Syria, Sept 12: Putin Takes Russia’s Diplomatic Initiative to The New York Times

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LATEST: Video & Translation: Assad To Russian TV – August 21 Chemical Weapons Attack Was US Provocation

KEY DEVELOPMENTS:

POLITICAL
*Putin takes Russia’s case on Syria to the opinion page of The New York Times
*Assad To Russian TV : I’m Placing Chemical Weapons Under International Control Because Of Russia, Not US
*Senior Western Official”: UN Report Will Blame Assad for Chemical Weapons Attacks

MILITARY
*Salim Idriss Rejects Russian Chemical Weapons Proposal
*Regime’s 4th Armored Division Strikes Homes In Muadamiyyat Ash Sham
*Reality or Propaganda? “CIA Begins Delivering Weapons to Insurgents


Video: Assad To Russian TV – August 21 Chemical Weapons Attack Was US Provocation

In an interview with Russian TV channel Rossiya 24, Syrian President Bashar Al Assad said that the August 21 chemical weapons attacks were a “US provocation”.

For Russian-speakers, here is the full video of the interview (in Russian).

Assad said that US threats of military intervention were, “based on provocation, this was arranged with the use of chemical weapons in the suburbs of Damascus, the Ghouta [region], and the US government has implemented a provocation.”

The Syrian President said that it was Syria who originally made a proposal to rid the Middle East of weapons of mass destruction, a move that could “stabilize the situation in our region”.

“We are always thinking about stability,” Assad added. The Syrian President continued by saying that Damascus did not want the region to enter into “another crazy war, which several parties including the US, want to start in the Middle East”.

“Another war against Syria will destroy the entire region….and will lead to decades of instability,” he said.

The Syrian President said that the Russian proposal had also led them to agree to place their chemical weapons stocks under international control, and praised Russia for its support and knowledge of the region.

The interviewer then asked Assad what he thought of the American position, that Syria had only decided to place its chemical stocks under international control following the threat of US airstrikes.

Assad said that Damascus’s decision had nothing to do with the August 21 attacks, and that the threat of US strikes were part of “provocation” by Washington, of which the attacks in the Ghouta region were a part. So, Assad continued, the allegation that the US threat of strikes had motivated Damascus was “not true”.

Assad said, “What really pushed us to that, it was only the Russian proposal and the talks we held with the Russian side. I want to repeat that if it had not been for the Russian proposal, we would never have considered that issue….that is simply American propaganda.

The Syrian President, asked to describe the mechanism by which the regime’s chemical weapons could be placed under international control, said that in the next few days, Damascus was prepared to provide the UN with technical documents regarding its chemical weapons.

1st-Hand: The Fighting in Maaloula With Reporters Caught in Fire

Bill Neely of Britain’s ITV:

Report: Fighting Continues Around Maaloula, Christian Sites Undamaged

Report: Fighting Continues Around Maaloula, Christian Sites Undamaged

Report: Fighting Continues Around Maaloula, Christian Sites Undamaged

BBC correspondent Jeremy Bowen reports from Syria that heavy clashes between regime troops and insurgents continues around Maaloula, despite claims by the regime that pro-Assad forces had retaken the ancient Christian town.

Bowen said that he had “not seen evidence confirming religious sites had been damaged” by Islamist factions.

This footage from Wednesday claims to show bodies of regime troops killed in clashes with insurgents at the entrance to Maaloula (WARNING — GRAPHIC):

Video: Regime Drops “Chlorine Gas” On Jobar, Damascus

Activists in Jobar, Damascus are claiming that the regime has used chlorine gas against civilians in an early morning attack on Thursday. Jobar is one of the neighborhoods in the Damascus suburbs hit by the August 21 chemical weapons attacks.

This footage, posted on Thursday, shows one of the victims (English subtitles).

The Shaam News Network, a citizen journalist and activist network, reported at around 03:45 GMT:

Assad forces dropped poisonous gas bombs near Jobar district’s police station about an hour ago, causing several non-life threatening injuries. The bombs seem to contain a chlorine substance which caused suffocation, convulsions and extreme sweating. Residents at first feared sarin had been released once again in the area, causing panic to ensue as a result of the last chemical weapons attack on the area by the Assad regime three weeks ago.

Regime forces continue to clash with the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in the area on the Southern Bypass near Zamalka city, Jobar district and the Abbasiyeen front line. Regime forces are also shelling the area with artillery.

