U.S./UK Accuse Russia of Covering Up Evidence in Douma as Case for Poison Gas Attack Falls Apart, OPCW Shot At to Delay Their Entry into the Town Outside Damascus
Germany-based blogger 'b' over at Moon of Alabama (often abbreviated in the alt-media as MoA) has put together a series of posts about the Douma incident, linking to testimony from doctors and (non White Helmets) first responders who stayed there after the jihadists left on buses for Idlib. The evacuation of the Jaish al Islam (JaI) jihadists was part of a ceasefire deal negotiated by the Russians, who agreed to only use their own military police rather than Syrian government troops in the town for a certain time period. It was that agreement, as well as the Anglo-American strikes around Damascus, that Moscow blamed for any delays in OPCW personnel deploying to the town after their arrival in the country last Friday. The remaining Douma hospital staff overwhelmingly insist that there was no chemical attack, and Russian journalist Evgeny Poddubiny met with an eleven year old boy, Hassan Diab, who was exploited as an unwitting crisis actor by White Helmets promising him food. Other civilians who were said to be suffering from dust and smoke inhalation after a series of government air strikes, according to the physician who spoke with long-time Independent Mideast correspondent Robert Fisk, were panicked by shouts of 'gas attack!' in the Douma hospital emergency room. They are seen hosing themselves off and being doused with water by White Helmets-linked activists in the video circulated online after the alleged chemical attack.
While this story presented to Fisk does not answer all questions regarding what happened, such as where the supposedly chemical tainted blood and urine samples came from that U.S. or its partner intelligence agencies obtained from Douma residents (if such samples actually exist or haven't been falsified off site), it received a vociferous reaction from panicked regime change advocates on social media. Those insisting chlorine gas was dropped on the town from Assad government helicopters, like the French government's released dossier, rely on alleged open source evidence, compiled by the usual USAID/Gov-oogle/Atlantic Council (read: NATO) funded suspects at Bellingcat. According to Bellingcat's Leicester, UK-based professional couch potato Eliot Higgins, a chlorine canister killed or sickened over a score of residents in one Douma house alone. RogueMoney readers will recall that Higgins has been an 'open source' 'go to guy' when US/NATO need evidence of any Syrian or Russian government wrongdoing for almost five years. This has been Higgins role through the Ukraine War, dating back to the mainstream media promoting 'Brown Moses' constantly shifting analyses of alleged sarin-tipped rocket flight paths from government-held territory near East Ghouta in August 2013.
The fact that Russian military police visiting the building found no traces of either the supposedly helo-dropped chlorine canister embedded in the roof nor the residents killed or injured by gas after sheltering in the basement, according to Higgins, is chalked up to Russian concealment. The Russians are so determined to keep OPCW inspectors from the town, that they allegedly opened fire or arrange for someone to shoot at their SUV convoy. However a Russian soldier was reportedly injured in this murky attack by unknown gunmen, and there is no reason to believe the OPCW won't return to the town on Friday or Saturday. Furthermore, if the Russian chemical and biological warfare specialists can successfully scrub all traces of chlorine if not sarin nerve agent from the town in just 72 to 96 hours, they will be far more capable than the UK technicians tasked over a span of many weeks with cleaning up the tiny amount (in comparison) of novichok nerve agent which was said to have poisoned Sergey and Yulia Skripal after being smeared on their front door in Salisbury.
The U.S. and British arguments that the Russians are even capable of such an extensive cover up across many chemical contaminated acres over a few days are absurd. But that isn't stopping the increasingly shrill and desperate Anglo-Americans from making the charges to the OPCW -- which has been under pressure from all sides since the Skripal incident in the UK.
When Disbelieved, Shout Louder and Flail Your Arms More
To distract from such glaring contradictions and holes in their argument, including the basic question of why Assad would resort to chemical weapons when he already had the jihadists holed up in Douma surrounded on the verge of surrender, the British have taken the lead in a campaign of vilification against anti-Syria regime change activists. The Huffington Post UK and taxpayer funded BBC have attacked activists like Vanessa Beeley and former Ambassador Peter Ford, as well as UK academics like Tim Hayward who've undermined their story line. U.S. taxpayer funded outlets like RFE/RL spin off Polygraph.info have joined in this campaign, with thus far minimal success. Public 'support' for the strikes, even according to the mainstream media commissioned polls in the UK, is abysmally low or at best, indifferent. Furthermore, the longer U.S.-UK involvement in hostilities with Damascus and its Iranian/Lebanese/Iraqi Hezbollah allies drags on, the greater the risk of casualties to the troops deployed inside Syria and thus greater decline of deployed forces morale and support back home.
