligence officials to speculate they were carried out by the opposition in order to draw the West into the war, [150] a concept dismissed by others. [151] [152] Other experts and officials questioned whether the government was responsible based on the timing of the attack, just after the UN Mission had arrived in Damascus, and lack of motivation, since the government was advancing in the area. [153] [154]

In December 2013 Seymour Hersh wrote that in the days before and after the attack, sensors notifying U.S. intelligence agencies of Syrian chemical weapons deployment did not activate, and intelligence briefings shown to the U.S. president contained no information about an impending government chemical weapons attack. [155] In the article, Hersh relates that the U.S. government had publicly cited classified intercepts of communications it said were between Syrian officials, unavailable to the public, which they state prove Syrian government forces carried out the chemical attack. [12] Hersh quotes a former senior U.S. intelligence official who said the transcript included intercepts from many months prior to the attack, collated to make them appear related to the Ghouta attacks. [155]

In April 2014 Hersh wrote an article proposing the attacks were committed by Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front, whom Hersh writes were supplied with sarin by Turkey. [156] [157] Hersh's argument received some support, [158] [159] but was dismissed by other commentators. [160] [161] The US and Turkish governments denied the accuracy of Hersh's article. [162]

Witness statements and victim symptoms Edit

Syrian human rights lawyer Razan Zaitouneh, who was present in Eastern Ghouta, stated, "Hours [after the shelling], we started to visit the medical points in Ghouta to where injured were removed, and we couldn't believe our eyes. I haven't seen such death in my whole life. People were lying on the ground in hallways, on roadsides, in hundreds." [163] Several medics working in Ghouta reported the administration of large quantities of atropine, a common antidote for nerve agent toxicity, to treat victims. [164] [165]

Doctors Without Borders said the three hospitals it supports in Eastern Ghouta reported receiving roughly 3,600 patients with "neurotoxic symptoms" over less than three hours during the early morning of 21 August. Of those, 355 died. [166] The Local Coordination Committees of Syria claimed that of the 1,338 victims, 1,000 were in Zamalka, of which 600 bodies were transferred to medical points in other towns and 400 remained at a Zamalka medical center. [11] Some of the fatalities were rebel fighters. [167] The deadliness of the attack is believed to have been increased due to civilians reacting to the chemical attack as if it was typical government bombardment. For conventional artillery and rocket attacks, residents usually went to the basements of buildings, where in this case the heavier-than-air sarin sank into these below-ground, poorly ventilated areas. [168] Some of the victims died while sleeping. [72]

Abu Omar of the Free Syrian Army told The Guardian that the rockets involved in the attack were unusual because "you could hear the sound of the rocket in the air but you could not hear any sound of explosion" and no obvious damage to buildings occurred. [169] Human Rights Watch's witnesses reported "symptoms and delivery methods consistent with the use of chemical nerve agents." [19] Activists and local residents contacted by The Guardian said that "the remains of 20 rockets [thought to have been carrying neurotoxic gas] were found in the affected areas. Many [remained] mostly intact, suggesting that they did not detonate on impact and potentially dispersed gas before hitting the ground." [170]

Doctors Without Borders also reported seeing a "large number of victims arriving with symptoms including convulsions, excessive saliva, pinpoint pupils, blurred vision and respiratory distress." [173] Symptoms reported by Ghouta residents and doctors to Human Rights Watch included "suffocation, muscle spasms and frothing at the mouth." [19]

Witness statements to The Guardian about symptoms included "people who were sleeping in their homes [who] died in their beds," headaches and nausea, "foam coming out of [victims'] mouths and noses," a "smell something like vinegar and rotten eggs," suffocation, "bodies [that] were turning blue," a "smell like cooking gas" and redness and itching of the eyes. [169] Richard Spencer of The Telegraph summarised witness statements, stating, "The poison . may have killed hundreds, but it has left twitching, fainting, confused but compelling survivors." [174]

On 22 August, the Center for Documentation of Violations in Syria published numerous testimonies. It summarised doctors' and paramedics' descriptions of the symptoms as "vomiting, foamy salivation, severe agitation, [pinpoint] pupils, redness of the eyes, dyspnea, neurological convulsions, respiratory and heart failure, blood out of the nose and mouth and, in some cases, hallucinations and memory loss". [175]

Analysis of symptoms Edit

Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior associate for the Center for Biosecurity at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, said the reported symptoms are a textbook case of nerve-agent poisoning. [173]

Médecins Sans Frontières Director of Operations Bart Janssens stated that MSF "can neither scientifically confirm the cause of these symptoms nor establish who is responsible for the attack. However, the reported symptoms of the patients, in addition to the epidemiological pattern of the events – characterised by the massive influx of patients in a short period of time, the origin of the patients, and the contamination of medical and first aid workers – strongly indicate mass exposure to a neurotoxic agent." [5]

Gwyn Winfield, editorial director at CBRNe World, analysed some videos from the day of the attack and wrote on the magazine's website: "It is difficult to define [an] agent by the signs and symptoms. Clearly respiratory distress, some nerve spasms and a half-hearted washdown (involving water and bare hands?!), but it could equally be a riot control agent as a [chemical warfare agent]." [176]

Rockets Edit

Human Rights Watch reported that two types of rockets were used: in Western Ghouta, a 140mm rocket made in the Soviet Union in 1967 and exported to Syria [1] ( p5 ) and in Eastern Ghouta, a 330mm rocket of unknown origin. [1] ( p9 ) HRW also reported that at the time of the attack, Syrian rebels were not known to be in possession of the rockets used. [1] ( p20 ) [178]

Seymour Hersh has suggested that the 330mm rockets may have been produced locally, and with a limited range. [155] Eliot Higgins has looked at the munitions linked to the attack and analysed footage of the putative launchers inside government territory. [179]

According to analysis conducted in January 2014 by Theodore Postol and Richard Lloyd, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the rockets used in the attack had a range of about two kilometers, which, the authors claimed, meant that the munitions could not have been fired from the 'heart' or from the Eastern edge of the Syrian Government Controlled Area shown in the Intelligence Map published by the White House on 30 August 2013. [75] [180] [181] A response from Higgins and Kaszeta included an observation that the Russian-language news site ANNA News had posted videos showing a Syrian government military operation running from June to August 2013 to clear positions between Jobar and Qaboun, a strip of land about 2 km away from 21 August impact sites. [182]

Many of the munitions and their fragments had been moved however, in two cases, the UN could identify the likely launch azimuths. [183] Triangulating rocket trajectories suggests that the origin of the attack may have been within government or rebel-held territory. Consideration of missile ranges influences calculations as to whether rockets originated from the government or rebel-held regions. [155] [184]

Communications Edit

Two purported intercepts of communications that appeared to implicate the Syrian government received prominent media coverage. One was a phone call allegedly between Syrian officials which Israel's Unit 8200 was said to have intercepted and passed to the US. [185] The other was a phone call which the German Bundesnachrichtendienst said it had intercepted, between a high-ranking representative of Hezbollah and the Iranian embassy, in which the purported Hezbollah official said that poison gas had been used and that Assad's order to attack with chemical weapons had been a "big mistake". [186] [187]

On 29 August the Associated Press reported that, according to two U.S. intelligence officials and two other U.S. officials, the U.S. intercept was a conversation between "low-level" Syrian officials with no direct link to the upper echelons of the government or military. [150]

The Bild am Sonntag newspaper subsequently reported that German intelligence indicated that Assad had likely not ordered the attacks. [188] According to Bild, "intelligence interception specialists" relying on communications intercepted by the German vessel Oker said that Syrian military commanders had repeatedly been asking permission to launch chemical attacks for around four months, with permission always being denied from the presidential palace. The sources concluded that 21 August attack had probably not been approved by Bashar al-Assad. [188] [189] [190]

Video Edit

Murad Abu Bilal, Khaled Naddaf and other Center for Documentation of Violations in Syria and Local Coordination Committees of Syria (LCC) media staff went to Zamalka soon after the attacks to film and obtain other documentary evidence. Almost all the journalists died from inhalation of the neurotoxins, except Murad Abu Bilal, who was the only Zamalka LCC media member to survive. [191] [192] The videos were published on YouTube, attracting worldwide media attention. [193]

Experts who have analysed the first video said it shows the strongest evidence yet consistent with the use of a lethal toxic agent. Visible symptoms reportedly included rolling eyes, foaming at the mouth, and tremors. There was at least one image of a child suffering miosis, the pin-point pupil effect associated with the nerve agent Sarin, a powerful neurotoxin reportedly used before in Syria. Ralph Trapp, a former scientist at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, said the footage showed what a chemical weapons attack on a civilian area would look like, and went on to note "This is one of the first videos I've seen from Syria where the numbers start to make sense. If you have a gas attack you would expect large numbers of people, children and adults, to be affected, particularly if it's in a built-up area." [193]

