Chemical weapons bad, barrel bombs, mass executions, starvation ok?

As horrible as chemical weapons are, it does seem a bit selective to condemn them while turning a blind eye to, or aiding and abetting,  atrocities by other means in Syria.

The US, UK and French missile strikes on Syria are largely symbolic, and mask a much wider problem.

Jonathan Schanzer (Fox News): Why targeting Syria’s chemical weapons is not enough to stop rising civilian death toll

By firing 105 missiles at Syrian chemical weapons targets before dawn Saturday, the U.S., Britain and France sent a clear message to dictator Bashar Assad: they will not tolerate his regime’s use of toxic gas and other weapons of mass destruction against his own citizens.

But it seems the tripartite alliance is prepared allow Assad to keep killing Syrians on massive scale using conventional weapons. The death toll in Syria after seven years of war is more than 500,000 – and rising. The fact that these deaths did not involve chemical weapons makes them no less tragic for their victims and surviving loved ones.

It’s hard to know exactly how many of the Syrian deaths have been caused by chemical weapons. But we know they represent a relatively small percentage. The Assad regime has killed far more Syrians through crude barrel bombs, mass executions, starvation and deprivation, and in other ways.

On top of this, there have also been conventional military strikes conducted with and without the help of Assad’s allies – Iran and Russia. Both those nations have devoted significant resources to the war.

So has the United Statee. And the United Kingdom. And other countries, including Australia.

So despite the new attack announced by President Trump, the Syrian-Iranian-Russian conventional war machine that is responsible for the overwhelming majority of the murders of innocent Syrians remains intact. And it is not being threatened by America and our allies.

Because they are aiding and abetting it all, as well as supplying many of the means of destruction.

The US imposed severe financial sanctions on North Korea for being a threat, but enable the atrocities in Syria to continue, albeit with a symbolic opposition of chemical weapons.

Of course, President Trump has conveyed his utter contempt for Assad and the forces backing him. He has called Assad an “animal,” and he has called out Iran and Russia as being “responsible” for backing him.

But President Trump remains ambivalent about crafting a foreign policy that would prevent those three nations from continuing their slaughter. Just last week, the president vowed to pull America’s estimated 2,000 troops out of Syria “very soon.” This announcement was certainly welcomed by Assad and his allies.

It is just a bloody (and bloodless via chemical weapons) mess, with blood on the hands of many nations.

What is needed now is a strategy that enables the United States and its allies to make it increasingly more difficult for Syria, Iran and Russia to operate on the battlefield.

Instead they chose action that has a serious risk of escalation.

US launch missile attack on Syria

As threatened by Donald Trump earlier this week he has ordered a US missile strike against targets in Syria.

The UK and France  have also taken part in the attack.

Theresa May has announced the UK involvement.

It has been described as a one off limited attack, but there must be some risk of escalation.

Probably the key thing now will be Russia’s response, having warned against any punishment of Syria for alleged chemical weapons attacks.

Statement on Syria

Jacinda Ardern

RT HON JACINDA ARDERN

This morning the Government was advised that targeted military action would be taken in response to the latest chemical weapons attack in Syria, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says.

“The Government has always favoured diplomatic efforts and a multilateral approach. The use of the veto powers at the Security Council prevented that course of action. We have always condemned the use of the veto, including by Russia in this case.

“New Zealand therefore accepts why the US, UK and France have today responded to the grave violation of international law, and the abhorrent use of chemical weapons against civilians.

“The action was intended to prevent further such atrocities being committed against Syrian civilians.

“We stand firm in our condemnation of the use of chemical weapons in Eastern Ghouta. This is clearly in breach of international law.

“It is now important that these issues are returned to the United Nations multilateral processes including the Security Council,” Jacinda Ardern said.

Macron says France has proof of Syrian chemical attack

Syria and Russia have denied accusations there was a chemical attack on the town of Douma, but President Macron of France claims to have proof that chemical weapons were used.

BBC – Syria ‘chemical attack’: France’s President Macron ‘has proof’

France’s President Emmanuel Macron says he has “proof” that the Syrian government attacked the town of Douma with chemical weapons last weekend.

He said he would decide “in due course” whether to respond with air strikes.

Urine and blood samples from victims of the attack have tested positive for chlorine and a nerve agent, media reports quote US officials as saying.

