23.09.2013 Author: Vladimir Simonov

Who shelled the Russian Embassy in Damascus?


Source: Flickr

The United States and its Wahhabi allies have switched from financial blackmail to direct aggression against Russia. On this occasion, a mortar bombardment of the Russian Embassy took place in Damascus on the morning of Sunday, September 22. Three staff members were injured. As it was the first working day after the weekend, there were only three victims, and fortunately they were only wounded, as all the diplomats were in their offices or on the road conducting business in the city. The first “warning call” occurred earlier, a few months ago, when a mine fell near the fence of the embassy, injuring two Syrian guards. This time the mines hit right in the centre of the Russian diplomatic mission’s buildings complex. They aimed the shot at a definite target, knowing that most likely there would only be a few victims.

Was this a provocation? No, it was a direct warning to the Russian diplomats that it is time to get out of Syria. And if not – it will no longer just be people wounded, but killed, and not just three people; and the embassy’s buildings will be struck. They sent a clear message – the jokes are over and the real action has begun. As was the case with the attempt to accuse Moscow of involvement in the use of chemical weapons in Ghouta on August 23, so it was with a failed provocation in March using rocket-propelled chemical shells brought in from Libya by the private company BRITAM DEFENSE and its Ukrainian employees using Qatari money.

In this regard, a statement by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on September 20 was quite remarkable. He said that the UN inspectors’ report confirms the guilt of the government of Bashar al-Assad in carrying out the chemical attack in the suburbs of Damascus. “The inspectors have returned, with a number of key details that confirmed the guilt of the Assad regime in carrying out this attack,” said the American diplomatic head. The head of the U.S. Department of State said that the Geneva accords provide for their binding and speedy implementation. He stressed that time was short, and it should not be spent “on debating what is already known”. “Over many weeks we have heard from Russia and other countries: Let’s wait for the UN report, these are independent experts, it is the gold standard. Despite the efforts of some to prove otherwise, the facts were only further clarified and the arguments become more convincing. Every single item in the report – the type of ammunition and missiles that were used, the trajectory of their flight, the type of agent – all this confirms what we already knew, and what America had warned others about,” said Kerry.

In response to this he immediately received a firm and definite answer from Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The West’s approach to the Syrian crisis has been purely politicized and pursues the aim to prove its “superiority”, as well as provide for an opportunity to “call the tune in the Middle East”, said the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry. It has nothing to do with the Syrian crisis’ resolution and the elimination of chemical weapons in Syria, Lavrov stated. It was the first time that the Russian diplomatic head, who is usually self-restrained and civil, used such harsh words concerning the position of Moscow’s Western partners. He made them in an interview with Russia’s Channel One television broadcast nationwide. The tone of Lavrov’s assessment reflects the sharp differences that have arisen over the Syrian settlement between Russia and China on the one hand, and the United States, Paris and London on the other. Lavrov gave the interview on the eve of his departure to New York for the UN General Assembly session.

Next week at the United Nations is being called “ministerial”. Lavrov is to hold talks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and dozens of other high-level meetings. It is expected that after the trilateral meeting between Lavrov, Kerry and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the date for the beginning of a new conference on the Syrian settlement – Geneva-2 – could be announced. The manipulation surrounding the last UN inspectors’ report on chemical weapons indicates that the West, in fact, needed no report, Lavrov said. “France and the United States do not hide the fact that they do not need any report. Long before the report was prepared, they said that they had long been aware that their intelligence was flawless, although in the end they still have not shown it to us. And what they have shown us is not convincing that this episode involved the regime’s use of chemical weapons.” According to the authors of the address, the current head of the CIA, John Brennan, is trying to repeat the Iraqi scenario, intentionally misleading Congress and the American public.

