Assad, Russia claim chemical attack was fabricated

President Assad of Syria claims that the chemical attack that is alleged to have killed more than 80 civilians, received widespread media coverage and international condemnation, and the US used to justify their missile attack on a Syrian Air Force base, was fabricated.

RNZ: Syria chemical attack ‘fabricated’ – Assad

In an exclusive video interview with AFP news agency, he said “there was no order to make any attack”.

Mr Assad told AFP that the Syrian government had given up its chemical arsenal in 2013, adding “even if we have them, we wouldn’t use them”.

Mr Assad accused the West of making up events in Khan Sheikhoun so it had an excuse to carry out missile strikes on the government’s Shayrat airbase, which took place a few days after the alleged attack.

“It’s stage one, the play [they staged] that we saw on social network and TVs, then propaganda and then stage two, the military attack,” he said, questioning the authenticity of the video footage.

He also said Khan Sheikhoun, in Syria’s north-western Idlib province, had no strategic value and was not currently a battle front. “This story is not convincing by any means,” he told AFP.

Mr Assad told AFP that he would only allow an “impartial” investigation, involving “unbiased countries… to make sure that they won’t use it for politicised purposes”.

That is despite international claims that the attack was real.

The US, UK and France reacted angrily on Wednesday after Russia, Syria’s key ally, vetoed a draft resolution at the UN Security Council – the eighth time it has done so over the Syrian conflict.

Western allies have said there is compelling evidence that the Syrian government was behind what happened in Khan Sheikhoun.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May said on Thursday it was “highly likely” the Assad regime was behind the attack.

Turkey, which treated many of the wounded, said it has “concrete evidence” Sarin was used.

Turkey and the UK said tests showed Sarin or a Sarin-like substance was used in Khan Sheikhoun, which would be the first time since 2013 that a prohibited chemical had been used on such a scale.

Now Russia has come in to the debate on Syria’s side.

Bloomberg: Russia Says Evidence Growing Syria Chemical Attack Was Staged

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said a chemical-weapons attack in Syria that provoked U.S. missile strikes on the Middle Eastern country may have been orchestrated.

“There’s growing evidence that this was staged,” Lavrov said at a Moscow news conference with his Iranian and Syrian counterparts on Friday. Publications including in the U.S. and the U.K. have highlighted “many inconsistencies” in the version of events in Syria’s Idlib province that was used to justify the American airstrikes, he said.

The U.S. hasn’t shown evidence that Assad was responsible for the April 4 attack in Idlib, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Friday in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, where Putin was attending a collective-defense meeting of former Soviet republics.

The U.S. “is confident that the Syrian regime conducted a chemical weapons attack, using the nerve agent sarin, against its own people,” according to a four-page document published by officials in Washington on Tuesday that contained evidence including satellite images, reports from the scene and details of exposure gathered from victims.

Russia says Syrian forces struck a building where terrorists kept the internationally banned chemical. The U.S. says it has images proving the bomb left a crater in a road rather than hitting a building.

Russia, Iran and Syria want an independent investigation and those opposed to the call “don’t have a clear conscience,” Lavrov said. Russia vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution on Wednesday that demanded the Syrian government cooperate with an inquiry into the suspected sarin-gas attack that killed dozens of people.

All countries will be playing to their domestic audiences to an extent.

‘Among the calamities of war may be jointly numbered the diminution of the love of truth, by the falsehoods which interest dictates and credulity encourages.’ (Samuel Johnson, The Idler, 1758)

“The first casualty when war comes is truth” – purported to have been said in 1918 by US Senator Hiram Warren Johnson but not recorded.

‘When war is declared, truth is the first casualty’. (Arthur Ponsonby, Falsehood in Wartime, 1928).

Key: “Syria has become a byword for failure”

RNZ reports on John Key at the Security Council: Devastating Syria conflict ‘a byword for failure’

Prime Minister John Key has told the UN the conflict in Syria is a byword for failure and the international response has so far failed.

Mr Key chaired a heated Security Council session on Syria in which the US called for all planes to be grounded in key areas of the country to save the truce there, following an attack on an aid convoy.

Opening the meeting, Mr Key said the Syrian civil war the most devastating conflict of the 21st century and no other other issue more urgently demanded the attention of world leaders.

The conflict had created security threats that reach well beyond Syria’s borders and after more than five years of violence, Syria had become a byword for failure.

“Failure of the parties and their supporters to put peace, and the lives of innocent people ahead of self-interest and zero-sum politics. Failure to respond to the crisis early to prevent this tragedy. And a collective political failure, including by this Council, to do what must be done to end the conflict.

The problem was not a lack of direction, he said, as the pathway for ending this conflict was set out by the Security Council last December but the timetable for implementing them was never carried out.

“Today we all need to commit to restoring the cessation of hostilities, delivering aid to those who need it, and restarting political talks.

“Last week’s arrangement between US Secretary of State Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov represents the best hope we have seen in some time.

“We encourage Russia and the US to show sustained leadership and not let this opportunity slip away.”

The next few days would be critical in restoring the cessation of hostilities and getting humanitarian aid flowing, he said. “We urge the Syrian parties to abide by the arrangement. This Council should unite to back those efforts.”

But the US and Russia followed looking as though a solution in Syria may be as difficult to achieve as ever.

Lavrov called for an independent investigation into the convoy attack, and said all parties needed to take simultaneous steps to stop the war.

Kerry said the future of Syria was “hanging by a thread”. He said Monday’s attack, which killed 20 civilians, had raised profound doubt over whether Russia and the Syrian government would live up to terms of the ceasefire deal.

Moscow has denied being involved. An impassioned Mr Kerry faced off with Lavrov saying the bombing of the aid convoy raised “profound doubt whether Russia and the Assad regime can or will live up to” ceasefire obligations. Listening to Mr Lavrov made him feel like he was living in a “parallel universe”, Mr Kerry said.

Parallel universes:

  • The aims and ideals of the Security Council
  • What the Security Council achieves

Key tried hard but it was probably as effective as humming in a hurricane.

A five year hurricane of violence continues to devastate Syria and destabilise the world.