‘US accusations against Russia over E. Ghouta are escalation of information war’
On Sunday, the White House released a statement condemning the operation against militants in Ghouta and also blaming Russia and Iran for supporting the Syrian government.
“The United States condemns the ongoing military offensive that the Assad regime, backed by Russia and Iran, is perpetrating against the people of Eastern Ghouta,” the White House said.
Meanwhile, the Russian military says only two children have managed to escape the besieged Syrian district of Eastern Ghouta, after Russia established a humanitarian corridor to help civilians find safe passage out of the region on Tuesday.
RT discussed the latest developments with Rick Sterling, investigative journalist and member of the Syria Solidarity Movement.
RT: The White House statement blames Russia and the Syrian government for violating the ceasefire agreement. How reasonable is that charge?
Rick Sterling: The ceasefire agreement explicitly excludes the terror groups that basically dominate the region. In the areas where there are just civilians – that is where the ceasefire applies, in the areas where the terrorists are launching mortars into Damascus and are grouped that was explicitly excluded in point number 2 of the resolution.
RT: The statement also says Russia is killing civilians "under the false auspices of counterterrorism operations." Do you think the White House seriously believes Russia wants to deliberately kill civilians? Even from a purely military point of view, what would there be to gain from that?
RS: The statement coming out on Sunday, it is a little bit unusual, a press release on Sunday. But it is an escalation of the information war, they make a reference to chemical weapons in there. Interestingly enough, the statement also includes a reference to Aleppo which is actually a very good comparison because the very same claims were being made 14 months ago in December of 2016. And when the armed opposition groups were finally expelled from Aleppo, it was learned that the civilians were really joyful at finally being liberated. And Aleppo today, the civilians are returning, they are rebuilding East Aleppo, the people walk about East and West Aleppo without fear. It is a good comparison because the same claims… are now being made about East Ghouta and it is basically a lot of false information, accusations without evidence and just let’s call it what it is – propaganda.
RT: Earlier, Syrian President Assad pointed out that the West shows concern for innocent life only when the Syrian Army is advancing. Why do you think that is?
RS: The whole point of view is very one-sided, of course. The major funder of the group Jaysh al-Islam and the Al-Nusra faction in East Ghouta is Saudi Arabia, which is, of course, a very sectarian reactionary country and so they are funding the war. Unfortunately, Saudi Arabia is very closely allied with the US, they are very biased on this, they’ve made no bones about it. They’ve been calling for regime change since the summer 2011. Basically, what we have going on here is a violation of international law. It is illegal internationally to fund a proxy army to try to overthrow a government you don’t like. That is coupled with an information war they’ve made a lot of accusations which are untrue.
RT: Damascus remains under periodic shelling by militants in Eastern Ghouta. Can this be brought under control?
RS: Definitely, in fact the Syrians, the elite ground forces of the Syrian Army, the Tiger Forces, are working there. So, the bombing of East Ghouta is really minimal in comparison, for example, to what the US air coalition did to Raqqa in East Syria. What the Syrian and the Russian air forces are doing in East Ghouta is a small fraction of the bombs that were dropped in Raqqa. What the Syrian Army is doing is that it is advancing more on the ground… And we are probably looking at weeks or months before the liberation of East Ghouta. Sadly, what is going on now is that the West is trying to prolong the war and prevent the Syrian government from regaining control of that region…