Some experts, among them Jean Pascal Zanders, initially stated that evidence that sarin was used, as claimed by pro-rebel sources, was still lacking and highlighted the lack of second-hand contaminations typically associated with use of weapons-grade nerve agents: "I remain sceptical that it was a nerve agent like sarin. I would have expected to see more convulsions," he said. "The other thing that seems inconsistent with sarin is that, given the footage of first responders treating victims without proper protective equipment, you would expect to see considerable secondary casualties from contamination – which does not appear to be evident." However, after Zanders saw footage imminently after the attack, he changed his mind, saying: "The video footage and pictures this time are of a far better quality. You can clearly see the typical signs of asphyxiation, including a pinkish blueish tinge to the skin colour. There is one image of an adult woman where you can see the tell-tale blackish mark around her mouth, all of which suggests death from asphyxiation." [193] Zanders however cautioned that these symptoms covered a range of neurotoxicants, including some available for civilian use as pest control agents, and said that until the UN reported its analysis of samples, "I can't make a judgement. I have to keep an open mind." [194]

According to a report by The Daily Telegraph, "videos uploaded to YouTube by activists showed rows of motionless bodies and medics attending to patients apparently in the grip of seizures. In one piece of footage, a young boy appeared to be foaming at the mouth while convulsing." [84]

Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a former commander of British Chemical and Biological counterterrorism forces, [195] told BBC that the images were very similar to previous incidents he had witnessed, although he could not verify the footage. [196]

According to public statements, intelligence agencies in Israel, [197] the United Kingdom, [198] the United States, [12] France, [199] Turkey, [200] and Germany [201] concluded that the Syrian government was most likely responsible for the attacks. Western intelligence agencies agreed that video evidence is consistent with the use of a nerve agent, such as sarin. Laboratory tests showed traces of sarin, in blood and hair samples collected from emergency workers who responded to the attacks. [202]

Russia said there was no evidence tying the Syrian government to the attack and that it was likely carried out by an opposition group. [203]

France Edit

On 2 September, the French government published a nine-page intelligence report blaming the Syrian government for the Ghouta attacks. [3] [78] [204] An unnamed French government official said that the analysis was carried out by the Directorate-General for External Security (DGSE) and Direction du renseignement militaire (DRM) based on satellite and video images, on-the-ground sources, and samples collected from two April attacks. [205] The report said analysis of samples collected from attacks in Saraqeb and Jobar in April 2013 had confirmed the use of sarin. [78]

The Guardian reported that French intelligence had images that showed rocket attacks on opposition neighborhoods from government-controlled areas to the east and west of Damascus. The report said that the government later launched conventional bombing of those neighborhoods in order to destroy evidence of a chemical attack. [206] Based on analysis of 47 videos, the report said at least 281 fatalities occurred. Using other sources and extrapolation a chemical attack model estimated the total number of death at approximately 1,500. [3]

Germany Edit

The Bundesnachrichtendienst said it intercepted a phone call between a Hezbollah official and the Iranian Embassy in which the Hezbollah representative criticised Assad's decision to attack with poison gas, apparently confirming its use by the Syrian government. [186] [187] German newspaper Der Spiegel reported on 3 September that BND President Gerhard Schindler told them that based on the agency's evidence, Germany now shared the United Kingdom, United States, and France's view that the attacks were carried out by the Syrian government. However, they also said the attack may have been much more potent than intended, speculating that there may have been an error in mixing the chemical weapons used. [207] [208]

Israel Edit

Without going into detail, Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz said on 22 August 2013 that Israel's intelligence assessment was that the Syrian government used chemical weapons in the Damascus area. [197] Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said the Syrian government had already used chemical weapons against the rebels on a smaller scale multiple times prior to the Ghouta attacks. [209] Fox News reported that Unit 8200 helped provide intelligence to the United States, Israel's closest international ally, implicating the Syrian government in the attacks. [210] Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the General debate of the sixty-eighth session of the United Nations General Assembly that Syrian government used the chemical weapons against its own people. [211]

Russia Edit

Russian officials said that there was no proof that the government of Syria had a hand in the chemical attacks. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov described the American, British and French intelligence reports as "unconvincing" [212] and said at a joint news conference with his French counterpart Laurent Fabius after the release of the United Nations report in mid-September that he continued to believe the rebels carried out the attack. [203] Russian President Vladimir Putin said he wanted to see evidence that would make it "obvious" who used chemical weapons in Ghouta. [213]

In a commentary published in The New York Times on 11 September 2013, Putin wrote that "there is every reason to believe [poison gas] was used not by the Syrian Army, but by opposition forces, to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons,". [38] Lavrov said on 18 September that "new evidence" given to Russia by the Syrian government would be forthcoming. [214]

Turkey Edit

The Turkish government-run Anadolu Agency published an unconfirmed report on 30 August 2013, pointing to the Syrian 155th Missile Brigade and the 4th Armored Division as the perpetrators of the two attacks. It said the attack had involved 15 to 20 missiles with chemical warheads at around 02:45 on 21 August, targeting residential areas between Douma and Zamalka in Eastern Ghouta. It claimed that the 155th Missile Brigade had used 9K52 Luna-M missiles, M600 missiles, or both, fired from Kufeyte, while other rockets with a 15- to 70-kilometer range were fired by the 4th Armored Division from Mount Qasioun. The agency did not explain its source. [215]

United Kingdom Edit

A report on the attacks by the United Kingdom's Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) was published on 29 August 2013 prior to a vote on intervention by the House of Commons of the United Kingdom. The report said at least 350 people were killed and that it was "highly likely" that the attacks had been carried out by the Syrian government, resting in part on the firm view that the Syrian opposition was not capable of carrying out a chemical weapons attack on this scale, and on the JIC view that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons in the Syrian civil war on a small scale on 14 previous occasions. [4] Analysis of the Ghouta attacks themselves was based largely on reviewing video footage and publicly available witness evidence. The report conceded problems with motivation for the attacks, saying there was "no obvious political or military trigger for regime use of CW on an apparently larger scale now." [79] [216] [217] [218] British officials said they believe the Syrian military used chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin, on a small scale against the opposition on at least 14 times prior to the Ghouta attacks and described "a clear pattern of regime use" of the nerve agent since 2012. [219]

A vote in the House of Commons to approve UK participation in military action against Syria was narrowly rejected, with some MPs arguing that the case for Syrian government culpability was not sufficiently strong to justify approving action. [220] [221] Prime Minister David Cameron himself had been forced to concede that "in the end there is no 100 percent certainty about who is responsible." [222] [223]

United States Edit

A controversial "US government assessment of the Ghouta attacks" was published by the White House on 30 August 2013, with a longer classified version made available to members of Congress. The report blamed the chemical attacks on the Syrian government, saying rockets containing a nerve agent were fired from government-held territory into neighborhoods in the early morning, impacting at least 12 locations. It stated 1,429 people were killed, including at least 426 children. It dismissed the possibility that evidence supporting the US government's conclusion could have been manufactured by the opposition, stating it "does not have the capability" to fabricate videos, eyewitness accounts, and other information. The report also said that the US believed Syrian officials directed the attacks, based on "intercepted communications." [12] A major element, as reported by news media, was an intercepted telephone call between a Syrian Ministry of Defense official and a Syrian 155th Brigade chemical weapons unit commander in which the former demanded answers for the attacks. [224] According to some reports, this phone intercept was provided to the U.S. by Israeli Intelligence Corps Unit 8200. [185]

The U.S. government assessment suggested a motive for the attack, describing it as "a desperate effort to push back rebels from several areas in the capital's densely packed eastern suburbs." The report then states that evidence suggests "the high civilian death toll surprised and panicked senior Syrian officials, who called off the attack and then tried to cover it up." [225] Secretary of State John Kerry later announced that hair, blood, soil, and cloth samples collected from the attack sites had tested positive for sarin or its immediate breakdown products. [226] [227]

At least three members of Congress, expressed skepticism about the US intelligence report, calling the evidence circumstantial and thin. [228] [229] [230] [231] Obama's request that Congress authorize military force was not put to a vote of either the House of Representatives or the Senate, and the president ultimately admitted that "I wouldn't say I'm confident" that he could convince Congress to support strikes against Syria. [232]