SNN add of the attack:

Regime forces fired a poisonous gas which caused suffocation, skin irritation and involuntary twitching in those hit. While the doctor in the second part of this footage states it was not sarin or VX, he indicates it is the second time this particular gas was used on the area since the regime’s August 21, 2013 sarin attack which killed over 1,500 people. This attack comes the very week the Assad regime promised it would hand over its chemical weapons stores to the international community to avoid military strikes by the United States.

Assad To Russian TV : I’m Placing Chemical Weapons Under International Control Because Of Russia, Not US

Syrian President Bashar Al Assad told the Rossiya 24 TV channel on Thursday that he had agreed to place his chemical weapons under international control because of Russia, not because of any threat of a US strike.

“US threats did not influence our decision to put the chemical weapons under [international] control,” Interfax quotes Assad as saying.

Assad said that he was prepared to give the UN the necessary documents to prepare an agreement for such a move.

Video: Aftermath of Regime Attack on Al-Bab, Aleppo

Footage from Thursday shows the aftermath of a heavy regime rocket strike on Aleppo’s Al Bab neighborhood. Activists said that at least six civilians have been killed in the attack.

WARNING — GRAPHIC IMAGES OF INJURED AND DYING CIVILIANS.

This video shows smoke billowing from a burning house following the strike:

Video: Regime’s 4th Armored Division Strikes Homes In Muadamiyyat Ash Sham

Regime strikes continue on Thursday on the West Ghouta town of Muadamiyyat Ash Sham, one of the sites hit in the August 21 chemical weapons attacks, and which is under a siege. This footage claims to show strikes by Assad’s Fourth Armored Division.

Among the insurgent groups fighting on the front lines in Muadamiyyat Ash Sham is the Shuhada Al Islam Brigade. This footage from Thursday shows the brigade’s snipers targeting regime forces.

Video: Insurgent In Deir Ezzor To FSA: “Don’t Depend On A US Strike”

Citizen journalists in the besieged town of Deir Ezzor have made a video report — partly in English, and with English subtitles, surveying local opinion about a possible US strike against President Assad.

The reporter asks a Free Syrian Army insurgent in the city what he thinks. His response: “We don’t depend on the US or Europe… from the beginning we asked for a no-fly zone….I want to say again, don’t depend on a strike, because in the past we waited in vain for a no-fly zone.”

Idriss Rejects Russian Chemical Weapons Proposal

A video statement by Salim Idriss, Chief of Staff of the Supreme Military Council (SMC) of the Free Syrian Army, in which refuses the Russian proposal that the Assad regime place its chemical weapons stocks under international control, is circulating on YouTube.

Dear Brothers and sisters from the free Syrian People, Heroes of the free Syrian Army, All Honorable people in the whole world, Mercy and blessings of God be upon you:

The blessed Syrian Revolution continues among extremely difficult circumstances, and still our people are paying with their lives and everything they have to gain their freedom and to remove the injustice.

Today, with the Assad Regime’s continued killing, destruction, used of chemical weapons, and other things against our people, crossing all red lines, because of the long silence of the international community, we are seeing some practical steps from the international community which our people paid their lives against it; some signs began to appear on the horizon for the falling of Al-Assad criminal gang.

The Presidency of the General Staff of the Syrian Revolution emphasizes that the Syrian people are the origin and foundation of victory, the focus of the solution and the primary goal of our Revolution. So, we declare our unequivocal rejection of the Russian initiative to put the regime’s chemical arsenal under international trusteeship, and request not only to put the regime’s chemical arsenal which is a criminal weapon, under international trusteeship, but to punish the perpetrators of the crime, and to try them before the International Criminal Court, after they confess to possessing of the crime weapon….

Also, the Presidency of the General Staff of the Syrian Revolution calls on all supporting and friendly countries to increase the amounts of arms and ammunition, and asks our Free Syrian Army heroes to keep fighting for the liberation of our country from the hatred and tyranny of Assad’s gang, and to accelerate military operations on all fronts….

Reality or Propaganda? “CIA Begins Delivering Weapons to Insurgents”

A significant development or merely propaganda to cover President Obama’s step-back from airstrikes? From this morning’s Washington Post:

The CIA has begun delivering weapons to rebels in Syria, ending months of delay in lethal aid that had been promised by the Obama administration, according to U.S. officials and Syrian figures. The shipments began streaming into the country over the past two weeks, along with separate deliveries by the State Department of vehicles and other gear.