Western states are thought to be preparing for missile strikes. Russia strongly opposes such action.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov urged against “any steps which could lead to an escalation of tensions”.

President Donald Trump keeps making steps that could easily lead to escalation. He tweeted on Wednesday that missiles were “coming:

But has since sent a more confusing tweet.

Trump seems obsessed with wanting recognition for being great and for thanks for what he claims to have done.

The guy acts like a moron – and given the stakes in the international games of words he plays, a dangerous moron.

Middle East escalation – Syria, Russia, USA, Israel, Iran…

Different situations in the Middle East are escalating concurrently. The most prominent is the alleged chemical attack in Syria, and related allegations that the US were responsible for a missile attack (Israel has now been blamed).

BBC: Suspected Syria chemical attack kills scores

At least 70 people have died in a suspected chemical attack in Douma, the last rebel-held town in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta, rescuers and medics say.

Volunteer rescue force the White Helmets tweeted graphic images showing several bodies in basements. It said the deaths were likely to rise.

There has been no independent verification of the reports.

Syria has called the allegations of a chemical attack a “fabrication” – as has its main ally, Russia.

The US state department said Russia – with its “unwavering support” for Syria’s government – “ultimately bears responsibility” for the alleged attacks.

BBC: Syria conflict: Russia says no evidence of Douma chemical attack

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said no evidence has been found of a chemical weapons attack in Syria’s formerly rebel-held town of Douma.

Mr Lavrov said Russian specialists and aid workers had visited the area, which rebel fighters have started leaving under a surrender deal.

 

The claim from Russia – which has intervened militarily in Syria in support of the government – came after videos shot by rescue workers on Saturday showed lifeless bodies of men, women and children with foam at their mouths.

The Syrian-American Medical Society said more than 500 people were brought to medical centres in Douma, in the Eastern Ghouta region, near the capital Damascus, with symptoms “indicative of exposure to a chemical agent”, including breathing difficulties, bluish skin, mouth foaming, corneal burns and “the emission of chlorine-like odour”.

Yahoo: ‘I don’t rule anything out’: Mattis on taking action in Syria

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Monday pointed toward Russia’s role in a suspected poison gas attack on the Syrian rebel-held town of Douma, and said he would not rule out a military response.

Russia was supposed to guarantee the disposal of Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons in September 2013, but President Bashar al-Assad’s regime is suspected of conducting repeated gas attacks since then.

“The first thing we have to look at is why are chemical weapons still being used at all when Russia was the framework guarantor of removing all the chemical weapons,” Mattis said at the Pentagon in a meeting with his Qatari counterpart.

“Working with our allies and our partners from NATO to Qatar and elsewhere, we are going to address this issue … I don’t rule out anything right now.”

Syria has been accused multiple times of using toxic weapons including sarin gas in the country’s seven-year war, which has killed more than 350,000 people.

Backed by Moscow, Assad has waged a seven-week assault on Ghouta that has killed more than 1,700 civilians and left Islamist rebels cornered in their last holdout of Douma, Ghouta’s largest town.

NY Times: Trump to Decide Soon Whether to Retaliate for ‘Barbaric Act’ in Syria

President Trump on Monday denounced the suspected chemical weapons attack that killed dozens of people in Syria over the weekend as a “barbaric act,” and said he will make a decision in the next 24 to 48 hours about whether to retaliate militarily as he did to a similar assault last year.

“We’re talking about humanity and it can’t be allowed to happen,” Mr. Trump told reporters at the start of a cabinet meeting at which he suggested that a response would be forthcoming soon. “We’ll be making that decision very quickly, probably by the end of today. We cannot allow atrocities like that.”

Calling the attack “heinous” and “atrocious,” the president suggested that Syria’s patrons in Russia and Iran may also be responsible, and seemed to imply that he would take action of some sort to punish them as well.

“If it’s Russia, if it’s Syria, if it’s Iran, if it’s all of them together, we’ll figure it out and we’ll know the answers quite soon,” he said. “So we’re looking at that very strongly and very seriously.”

Asked if President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, with whom Mr. Trump has sought to forge a friendship, bears responsibility, the president said: “He may and if he does it’s going to be very tough, very tough. Everybody’s going to pay a price. He will, everybody will.”