Democratic Party Representative Alan Grayson offered some details regarding the classified report, which he described as 12 pages long, and criticized both the four-page public summary and the classified report. Grayson said the unclassified summary relied on "intercepted telephone calls, 'social media' postings and the like, but not one of these is actually quoted or attached … (As to whether the classified summary is the same, I couldn't possibly comment, but again, draw your own conclusion.)" Grayson cited as a problematic example the intercepted phone call between a Syrian Ministry of Defense official and the Syrian 155th Brigade, the transcript of which was not provided in the classified report, leaving Grayson unable to judge the accuracy of a report in The Daily Caller that the call's implications had been misrepresented in the report. [230] [231]

The AP quoted anonymous US intelligence officials as saying that the evidence presented in the report linking Assad to the attack was "not a slam dunk." [150] Jeffrey Goldberg also reported that James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, personally told President Obama that the case for the Syrian government's responsibility was strong but not a "slam dunk." [233] The AP later characterized the evidence released by the administration as circumstantial and said the government had denied its requests for more direct evidence, including satellite imagery and communications intercepts cited in the government assessment. [153]

IPS news analyst Gareth Porter questioned why the report was released by the White House as a "government assessment" as opposed being released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence as an "intelligence community assessment." Porter quoted former intelligence officials who said the report was "evidently an administration document" and who also suggested evidence was "cherry-picked" to support the conclusion that the Syrian government carried out the attacks. [234]

On 8 September 2013, the then White House Chief-of-Staff, Denis McDonough said the administration lacks the "irrefutable, beyond-a-reasonable-doubt evidence", but that a "common-sense test" implicates Assad. [235] The U.S. publicly stated there was no "reliable" evidence that the opposition had access to chemical weapons, although Seymour Hersh reported that U.S. intelligence agencies privately assessed some rebel factions to be capable of sarin production. [155]

Attack Edit

At the time of the attack, Syria was not a member of the Chemical Weapons Convention. However, Human Rights Watch argues that the Ghouta chemical attack was illegal under a different international agreement:

Syria is a party to the 1925 Geneva Gas protocol, which bans the use in war of asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases, and of all analogous liquids, materials or devices. The use of chemical weapons is also prohibited as a matter of customary international humanitarian law, or the laws of war. The prohibition on the use of chemical weapons applies to all armed conflicts, including so-called non-international armed conflicts such as the current fighting in Syria. The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, in the Tadic case, stated "there undisputedly emerged a general consensus in the international community on the principle that the use of [chemical] weapons is also prohibited in internal armed conflicts." [1] ( p21 )

International Criminal Court referral Edit

Human Rights Watch stated that the UN Security Council should refer the Syria situation to the International Criminal Court (ICC) "to ensure accountability for all war crimes and crimes against humanity." [165] Amnesty International also said that the Syria situation should be referred to the ICC because "the best way for the United States to signal its abhorrence for war crimes and crimes against humanity and to promote justice in Syria, would be to reaffirm its support for the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court." [236] However, as the amendment to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court explicitly making it a war crime to use chemical weapons in an internal conflict has not been ratified by most states nor Syria, the legal situation is complex and reliant on the attack being a part of a wider war crime. [237]


With Violence Flaring across Syria, Chief United Nations Mediator Calls for ‘New Means’ of International Discussion, as Security Council Explores Options

A flare up of violence in Syria could trigger a rapid deterioration of the situation amid efforts to overcome a stalemate in constitutional talks ahead of general elections in May, the senior United Nations mediator warned the Security Council today during a videoconference meeting.

Geir O. Pedersen, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Syria, sounded a warning to all parties to prioritize the search for a settlement to the decade-long conflict. Providing an overview of the Secretary-General’s latest report (document S/2021/390), he raised concerns about a significant escalation in the north-west. From a recent air strike on Syria by Israel to fresh attacks by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Daesh), a steady rise in hostilities, kidnappings and troop movements bring the spectre of imminent escalation.

He said a nationwide ceasefire outlined in resolution 2254 (2015) is essential, as is a cooperative approach to eradicating listed terrorist groups. Recent developments include a meeting in Geneva of the Syrian Women’s Advisory Board, where members voiced fears over Syria’s permanent division, alongside hope for a renewal of the political process. Persistent challenges include the destitution facing the Syrian people after a decade of conflict, corruption and mismanagement, war economies, Lebanon’s financial collapse, the pandemic, sanctions and fuel shortages. He appealed for continued donor support to the response plan and shared calls by the United Nations Civil Society Support Room for humanitarian and livelihoods programmes, and the application of all humanitarian exceptions to sanctions regimes.

Stressing the importance of unblocking progress on detainees, abductees and missing persons, he said that as long as this file remains largely frozen, many Syrians will be unable to even begin to think about moving on, and the country’s social fabric cannot be restored. He called on the Government — and all other Syrian parties — to carry out unilateral releases of detainees and abductees and undertake meaningful actions on missing persons.

“If this highly internationalized conflict is to move towards resolution, we need a more constructive and comprehensive international diplomacy on Syria to try to unlock progress step for step,” he insisted. A new means of international discussion or a new format could bring stakeholders with something to add to the table. Exploratory consultations could help test the possibilities and bridge the mistrust hindering progress. “We must begin to lay the groundwork for such an effort,” he said.

Stressing that the United Nations is not involved in the 26 May presidential election, he said it was called under the auspices of the current Constitution and is not part of the political process established by resolution 2254 (2015), which mandates the Organization to facilitate a political process that culminates in the holding of free and fair elections, in accordance with a new constitution and the highest international standards of transparency and accountability.

He then drew attention to the Syrian-led and Syrian-owned Constitutional Committee, established by an agreement between the Government and the Syrian Negotiations Commission, and facilitated by the United Nations. Appealing to the Co-Chairs and members to respect the Terms of Reference and adhere to the Code of Conduct in public statements, he said a newly discussed proposal, if implemented, would help the Committee to gradually advance its work. “We cannot get there all in one go, but there are steps that could be taken to generate some movement, and it requires constructive international diplomacy to identify and implement them,” he said. “I am open to any suggestions or advice, but I see no other path than this to help the Syrian people to navigate out of their terrible crisis and towards a better future that meets their legitimate aspirations and restores Syria’s sovereignty, unity, independence and territorial integrity.”

Turning to the pandemic, Mark Lowcock, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said COVID-19 testing across Syria is so limited that it only shows “the very tip of the iceberg”, but all signs point to the virus accelerating rapidly. The number of new cases recorded by the Ministry of Health in March was double the figure for February, and hospitals in Damascus are full. While the United Nations is providing personal protection equipment and training for medical workers and supporting the rollout of vaccination campaigns, he noted that doses supplied through the COVID‑19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) Facility will cover 20 per cent of the population. Although not nearly enough, it is a vital first step in protecting medical workers and those most vulnerable.

On the economic crisis, he cited volatility in the exchange rate in April, though it strengthened to around 3,400 Syrian pounds to the United States dollar on the informal market, from its lowest point of 4,700 to the dollar in March. Food prices overall remain at historic levels, with subsidized bread prices doubled this month in Al Hassakeh. More than half of Syrian households are reporting insufficient or insufficiently nutritious food. “That’s an increase of over 70 per cent compared to last year,” he said, while fuel shortages forced the cancellation of several humanitarian field missions.

Addressing violence across the country, he condemned the killing of two more aid workers — volunteers for national non-Governmental organization Al Bir and Al Ehsan Ras Al Ain, who died in a 17 April attack near Deir ez-Zor. “Humanitarian workers in Syria deliver life-saving aid under the most challenging circumstances and at great personal risk,” he stressed. “They must be protected.” The organization is also monitoring tensions in and around Qamishli and Al Hassakeh cities, where clashes killed three civilians and displaced 15,000 people. Along with insecurity at al Hol camp, “we are seeing a collective failure to protect women and children” he said, with tens of thousands of children growing up in desperate conditions there and elsewhere. He urged relevant Member States to rapidly and safely allow for the voluntary repatriation of their nationals in line with international law and standards.

He went on to stress that the Alouk water station has again been interrupted for the past two weeks, impacting nearly half a million people in Al Hassakeh. Across the north-west, millions of people live along the border in an active war zone, dependent on aid delivered from Turkey. As the operation reaches 2.4 million people every month, “a failure to extend the cross-border authorization would sever this lifeline,” he assured. In the north-east, 25 trucks containing food rations have been stuck outside Qamishli since 23 April due to violence. And while the United Nations has scaled up cross-line deliveries, “needs continue to outstrip our ability to respond”, particularly since the removal of Al Yarubiyah as an authorized border crossing in January 2020. Conditions at Rukban refugee camp meanwhile remain dire, with no cross-line assistance delivered to its 12,000 people since September 2019.

