Gas Lethal -- Barrel Bombs? Not so Much!
"Right now we're not getting along with Russia at all. Things went pretty well [with Secretary of State Tillerson's meeting with Vladimir Putin, and] it would be a fantastic thing [should the two nations mend relations but] it may be just the opposite."
"Are we going to get involved with Syria? No. [But] I see them using gas ... we have to do something."
U.S. President Donald Trump
"We have not seen a single fact, or even a hint of facts despite U.S. claims of] irrefutable evidence [of election interference]."
"I do not know who saw them. No one showed us anything, no one said anything, although we repeatedly asked to produce the details on which these unfounded accusations lie."
"We have seen very alarming actions recently with an unlawful attack against Syria. We consider it of utmost importance to prevent the risks of replay of similar action in the future."
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
"The purpose of this [Thursday's 59 missile strikes at Syrian airfield] attack was singularly against chemical weapons use. The reason for the strike was that alone. It was not a harbinger of some change in our military campaign."
"I just want to say very clearly that the use of chemical weapons, contrary to the Geneva Convention that Syria signed up for -- using chemical weapons that Syria agreed under UN pressure to remove from their arsenal, the chemical weapons the Russians certified were gone -- that if they use chemical weapons they are going to pay a very, very stiff price."
"[Considering the attack on Khan Sheikhoun with sarin gas] This time it was not chlorine, quite clearly, and we know that for certain. There is no doubt. This is a medical fact."
U.S. Secretary of Defence James Mattis
So, arresting political opponents, subjecting them to agonies of torture, then putting them out of their agony by slaughtering them, and bombing civilian enclaves hosting Syrian Sunnis, using crude, shrapnel-stuffed barrel bombs, and barrel bombs full of chlorine gas or filled with napalm, while killing an astounding half-million people over a six-year period of barbaric war mounted by the Syrian regime against its own people, is not nice, but not as nasty as the use of sarin gas.
Sarin gas will guarantee a punishing response by the United States which will not countenance its use on vulnerable people with no defences against the military strength of a government whose purpose is to demolish their capacity to mount protests against a brutish regime. But attacks, amounting to 200 barrel bombs dropped over civilian targets each and every week by regime warplanes in industrialized-style slaughter simply do not rate the same outrage.
It's kind of astonishing how Vladimir Putin who enjoys sticking his thumbs in critics' eyeballs while he exercises his special privileged entitlements to bypass international rules of engagement and all civil niceties in his campaign to boost Greater Russia toward a simulacrum of Soviet Russia's glory days, has become quite huffy about the slight to international normatives demonstrated by the United States taking the initiative to bomb Syria without UN Security Council approval which Russia takes great care to veto.
|A vote by the U.N. Security council on a draft resolution to condemn the chemical weapon attack in Syria failed Wednesday with a veto by Russia Fox News|
The Syrian American Medical Society has documented over one hundred events where Syria's Bashar al-Assad's air force dropped barrel bombs containing chlorine gas over civilian areas in Syria. Nine of the sites were investigated by the United Nations' Organization for the Prohibition of chemical Weapons, to determine without a doubt that the Assad regime had indeed used banned chlorine gas in at least two of the barrel bomb barrages of towns in Idlib.
And far from being chastened by the Tomahawk missiles that left the USS Porter and the USS Ross in the Mediterranean to hit the Shayrat air base used by both Russia and Syria, to inflict enough damage to take one-third of the Syrian air fleet out of commission, the morning following the missile strikes Syrian planes flew out once again to inflict further damage on the civilian population shocked by the sarin gas in Khan Sheikhoun, this time with unconventional (barrel bomb) conventional weapons (no gas included).
Russia is shocked and appalled that the United States would commit to violently chastizing its client state Syria, in an 'illegal' act, contrary to expectations. Moscow had become a little too reliant on former President Obama's laid back attitude toward Russia and Syria, a giant shoulder-shrug that disinterestedly abetted the ongoing slaughter, with no end in sight There's still no end in sight to the vicious travails of Syrian Sunnis, and another American president blithely raps knuckles and leave it at that.
What the world views as a slowly unfolding and difficult to stop massive slaughter, the Kremlin looks upon with equanimity. The UN's much vaunted and much failed 'responsibility to protect' when a government attacks its own people represents yet another promise that disintegrated at the very sign of the need to impose it to prevent further tragedy. But this is an issue that is hugely compromised by the very reality of two opposing powers taking opposite sides in a proxy belligerence.
In this game of poker, bluff and counter-bluff might and might not work. Might get out of hand. Might be the tinder to set off a world conflagration. In whose cause the Syrian people have become the sacrifice. And Europe has seen its placid self-satisfaction with a union devised to harmonize and not succumb to violent challenges, slowly unravel as it has become destabilized, a condition which without doubt gives great satisfaction to Vladimir Putin as sanctions payback for his assault on the international order.