Big threats again from Trump, that are likely to escalate things further, especially if the US takes retaliatory action.

And Israel may also be involved. RCP:  Israel Blamed for Missile Strike in Syria; 14 Reported Dead

Russia and the Syrian military blamed Israel for a pre-dawn missile attack Monday on a major air base in central Syria, saying Israeli fighter jets launched the missiles from Lebanon’s air space. A war-monitoring group said the airstrikes killed 14 people, including Iranians active in Syria.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said two Israeli aircraft targeted the T4 air base in Homs province, firing eight missiles.

Israel’s foreign ministry had no comment when asked about the accusations.

Since 2012, Israel has struck inside Syria more than 100 times, mostly targeting suspected weapons’ convoys destined for the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, which has been fighting alongside Syrian government forces.

Back in Israel: Israel Strikes Hamas Target in Gaza in Response to Border Infiltration Attempt

The IDF attacked a military compound belonging to Hamas in the northern Gaza Strip early Monday morning, the Israeli army reported.

The attack was carried out in response to the attempted infiltration by Hamas with an improvised explosive device on Sunday.

In a statement Monday morning, the IDF said that they view Hamas’ attempts to turn the border fence into a combat zone and destroy Israel’s security and defense infrastructures with “great severity.”

And Iran is also in the fray: Iran Threatens to Restart Nuke Enrichment Program in Matter of Days

Iranian leaders are threatening to restart the country’s contested nuclear enrichment program in just a matter of days as the Trump administration and European allies scramble to address a range of flaws in the landmark nuclear accord ahead of a May deadline that could see the United States walk away from the accord, according to regional reports and administration insiders.

The head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization disclosed on Sunday that the Islamic Republic has maintained the ability to restart the full-scale enrichment of uranium—the key component in a nuclear weapon that was supposed to be removed from Iran as part of the nuclear agreement—in just four days.

The disclosure has roiled Trump administration insiders and nuclear experts who have been warning for months that Iran never fully disclosed the nature of its nuclear weapons work and progress as international leaders struggle to fix the deal by May, according to those who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon about the situation.

The UN is due to discuss the Syrian situation, but that is just reactive to am escalating situation and unlikely to do much – as usual. Both the US and Russia have veto rights at the UN which renders the international body fairly useless when both the major powers are at odds.

US general discussion

News or views or issues from the USA.USFlag


President Assad versus the United States:

McCain ‘partially blames’ Trump amidst confused signals

John McCain has been one of Donald Trump’s most prominent critics – largely since Trump attacked McCain during the presidential campaign.

McCain has fired again after the Syrian missile attack.

Politico: McCain: Trump administration ‘partially to blame’ for Syrian chemical attack

Republican Sen. John McCain said Sunday the Trump administration is at least partly to blame for Syria using chemical weapons against its own people.

“I think it probably was partially to blame. And Secretary [Rex] Tillerson basically saying the same thing after kind of contradicting himself and then saying the same thing argues vigorously for a plan and a strategy,” the Arizona senator said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “As I said, again, taking this action I support and was important.”

McCain said the Trump administration needs to have a more concrete strategy in dealing with Syria and shouldn’t treat Thursday’s U.S. missile strikes as a “one-time deal.” He emphasized that just going after chemical weapons ignores how large a problem Syria has become.

McCain also rejected a statement by Tillerson that the U.S. needs to prioritize defeating the Islamic State in Syria before trying to stabilize the country. McCain said the U.S must also be concerned about other reported war crimes by the Assad regime, such as using barrel bombs and starving thousands of prisoners.

There have been many atrocities in Syria during the ongoing civil war – but it’s far more than a civil war, with a lot of international meddling.

“So there’s a lot of war crimes that are taking place. And another aspect of this that I do not agree with the secretary is that you have to just concentrate on ISIS,” McCain said. “We can walk and chew gum.”

McCain is not the only one who appears to reject Tillerson’s advice, with very mixed messages continuing.

CNN reports US envoy Nikki Haley says Syria regime change is ‘inevitable’

The US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, has told CNN that removing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power is a priority, cementing an extraordinary U-turn in the Trump administration’s stance on the embattled leader.

Two days after the US launched military strikes on a Syrian airbase in response to a chemical weapons attack widely blamed on the Assad regime, Haley said Assad’s departure was inevitable.