Although the United States and European Union have assured that their sanctions do not ban the flow of humanitarian supplies to Syria, he pointed out that more than half of the international Damascus-based non-governmental organizations have reported serious banking issues in 2021. And despite the $4.4 billion pledged at the fifth Brussels Conference in March, much more is needed in order for humanitarian organizations to meet the needs of 12.3 million Syrians this year.

In the ensuing debate, some delegates welcomed the forthcoming presidential election, while others objected to its planned conduct in May under the current Constitution, arguing that the decision defies the political process by preventing millions of Syrians displaced or living as refugees from voting or running as candidates. Speakers roundly welcomed the COVAX vaccine deliveries and called for all steps to be taken to advance a political solution to end the conflict.

The representative of Ireland, speaking also for Norway, said that 9 in 10 Syrians now live in poverty, with 60 per cent of the population at risk of going hungry this year, representing the worst numbers in the history of the conflict at a time when COVID-19 is exacerbating the situation. Condemning reports of grave violations against children and recent violence against humanitarian workers, she expressed strong support for all efforts to ensure aid reaches the growing numbers of those in need in north-west Syria, where 3.4 million people — 21 per cent more than in 2020 — require assistance.

Expressing support for all efforts to put in place a cross-line support mission to north-west Syria, she called on all parties to engage constructively and in a spirit of compromise to ensure this important mission can proceed. The United Nations-mandated cross-border operation in the north-west reaches almost 85 per cent of people in need every month. Without this sustained and predictable access, civilian suffering would rise to levels not seen in a decade of conflict, further driving instability in Syria and the region. The immense humanitarian needs clearly demonstrate that Security Council resolution 2533 (2020) must be renewed.

Speaking in her national capacity, she noted with regret Syria’s lack of substantive engagement in the work of the Constitutional Committee, which frustrates the possibilities for real progress and falls far short of the legitimate expectations of the people. Highlighting other concerns, she called on all parties to take measures to prevent and end child casualties in the conduct of hostilities, end their recruitment and unconditionally release them from the ranks of all armed groups. Attacks on schools and their use for military purposes are reprehensible and must end, and all parties must remove the obstacles to education in areas under their control. It is past time for the Council to shoulder its responsibility and call on Syrian authorities to engage meaningfully within the Constitutional Committee and a wider political process, she said, as outlined in resolution 2254 (2015). The Council should also demand that authorities comply with their obligations under international law and end their brutal policies, so that the people of Syria can live in freedom and without fear.

The representative of the Russian Federation said the Council’s virtual format is unjustifiable, especially when United Nations Headquarters is safe. His delegation held 10 in-person meetings under its 2020 presidency and the General Assembly regularly convenes live sessions. Nothing is stopping the Council from doing the same, he said, urging the current Vietnamese and upcoming Chinese presidencies to hold live meetings. Turning to the situation in Syria, he said worsening humanitarian conditions are linked to sanctions imposed by the collective West, and chronic instability remains tied to occupying and foreign forces, including Israel’s air strikes. The Russian Federation continues to work towards advancing the political process, which must be Syrian-owned without any outside interference, he said, urging actors to refrain from pushing negative narratives ahead of general elections.

Raising other concerns, he said the United States claims that Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham — which the Council listed as a terrorist organization — should be supported because it is “the lesser of two evils”. Welcoming COVAX vaccine deliveries, he said Syria is working on this issue as well as granting permission for aid deliveries. Aid supplies currently stuck in warehouses due to fuel shortages can be linked to United States oil extraction activities in occupied Syrian territory. Turning to the fifth Brussels Conference and its call for contributions, he said Syria has not been involved with these matters and typically receives very few contributions. The Russian Federation has recently repatriated children and, given the worsening situation in camps, he called on Council colleagues to ensure decent conditions for their own citizens. Finally, the absence of launching even one humanitarian convoy from Damascus is “open sabotage”, he said, questioning how colleagues can discuss the territorial integrity of Syria in the Council if they do not want to open a corridor.

The representative of the United Kingdom welcomed the first delivery of more than 250,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine through the COVAX Facility last week, noting her Government has pledged $700 million in support. While more than 50,000 vaccines arrived through the north-west Bab al-Hawa border crossing last week, she expressed concern over the predicted disruption to future deliveries, should the Council fail to renew that mandate. Such a move would contradict the Council’s own ambition, she said, as the life-saving aid includes World Food Programme (WFP) deliveries serving millions of people and facilitates non-governmental organization operations providing protection, health, water and sanitation. Citing the Secretary-General’s warnings, she stressed that even if deployed regularly, cross-line convoys cannot replicate the size and scope of the cross-border operation. On the political track, she noted the core of conflict resolution requires a new Syrian constitution, followed by free and fair elections. However, holding presidential elections in May under the previous constitution runs counter to that process, with millions of Syrians displaced or living as refugees and prevented from voting or running for the office. Referring to “vanity elections”, she urged the regime to focus on actively and genuinely participating in the implementation of resolution 2254 (2015).

The representative of Estonia said the spread of COVID-19 in Syria endangers the most vulnerable groups and hampers the humanitarian response. Cross-line aid meanwhile is irregular and unreliable, he added, making cross-border aid deliveries in July “our utmost duty” to ensure the Syrian people will receive necessary food items, medicine and vaccines. The economic situation remains fragile across the country, with corruption, warlordism and intra-communal fighting preventing the safe return of refugees. Weakening neighbouring economies have caused substantial losses for Syria, he said, as Syrian businesses have historically been strongly interlinked with those in Lebanon and elsewhere. Politically, Constitutional Committee talks in Geneva have not produced genuine dialogue, with proposed elections in May further undermining the process. The legitimate claims of the Syrian opposition must be taken into account, with free and fair elections including members of the diaspora. “Anything else would be considered yet another farce,” he said, with the Constitutional Committee continually “under-delivering”. He reiterated calls for an international mechanism to locate missing people or their remains, as well as accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity. All arbitrarily detained people, especially women, children and the elderly, must be released, he stressed.

The representative of China said the United Nations should continue its work on a Syrian-owned process, calling on all parties in Syria to engage with the Special Envoy and advance progress in Constitutional Committee meetings. Urging the international community to respect the choice of the Syrian people in forthcoming general elections, he said Council members remain concerned about continued terrorist activities. The international community must enhance the provision of humanitarian relief and address such crises as oil shortages and COVID-19. Expressing support for the COVAX plan, he said China’s vaccine contributions have already arrived in Syria. Regarding sanctions and blockades, he urged States to immediately lift these restrictions, as they are deeply affecting the Syrian people. The United Nations must respect the role of the Government regarding humanitarian relief operations, he said, noting that the World Health Organization (WHO) has delivered much needed supplies. The United Nations convoy, however, has yet to make the trip, he said, wondering about the reason for the delay. China remains committed to advancing the political process and relieving the Syrian people’s suffering.

The representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, expressing concern over reports of escalating tensions, voiced support for the Special Envoy’s efforts. Confidence-building measures are vital to the success of the wider political process, and the issue of missing and detained persons should be urgently addressed to foster goodwill. Concerned about Syria’s moribund economy, which has exacerbated the dire humanitarian emergency, she appealed to States to lift all unilateral coercive measures. She expressed support for the cross-border mechanism, which remains a lifeline for millions of Syrians in need. In addition, the pandemic has complicated the humanitarian crisis at camps for internally displaced persons, she said, reminding authorities that activities aimed at maintaining security in such locations must never result in a suspension of humanitarian access or violations of the rights of residents. She urged parties to work together to achieve a sustainable solution to issues related to the Alouk water station, as interruptions cannot continue to deprive services to hundreds of thousands of people. The international community must demonstrate respect for Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, including through the withdrawal of unauthorized foreign forces and regard for the perspectives of the Government in all discussions.

The representative of France expressed concern over hostilities across the country and the potential resurgence of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh). As the month of Ramadan has begun, he reiterated the call for a nationwide cessation of hostilities under United Nations supervision. The humanitarian situation is worsening, he stressed, with 12 million Syrians experiencing food insecurity and COVID-19 spreading, with cases in the north-east increasing 57 per cent in one month. He emphasized that the regime’s systematic blockade of aid reveals that there is no alternative to the to cross-border mechanism, which must be renewed for 12 months. Calling for inclusive, free and transparent elections, with participation by the diaspora, he reiterated that France will not recognize the validity of regime elections planned for the end of May. There must also be progress on locating and freeing jailed and missing persons, as “there can be no peace without justice”, he said.

