The Syrian government and the United Nations stated that unknown assailants have opened fire on members of the UN Team tasked with investigating the alleged chemical weapons use in the Damascus suburb Ghouta.
Contrary to initial reports, the attack did not prevent the UN Team to begin its investigation. The event prompted an emergency press conference with Russia´s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Lavrov warned against the NATO threat of military action against Syria without a UN mandate, stressed the build-up of military force against Syria and stated that a military aggression would be illegitimate and that it would be a terrible mistake.
Syrian media informed, that fire was opened on members of the UN Team when the team was entering the al-Muadamiya area after Syrian authorities have escorted the team to the area under investigation, which is controlled by armed “opposition” groups.
The Syrian government is holding armed terrorist groups responsible for the incident as well as for the security and safe return of the members of the UN Team.
The spokesperson for the UN Secretary General, Martin Neirsky, reported that unknown snipers had opened fire on the UN experts, forcing them to suspend their attempt to investigate allegations of chemical weapons use in the Damascus countryside.
Neirsky said, that the UN Inspector´s car “Was deliberately shot at multiple times by unidentified snipers in the buffer zone area”. He added, that no one was injured.
Despite earlier reports on several media which reported that the inspection had been suspended, the team continued its activities after replacing one of the cars which was no longer operable. As of the early hours of the afternoon of 26 August, the inspectors are at the scene, meeting local residents and taking samples.
The incident prompted the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov to state at an emergency press conference in Moscow, that the targeting of the inspectors does not inspire optimism.
Lavrov blamed the West for having engineered a media campaign to facilitate a military incursion and cast doubts on the veracity of US and European claims about the incident, saying:
“Official Washington, London and Paris say they have incontrovertible evidence that the Syrian government is behind the chemical attack in Damascus, but they have not yet presented this evidence. Yet, they keep saying that the ‘red line’ has been crossed. Now, we are hearing calls for a military campaign against Bashar Assad.”
Lavrov stressed, that the USA, UK and other countries have “assembled a powerful force and are readying their ships and planes for a possible invasion”. The Russian Foreign Minister warned, that the development has set the world on a “perilous path”and that “repeating the Iraqi and Libyan scenario” and bringing in outside forces “would be a terrible mistake that will lead to more blood being spilled”.
The Russian Foreign Minister was particularly “outraged” over “the newly-mooted possibility of NATO staging a strike on chemical storage facilities without UN mandate”. Asked whether Russia was going to join the potential conflict on either side, Lavros replied:
“We have no plans to go to war, but we hope that others think of long-term interests”.
Western claims are largely based on a) opposition claims and opposition photo handouts which appeared when the first reports about the alleged attack appeared on Al-Arabiya and Al-Jazeera b) unverified video footage that has been disseminated via the internet c) on statements by Doctors without Borders, which reported that 355 have died, but which admits it cannot verify or substantiate its claims. Each of the three is highly problematic.
Al-Arabiya is a highly biased media. Members of the Danish Civil Defense analyzed the handouts for nsnbc international on condition of anonymity because the experts could not speak in any official function, stated that the chance that the photos depicted a true chemical weapons attack were close to zero, if not zero.
The video footage is sketchy and establishing any chain of evidence is impossible. Finally, Doctors without Borders credibility as independent witnesses has been drawn into question due to the fact that they receive funding from Western sources who are biased with regards to the situation in Syria.
Chemical weapons have however, been in the general area. Two days ago, Syrian Armed Forces entered into a tunnel system maintained by the insurgents, where they secured remaining material from the production and use of chemical weapons, protective equipment and atropine antidotes.
The troops who entered the tunnel had to be evacuated by medical staff after falling ill from toxic materials in the tunnels. The opposition however, maintains that it was not the opposition but the Syrian Arab Army that had used chemical weapons.
Foreign Minister Lavrov continued the press conference, questioning the insurgents version of the events, saying:
“There is information that videos were posted on the internet hours before the purported attack, and other reasons to doubt the rebel narrative…“Those involved with the incident wanted to sabotage the upcoming Geneva peace talks. Maybe that was the motivation of those who created this story. The opposition obviously does not want to negotiate peacefully.”
Lavrov further stressed, that the UN Team which is currently operating in Damascus does not have the mandate to produce an official ruling on who was responsible for the release of chemicals. Moreover, Lavrov stressed, that any finding of the team does not legitimize the threatened military attack by NATO, saying:
“The experts in Syria have the mandate to determine if chemical weapons were used, and if so, which ones, but not who unleashed this attack. The UN security council will make the final decision about the perpetrator based on this evidence and all the analytical and factual materials available on the internet and in other media.”
With regards to the long overdue Geneva 2 conference, Foreign Minister Lavrov stated that he continues working towards it with his US counterpart, John Kerry, but that it is unlikely that the conference can be held in September.
Dr. Christof Lehmann is the founder and editor of nsnbc. He is a psychologist and independent political consultant on conflict and conflict resolution and a wide range of other political issues. His work with traumatized victims of conflict has led him to also pursue the work as political consultant. He is a lifelong activist for peace and justice, human rights, Palestinians rights to self-determination in Palestine, and he is working on the establishment of international institutions for the prosecution of all war crimes, also those committed by privileged nations. On 28 August 2011 he started his blog nsnbc, appalled by misrepresentations of the aggression against Libya and Syria. In March 2013 he turned nsnbc into a daily, independent, international on-line newspaper. He can be contacted at nsnbc international at firstname.lastname@example.org