In fact, the CIA has been involved in covert supplies of weapons to insurgents since the end of 2012, although co-ordination with other countries such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey has been limited by US concerns over “extremist” factions.

In June, the Obama Administration finally promised overt supply of arms. However, it ruled out deliveries of anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons and then retreated: no US arms reached opposition fighters between June and September.

Even today’s leak has a caveat: the supplies are “limited to light weapons and other munitions that can be tracked”.

“Senior Western Official”: UN Report Will Blame Assad for Chemical Weapons Attacks

“A senior Western official” has put out the spin that United Nations inspectors have collected a “wealth” of evidence pointing to the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime.

The inspectors, who were allowed limited access to the sites of the August 21 attacks, do not have the mandate to determine responsibility.

However, the official said the team will provide a strong circumstantial case — based on an examination of spent rocket casings and ammunition, and on laboratory tests of soil, blood, and urine samples — that points toward the regime’s culpability.

“I know they have gotten very rich samples — biomedical and environmental — and they have interviewed victims, doctors and nurses,” said the Western official. “It seems they are very happy with the wealth of evidence they got.”

Casualties

The Local Coordination Committees claim 72 people were killed on Wednesday, including 24 in Aleppo and 18 in Damascus and its suburbs.

The Violations Documentation Center put the number of dead at 72,791 since the conflict began in March 2011, an increase of 66 from Wednesday. Of the dead, 54,789 are civilians, a rise of 29 from yesterday.

Thursday Summary

SUMMARY: After its sudden move on Monday that changed the diplomacy of the Syrian conflict — proposing that Syria hand over its chemical weapons in return for a suspension of US airstrikes — Russia tried to keep the initiative on Wednesday.

Moscow faces the challenge of a tough French resolution, to be presented to the United Nations Security Council, which condemns Damascus for use of chemical weapons and threatens force if President Assad does not comply with inspections and hands over his arsenal.

The Russians, including President Vladimir Putin, made clear that they will not accept those measures, and they also put out other military and diplomatic signals. Another Russian warship, the guided-missile cruiser “Moskva”, was sent towards the Syrian coast, while State media emphasized that Moscow had given Washington a detailed plan to bring Syria’s chemical weapons stocks under international control.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet US Secretary of State John Kerry in Geneva on Thursday to work out the details of the plan, the Foreign Ministry announced.

And now President Putin has taken Russia’s case to the opinion page of The New York Times:

Recent events surrounding Syria have prompted me to speak directly to the American people and their political leaders. It is important to do so at a time of insufficient communication between our societies….

The potential strike by the United States against Syria, despite strong opposition from many countries and major political and religious leaders, including the pope, will result in more innocent victims and escalation, potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Syria’s borders. A strike would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism. It could undermine multilateral efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and further destabilize the Middle East and North Africa. It could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance.

Pointing to “more than enough Qaeda fighters and extremists of all stripes battling the government”, Putin then plays a card of warning to Americans: “Mercenaries from Arab countries fighting there, and hundreds of militants from Western countries and even Russia, are an issue of our deep concern. Might they not return to our countries with experience acquired in Syria?”

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22 COMMENTS

  1. Syria had denied it even had chemical weapons and claimed “the imperialists” are inventing stories.

    But this week they finally admitted to it.

    Does this regime have any credibility? Why should they be believed that the rebels released hundreds of kg of Sarin?

    • Israel neither confirms nor denies it has nuclear weapons. The same was true for Syrian chemical weapons. It is standard practice.

    • I agree, Pak: You are right. The US did mishandle the Syrian crisis from the beginnning by not getting involved early in assisting the rebels who were then all moderates.

      Had we done do, tens of thousands would still be alive that the regime murdered, much of Syrian’s housing and intrastructure would be intact ad Al Queda’s presence would be minimal or non-existent except for what Assad encouraged in order to rally minorities around him.

      This of course was never a civil war from the moment Iran and Russia aided the fellow Bad Guys. What they can do, we can do and should have done.

  2. The American Public’s Foreign-Policy Reawakening
    http://nationalinterest.org/commentary/the-american-publics-foreign-policy-reawakening-9045

    “[T]he country’s elites—of both political parties and across the political spectrum—have been wrong on just about everything they have done since the end of the Cold War. And the voters, as a collective, aren’t stupid. They know that these fiascos have been the products of particular philosophical concepts that have emerged since the beginning of America’s “unipolar moment” around 1990.

