Putin says expects 'fake' gas attacks to discredit Syria's Assad

Cheryl Sanders
April 12, 2017

Now that Washington has pulled a 180-degree shift in what passes for its Syria policy, indicating that Assad should go rather than stay as president, one big question will be whether Tillerson can convince the Russians of that.

When combined with Russian hackers trying to hurt Hillary Clinton by illegally obtaining emails from her campaign and the DNC, some Trump skeptics assumed either collusion between the Republican candidate and the Kremlin or speculated that Putin's gang had damaging information on Trump.

The G7 move to present a united front against Assad and show a broad coalition with Arab states and Turkey comes ahead of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's planned trip to Moscow, the first visit by a high-ranking Trump administration official to Russian Federation. People who were "historically associated" with Syria's chemical-weapons program were at the airfield in late March, preparing for another attack on northern Syria, and on the day of the sarin gas attack.

The Secretary of State said he hoped "to further clarify areas of sharp difference so we can better understand why these differences exist and what the prospects for narrowing these differences might be".

It was never proven that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. The animosity is especially striking given widespread speculation that Trump, who lavishly praised Putin during his campaign, would pursue rapprochement with Moscow. Trump says in a Twitter post that he told China's President Xi Jinping that Beijing would get a better trade deal with Washington if it helped solve the US problem with North Korea.

Even on Syria, the positions appeared to be hardening. Trump couldn't be sure when he launched the attack that a Russian wouldn't be killed, or that some other freak mishap wouldn't arise. "ISIS represents a clear and present danger, an immediate threat to Europe and ultimately, a threat to the USA homeland", he said.

Johnson said Britain and its European partners would await the outcome of an investigation by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). France said it was not discussed in depth.Western countries have been calling for Assad to leave power since 2011, the start of a civil war that has killed at least 400,000 people and created the world's worst refugee crisis.Assad's position on the battlefield became far stronger after Russian Federation joined the war in support of him in 2015.

But even after all that contact, even after Trump spent months calling Russian president Vladimir Putin a great leader, even after the Russians helped Trump by using its hackers to undermine Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, Trump's people have now decided to make accusations against the Russians.

Foreign ministers from Group of Seven (G7) major industrialised nations reached no agreement on a British suggestion that sanctions be tightened against Syria and Russia, Italy's foreign minister said on Tuesday.

The charges of collusion between Damascus and Moscow came in the form of a declassified National Security Council report, which said US intelligence agencies had evidence that sarin had been used in the attack, and accused Russian Federation of a cover-up in its aftermath. In an accompanying four-page memo, the US accused Russian Federation of a disinformation campaign and aiding Syria in covering up the gruesome attack, which killed more than 80 people.

"Russia's allegations fit with a pattern of deflecting blame from the regime and attempting to undermine the credibility of its opponents", it says.

"It is clear to all of us that the reign of the Assad family is coming to an end", he said.

Tillerson spoke after a meeting of the "likeminded" countries was hastily arranged on the sidelines of the summit of the Group of Seven industrialized economies in Italy, days after the USA for the first time launched airstrikes against Assad's forces. Moscow is a staunch ally of President Bashar Assad whom the United States blamed for the chemical attack.

And wielding the stick of potential military action is risky.

Dr. Gvosdev notes that, "In the last few days we've heard suggestions that regime change [in Syria] is back on the agenda, we had [the U.S. ambassador to the UN] Nikki Haley talking about new sanctions on Russian Federation over Syria". He can order more military action, with the danger of an escalating America involvement in a war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people.

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