Rebels ‘only people who benefited’ from Idlib chemical weapons attack – analyst
The Syrian government was quickly blamed by the West after the opposition-controlled Idlib region saw a chemical attack that reportedly killed dozens of civilians. However, a UK security analyst told RT the rebels were the only force that benefited from the incident.
“The people who have benefited from this kind of attack are the rebels themselves, because they have gained a major political advantage at a time when they are struggling both strategically and geopolitically,” Charles Shoebridge, a British security analyst and counterterrorism expert, told RT.
Shoebridge was referring to the recent attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun that reportedly killed at least 58 people, including 11 children under the age of eight, according to medical workers and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, as cited by Reuters.
The expert went on to say that the Syrian government forces in fact had no motivation to carry out such an attack, as they are already “gaining major victories” over the armed opposition groups and terrorists alike “across Syria.”
He stressed that this attack would only provoke “the condemnation of the world community,” and would be absolutely ineffective from a military point of view. He also drew attention to the suspicious timing of the attack, which occurred just days before a major conference on Syria in Brussels.
The “Brussels Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region,” co-chaired by the UN and the governments of Germany, Kuwait, Norway, Qatar and the United Kingdom, is to be held in Brussels on April 4 and 5. It will focus on “boosting support for a lasting political resolution to the Syrian conflict through an inclusive and Syrian-led political transition process under the UN auspices,” according to the European Commission’s official website.
Shoebridge said that there is a history of similar incidents occurring in Syria on the eve of some major international events in the past.
“There is a pattern of these incidents taking place at critical moments from a geopolitical perspective,” he said, adding that a massive chemical attack in the Syrian city of Ghouta in 2013 happened just as “the UN inspectors were arriving in Damascus,” while another chemical attack in September 2016 took place on the eve of a “major conference in London, where the Syrian opposition met with its foreign donors.”
Ammar Waqqaf, a Middle East expert, also believes that “whenever there is a sort of international conference on Syria we suddenly have these chemical attacks.” Waqqaf told RT that there is no solid evidence proving that the Syrian Army was behind the most recent attack in Khan Sheikhoun.
“This is not the first time when chemicals are used on the ground in order to say that the Syrian Army did it but there was no proof that the Syrian Army indeed did it,” he said, adding that “the allegation that the Syrian Army did it definitely needs proofs.”
Waqqaf also doubted that the Syrian Army had a motive for conducting such an attack: “Why would the Syrian Army target only civilians with these chemical weapons, why do not they also target all those swarms of jihadists… at militant checkpoints? If the Syrian Army is not using chemical weapons even against the advancing militant or terrorist forces, like ISIS, why would it use it against civilians at a specific point of time?”
He added that the militants themselves have repeatedly carried out chemical attacks and are quite capable of producing or purchasing chemical agents.
“We saw videos on YouTube of jihadists making experiments on rabbits using Turkish-made chemicals. We also had videos of chlorine gas clouds in Sheikh Masud area in Aleppo after it was bombarded by Jaish al-Islam. Jaish al-Islam then said it was a mistake and vowed that those within its ranks, who did it, are going to be punished, adding that such weapons are designed to be used in serious combat. Later, they completely denied their involvement.”
Waqqaf also drew attention to the fact that “out of all [chemical] attacks that are taking place, only those that are easily pinpointed at the Syrian Army are investigated, while others are not investigated.”
The Russian Defense Ministry said Tuesday night that Syrian jets have destroyed a rebel ammunition warehouse near Khan Sheikhoun. The ministry’s spokesman, Major-General Igor Konashenkov, said they had verified and objective information that the munitions produced and stored at the warehouse contained chemical payloads and were being sent to Iraq, where they were repeatedly used by militants.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.