The representative of India, noting the involvement of major foreign powers in the conflict, welcomed independent parallel political initiatives, while underscoring the centrality of the political process led by the United Nations, and stressing that the former must feed into the latter. He also expressed concern over increased terrorist activity on Syria’s soil and the fact that mercenaries are finding their way into other conflict zones, including in Africa. Turning to the humanitarian situation, he cited United Nations statistics indicating an estimated half-million deaths, millions of internal and external displacements, collapsed health infrastructure and children deprived of basic education – conditions exacerbated by COVID-19 and a national economic crisis. He called for increased humanitarian assistance to all Syrians without discrimination, politicization or preconditions, and for the international community to address impediments to cross-border and cross-line operations — particularly delays in granting requisite approvals to humanitarian aid convoys.

The representative of Norway, pleased that the Women’s Syrian Advisory Board met this week, said that despite a dearth of Constitutional Committee meetings, much work has been done. She expressed support for the Special Envoy’s efforts and urged all parties to work in a constructive way to draft a constitution with a view to finding a political solution to the conflict. A different dynamic must move away from the current stalemate, she said, underlining the tenuous situation on the ground. The ceasefire called for in resolution 2254 (2015) must be heeded, she said, highlighting continued attacks by ISIL/Da’esh. Calling on Syria’s authorities to respect their international legal obligations, she said the inclusion of women in all processes is essential. Turning to forthcoming elections, she said all related elements of resolution 2254 (2015) must be respected. Progress on the situation in Syria is long overdue, she stressed.

The representative of Kenya said that foreign interests and geopolitical competition are complicating the situation in Syria, shifting the focus away from people’s suffering. He called on the international community to “speak in one voice in the interest of the Syrian people,” while emphasizing the critical nature of cross-border aid deliveries, which have allowed the United Nations to deploy vaccines derived from the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) initiative through the Bab al-Hawa crossing. Noting, however, that needs exceed the ongoing humanitarian response — particularly as related to water sources at the Alouk water station — he urged the international community to pay special attention to critical infrastructure to alleviate suffering and possible waterborne diseases. Turning to “radicalization within camps”, he emphasized the need to support terrorist disengagement programmes delivered at sufficient scale within such camps and for countries to repatriate their citizens therefrom.

The representative of Mexico said regular elections are fundamental to any democracy and should be carried out in Syria according to the highest international standards, under a new constitution and with broad participation, including the diaspora. To that end, the Government and the opposition must participate in constructive constitutional talks. He called for the release of detainees and investigations into the fate of disappeared persons, which could potentially require use of the mechanism cited by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). While the arrival of the first vaccines under the COVAX Facility is an encouraging development, the process requires safe, swift and unhindered humanitarian access. The Council must strengthen and broaden that process, and also renew the cross-border mechanism for another 12 months, or face the failure of vaccine deployment to the north-west and deliveries by WFP.

The representative of Tunisia expressed hope for progress on the political track through meetings of the Constitutional Committee, aiming to find points of convergence in accordance with resolution 2254 (2015). With tensions and violence prevalent throughout the country, maintaining a ceasefire is crucial in the short-and long-term. He therefore reiterated the appeal to all parties to de-escalate hostilities in order to improve the humanitarian situation and create a safer, stable and impartial environment. The proliferation of terrorist organizations including ISIL/Da’esh is cause for serious concern, he stressed, requiring coordinated efforts under international law. With the deteriorating internal situation impacting all aspects of life, he called for redoubled efforts “everywhere in the humanitarian sphere”, as well as measures to fight food insecurity and the spread of COVID-19. Cross-line and cross-border aid deliveries are crucial, he stated, calling on parties in the north-west to be flexible in allowing convoys through the contact line.

The representative of the United States said the Assad regime has blocked the drafting of a constitution ahead of elections that will be neither free nor fair to the Syrian people. “The election on 26 May will be a sham,” she said, underlining the need for a new constitution and United Nations action to advance the political process. Until such actions are taken, she said: “We will not be fooled”. Moreover, the United States will not support any reconstruction effort that benefits the regime, she clarified, emphasizing that the Syrian people are in distress while the Assad regime runs its “sham elections”. Highlighting the United States recent multi-million-dollar aid contributions, she said the Assad regime continues to hinder aid deliveries, including at two crossing points in north-west Syria. There is no alternative to the scope and scale of the United Nations cross-border mechanism, as one crossing is clearly not enough. Should the United Nations lose access to a cross-border mechanism, the impact of COVID-19 on Syria will go from bad to catastrophic. The Assad regime and the Russian Federation have obstructed United Nations deliveries, she said, voicing support for aid operations and the Syrian people.

The representative of Niger echoed the Special Envoy’s frustration over the stalemate, calling for all parties to engage constructively to find a long-term solution to the conflict. Supporting the Special Envoy’s call for additional meetings, he said the work of the Constitutional Committee must go hand-in-hand with other aspects of the crisis, including the end of external interference. Supporting the upcoming elections, he remained concerned about violence, targeted attacks against hospitals and worsening conditions in camps. Recognizing the right of the Government to combat terrorism on its territory, he expressed regret that attacks continue to target aid convoys. He called on all actors to ensure that aid supplies reach those in need. Welcoming the start of COVAX vaccine deliveries, he urged the donor community to assist the Syrian people, including by honouring their pledges made at the fifth Brussels Conference.

The representative of Viet Nam, Council President for April, spoke in his national capacity, noting that the security situation has been relatively calm since the ceasefire in north-west Syria, but sporadic incidents still cause serious concerns. He called on all parties to exercise maximum restraint and refrain from actions that could lead to further escalation, reminding them of their obligations under international law, international humanitarian law, and resolution 2573 (2021), unanimously adopted on 27 April. The humanitarian situation has shown no sign of recovery, as millions of Syrians still struggle to afford food, fuel and other basic goods amid a severe economic crisis and pandemic. With a worsening COVID-19 situation requiring urgent delivery of vaccines everywhere, he welcomed the recent shipment through the COVAX Facility to Damascus and the north-west, commending the heroic efforts of the United Nations, humanitarian and health care workers on the ground. Still, he stressed that a comprehensive political solution, led and owned by Syrians themselves, in line with resolution 2254 (2015), is the only way forward.

The representative of Syria questioned how nine donor conferences on the situation in Syria could have been held while data from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs indicates deteriorating living conditions, declining food security indicators, increasing numbers of people in need of humanitarian aid and persistent suffering among displaced and refugee populations. He attributed this inconsistency to the failure of donors to fulfil their pledges, allocation of the lion’s share of aid to neighbouring countries and regions outside Government control, spending most of the remaining funding on a United Nations office in Gaziantep that has “no function other than diverting attention from the crimes of terrorist organizations”, and the deliberate disregard for the effects of unilateral coercive measures on the Syrian people or the accompanying plunder of national wealth by United States forces occupying the north-east.

For its part, Syria continues its constructive engagement with United Nations agencies to “deliver aid to those who deserve it”, he said, but it rejects the cross-border assistance mechanism, which violates Syria’s sovereignty. Blaming “Turkish occupation forces and their affiliated terrorist organizations” for obstructing humanitarian access, he cited as an example their failure to allow the joint convoy to reach Atarib in the north-west. Worse is the Turkish regime’s use of drinking water as a weapon against civilians, deliberately cutting off supply from the Alouk water station to Al-Hasakah for a period of 20 days. He called on the Security Council to exert the necessary political pressure to find a durable solution to these issues. More broadly, the conduct of a presidential election is within the constitutional timeframe, he said, demonstrating Syria’s desire to ensure the regularity of its institutions and determination to thwart “external plots aimed at creating an institutional and constitutional vacuum” and imposing “creative chaos” as an alternative.

The representative of Iran expressed concern over reports that certain foreign forces are cooperating with terrorists in camps under their control, calling for increased efforts to uproot terrorists and for the withdrawal of all uninvited foreign forces from Syria. He also rejected any use of counter-terrorism efforts to support separatist tendencies, illegitimate self-rule initiatives or violations of Syria’s sovereignty, condemning United States occupation of and Israeli aggression towards Syria. The refugee crisis meanwhile cannot be overcome with the provision of humanitarian assistance alone. Rather, countries must take practical steps to expedite the return of refugees and internally displaced persons. Further, he called for the immediate removal of sanctions that weaponize food and medicine in flagrant violation of the Charter of the United Nations and for uninvited foreign forces to stop their “shameful practice” of systematically looting the Syrian people’s much-needed oil.

