Russia tried to absolve the Assad regime of responsibility for a cruel chemical weapons attack in Syria Monday by making the dubious assertion the attack was actually the result of an anti-terror air strike.
Assad forces struck a “large terrorist warehouse” near the scene of the chemical attack where terrorists were making bombs “with toxic substances,” which resulted in a chemical spill, Russia said Tuesday. Moscow did not clarify whether they believe the air strike on the warehouse was deliberate or an accident, but obviously intended to avert blame on Assad for using chemical weapons.
Moscow assured the world its information was “completely reliable and objective,” although U.S. officials have concluded it was a gas attack carried out by the Assad regime. At least 72 people were killed, including women and children.
Bellingcat, an open source intelligence analysis firm, concluded that “from a technical chemical weapons perspective, it seems unlikely that the Russian “warehouse/depot” narrative is plausible as the source of the chemical exposure seen on April 4th.” The report continued, “are we to seriously believe that one of the rebel factions has expended the vast sums of money and developed this industrial base, somehow not noticed to date and not molested by attack? It seems an unlikely chain of events.”
Since the beginning of Russia’s 2015 intervention in Syria, the country has labeled any opposition to the Assad regime as “terrorist.” Russia often relies on this definition to indiscriminately bomb civilian populations under the guise of counter-terrorism missions.
Footage of the aftermath of the attack shows civilians writhing on the ground and foaming at the mouth. A U.S. government source told Reuters the chemical agent used was likely Sarin gas, a weapon of mass destruction prohibited by the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993.
The attack is the worst chemical weapons attack in Syria since 2013, when Assad deliberately gassed nearly 1,000 civilians in a Damascus suburb. The attack was carried out despite former President Barack Obama’s then-pledge that chemical weapon use by the Assad regime was a “red line” for the U.S.
Israeli media reports that the chemical attack was approved at the highest levels of the Assad regime, and was meant to send a message to rebel groups, which have broken a Russian-brokered ceasefire agreement. Israeli security sources also believe Assad is more confident in his long term stability, after his battlefield victory over the city of Aleppo.
“It is clear that this is how Bashar al-Assad operates: with brutal, unabashed barbarism,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in response to reports of the attack. “Russia and Iran also bear great moral responsibility for these deaths.”
The White House responded to the attack by calling it a “reprehensible” act “that cannot be ignored by the civilized world.”
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