While a passionate few continue to scream for follow on air strikes against Assad, the recently reported by TASS high level meetings between Russian and NATO commanders to discuss Syria suggests no immediate follow on strikes to those of April 13 are being readied. So too, does Moscow's dialing down the hot rhetoric about targeting U.S. missile launch platforms, meaning jets and ships -- for now. The stories from Bloomberg about additional Kremlin concessions being put on the table to avoid the new sanctions UN Ambassador Nikki Haley promised, and which President Trump postponed, seem like so much wishful thinking in Washington. Not unlike the wishful thinking of both virulently anti-Trumpers convinced The Donald and Putin are secretly in cahoots, and the QAnon followers who believe the same thing.
Despite his inexcusable failure to stand up to the neocons in his Administration and oppose the latest illegal and immoral strikes, Trump's ego appears to have smarted from his own sense of being rolled by his subordinates regarding anything to do with Russia or Syria. Subsequently, the Commander and Chief overruled and humiliated his infamously aggressive neocon adviser Nikki Haley. It subsequently leaked to the Cold War 2 maniacs at the Washington Post and other fake liberal publications that the Russian Embassy had been instructed to disregard her belligerent statements as policy. Such public humiliations from this boss typically precede his signature line from The Apprentice, which is about the only thing President Trump has proven very good at, telling his many leaky advisers, "You're fired." Haley may believe that her patron the pro-Israel billionaire Sheldon Adelson who partly finances the Republican Party can intervene with the Oval Office to save her job, but she's likely mistaken.
Next week's arrival of the USS Harry S. Truman battle group, recently declared by some to indicate the imminent outbreak of hostilities between the Americans and Russians in the eastern Mediterranean, now looks somewhat anti-climactic. Additional chemical false flags are likely, particularly in far southern Syria close to the Israeli held Golan Heights, and in the north of Idlib province, but the panic over their case falling apart in Douma suggests the neocons fear additional staged events are losing their impact. Even if some of the incidents turned out to be partially real, in the sense actual chemicals were used by the jihadis rather than Damascus, the neocons are struggling with the broader Atlantic public's chemical and Syria fatigue. The Syria proxy war has dragged on for almost eight years, and in that time there have been many atrocities and the mass use of indiscriminate firepower -- with war crimes committed by the jihadists seeking to overthrow Assad downplayed or dismissed by the legacy media (so too, has been any introspection as to how the CIA-planned destruction of the Syrian state and introducing vast numbers of GCC-funded arms and foreign jihadists into the country created the Islamic State 'caliphate').
Nonetheless, it remains to be seen if Trump will take the next logical step and fire neocon Nikki Haley, and follow up his anticipated peace summit with North Korea's Kim Jong Un by meeting with Vladimir Putin. If he can, and no further strikes are launched by anybody but the spoiler Israelis in Syria, then perhaps the Russian Analyst can say real progress is being achieved towards global peace. But again, this prospect still leaves regional players Saudi Arabia and Israel plus their pals in what our LaRouchePAC friends call the lingering British Empire unwilling to accept peace in the Levant with Assad secure in power, plus battle hardened Hezbollah if not its patron Iran militarily stronger than ever.
Moscow Threatened to Give S300s to Syria After the Anglo-American Strikes:
What Will Israel Do? Probably More of the Same -- Harassment via Standoff Missile Attacks
With a more robust series of Syria strikes seemingly off the table for now, and President focused on upcoming face to face talks with North Korea, the pressure is on Israel to make something happen to disrupt its enemies consolidation in the Levant. As the Israeli Air Force found recently, standoff missile strikes against alleged Iranian targets inside Syria are no longer as effective as they were in the years of the high intensity fighting inside the country. Before Russia's intervention in late 2015, Syrian air defenses were in total disarray. Many SAM sites had been overrun by the jihadists with several smaller systems captured by the militants and used against Damascus. Since the start of its active intervention, Moscow has stayed out of combat with the Israelis, fully aware through its systems based at Kheimmim and Tartus of when Israeli Air Force jets are flying over Lebanon if not tracking them from the moment they take off from their bases. But this doesn't mean the Russians have stayed completely on the sidelines, when it comes to defending their allies in Damascus from Tel Aviv's depredations.
The Syrian air defenses, even if their effectiveness against the Anglo-American missiles were exaggerated to minimize the role of Moscow's electronic 'off switch', nonetheless have demonstrated their capability in shooting down an Israeli F-16I and damaging an IAF F-15 (and perhaps hitting one of the vaunted F35 'Adir' stealth jets with shrapnel from a near miss too). This is must be due to Russian upgrades to command and control, particularly fiber optic links between SAM sites that cannot be jammed from the air or sea. The recent Israeli electronic attack on Homs was originally reported as a missile strike on a base where Russian personnel were known to be present. If that were to happen, it would represent a serious escalation on the part of the Israelis against the Russians, and a violation of their tacit agreement, in which the IAF avoids hitting Russian personnel and stays out of Syrian air space (while in return, being given a pass on violating Lebanese air space).