Official Damascus, according to U.S. veterans, citing British intelligence, was not involved in the chemical attack. This letter was simply ignored. On the basis of this distorted interpretation of the report on the incident on August 23 near Damascus, Lavrov said, the United States has begun to “put pressure” on Russia and the entire world community, trying to impose its approach. “Our U.S. partners are beginning to blackmail us: if Russia in the UN Security Council does not adopt a resolution under Chapter 7, then we turn the work over to the OPCW (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) in The Hague. This is an absolute departure from what we have agreed with John Kerry: first a decision from the OPCW and then a decision to support this with a UN Security Council resolution, but not under Chapter 7.” According to the Russian minister, the West doesn’t see in the Russian-American agreement of September 14 (about placing Syrian chemical weapons under international control) a chance to save the planet from a significant number of toxic substances, but “a chance to allow themselves what Russia and China have denied them, namely to push through a ‘military’ resolution aimed against the regime and in favour of the opposition, and place the blame entirely with Bashar al-Assad and thereby untie their hands to use military scenarios. They (the West) can not admit that once again they have made a mistake: as they made a mistake with Libya, bombing the country and bringing it to the brink of collapse, as they made a mistake with Iraq, doing the same, even after conducting a ground operation and leaving the country in a precarious situation, where every day dozens of people are killed in terrorist attacks. No one remembers this. Everyone is only saying that Assad must go. And the fact that a number of different actions have led to disaster in the region – speaking about this, of course, is awkward.”

The Russian foreign minister said that two-thirds of opposition fighters are jihadists and their goal is to create an Islamic caliphate in Syria. This could lead to a catastrophe in the region. Lavrov also rejected attempts to present Russia as the only party responsible for the elimination of Syria’s chemical inventory: “I want to clarify that we are not a guarantor of Syria’s chemical weapons disarmament. We secured Syria’s accession to the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons without any provisos – unlike the Americans, who have joined the convention with provisos. Now Syria is a party to the legally binding document. Therefore, the global community is the guarantor that Syria will fulfil its obligations under the convention. In this case the guarantor is the OPCW.” Lavrov also said that, in his opinion, there was no need to send an international force to Syria to ensure the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons. It could be limited to sending police forces to protect the OPCW inspectors. And Russia is prepared to do this.

Another statement particularly drew attention in the West: “Moscow can in theory change its position on the Syrian issue if it becomes clear that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is cheating, the head of the Russian presidential administration Sergei Ivanov said on Saturday.” “I am speaking theoretically and hypothetically, but if we are confident that Assad is cheating, we could change our position,” said Ivanov, answering questions in the plenary session of the 10th Conference of the London International Institute for Strategic Studies’ “Global Strategic Review” in Stockholm. At the same time, he suggested considering one other hypothetical scenario – if it turns out that chemical weapons were used by both official Damascus and the opposition. “I wonder what the international community would do,” said Ivanov. Talking about the way in which Russia can act in this situation, the head of the presidential administration, said: “Only diplomatically, what else can we do?”

And now let us return to the strike on the Russian embassy in Damascus. It is timely to recall how 10 years ago, Washington literally “drove out” our diplomats from Baghdad after the beginning of its aggression. First Ambassador to the Russian Federation А. Vershbow “recommended” the Russian Embassy in Iraq be closed, then the United States started to drop bombs and missiles closer to the buildings of the Russian Embassy, although there was not a single military facility next to it, and ended up with the strafing of a column of Russian diplomats, leaving Baghdad on April 6, 2003, when the U.S. military wounded five diplomats, including the ambassador. Is it not the case that it very much resembles the mortar attack in Damascus on September 22? After all, the rebels are controlled by the CIA and the Qatari Wahhabis, which, by the way, at the end of November 2011 beat the Russian ambassador in Doha airport and attempted to take away his diplomatic pouch, taking revenge for an interview on Russian policy on Syria. The signs of U.S.-Qatar handiwork are obvious. The methods are old, nothing new. And we should not be surprised if the Russian Embassy in Damascus is attacked by 400 militants from the North Caucasus who are fighting on the side of the rebels funded by Saudi and Qatari money. And then Washington, Riyadh and Doha will put on a surprised face – saying it was revenge for Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan. But how about the provisions of international law on mercenaries?

Maybe it is time for Moscow to take stronger action in Syria, given that the U.S.-Wahhabi henchmen have begun to shoot at Russian diplomats?

Vladimir Simonov is an expert on the Middle East, and Candidate of Historical Sciences. Exclusively for the online magazine New Eastern Outlook.