Russia threatens shutdown of further investigations of chemical attacks
Russia has complained in the Security Council about the conclusions of a UN enquiry that the Assad regime carried out a deadly sarin attack on Khan Sheikhoun in northwest Syria in April.
At least 92 people were killed and hundreds wounded when a regime Su-22 jet fighter dropped a muntion with a sarin canister on the town in Idlib Province.
The October 26 report of the UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons — based on medical evidence, environmental samples, witnesses, videos, photographs, satellite imagery, and expert analysis — concluded, “The Leadership Panel is confident that the Syrian Arab Republic is responsible for the release of sarin at Khan Shaykhun on 4 April 2017.”
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Since April, Russia and the Assad regime have put out a series of unsupported, contradictory assertions trying to divert blame for the attack. The effort continued on Tuesday through Moscow’s Deputy UN Ambassador Vladimir Safronkov, accusing the UN-OPCW’s Joint Investigative Mechanism of “errors and systemic problems“.
Safronkov maintained, “Without a comprehensive change it will become a tool to settle accounts with the Syrian authorities.”
The statement reinforced indications that Russia will block the renewal of the JIM’s mandate when it comes up for renewal next week.
“Russia is trying to shoot the messenger to cover up for the crimes of the Syrian regime,” the UK’s Deputy UN Ambassador Jonathan Allen told the Security Council.
The head of the OPCW, Ahmet Uzumcu, summarizes the Khan Sheikhoun report:
What happened in Khan Sheikhoun, #Syria?
— UKUN_NewYork (@UKUN_NewYork) November 7, 2017
A summary of the Russian line:
.@RussiaUN on #KhanShaykhun gas attack in #Syria: OPCW's fact-finding mission did its work remotely. Mission's report, full of inconsistencies & contradictions, is of very mediocre quality and replete w/expressions like "possibly", "probably", "we can assume", "most likely" pic.twitter.com/uCs0QMfmvP
— RussianEmbassy Malta (@RusEmbMalta) November 8, 2017
Video: Iranian-Supported Militias Meet at Syria-Iraq Border
Iranian-supported Iraqi militias make their first contact at the Syria-Iraq border.
— Qalaat Al Mudiq (@QalaatAlMudiq) November 8, 2017
On the Iraqi side, the militias have pushed the Islamic State out of the town of al-Qaim, while inside Syria pro-Assad forces are surrounding ISIS in its last major position, the town of al-Bukamal.
Claimed Video: Moment When 5 Russian Troops, 4 Journalists Killed by Mine
Claimed footage of this week’s killing of five Russian troops and four journalists near Deir ez-Zor city by mines laid by the Islamic State:
— عميد ركن خليل الطائي (@shvm_90) November 8, 2017
Assad Hosts Top Aide of Iran’s Supreme Leader
Hosting the top aide of Iran’s Supreme Leader, Bashar al-Assad has proclaimed a fight against other Syrian groups and their outside supporters to recapture all of the country.
Assad told Ali Akbar Velayati that the effort against “foreign invaders” will continue until full “recovery of security and stability to all Syrian lands.
Assad also implicitly attacked any possibility of Kurdish autonomy or an opposition-held, Turkish-supported area by proclaiming that the regime’s military is fighting not only terrorists but also those who seek to “divide and weaken states”.
The possibility of a clash between pro-Assad units and the Kurdish-led, US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces has risen with the advance of both side against the Islamic State in Deir ez-Zor Province in eastern Syria. Assad’s senior advisor Bouthaina Shaaban said a conflict is imminent, and last week Damascus declared that it will retake all “occupied” territory.
On Friday, Velayati issued Iran’s first statement that it will back the effort to retake Raqqa, fully captured by the SDF from the Islamic State in early October, and SDF-held areas east of the Euphrates River including part of Deir ez-Zor Province.
Shaaban repeated yesterday, “There cannot be a discussion on the division or cutting up of a part of the country or on so-called federalism. I don’t think any government can discuss with any group when it comes to the topic of the country’s unity.”
She then lashed out at Turkey, which has supported rebels in the control of parts of northern Syria, after capture from ISIS.
Turkey today is a colonizer country, its forces on our soil are illegal, just as the American forces are on our soil illegally. We will deal with this issue as we deal with any illegal invader force on our lands.