Syria Feature: Is Regime & Russian Propaganda Preparing Ground for Another Chemical Attack?

PHOTO: General Viktor Poznikhir of Russian General Staff “Terrorist Groups Preparing Provocative Attacks”


Are Russia and the Assad regime laying the propaganda foundations to cover up another chemical attack by President Assad’s forces, this time inside Syria’s largest city Aleppo?

While the regime has tested chemical agents since late 2011 and carried out attacks since early 2013 — notably, the killing of more than 1,400 people near Damascus with sarin in August 2013 — it has refrained so far from striking Aleppo city.

However, eyebrows were raised on Sunday when the regime’s UN Ambassador, Bashar al-Ja’afari, set out a scenario in which rebels would carry out a chemical attack.

Ja’afari told the UN Security Council that he had “received information that terrorists from the Ahrar al-Sham movement” were going use “yellow phosphorus” while “dressed in Syrian Army uniforms”.

The Ambassador claimed the chemicals were stories in an underground warehouse “beneath a garbage dump” about 20 km (12.5 miles) from opposition-held Idlib city. He asserted that the US is complicit in the plan, as “two American experts have visited the location in where the chemicals are stored and left afterwards via Turkey”.

Ja’afari asserted, “[Rebels] will record and publish videos and photos of these attacks in order to accuse the Syrian Army of carrying them out.”

There is no evidence to corroborate any of Ja’afari claims, including the rebel-controlled warehouse with chemicals and the visit of the American personnel. However, on Wednesday pro-regime websites propped up the campaign with the declaration that “jihadist rebels” had used “chlorine gas” against the Syrian army in northern Hama Province, with 18 soldiers hospitalized.

Russia: “Terrorist Groups Attacks to Accuse Government Forces”

Later in the day the loudest propaganda shot was fired by Russia.

Lt. Gen. Viktor Poznikhir of the General Staff told a briefing, “It became known that terrorist groups are preparing provocative attacks with chemical weapons on Syrian army positions, and [also on] residential areas in the [opposition-controlled] east part of Aleppo to accuse government forces.”

The claim was spread by Russian State outlets TASS and RT:

RT then made the helpful connection with the earlier comments from the Assad regime:

The warning echoed Syrian UN envoy Bashar Ja’afari’s proclamations earlier this week, when he told the UN Security Council that militants from the hardline Ahrar Al-Sham Islamist group are planning to use white phosphorus in an attack on civilians in order to later blame it on Syrian armed forces.

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Scott Lucas is Professor of International Politics at the University of Birmingham and editor-in-chief of EA WorldView. He is a specialist in US and British foreign policy and international relations, especially the Middle East and Iran. Formerly he worked as a journalist in the US, writing for newspapers including the Guardian and The Independent and was an essayist for The New Statesman before he founded EA WorldView in November 2008.

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