UN meetings and Syrian massacres: Timing is everything

The Syrian government and the rebels blame each other for an alleged massacre in the village of Tremseh. As with the previous mass murder news in Syria, reports of the bloodshed appear just in time of a crucial point in foreign diplomacy over Syria.

Initial opposition reports of some 200 people killed in the village in the central province of Hama emerged at the time when the international community represented by the United Nations remains paralyzed on whether to extend its observer mission, which expires on July 20.

The number of those killed began to vary right away with different sources, AP reports, with local activists backing away from the previous figure of 200 people. One said he had confirmed 74 deaths, but had only 20 names. Another provided a list of 103 names.

One activist called Jaafar quoted by AFP said the majority of those killed were rebels, while seven were civilians. He said a Syrian military convoy was on its way to the region of Hama when it was attacked by the Free Syrian Army, and then government forces staged a counter-attack with the support of pro-regime reinforcements from nearby Alawite villages. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported that “several dozen rebel fighters were among those killed."

The official Damascus calculations’ on the victims in Tremseh operation amounted to 50 people on both sides. They described the event as a “deliberate provocation”, adding that government forces only entered the village after residents asked for their help.

On Saturday UN monitors in a convoy of 11 vehicles met residents of Tremseh and inspected sites that were targeted by Syrian army tanks and helicopter gunships. They have not yet officially reported on their findings.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was quick to say that the use of artillery, tanks, and helicopters by the Syrian military provide "indisputable evidence that the regime deliberately murdered innocent civilians."

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that the attack on Tremseh puts President Assad's commitment to a peace plan under "serious doubt". He called on the UN member states “to take collective and decisive action to immediately and fully stop the tragedy unfolding in Syria,” adding that “inaction becomes a license for further massacres.

It comes as the UN Security Council is discussing two competing drafts of a resolution – introduced by Britain and Russia – aimed at breaking the diplomatic gridlock surrounding Syria.

'Credible reports emerge about deliberate rebel atrocities’

Author and Middle East expert Tariq Ali says that the UN Security Council remains divided over Syria because there is no such thing as the “international community” in the first place.

“What you have is a divided Security Council, with Russia and China so far resisting attempts by the West to take Syria over,” he told RT. “These attempts are continuing, and we are now seeing a pattern.”

At the same time, Ali continued, new evidence destroying the official Western view on the Syrian events begins to come from trustworthy sources in the media.

“I have now seen evidence from journalists in the field I trust – [like] Charles Glass, who’ve been there – who insist that atrocities carried out by the Syrian National Council and their organization’s supporters are creating mayhem in some areas and they are deliberately carrying out these atrocities so that they can be blamed onto the regime,” he said.

“A journalist from Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung some weeks ago explained what happened in the Houla Massacre and was denounced. But we now have other reports coming from journalists. Charlie Skelton in The Guardian has written a very detailed text pointing out extremely ably as to who the people are, who we see on CNN, BBC, and who are promoted by the [US] State Department and the British Foreign Office, who control these networks or influence them,” Ali went on to explain.

He added that the West itself has unleashed the rebels, while Saudi Arabia and Qatar – “those beautiful examples of democracy” – are arming them, and the Turks are playing their part too – all in order to get rid of the regime.

A Middle East expert from the University of Mainz, Dr. Guenter Meyer, is even more direct in his assessment of the latest developments. He says the rebels are trying to drum up support for their cause.

“It’s quite obvious that the rebels were responsible for the Houla Massacre. Germans, just a few days ago, interviewed Bashar al-Assad, [and] he described this tragedy as a ‘massacre marketing,’ which means that rebels on purpose kill as many people as possible in order to incite worldwide public opinion and to promote the invasion from abroad into Syria in order to oust Bashar al-Assad,” he told RT.

Indeed, it was quite clear, he continued, that at the beginning of the Syrian uprising the government was responsible for the killing of peaceful protesters. In the meantime, however, the situation has changed completely.

“There are still peaceful protesters, but there’s an increasing number not only of deserted army people but also of jihadists, of Islamic fighters who have the only purpose – to fight the Alawite government,” Meyer said.

In Meyer’s opinion – that echoes the one of Tariq Ali – Western governments, the Gulf Arab states, Turkey and a large part of the Syrian opposition have no interest in a peaceful solution whatsoever. They want to get rid of Bashar Assad, and to make this happen, they need to ensure that the military intervention from abroad will take place.

That is why, “whenever an action of the United Nations Security Council is going to start, then these atrocities are being reported,” Meyer concluded.

Sharmine Narwani, a political analyst and specialist in the Middle East affairs from St. Antony's College at Oxford University, agrees with his point. “These so-called massacres have taken place before critical [UN] Security Council meetings,” she said in an interview with RT.

Narwani points out two important events that accompany the Tremseh Massacre. The first one is the return of the UN special Syria envoy Kofi Annan from his visits to Syria and Iran.

“The Western GCC [Gulf Corporation Council of the Arab States] do not want Iran involved in any collaborative efforts on the resolution. So he [Annan] comes out of Syria with the new energy about continuing the mission and agreeing with Assad how this could be done to reduce violence,” she explained.

The second important factor that completes the picture is that the current UN observer mission will have its mandate expired on July 20. The possible extension is already being discussed in the United Nations, and any “perception-building activities on the ground that [those interested] can use for propaganda purposes” will affect the final decision.

“There are people who will want to spoil this mission from going forward… This mission is a very important venture. It is collaborative, it works with all parties – regional, external and internal, it is fact-finding, and its mission is to reduce violence. There is no other option right now,” Narwani said.

Watch RT's full interview with Guenter Meyer


­Watch RT's full interview with Sharmine Narwani