    They may not understand these philosophical concepts in all their complexities and nuances, but they know the Republican neoconservatives and the Democratic humanitarians have been driving the agenda.

    Thus, you can look now for the American people to take back the agenda. When this sort of voter clawback occurs in American politics, as it has from time to time, you see it first in the polls, then in defensive congressional actions, and then in voter punishment directed at those who can’t seem to get the message. It’s going to be an interesting time in the politics of American foreign policy over the next few years.”

    • Why is he pretending that public opinion is just now having an impact on foreign policy? It has always been an influence. How could Americans have reclaimed foreign policy when they never lost it in the first place?

      It really is kind of sad to see the apathy that is emerging throughout the western world. Strongmen everywhere must be rejoicing knowing that they now have a green light to do pretty much anything they want without the slightest fear of punishment or serious consequences.

      It’s unfortunate that other countries such as Iran or Syria itself don’t heed the will of their people the way congress did. The region would look very different. Instead their foreign policies are dictated by men at the top who answer to nobody. It’s hard to believe Iran would be fully supporting a cruel tyrant and Lebanese terrorists if they listened to their people.

      • The article reflects the general anti-neocon, anti-liberal interventionist bent of the National Interest’s editorial board, of which Robert Merry is a member. I believe the point he is trying to make is that the American population is no longer willing to blindly delegate foreign policy to its political elite, given their failures over the past few decades. In the immediate term, this translates into a default non-intervention stance, although this is by no means permanent – recent events are just a reaction. The longer term will be down to the American people.

        As for your final comment, Iran has indeed “heeded the will of its people” – the election of Rouhani was primarily a rejection of Ahmadinejad’s foreign policy and an embrace of moderation, i.e. improved relations with the West. Regarding Iran’s policies in the region, the Iranian people appear to be apathetic, so long as the nation’s interests are secured. Over two decades of peace and stability – with none of the suicide bombings in major population centres and other forms of terror seen in the rest of the region – demonstrate that Iran’s interests have indeed been secured (except of course for the odd Israeli assassination or sabotage). Therefore, the Iranian people remain apathetic. Syria was barely even a topic of discussion during the presidential election.

        • That’s all good and fine except that Rouhani doesn’t have the last word on foreign policy or their nuclear program. Khamenei does and he isn’t elected. He doesn’t answer to the people or anybody else so don’t tell me the mullahs heed the will of their people. They do not. If they did they wouldn’t be giving blind support to Assad or their proxy terrorist groups.

  3. Step Up in Syria, Mr. President
    http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/09/10/step_up_in_syria_mr_president

    “There has already been international intervention in Syria — on the side of the regime. In stark contrast to the many countries that expressed moral sympathy with the Syrian people, Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah have not hesitated to bolster Assad’s killing machine. They have provided financial aid, heavy weapons, and military personnel to better assist Assad in killing his own people.”

  4. Re: Video: Aftermath of Regime Attack on Al-Bab, Aleppo

    Has EA decided to revert to its previous policy of posting impact videos such as this one, whose thumbnail is of a man with his face ripped off?

    • Pak,

      This is not an “impact video”. It is footage of an event that happened today.

      We have added a warning to alert people that the video is graphic.

      We do not post videos to shock or for sensationalist reasons but to document the realities of the Syrian conflict. Oftentimes, those realities include dead and injured civilians, including children and babies. Would that this were not the case. But as a journalist, I believe the world not only has a need to know this information, but a responsibility to know it.

      JP

      • I disagree with your assessment that it is not an impact video, since all it does is show emotional and disturbing content without providing any context.

        I mention this only because I have noticed a subtle shift back towards the days of yore, when blood and gore was splattered across your website and James Miller was plotting the next rebel attack on government positions. As I believe we discussed before, war is by nature deadly, and getting sucked into the day-to-day horrors of it can blind us from seeing things a bit more objectively. Images of war elicit highly-charged partisan views and emotions, which are not exactly conducive to fulfilling our responsibility to understand things in an objective manner.

        • Pak,

          There is context here, which is the regime’s effort through bombardment both to open the road to Aleppo and to try and counter-act the siege by hitting insurgent-held areas, irrespective of civilian casualties.

          S.