The representative of Turkey recounted his recent visit, along with the President of the General Assembly, to the border town of Hatay, where the United Nations channels cross-border humanitarian aid to millions of people in need. From the Turkish side of the border, he observed the dire humanitarian conditions in overcrowded camps in Syria, where people struggle to survive on aid arriving from Bab al-Hawa border crossing and await vaccination. Some 50,000 vaccines were transferred into the region last week, with 20 per cent of the population in Syria’s north-west region scheduled to receive them. It is simply not possible to replace the “unique and indispensable” United Nations monitoring mechanism. If it stops operating, “we will lose one of the best scrutinized and robust mechanisms in the world,” he insisted. The only way out for 2.7 million internally displaced people will be to escape Syria, creating new migration flows to neighbouring countries and Europe.

Despite the Constitutional Committee opening a window of opportunity for a political solution, Syria’s regime continues to block its work with unreasonable requests aimed at undermining the opposition, he said. In addition, elections announced for 26 May do not meet any of the criteria outlined in resolution 2254 (2015). Meanwhile, violence persists, with ceasefire violations and attacks against civilians in Idlib, and the PKK/PYD [Kurdish Workers’ Party/Democratic Union Party] targeting Syrian civilians — and Turkey — from Tel Rifat, Manbij and Ayn Isa. The group has carried out 400 attacks since October 2019, including car bombs. He said it “shamelessly announces these terrorist attacks through its social media accounts” and sets free — for political or financial gain — ISIL/Da’esh members, posing a grave danger to Syria’s neighbours.

He said the organization is also responsible for cutting electricity at the Alouk water station in Hasakah, leaving only 3 of its 12 water pumps operational. These unlawful actions place half a million innocent lives at risk and impede efforts to effectively combat the pandemic. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has verified that from 24 February to 23 March, at least 16 civilians were killed and 70 were injured by shelling and airstrikes in the north-west. Noting that the latest report of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Investigation and Identification Team established that Syria’s air force used chlorine in a 4 February 2018 attack against civilians in Saraqib, he said the regime is responsible for at least eight proven chemical weapons attacks.

The representative of Syria, taking the floor a second time, said it was regrettable that discussions in the Council continue amid such hostility and provocation. Some of the statements made today help no one, he stated, and certainly not the Syrian people. Responding to the “arrogant and false information” from Turkey’s representative, he said: “We know what is happening” in Iraq, Cyprus and other countries. “We know what happens in Turkish prisons.” Given the suffering of thousands of citizens in Turkey, that delegate is not entitled to lecture others on human rights or believe he has the authority to preach. “You should be ashamed of yourself, sir,” he stated, adding that Turkish authorities are committing crimes in Syria and “have blood on their hands”.


Andrew Corkery

Visual Producer (former)
Raised in southern New Jersey outside Philadelphia, and now residing in Baltimore Maryland, Andrew Corkery worked as a Visual Producer / Editor/ Researcher for the Real News Network. Prior to that he worked for nearly four years as Video Editor for CBS 3 Eyewitness News, and an Investigative Journalist for Spirit News both in Philadelphia. He graduated from Rider University in Lawrenceville, New Jersey in May of 2014 with a Bachelor's degree in Digital Media. While in college Andrew completed a media education and co op work program at CAPA London, working as a researcher and video editor for COAST, a digital strategy and brand film content production company.

Andrew maintains a relentlessly keen interest in all things geopolitics in almost every corner of the globe. He has since applied this passion and interest to his creative and investigative work as a producer, editor, journalist and videographer. One of his most impactful pieces focused on a story outlining how to combat Islamophobia in communities across the world, articulating the differences between Radical Islamists and the vast majority of people who follow Islam, while showing the many layers of nuance, both in politics and religion more broadly. That Story, "Islam in the Riverwards: PART 1 AND 2," along with "Being Black in Bridesburg", a story highlighting the impacts and legacy of racial injustice in a largely white community within Philadelphia, were both published in Spirit News and later featured in write ups from The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Magazine.

With Andrew's career expanding experience of living and working abroad in mind, he recognizes the importance of staying connected to the world. The cornerstones of Andrew's work can always be found in uncovering the expansive impact of global events and political issues, while relating them to people's everyday lives, through the mediums of online video, film and writing. Finally, Andrew is currently the Lead Singer and Member Manager of a successful original alternative rock band called Shadowplay, based in Mt. Laurel, NJ, founded in 2008 at Lenape High School. The band has since performed over 200 shows, including performances at such festivals as SXSW, and opening up for bands like Tracy Guns, Weitz and The Parlor Mob.


Why Syria is Important to Iran?

Remember Bill Clinton&rsquos catchy slogan &ldquoit&rsquos all about the economy, stupid?" Well when it comes to the Middle East, it&rsquos all about the oil. The wars, the disputes, the bickering, it all boils down to one thing: oil.

To better understand the geopolitics of oil let&rsquos take a good look at a map of the Middle East. Notice Iran&rsquos position? Iran is a major oil producer and the country lies on the eastern edge of the region. Iran has always been worried by its Arab neighbors, and vice-versa.

Throughout history the two sides have often been at odds. For now Iran controls the situation, (sort of) in Iraq, but that has not always been the case, and nor will it forever be the case. Right across the water is Saudi Arabia, the other powerhouse in the region, and Iran&rsquos nemesis. The first are Sunni (Wahabbi) and the second are Shiites, which has contributed to the schism.

If Iran wants to guarantee an uninterrupted flow of its product to the West, it currently needs to ship its oil via super tankers down the Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz, and then on to whatever port the ships are heading for. There are two major disadvantages with the way this setup operates.

First and foremost, this places Iran&rsquos oil under the potential tutelage of the United States, who in case of conflict, can easily close the strategic Straits, thus placing an embargo on Iran&rsquos oil and thus affecting Iran&rsquos economy, (it is indeed, as some have been speculating, all about the economy, stupid!).

And second, it means that Iran is already at a disadvantage when it comes to facing off the US because of the precariousness of getting its oil to market in case of conflict.

Enter Syria into the game. What makes Syria so important to the game being played out in the Middle East today? As they say in real estate, location, location, location. Look at that map again and look at Syria. It sits on the crossroads of the Levant and the Gulf, the Mediterranean and the Near East. Location, location, location.

If the rumor mill is at least partially correct, and it often is, then, it is safe to assume that at least part of the civil war in Syria has to do with oil, or more precisely, with pipeline routes, some that will be laid, others that will never see the day. If Iraq was attractive to the USA because of its oil and gas reserves, Syria is attractive due to the location where the projected oil pipelines were to transit. And ergo the root of the crisis.

Some of the fiercest fighting was in and around the city of Homs. It&rsquos just coincidence that in 2011, a promising gas field was discovered in Homs. Syrian Oil Minister Sufian Allawi told the state-run SANA news agency that the first wells &ldquowere in the Homs governorate and the flow rate is 400,000 cubic meters per day.&rdquo


Why did Trump decide to attack Syria? Just turn on your TV.

Just days before the New Hampshire primary last year, a must-win contest to keep his unlikely bid for the presidency alive, Donald Trump was doubling down on his opposition to admitting refugees from Syria and other countries known to be breeding grounds for terrorists when a supporter stood up and questioned how committed he really was to that pledge.

Speaking at a town hall in Salem, N.H., the man asked if Trump could really look at Syrian children “aged 5, 8, 10, in the face” and say they couldn’t come to the U.S. Trump said he could.

“I can look in their faces and say, ‘You can’t come here,’” he announced to cheers, arguing, as he would repeatedly throughout the campaign, that Syrian children could be used by their parents as a “Trojan horse” to get into the country to help perpetrate attacks on the homeland.

A little over a year later, there’s no sign that Trump has weakened his stance on keeping Syrian refugees out of the United States. His temporary ban blocking refugees from six Muslim-majority countries is on hold, blocked by a federal court amid arguments over its legality under the Constitution. But his posture on the subject of Syrians, especially children caught up in the ongoing civil war there, has changed remarkably in the aftermath of what U.S. officials say was a poison gas attack launched by Syrian President Bashar Assad on his own people.

The images, which have blanketed cable TV and other news outlets, were horrific even for a public desensitized by the seemingly endless drumbeat of death in Syria’s multi-sided civil war. Dozens of unconscious children, their tiny, limp bodies being hosed down with water in the street as doctors frantically tried to revive them. A hospital ward packed with young kids, many foaming at the mouth, their small chests heaving up and down as they struggled to breathe. A stunned father clutching his lifeless 9-month-old twins, wrapped in white blankets, as he tearfully rocked them one last time. “Say goodbye, baby, say goodbye,” the man said, a dead child in each arm, in footage that made news around the world.

