Turning reality on its head - US & UK accuse Russia of ‘war crimes’ in Syria

Finian Cunningham
Finian Cunningham (born 1963) has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. Originally from Belfast, Ireland, he is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in newspaper journalism. For over 20 years he worked as an editor and writer in major news media organizations, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent. Now a freelance journalist based in East Africa, his columns appear on RT, Sputnik, Strategic Culture Foundation and Press TV.
Turning reality on its head - US & UK accuse Russia of ‘war crimes’ in Syria
Only days after US President Donald Trump blasted Syria with cruise missiles killing nine civilians, Washington and London are accusing Russia of war crimes. It’s transparent, sordid and absurd.

If anyone can be accused of war crimes, it is President Trump who ordered 59 Tomahawk missiles to murderously hit Syria last Friday. That barrage on the airbase at Shayrat and surrounding villages, in Homs Province, killed nine civilians, including four children, according to the local governor Talal Barazi.

It was a massacre at the hands of the US Commander-in-Chief and clearly an act of aggression on a sovereign country. Regardless of the stated rationale – revenge for an alleged chemical weapons attack three days before – the American president was acting above the law. Not only international law but even the laws of his country, in that he did not first seek approval from Congress for carrying out the air strike.

Russian President Vladimir Putin made the correct legal call in denouncing Trump’s actions as a violation of international law.

Over the weekend, American and British leaders were foaming at the mouth with condemnations of Putin and Russia for war crimes.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio labeled Putin an “accomplice” to the earlier chemical weapons attack last week at Khan Sheikhoun where over 80 people were killed, apparently from exposure to a deadly nerve agent. Rubio told US media that Putin “is a war criminal assisting another war criminal,” referring to Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Another US senator, Democrat Ben Cardin, asserted that the United Nations Security Council should set up a special tribunal to prosecute both Putin and Assad for war crimes.

In a transparent coordination, Britain’s Defence Secretary Michael Fallon also penned an oped in the Sunday Times in which he absurdly claimed Russia bore responsibility for all the civilian deaths in Syria last week.

Under the provocative headline, ‘Puppeteer Putin must abandon Assad and join us in building peace,' Fallon said: “By proxy, Russia is responsible for every civilian death last week. If Russia wants to be absolved of responsibility for future attacks, Vladimir Putin needs to enforce commitments… Russia must show the resolve necessary to bring this regime to heel.

The theme of casting Russia as an accomplice in the Syrian chemical gas incident was reiterated by US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley who said Washington was “calling out Russia” in the alleged crime. She also echoed several American politicians’ demands for intensifying economic sanctions on Moscow.

READ MORE: '$64 question: Where is US evidence Assad behind Idlib chemical attack?’

Accentuating the diplomatic drama, Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson announced that he was canceling his official visit to Moscow this week in protest over Russia’s “deplorable continuing support for Syria’s Assad regime.”

Johnson’s "decision" to cancel his Moscow trip was under instruction from Washington. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson did not want the maverick Johnson going to Russia ahead of his scheduled visit this week in case the British diplomat’s notoriously accident-prone mouth should foul up the agenda.

Meantime, the junior British “partner” has been tasked with drumming up a consensus among the G7 members this week in Italy to call for tightening of economic sanctions on Russia.

That agenda is to pile pressure on Russian leader Vladimir Putin over alleged complicity in Syria’s chemical weapons incident last week. According to the Sunday Times, Tillerson is due to present a case in Moscow alleging Russian culpability in those deaths.

It is not clear what “evidence” – if any – the Americans and British have to support their claims against Russia. They reportedly have classified data showing a Russian drone in the vicinity where Syrian warplanes allegedly dropped the chemical weapons.

That’s hardly due process or evidence that would stand up in a court of law.

In any case, the facts are these: the Syrian government decommissioned its chemical weapons arsenal under the 2013 deal brokered by Russia, which was confirmed by the UN-affiliated Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Consistently, the Syrian authorities categorically denied using those weapons last week, or any time before that. Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad claimed his government had recently provided information showing that the anti-government militants were secretly transporting toxic precursor materials.

The same militants have been caught using chemical weapons on several previous occasions in Aleppo and in the notorious incident near Damascus in August 2013, when hundreds of civilians were murdered. Like the latest attack last week, the Western media gave full vent to false claims that the Syrian government forces were to blame.

Furthermore, the claims and video footage purportedly showing civilians dying from toxic exposure in Khan Sheikhoun originate solely from the militants’ side, including the dubious White Helmets so-called rescue group. Trump’s murderous strike orders, fully supported by Britain, France, and Germany, among other NATO allies, were based on this sordid source.

President Trump’s top National Security advisor HR McMaster articulated the agenda when he told US media over the weekend that Russia now had a “great opportunity.” Bizarrely, he said Russia had a “great opportunity to re-evaluate its support for a murderous regime” in Syria.

It is flagrantly obvious that Washington and London are doubling down on their demands for regime change in Syria and trying to drive a wedge between Moscow and Damascus over trumped-up war crimes charges.

But here is where the absurdity is betrayed. If Russia and Vladimir Putin are guilty of complicity in war crimes in Syria, as the West claims, then how is it that Washington and London are holding out an offer of “working together for peace in Syria”? If the Western claims of Russian culpability had any substance or conviction, then how would it be legally and morally legitimate to suddenly ignore those “grave crimes” based on Putin’s compliance to their demands for regime change? The logic is riven with disingenuousness and expedience.

Russia’s position is rock solid based on objective geopolitical and legal analysis. The six-year war in Syria is a criminal Western regime change operation from start to finish, utilizing terrorist proxies to overthrow a sovereign government.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has rightly called for an impartial investigation into the chemical weapons incident last week. Trump’s gung-ho resort to air strikes was not only illegal and bereft of any justification, but it also undermines international effort to defeat terrorist groups in Syria and beyond.

The Syria peace process that Russia had largely helped get underway in Astana earlier this year has been severely undermined by America’s latest military broadside. Significantly, ISIS, Nusra Front, Ahrar al-Sham and other terrorist groups were celebrating the US air strikes.

The Americans and their British surrogate must be fools if they think Moscow will be intimidated by their spurious, self-indicting claims about war crimes. The whole appalling mess Syria finds itself in is due entirely to Washington and London consorting with terrorists in a criminal enterprise of aggression for the past six years.

Their tawdry attempts to turn reality on its head are transparent. The American-British double-act of sanctimonious sheriffs upholding international law is more than absurd. It’s obscene.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.