Pentagon admits zero evidence of E. Ghouta chem attack – but blames Russia all the same
The Pentagon admits it used NGO reports on alleged recent chemical attacks in Syria and cannot confirm if they even took place. The lack of evidence, however, did not get in the way of the latest Russia blame game galore.
Russia was predictably the target of a barrage of accusations from the West after reports claimed that several people in the Damascus suburb of East Ghouta, which is controlled by militant groups, suffered symptoms consistent with exposure to chlorine gas on Sunday. The western media immediately took the opportunity to put the blame for what it called a suspected “chemical weapons attack” on the Syrian government and Moscow, which has been backing Bashar Assad’s forces in their fight against terrorist groups.
Western officials were quick to accuse Damascus of being behind the incident. British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said that the West should not “stand idly by” if it is proven that the Syrian government launched this attack.
The reports conveniently arrived right after the UN Security Council adopted a resolution imposing a 30-day ceasefire in Syria. By sheer coincidence, it was supported by images from the White Helmets group, which has been plagued by allegations of having ties with terrorist groups.
On Tuesday, the US State Department bluntly accused Russia of “not supporting” the UN-backed ceasefire simply on the ground that it “continues to back” the Syrian government.
However, there was a slight problem in the US narrative when it came to actual facts. Responding to a comment request from RT, the Pentagon said it still has no verifiable evidence that a chemical attack actually took place in Ghouta.
“We are looking for evidence,” a Pentagon spokesperson said in a statement to RT while acknowledging that the information it has so far comes solely from “the groups on the ground,” including the notorious White Helmets. This did not stop Pentagon from adding the following:
“We cannot confirm specific numbers or incidents, but we can see Russia has failed to follow through on delivering regime compliance,” the statement said, adding a very convincing mention of “reports that brutal regime violence has continued.”
Such sweeping accusations seem to have become a new norm for the US officials. In late January, US State Secretary Rex Tillerson blamed Russia for basically all chemical incidents that took place in Syria over its support of the Syrian government, which Washington considers to be the sole side responsible for such incidents.
“Whoever conducted the attacks Russia ultimately bears responsibility for the victims in eastern Ghouta and countless other Syrians targeted with chemical weapons since Russia became involved in Syria,” Tillerson said at that time while he apparently did not admit so much as a thought that the perpetrator could be someone other than the Syrian President Assad.
At the same time, Washington seems to completely disregard the real violations committed by various militant groups in Syria.
On Tuesday, the armed groups entrenched in East Ghouta disrupted the first day of humanitarian pause introduced by the Russian Reconciliation Center and the Syrian Army in an attempt to let civilians leave the warzone. While Syrian forces observed the ceasefire, militants used the humanitarian pause to launch a full-scale offensive on the Syrian Army's positions.
Russia has repeatedly spoken out against blindly pinning all the blame for the alleged chemical incidents on Damascus, calling for proper international investigations of each case with actual evidence-gathering missions on the ground. Moscow also warned that the militants might be “preparing a provocation that will involve the use of chemical weapon,” citing intelligence gathered in Syria.