    • Since I don’t watch many of the videos on EA, I wouldn’t have noticed that in the thumbnail if you hadn’t pointed it out. But now I’m totally grossed out. Maybe in these cases it would always be better to use the text of a warning about the graphic nature of the images for the link and not to include a thumbnail.

  5. The Iran Fallacy
    http://foreignaffairs.com/articles/139918/suzanne-maloney/the-iran-fallacy

    “Iran looms large in the debate over how to respond to the August 21 chemical weapons attack in Syria that killed hundreds of civilians. For proponents of a muscular American response, strikes would be as much about deterring Iran as about punishing the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. “A failure to stand against the use of chemical weapons,” U.S. President Barack Obama maintained in his address to the country on Tuesday, “would weaken prohibitions against other weapons of mass destruction and embolden Assad’s ally, Iran, which must decide whether to ignore international law by building a nuclear weapon or to take a more peaceful path.” Meanwhile, National Security Adviser Susan Rice and Secretary of State John Kerry have both increasingly focused on Iran in their public advocacy for a U.S. strike.

    In this view, failing to robustly enforce Washington’s red line on the use of chemical weapons would equate to waving the white flag toward Tehran. Some would go so far as to say that opting for the Russian plan — for the international community to remove chemical weapons from Syria — would do so as well, given deep skepticism of Russian intentions and international inspections in general. It would signal to Iran’s leadership that American ultimatums are toothless and that popular aversion to another Middle Eastern military engagement ultimately means that the Islamic Republic can get away with defying the United States.

    Washington’s linking of Iran and Syria should not come as any real surprise; it’s superficially compelling and politically appealing. It also happens to be wrong.”

  6. THE HORRIFIC EXTENT OF OBAMA’S PROPOSED SELLOUT OF SYRIA’S PEOPLE IN PUTIN DEAL IS NOW BECOMING CLEAR

    In return for an operation that would be dragged out for years, Obama would have to agree to allow Russia to massively increase conventional weapons supplies to Assad, replenishing stocks of used up weapons. Assuming the regime follows its usual pattern, Obama surely is aware that the primary use would be used to bomb and shell Sunni civilians, demolish Syria’s infrastructure and eliminate Sunni homes and businesses. The secondary major target would be moderate rebels demanding democracy. Predicably the tiniest portion of new conventional weapons would target anti-democracy extreme Islamists of the sort linked to Al Queda.

    Naturally the rebels will never surrender to a regime that has treated Sunnis much as Hitler treated Jews. Thus one consequence of accepting this proposal would be to extend the war into the indefinite future, further destabilize the region and driving people to join extremists as the extent of Obama’s latest betrayal becomes clear.

    Putin promised bolstered conventional weapons shipments, “some of which are already on their way” to Syria from the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiysk. A Russian TV report did not specify which weaponry Putin is supplying to Assad, but noted that the Syrian regime needs more fighter planes for use to quash rebel forces, spare parts for tanks, and all kinds of other military equipment to replenish stocks depleted during the two-and-a-half years of fighting that have left well over 100,000 Syrians dead.

    http://www.timesofisrael.com/putin-shipping-assad-more-weapons-to-crush-rebels/

  7. Why is Assad bombing of the largest dam on the Euphrates river since it makes no sense as a military target? The world press seems to have missed this story. I don’t recall seeing anything about this at Enduring America yet so I’m trying to draw it to your attention.

    Destroying the dam would kill far more people–vituallly all civilians–than Assad’s recent large scale chemical attack and would do far more damage to property, including long run damage. General Idriss has tried to warn Obama but the latter hasn’t said a word about it to the American public or Congress. My own suspicion is that Obama is so anxious to bite at Putin’s deal, even if it would be highly favorable to the regime and murderous for civilians and rebels. Aside from being almost impossible to implement and requiring years to complete, that deal would involve massive Russian rebuilding of Assad’s conventional forces including depleted air power, as I’ve reported. The press seems to be ignoring that too.

    The dam holds back Lake Assad and some 14 million cu. ft. of water, If it the dam collapsed it would flood populated areas below.
    General Idriss explains: “The regime is trying to destroy the dam, and if they do that, there’s millions of cubic meters of water that would be very dangerous,” he said. “We are very worried that hundreds or thousands could be killed.” The dam is also a major supplier of electricity to the Damascus

    http://swampland.time.com/2013/09/10/syrian-rebel-commander-idris-slams-putin-as-a-terrorist/#ixzz2en6wBgdT

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