‘Claims of Russian airstrike on Syrian aid convoy comes at convenient time for US'
Concern over the fate of 62 Syrian soldiers, killed in a US airstrike just days ago, is now overshadowed by claims that Russian and Syrian forces targeted a Syrian aid convoy, Daniel McAdams, executive director at the Ron Paul Institute, told RT.
Following an attack on a UN humanitarian aid convoy near the Syrian city of Aleppo, which was providing aid to pro-rebel forces, the Russian Defense Ministry stated that neither Syrian nor Russian air forces carried out an attack on the convoy despite claims from pro-rebel groups to the contrary.
The Ministry said the convoy's movement was being monitored by the Russian military as it traveled through areas held by opposition forces.
Moreover, images from the site of the attacks show no indication that the trucks were actually hit by an air strike.
The attack has led the UN to suspend aid deliveries to Syria.
RT: The Red Cross says it doesn't know who bombed the convoy. Why then is the US so quick to conclude it's either the Russians or Assad's government?
Daniel McAdams: The US doesn’t want to talk about the 62 Syrian soldiers that they killed a few days ago. And this very conveniently, perhaps coincidentally, completely changed the topic. Whereas concern over the murder of these 62 Syrian military officers was considered a joke by Samantha Power, all of a sudden the US claims to know who did this and how it was done. The way the US is describing this is very sort of mealy-mouthed because it says: “Yes, the Russians and Syrians knew the destination and yet these people were killed anyway.” It didn’t say “the Russians and Syrians did it.” The Pentagon also said the airstrike was not carried out by American planes. The only other planes there are Syrian and Russian planes…But we don’t know whether it is an airstrike at all. So, it is a sort of an insinuation to plant the seed in everybody’s mind, whereas in fact we have absolutely no idea – at least at this point – who did it and why.
RT: What motive might the Russians or Syrian government forces have to attack the convoy? What could it be of benefit to them?
DM: That’s the question. Who benefits from it? And I think certainly Al-Nusra Front is concerned that the US and the Russians might start cooperating in Syria, which would be deadly to them. But as far as a benefit to the Russians or Syrians, this humanitarian convoy is going into East Aleppo which is controlled by Al-Qaeda. But bombing it once it gets in there, how does it benefit? The entire world is focused on these humanitarian convoys right now, especially after the ceasefire. So, why take a moment when everyone is focused on this particular convoy to blow it up and make yourself look horrible? You have to ask who benefits. The only other answer that I could imagine is simply that Putin and Assad are absolute madmen and they enjoy killing people. And maybe half of Americans will believe that, I don’t know.
RT: The Russian Defense Ministry's video shows the humanitarian aid convoy and an armored vehicle alongside. From what you've seen, what might have happened?
Charles Shoebridge, counter-terror and security analyst: Clearly, Russia and indeed the US control the skies above Syria. And in effect, therefore, one would except that some kind of escort would be provided in terms of, for example, the drone footage that we’ve seen. We might also expect rebels, if they are controlling the area, to provide an escort on the ground itself. So, up to that point there is nothing particularly unusual. Of course then, what we’ve got is the second video footage that is filmed supposedly by the Syrian Civil Defense group, the so-called ‘White Helmets’ that shows vehicles blaze, some shrapnel damage, which could be consistent with explosives going off. But as the Russian Defense Ministry said, most of that footage is consistent with fire. Now a fire could have been triggered by an airstrike. The Russian Defense Ministry states as far as I can see in this respect that there doesn’t appear to be a lot of damage which is exclusively consistent with an airstrike: for example, there is no cratering where bombs, for example, would have been expected to leave their mark. It could be that there was a rocket strike, for example.
I think it is very significant that this aid group, the White Helmets, is a UK-US-funded organization that does a lot of good work in Syria; it works in the rebel-held and largely in the Al-Nusra held areas. But it also has a secondary – or, as many people would argue - primary function that it provides an almost continuous commentary of anti-Assad messages. You could not deny that if you look at their Twitter feed. And it is also significant that only two weeks ago the White Helmets were among a group of US-UK-backed alternative aid agencies who publicly condemned what most people would consider a neutral UN and neutral Syrian Red Crescent for what they claimed to be their ‘pro-Assad stance’. This may turn out to be the relevant factors, but it seems at the moment that the only witnesses that are being quoted by the Western media to blame an airstrike for this due in fact seem to come from the White Helmets… Therefore, we have got one interesting party that seems to be claiming that this was an airstrike and specifically they claim in a video on the BBC and elsewhere that this was a barrel bomb strike. In other words, helicopters were used and somehow these very clumsy weapons left no mark on the ground, but did destroy this aid convoy for what would appear to be motives - if indeed it was carried out by Russia and/or Syria – the motives completely unknown.
RT: There are so many countries involved here, so many spy satellites. Why is it so difficult to work out exactly who has fired at what?
CS: You are absolutely right. Certainly, the US through its satellites and its signals intelligence network will have evidence of what happened. If there is no evidence, that suggests there was no air activity. The ability to find out exactly what happened is there, it does exist. In the same way as the ability to find out what happened on Saturday when Syrian troops were hit by US, UK, Danish and Australian very large airstrike. The ability exists to publish information which can show one way or another what the truth of these matters are. And of course, it is incumbent on the US as certainly the dominant military in terms of electronic intelligence gathering capabilities… to publish, for example, camera footage from its aircraft that took part in the attack on Saturday, which could prove or disprove whether this was indeed a believable accident, and, in terms of signal intelligence and radar pictures, what was actually happening on the ground when this aid convoy was being struck. Certainly, the UN and the Syrian Red Crescent - who bore the brunt of this terrible attack that killed so many brave workers in Syria on the ground - they themselves have not claimed that it was an airstrike…They say they are keeping their minds and eyes open as to who was really responsible for this attack.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.