It was an atrocity that, to the surprise of nearly everyone, prompted Trump to order retaliatory missile strikes against Syrian targets on Thursday night in what is likely to go down as a key moment in his young presidency.

Speaking to reporters at Mar-a-Lago, his Florida estate where he was hosting Chinese President Xi Jinping, Trump somberly framed his move as an act of deterrence, aimed at discouraging the spread and use of chemical weapons that could undermine America’s security. But it was also clearly an emotional decision made by a president who has often spoken of relying on gut instinct, whether in his business deals, as a reality television star or in his surprising political career.

After months of campaigning on his “America First” policy and arguing that the U.S. should focus on problems at home before intervening elsewhere, Trump abruptly shifted his stance, taking aim at Assad — only days after his administration had seemingly backed away from a longstanding American commitment to deposing him as a precondition for peace.

Assad, Trump said Thursday, had “choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children” in what was a “slow and barbaric death for so many.” “Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered,” Trump declared. “No child of God should ever suffer such horror.”

Though many of Trump’s critics were quick to praise his move against Syria, they also pointed out that it was a position deeply tinged with irony. Trump was suddenly coming to the defense of Syrian civilians that he had spent most of his presidential campaign decrying as potential terrorists, people he had spent much of his early presidency trying to keep out of the country.

Only Trump can say for certain what prompted his decision to plunge into a messy conflict for which there are few easy solutions. He would hardly be the first president to reconsider his views after assuming the responsibilities that come with taking a role on the world stage where America is viewed as a leader of democracy.

But one important lens for viewing Trump as president is television, which he watches obsessively. And not unlike the coverage of his administration on cable TV that has sent him to rage on Twitter, footage of the atrocities produced in Trump — as in many Americans — a visceral reaction.

Speaking at a press conference at the White House on Tuesday, Trump admitted as much, telling reporters that his attitude toward Syria and Assad “had changed very much” because of the footage he’d seen. “I will tell you that attack on children yesterday had a big impact on me, big impact,” he said. “That was a horrible, horrible thing. And I’ve been watching it and seeing it, and it doesn’t get any worse than that.”

Using a phrase he would repeat on Thursday, Trump spoke of the “beautiful little babies” that had been killed. “It crossed a lot of lines for me. When you kill innocent children, innocent babies, little babies with a chemical gas that is so lethal… that crosses many, many lines. Beyond a red line, many, many lines,” he said.


Explaining the Covert Israeli-Syrian “Rebel” Group Alliance

by Casey Titus May 2, 2021 800 Views 19 Votes 3 Comments

In the decade-long Syrian Civil War, rebel groups designed to topple President Bashar al-Assad’s government had more than enough foreign backing from countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Great Britain, France, and of course the United States. Reasons vary depending on the country, but as for the United States, retired NATO Supreme Allied Commander during the Kosovo War and 4-star U.S. Army General Wesley Clark disclosed to Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman in 2007 publicly that General Clark was approached with a memo from the Secretary of Defense’s office in the wake of 9/11 which laid out how seven countries were going to be “take[n] out” in five years, beginning with Iraq before moving onto Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, and Sudan, before ‘finishing off’ Iran.

Other explanations point to strategic alliances. In the case of Syria, obviously allied with Russia for military and economic purposes, presents itself as a proxy in the ongoing warring competition of influence between global and regional powers. This is why some contend the Cold War had not ended in 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union. In fact, not only have regional dominance objectives remain the same exemplified through CIA-initiated regime changes and bipartisan sanctions, but now foreign influence and meddling has shifted US interests further and further from any benefit to the American people and into the hands of a foreign state.

These revelations go against the open proclamation from former US President Barack Obama in 2011 when he called for Bashar al-Assad to step down as President of Syria:

“We have consistently said that President Assad must lead a democratic transition or get out of the way. He has not led. For the sake of Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside. The United States cannot and will not impose this transition upon Syria. It is up to the Syrian people to choose their own leaders, and we have heard their strong desire that there not be foreign intervention in their movement. What the United States will support is an effort to bring about a Syria that is democratic, just, and inclusive for all Syrians.”

By now, it has been extensively established how the United States and other western governments used the ‘humanitarian’ cover to justify foreign invasion of a sovereign country as demonstrated through a long list of destabilization efforts beyond Iraq and Libya, stretching back to Guatemala, Iran, Chile, Indonesia, Yugoslavia, etc. While the United States and Saudi Arabia have unquestionably contributed much in covertly supplying and training foreign rebel forces in Syria, a lesser acknowledged source of clandestine support to opposition groups in Syria against the Assad government is Israel. This would not seem surprising at first, considering the two countries share a border and so conflict becomes an inevitable spillover, but the full explanation behind terse Syrian-Israeli relations explain the larger context of a sinister constructive plan years prior to the 2011 .

Just last year, Assad made it clear from the onset that no peace talks or normalization efforts will take place until Israel returns the Golan Heights. In the aftermath of the Six Day War of 1967, Israel captured the Golan Heights and has since retained it as territory under military occupation, deemed illegal by the United Nations Security Council since it is land seized by force – a violation of international law – and demanded the withdrawal of Israeli armed forces in its 1967 UN Resolution 242. For years, Israel has sought to sustain possession the Golan Heights primarily for “its geostrategic significance due to water sources and its physical location,” according to a 1981 CIA report. In the case of the Syrian Civil War, more was to come.

In 2015, Russia Today reported that “a big oil deposit” was discovered in the Golan Heights with “enough reserves to last Israel for decades.” All past presidential administrations have refused Israeli lobbying efforts in the United States to recognize the Golan Heights as part of Israel until President Trump formally did in March 2019, citing “aggressive acts by Iran and terrorist groups, including Hizballah, in southern Syria [that] continue to make the Golan Heights a potential launching ground for attacks on Israel.”

Besides cited strategic, security, and resource motives for retaining Syrian territory, Israeli interests in Syria’s overall fate provide context for its involvement in the proxy war of the Syrian conflict. In February 1982, just as the Sabra and Shatila massacres ensued in which hundreds of Palestinians civilians in refugees camps were murdered by Lebanese Phalangist militias in IDF-controlled areas (and permitted into the camps by Ariel Sharon), former associate of the Foreign Ministry and Israeli journalist Oded Yinon published in the Hebrew journal Kivunim (“Directions”) – a journal belonging to the Department of Information of the World Zionist Organization – an article titled ‘A Strategy for Israel in the 1980s.’

Yinon’s article laid out the political plan for Israel to render itself an imperial regional power with a hegemonic presence in relation to its Arab neighbors. In order to attain this goal, Arab states had to be dissolved based along sectarian divisions. For Syria, Yinon goes on to strategize:

“The dissolution of Syria and Iraq later on into ethnically or religiously unique areas such as in Lebanon, is Israel’s primary target on the Eastern front in the long run, while the dissolution of the military power of those states serves as the primary short term target. Syria will fall apart, in accordance with its ethnic and religious structure, into several states such as in present day Lebanon, so that there will be a Shi’ite Alawi state along its coast, a Sunni state in the Aleppo area, another Sunni state in Damascus hostile to its northern neighbor, and the Druzes who will set up a state, maybe even in our Golan, and certainly in the Hauran and in northern Jordan. This state of affairs will be the guarantee for peace and security in the area in the long run, and that aim is already within our reach today.”

These geopolitical ambitions to construct “Greater Israel” formed the cornerstone of Zionist factions within Netanyahu’s Likud Party. The Israeli military and intelligence enterprise would be no exception. Military correspondent for Haaretz, Ze’ev Schiff, wrote about Israel’s interests in seeing to it that Iraq be reduced into Sunni, Shi’i and Kurdish states. Based on Greater Israel objectives, the resulting condition of surrounding Arab states is smaller, weaker, and even dysfunctional in order to minimize any collective challenge to Israel. The main targets would be Arab countries directed by cohesive nationalist interests, especially Ba’athist ideologue states like Iraq and Syria.

In 1996, again Israeli hegemonic ambitions veered foreign policy – this time in the United States. Known as “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm,” this foreign policy document was produced by a clique of neocons within the Bush Administration – Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, David and Meyrav Wurmser – explaining how Israel can debilitate Syria:

“Israel can shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan, by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria. This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq – an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right – as a means of foiling Syria’s regional ambitions.”

