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24 Jan, 2018 01:31

US chemical blame-game: Well-timed PR stunt or trick to justify military presence in Syria?

By boldly blaming Russia for all the chemical weaponry-related incidents in Syria, the US may be seeking to ramp up tensions and jeopardize the peace process in the country, while diverting attention from its own destructive role.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has named Russia ultimately responsible for each and every chemical attack in Syria, regardless of whom actually conducted it. The bewildering statement came on the heels of unconfirmed reports of a new incident allegedly involving chlorine in East Ghouta, and perfectly fits Washington’s narrative of the Syrian conflict, geopolitical experts and analysts told RT.

Trick to justify US military presence in Syria

The accusations are clearly designed to ramp up tensions in the country to help the US to “justify its continued illegal military occupation of part of Syria,” former Assistant Treasury Secretary Paul Craig Roberts believes.

“Washington’s false allegation against Syria focuses attention away from Washington’s illegal occupation, which should be the topic under discussion,” Roberts told RT.

Professor of history and international relations at Lebanese University in Beirut Dr Jamal Wakeem shares a similar view that “this is an attempt by the United States to step up the tension in Syria” as it wants to “hold onto its positions,” especially in north eastern Syria.

PR stunt for chemical weapons summit

The whole fuss around bold accusations against Russia and Syria has definitely spiced up the Paris conference, drawing to the event way more attention that was expected, Beirut-based award-winning journalist Martin Jay told RT.

“I think [Tillerson] is putting as much wind in the sails he can for the new organization that’s been launched today. I mean it needs a bit of public relations, a bit of boost,” Jay said, adding the freshly reported chemical incident was perfect for doing so.

Apart from that, the accusations clearly indicate that the years-old “Assad must go” approach still lives in Washington. “It’s the same old story for Washington, they can’t seem to get off this linear narrative of regime change in Syria,” Jay said.

The event in Paris “has been politicized under pressure from Washington” from the very beginning and serving the only purpose to “make Syria and its partners look guilty,” former CIA officer and counter-terrorism specialist Philip Giraldi believes. A new chemical scandal perfectly fits this goal.

The timing is significant

The scandal has erupted just a week before the scheduled Syrian National Congress in Russia’s Sochi, and therefore might be an attempt to jeopardize the Moscow-spearheaded peace process, the analysts agreed.

“The US knows it is irrelevant to the peace conference whether it attends or not. It is trying to make Russia and Syria appear to be complicit in a war crime, which will diminish the legitimacy of the [Sochi] meeting,” Giraldi told RT.

The upcoming Sochi meeting “holds great promise for the final realization of the peace framework agreement in Syria,” former UK ambassador to Syria and Bahrain, Peter Ford, believes, while “the people who want to undermine that Russian achievement are the people who are now levelling these probably hollow charges of use of chemical weapons and Russia’s alleged responsibility.”

“The American government is first and foremost a political machine, and it will do anything it can to discredit anyone or anything that it deems adversarial. So, of course, peace talks that might bring relief from suffering and violence to the Syrian people will be discounted and unattended,” Matthew Hoh, a former US Marine and now a leader of Veterans For Peace told RT.

Assad & Putin are ‘bad guys’, so why bother with silly things like evidence?

The best part of such accusations is that they actually do not need any proof at all, as both Syria and Russia are well known bad actors and usual suspects, at least in Washington’s universe.

“What he said is simply not logical, it’s comical in its absurdity. ‘Regardless who use them.’ Logically it means if the rebels used chlorine or sarin then Russia is to blame for that as well? It’s grotesque. It’s not serious. The Americans are not serious at all, they just want to score points in the arm-wrestling, the big power game with Russia,” Ford told RT.

Tillerson's comments rehearse the same false line of attack Washington has been using for years, desperately trying to pin blame for chemical attacks on the Syrian government, agrees Jason Hirthler, author of The Sins of Empire. “The US is more interested in controlling the narrative of the Syrian conflict than in telling the truth. Hence the irresponsible speculation,” Hirthler told RT.

While the narrative of chemical weaponry is used a bit too often by the opponents of the Syrian government, it’s still viable as “everyone agrees that using it is reprehensible and yet its actual deployment is extremely difficult to prove,” author and journalist Dan Lazare believes.

“Tillerson can use it to tar Assad whenever he feels like it without having to worry about the truth catching up to him. Since Assad is a bad guy, he's obviously capable of anything, so why bother about a silly little thing like evidence?” Lazare told RT. “As for Putin, he’s bad too, so evidence is also unnecessary. The result is a license to say anything the United States likes as long as it detracts from its own catastrophic role in militarizing the Middle East.”

The accusations made by Washington should be taken with a pinch of salt, Dr Wakeem warns, as “we’ve seen before cases of distortion, of manipulation of facts.” The US’ eagerness to rely on such shady sources “like the White Helmets or Al-Nusra or other ‘activists’ who shift from one side to another according to the situation” further makes any accusations levelled “void and discredited,” he added.

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