As Elijah J. Magnier reported weeks ago, the Israeli-Russian understandings and deconfliction in Syria also do not preclude Damascus from firing its longer range if older S200 SAMs at IAF jets while they are still over Lebanese territory, especially when they get closer to Damascus. Those who choose to believe the Daily Beast's repetition of Pentagon lies regarding 100% of the missiles fired striking their targets are deluding themselves.
The Israelis understand that lobbing missiles at Syrian bases and killing a handful of IRGC officers is one thing; but to make any real impact, their strategy of targeted harassment would have to give way to heavier strikes and therefore greater risking of downed aircraft (as well as that Moscow could tear up the deal it made with Tel Aviv and transfer more S300s to Syria by way of an overland shipment via Iraq to Iran). If Hezbollah chooses to use even a small but highly accurate portion of its huge missile arsenal to retaliate against Israel, the Israelis have threatened to personally hold Assad responsible and kill him in a targeted strike. But the present Israeli government, notwithstanding its warnings that it will go to war in order to prevent Iran from establishing a foothold in Syria (too late), has plenty to lose in that scenario, both economically and above all in terms of its diminishing ability to overawe its enemies.
For the Israelis, this conundrum is far larger than whether or not Damascus gets long range S300 SAMs to defend itself. The IAF has practiced against older models sold to the Greeks by the Russians, but is not prepared to face off with the latest improved versions that would presumably be integrated by data link to the S400s the Israelis would avoid targeting at Kheimmim. Israel has never attacked the forces of a nuclear armed power openly flying their flag -- at least with the exception of its covered up assault on the USS Liberty in 1967 (dogfights with Soviet pilots flying for the Egyptian Air Force over the Sinai in the late 1960s or early 70s war of attrition era leading up to the 1973 Yom Kippur War don't count). Thus the most logical course for the Israelis and the one politically acceptable to both the U.S. and Russians is to muddle along, continuing to lob missiles here and there from over Lebanon or Israeli air space at alleged 'Iranian bases' inside Syria.
Winning the Longer Game: Despite Giving Verbal Endorsement of the U.S./UK Strikes, Turkey is Still Pivoting into the Eurasian Camp and Away from the Americans and NATO
Damascus can absorb such attacks because it knows with Russia's help it's still winning the war, knocking down many of the enemy SAMs with its new Pantsir point defense systems and soon, the Syrian Arab Army will be driving the jihadists Israel has carefully tended on its border to flee. After the territories south of Damascus Idlib province, which is under de facto Turkish protection (without an actual presence by Turkey's Army). As Magnier writes, Assad's strategy advised by the Russians is to make the lingering US and Turkish occupations irrelevant. So long as Moscow can do this, and keep the Turks appeased, while avoiding direct confrontation with either the Americans or Israelis, the Kremlin will keep on winning in the Mideast. The only gambit that can stop this trend, or so the neocons may believe, is a broad regional war that Russia will struggle to stay out of due to its Syrian, Iranian and Hezbollah allies getting heavily bombarded. That is, the big Mideast war between the Americans and Israelis on one side and the 'Axis of Resistance' aka Syria/Hezbollah/Iran backed by the Russians that Team RogueMoney's mentor 'W the Intelligence Insider' has been predicting for the last two years.
Barring the big regional war (which still would not be WW3 only approach it) scenario, the proof of the Russians being seen as a strengthening horse rather than a diminishing one like the Americans' is found in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Iran's purchases of Russian weaponry. All of the former except for the latter having been since 1979, American allies. These are tangible multi-billion dollar (or soon payable in euros, yuan and rubles) tokens of Moscow's growing clout in the region, which the death (apparently from natural causes in Paris) of eastern Libya's pro-Russian General Haftar will not reverse. Neither can the strikes that Washington neocons hoped would show Putin as a worthless ally who cannot defend Assad from whatever the U.S. and its sidekick Israel will themselves to do, since word gets around among the informed regarding how few missiles actually hit their targets -- and the attacks changed nothing on the ground.
As London Paul pointed out in his Wednesday appearance this week on RogueMoney radio, all the April 13 strikes did was increase the determination of Moscow, Beijing and Tehran to harden their defenses and joint efforts to diplomatically and economically undermine the Americans. And that response will not be military, but overwhelmingly economic in nature as dollar dumping accelerates. But in order to dump the dollar in trade without fearing direct attack, countries need strong defenses. Enter Moscow as a provider of low-cost security for the Eurasian powers, fulfilling the role China is still reluctant to play beyond its Asia Pacific region for historic and financial reasons (still many stakes in the sinking U.S. economy). When Washington is reduced to pleading with the Turks not to buy S400s or they could face sanctions, and hinting its new partners in South Asia the Indians could be next to be sanctioned -- you know which side senses that time isn't on its side.