“Most important, it is understandable that Israel has an interest supporting diplomatically, militarily and operationally Turkey’s and Jordan’s actions against Syria, such as securing tribal alliances with Arab tribes that cross into Syrian territory and are hostile to the Syrian ruling elite.”

That same year, David Wurmser further detailed in “Coping with Crumbling States: A Western and Israeli Balance of Power Strategy for the Levant” the shifting power struggle in relation to Syria with Israel’s end goal to balkanize and isolate Syria:

“Jordan’s potential endangers Syria. In response, Syria has tried to cobble together a broad coalition, to include Saudi Arabia, to oppose, embarrass, isolate and eventually defeat Jordan. However, Saudi support for Syria, which is crucial for Damascus, is ambivalent. This has led Syria to take an active interest in Saudi succession. Jordan, in turn, tried to forge a Turkish-Israeli-American coalition to buttress its efforts.”

Wurmser made it clear Israel would have an advantage in siding with Jordan: “…if Jordan wins, then Syria would be isolated and surrounded by a new pro-western Jordanian-Israeli-Iraqi-Turkish bloc, the first of which can help contain and manage (through its more solid and traditional regime) the scope of the coming chaos in Iraq and most probably in Syria. In the long-run, a Hashemite victory could usher in an era defined by a stable balance of power system rooted to tribal alliances.”

How does this all relate to Israeli involvement in the Syrian Civil War? One assumes Israel – consistently praised for its democratic values in a sea of tyranny – and the militant Salafi-Wahhabist hybrid of jihadist fanaticism which manifested itself as rebel terror groups in Syria would be staunch enemies, but over the course of the war, fishy details have emerged to challenge this official narrative. Israel has claimed its stance of neutrality in the war and yet former Israel army chief General Gadi Eisenkot admitted in 2020 that Israel directly provided weapons to anti-Assad opposition fighters in Syria, making Eisenkot the most senior Israeli official to admit so. These include terrorists affiliated with Al Qaeda, referred to as Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria.

Prior to this confirmation, Israel had previously maintained it only extended humanitarian aid to displaced Syrian civilians in the codenamed Operation Good Neighbor as the limit to their involvement in the war. In 2016, former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy revealed in an Al-Jazeera interview that “Al-Qaeda, to the best of my recollection, has up to now not attacked Israel,” and disclosed Israeli assistance in providing “tactical” assistance to Jabhat al-Nusra.

UN observers also reported regular contact between Israel Defense Force officers and armed Jabhat al-Nusra militants in the Golan Heights, primarily involving medical treatment of wounded anti-Assad “rebels” and releasing them back into Syria to fight. Even among the list of international coalition members pledging to provide military and/or humanitarian support in the fight against ISIS, Iraq and Iran are listed while Israel is absent. This has certainly not gone unnoticed with Israel’s explanation being more pressing concerns with Iran. In fact, the first direct clash between Israeli forces and ISIS-affiliated fighters broke out in the Golan Heights when the jihadist group opened fired, according to former Israeli defense minister Moshe Ya’alon. The ISIS militants later apologized after launching the attack.

Another astonishing admission, this time from Israeli military intelligence chief, Major General Herzi Halevy relayed Israel’s long-established position that it “prefers ISIS” over the Assad’s government, echoing the desire of fellow Israeli officials for ISIS to conquer the whole of Syria in order to cripple an ally of Iran. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah offered his own explanation for why Israel launched a stream of attacks against Syria in March 2017 when Russian backing was turning the tide of the war in Bashar al-Assad’s favor – deliberately trying to assist ISIS to prevent its defeat in Syria.

Hezbollah forces from the beginning have allied with the Syrian government against ISIS and other rebel groups. Meanwhile, Israel’s Strategy Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz worried the US joining the fight against ISIS would distract them from pressuring Iran. This turns the conversation to just how much American involvement in Syria is the result of Israeli pressure groups within its government.

Even prior to American involvement in 2014, a Congressional resolution backed by President Obama authorizing military strikes against Syria over its false chemical weapons attack in Ghouta received heavy backing from two influential foreign policy lobbying organizations. This was followed by a New York Times piece which reported that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) sent out 300 of its members to Capitol Hill “as part of a broad campaign to press Congress to back President Obama’s proposed strike on Syria.” The NYT goes on to say the spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mark Regev declined to not only discuss Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Obama’s conversations but whether Netanyahu had called members of Congress after the president insisted he personally lobby them.

It might explain why Israel’s intervention in the Syrian conflict was minimal compared to Turkey or Saudi Arabia Through Israeli pressure groups within the United States for example, the dirty work falls upon countries with more military might followed by both the blame and repercussions involved with facilitating a humanitarian crisis involving the influx of Syrian refugees. While the United States and Europe were faced with tackling this refugee crisis, Israel and Arab Gulf states refused their part in sharing the burden despite their contributions to destabilizing Syria.

In 2018, when President Donald Trump announced his decision to withdraw American troops from Syria, it had generated a rift with mainstream pro-Israel organizations in the United States. That same year, Hassan Nasrallah proclaimed the military strikes against Syria from numerous Western powers were the result of “Zionist lobby” pressure within the United States. He went on to say at an election rally that even after pressure on the United States, Israel “was disappointed by the limited bombing,” as it had “failed to change the equation in its favor.”

Now that Assad’s government has all but won the war, what now? After past calls to assassinate the Syrian president from both the United States and Israel, relations are shifting after proxy forces on both sides have effectively solidified international allegiances, particularly with Hezbollah, Iranian, and Russian involvement on the side of Assad’s Ba’athist government. The course of the civil war has caused untold devastation, especially the migrant crisis which led to the resurgence of nationalist sentiment among native Europeans. So as reconstruction in Syria commences, the imperative aim of western nationalists is obviously to ensure their countries do not become embroiled in yet another foreign conflict that yields no benefit to the native working class population – merely for the military industrial complex and Zionist lobby.


Monitor claims 3 pro-Iran fighters killed in alleged Israeli strike in Syria

Israel carried out airstrikes in Syria overnight, attacking a weapons depot near Damascus and killing three Iran-backed paramilitary fighters, a war monitor said Thursday.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has had its credibility questioned in the past, said the strikes targeted “military positions” near Damascus and “destroyed a weapons depot likely used by the Lebanese Hezbollah militia,” among other Iran-backed terror groups.

The group said the three killed were non-Syrian, but could not determine their nationalities.

Syrian state media reported four soldiers were wounded in the alleged Israeli strike, the latest in a series of raids attributed to the Jewish state.

The state-run SANA news agency said Syrian air defenses had engaged Israeli missiles near the capital Damascus, without giving details of the targets.

SANA said the Israeli missiles were fired from both the Israeli Golan Heights and Lebanese air space, wounding four soldiers and causing “some material losses.”

“Our air defenses intercepted the attack and shot down most of” the missiles, SANA cited a military source as saying. Defense analysts routinely dismiss such claims by the Syrian regime as empty boasts.

One of the Syrian air defense missiles exploded near the Lebanon-Syria border and was heard in parts of southern Lebanon and northern Israel, according to reports from both sides of the border. Al-Manar TV, which is affiliated with Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group, said the missile crashed near the Lebanese border village of Houla.

The Israel Defense Forces did not comment on the late-night strikes, in accordance with its policy to neither confirm nor deny its operations in Syria, save for those launched in retaliation for an attack from Israel’s northern neighbor.

This was the first reported Israeli strike in almost a month, since an alleged strike on reported weapons depots near the Damascus airport.

In February Israeli strikes also reportedly targeted the area of Damascus International Airport, through which Iran had allegedly been flying advanced munitions, as well as military sites around the Damascus suburb of el-Kisweh, a long-time base of Iranian operations.

The strikes came days after drones reportedly bombed a shipment of advanced weapons that were being transported through Iraq into eastern Syria by Iranian proxies.

The IDF has launched hundreds of strikes in Syria since the start of the civil war in 2011 against moves by Iran to establish a permanent military presence in the country and efforts to transport advanced, game-changing weapons to terrorist groups in the region, principally Hezbollah.

Tensions have been high in the Middle East in recent months as Iran and the US jockey for position ahead of nuclear negotiations.

A series of incidents at sea have also turned up the heat.

Israel and Iran have accused each other recently of attacking a number of merchant ships, damaging them with explosives. The vessels in each case were only lightly damaged and there were no reported injuries in the incidents.

On Tuesday morning, limpet mines were reportedly detonated on the MV Saviz, a cargo ship off the coast of Yemen that has been allegedly used for years by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a command-and-control center for its operations in the region. An American official attributed the strike to Israeli commandos.

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