But before Tuesday’s chemical attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun, which killed 89 people, Haley had said toppling Assad was not a priority. President Donald Trump, before his election, described fighting ISIS and seeking Assad’s removal at the same time as “idiocy.”

Claims of idiocy have morphed into actual confused flip flip idiocy.

Claims of chemical attack in Syria

The war in Syria that began in 2011 has been destructive and dirty, with a number of groups within the country and a number of countries involved in fighting with and against the Syrian government.

The war has created millions of refugees and hundreds of thousands of casualties.

Bombing shit out of cities and civilians is bad enough, but there have been claims over the course of the war of even dirtier tactics that are forbidden by international law – the use 0f chemical weapons.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May has just called for an investigation into suspected chemical attacks.

BBC: Syria conflict: ‘Chemical attack’ in Idlib kills 58

At least 58 people have been killed and dozens wounded in a suspected chemical attack on a rebel-held town in north-western Syria, a monitoring group says.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that strikes on Khan Sheikhoun by Syrian government or Russian jets had caused many people to choke.

Later, aircraft fired rockets at local clinics treating survivors, medics and activists said.

A Syrian military source denied the government had used any such weapons.

Russia’s defence ministry meanwhile insisted it had not carried out any air strikes in the vicinity.

If confirmed, it would be one of the deadliest chemical attacks in Syria’s civil war.

But not the only one.

The warplanes are reported to have attacked Khan Sheikhoun, about 50km (30 miles) south of the city of Idlib, early on Tuesday, when many people were asleep.

Hussein Kayal, a photographer for the pro-opposition Edlib Media Center (EMC), told the Associated Press that he was awoken by the sound of an explosion at about 06:30 (03:30 GMT).

When he reached the scene, there was no smell, he said. He found people lying on the floor, unable to move and with constricted pupils, he added.

Mohammed Rasoul, the head of a charity ambulance service in Idlib, told the BBC that his medics had found people, many of them children, choking in the street.

The Syrian Observatory (SOHR) quoted medics as saying that they had been treating people with symptoms including fainting, vomiting and foaming at the mouth.

An AFP news agency journalist saw a young girl, a woman and two elderly people dead at a hospital, all with foam still visible around their mouths.

The journalist also reported that the same facility was hit by a rocket on Tuesday afternoon, bringing down rubble on top of doctors treating the injured.

One aid agency, the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organisations (UOSSM), put the death toll at more than 100 and said that the figure was likely to rise.

Do the allegations and assertions about an attack in Afghanistan using conventional weapons in 2011 pale into insignificance?

The SOHR said it was unable to say what exactly was dropped.

However, the EMC and LCC said it was believed to be the nerve agent Sarin, which is highly toxic and considered 20 times as deadly as cyanide.

Chemical weapons expert Dan Kaszeta said that determining whether Sarin was involved simply by examining video clips is problematic.

He added that Tuesday’s attack could have been the result of one of any number of chemical agents as they tend to “behave the same in terms of their physiological effects on the human body”.

War is dirty. The war in Syria seems to be very dirty.  Claims of the use of chemical weapons is not new.

The government was accused by Western powers of firing rockets filled with Sarin at several rebel-held suburbs of the capital Damascus in August 2013, killing hundreds of people.

President Bashar al-Assad denied the charge, blaming rebel fighters, but he did subsequently agree to destroy Syria’s chemical arsenal.

Despite that, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has continued to document the use of toxic chemicals in attacks in Syria.

In January 2016, it said blood samples taken from the victims of one unspecified attack showed victims had been exposed to Sarin or a Sarin-like substance.

BBC:

From Wikipedia:

Advanced weaponry and tactics

That doesn’t sound very advanced to me. The technology may have ‘improved’ but the barbarity hasn’t, in fact in the hands of depraved people it is just dangerous and awful.

Total killed:
321,358–451,358 (March 2017 SOHR estimate)[65]
470,000 (February 2016 SCPR estimate)[83]


Over 7,600,000 internally displaced (July 2015 UNHCR estimate)

Over 4,800,000 refugees (August 2016 estimate NRC Handelsblad)[84]; over 4,000,000(July 2015 UNHCR estimate)[85][86][87]

BBC:

A very good question.