|RT | Apr 8, 2018|
Anti-government activists, including the notorious White Helmets civil defense group, on Saturday blamed the Syrian authorities of using chemical weapons in the militant-held town of Douma in Eastern Ghouta, saying that dozens of civilians were killed and hundreds affected.
The claims have renewed calls for a Syria intervention by the West, while Damascus said they were a "fabrication" and Russia's Foreign Ministry on Sunday called them "fake news."
While a media storm immediately followed, accusing Syria's Bashar Assad of heinous crimes and predicting a new US strike against Damascus forces in response, journalists with knowledge of events on the ground in Syria wondered aloud if the claims should be treated with a grain of salt.
Independent journalist Vanessa Beeley, who visited the Syrian frontline on numerous occasions, said the chemical attack report, quickly picked up by mainstream media, was "also 100 percent lie," pointing out that the White Helmets group had been caught producing fakes before.
The timing of the alleged chemical attack claims was questioned by journalist Caitlin Johnstone, who pointed out that reports spread "just as Trump was seeking a withdrawal from Syria and just as [Syrian President Bashar] Assad was approaching victory in Douma."
Also 100% lie - the Syrian government's "use of chemical weapons against its own people" is very much in "dispute. #Syria#Not_A_Revolutionpic.twitter.com/STPnq9rDt0— vanessa beeley (@VanessaBeeley) 8 апреля 2018 г.
The chemical attack on his own people, certain to "provoke the wrath of the US war machine," would mean that "Assad spontaneously began acting against his own self-interest," the journalist wrote. She decried the influence of the mainstream media, which she said makes such news "easier to believe that Bashar al-Assad and Vladimir Putin are deliberately killing civilians with poisonous gas for no reason whatsoever than to believe that the same empire which deceived us into Iraq is deceiving us into Iraq's next-door neighbor Syria."
US journalist Rania Khalek said that the timing of the alleged attack was "crazy" because it has emerged when the Syrian government was in its strongest position during the whole conflict and Trump said he wanted US troops out of the country.
How incredibly convenient for all those people who lost there shit about trump calling for the US to pullout of Syria https://t.co/GKmXssLJ3a— Rania Khalek (@RaniaKhalek) 8 апреля 2018 г.
Other commentators online also argued that the reports of a chemical attack were actually aimed at dragging the US deeper into the Syrian conflict.
Makes “totally sense” that Assad launches a chemical attack days after Trump says he wants to leave Syria thus forcing Trump to be there longer... Right? The attack is obviously from interests who want the US to in Syria where it weakens Assad. How stupid can u be not to see it?— Yossi Gestetner (@YossiGestetner) 8 апреля 2018 г.
So just after Trump says it’s time for US troops to leave Syria, and directly following the Syrian government fully liberating Eastern Ghouta, Assad decides to unleash chemical weapons that he doesn’t even have?— Sarah Abdallah (@sahouraxo) 8 апреля 2018 г.
Yeah. Something just doesn’t seem quite right with this picture 🤔
You’re President of Syria, civil war starts, you nearly lose. But now you are about to win.— Justin Barrett (@JustinBarrettNP) 8 апреля 2018 г.
Only one thing can go wrong, international intervention happening only if you use chemical weapons. You use chemical weapons.
Needs more explanation to be believable, does it not? pic.twitter.com/Ob6tsYKmsa
Just like the Russian & Syrian UN reps have been warning for the past month, another #ChemicalAttack in #Syria occurs days after Trump says he wants to get out. How convenient for the #DeepState@RandPaul@RepThomasMassie@realDonaldTrump@DanScavino#falseflag#HandsOffSyriahttps://t.co/xtzir4bLPY— x x (@ste11a_b1ue) 8 апреля 2018 г.
At the same time, Cernovich believes that the escalation of the Syrian conflict and prolonged US stay in the country may even reconcile the Republicans and Democrats.
"War is good for the ruling party facing mid-term elections, which is one reason the war mongering Democrats might not support Trump's leading a ground war in Syria. But their blood lust is strong, and may overcome their desire to sweep the House," he wrote.
Following the chemical attack reports, US President Donald Trump, who said on Tuesday that he wanted to "get out" of Syria, called Assad an "Animal," adding that "President Putin, Russia and Iran" were responsible, as backers of the Syrian authorities.
Syrian state media, meanwhile, reported on Sunday that Jaysh al-Islam militants, who were holed up in Douma, have agreed a deal with the Syrian government, according to which they will be allowed to leave the town in exchange for releasing the prisoners they were holding.
On April 4, 2017, a major chemical attack was similarly reported in Syria, just several days after then US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, and UN envoy, Nikki Haley, said that "getting Assad out" was no longer Washington's priority. Back then, the White Helmets and other activist groups claimed that up to 100 civilians in the town of Khan Shaykhun in the Idlib Governorate were killed by sarin gas, released in an airstrike by Syrian government forces. The US immediately rushed to blame Damascus for the attack and fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the Shayrat Airbase, claiming it was the very compound from which jets, allegedly armed with the chemical, took off.
Syria, which was confirmed to have destroyed its sarin stockpiles under a deal brokered between Russia and the US in 2013, has denied the accusations. Russia also pointed out that thorough, impartial investigation of the incident never took place, with OPCW experts refusing to visit Khan Shaykhun. Moscow also argued that the whole attack could have been staged.