Editor's note: Important debunk of French/Western disinfo on chemical weapons use in Syria.
One of Isaac Newton’s laws of physics states that "for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction."
In light of French claims this week that Syrian state forces were guilty of having used chemical weapons, we may apply a variant of Newton’s law to the study of political diplomacy – for every action, expect an equal and opposite pre-action.
On Wednesday morning, 5 June, around 6am local time, dramatic news came out of Syria that the Syrian Arab Army had finally retaken the strategic town of Qusair. The victory followed several weeks of heavy fighting with the Western-backed militants, who had first taken occupation of the town a year ago. Backed by the Lebanese militia of Hezbollah, the Syrian army reportedly killed thousands of the anti-government militants and routed thousands more to regain full control of Qusair. Located in the central province of Homs near the border with Lebanon, Qusair is a key transport and logistics hub for the rest of Syria, linking north and south, and providing a corridor to the Mediterranean coast. As one Syrian army commander put it before the recapture of the town this week: "Whoever controls Qusair controls the whole of Syria."
The victory for the government forces of President Bashar al-Assad may well prove to be a turning point in the more than two-year war.
Despite the Western government and media narrative describing the violence in Syria as the result of «a popular pro-democracy uprising» that has turned into a «civil war», the weight of evidence shows a very different scenario. That is, that the conflict in Syria is mainly a result of a covert war for regime change sponsored by the chief NATO powers of Washington, London and Paris, along with their regional allies of Israel, Turkey, Jordan and the Persian Gulf Arab oil kingdoms.
Syria is, from this viewpoint, a crucial staging post for Western imperialist plans to roll over the oil-rich Middle East in order to install regimes that are pliant with Western geopolitical interests. These interests include untrammeled access to the world’s main oil and gas reserves, eventual regime change in the regional powerhouse of Iran, and the denial of vital resources and markets to the West’s global rivals of Russia and China.
The outcome of the battle for Qusair this week is therefore not just setback for anti-Assad "rebels", as the Western media like to call them, but rather it is a defeat for the NATO-led axis and its strategy for regime change in Syria and the wider region. The military and propaganda significance of this defeat cannot be underestimated, and it comes as a crucial moral boost for the Assad government in Damascus ahead of the international peace conference in Geneva that Moscow and Washington are convening, due to take place sometime over the next few weeks.
Washington, London and the former colonial power, Paris, have together invested huge political capital in this covert, criminal proxy war for regime change in Syria. The NATO states have mounted a relentless campaign to discredit the incumbent Assad government as illegitimate. Their respective foreign ministers, John Kerry, William Hague and Laurent Fabius, have repeatedly demanded President Assad to stand down, claiming that he is a despot who is unfit to govern. Those petulant demands now seem increasingly vain and, frankly, comedic.
The routing this week from Qusair of the Western-backed ragtag foreign mercenaries, including brigades from the Al Qaeda-linked Al Nusra Front, is emphatic illustration of NATO’s bankrupt agenda in Syria. This was no "noble resistance" to an encroaching despot, but rather it was the lifting of an occupying siege that had been imposed on a town of 30,000 inhabitants by Western-backed foreign gangs, which have no popular support among ordinary Syrian citizens.
If, for argument’s sake, this had been the advance of a cruel, murderous army of a cruel, murderous despot, why were there not scenes of public pandemonium and hysteria, with thousands of desperate civilians trying to escape before the fall of Qusair? On the contrary, it seems that the arriving Syrian army was welcomed by the town’s residents, relieved that the siege had finally been broken.
Some 10,000 of Qusair’s inhabitants had managed to flee months ago from the occupying militants and their withering application of Islamic fundamentalism over the past year. The mercenaries fighting in Syria come from more than 30 countries, including Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, the Russian Caucasus, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. They all share, apparently, a devotion to the extremist Wahhabi ideology of Islam, which sees all other non-subscribing Muslims (the vast majority) as "infidels" to be persecuted along with Christians and non-religious. Shia Muslims and Alawites in particular are "to be wiped out", according to the recent comments of one so-called Free Syrian Army commander.
This brutish, sectarian mindset, of course, plays very well for the Western agenda of subversion and sabotage in Syria, as it did during the 1980s in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union. Not that you will see this unvarnished truth being reported in the Western media coverage of the conflict in Syria. Oh no, the Western governments are allegedly supporting "democracy-loving rebels" – incongruously with the help of those well-known democracy-loving regimes in Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and in the news elsewhere this week, Turkey.
Back to Qusair: there were reports that some of the mercenary brigades went on the rampage while abandoning their strongholds days before the Syrian army retook the town, with murderous attacks on Christian communities in nearby villages, such as Al Duvair.
Other reports say that the incoming Syrian army found large explosive dumps in homes, under roads and near a hospital and other public buildings. These findings support claims that the militants had long been using the civilian population as "human shields" to thwart the advance of government forces.
Even the British Guardian – a typical Western media supporter of the "rebels" – admitted this week that an important contingent in the «defence» of Qusair was members of the Al Qaeda-linked Al Nusra Front.
Nevertheless, in face of this stunning negation of the Western narrative on Syria, the Western media continued to spin the "good rebels" story. The New York Times reported with breathless romanticism on the defeat at Qusair: "In the final days, the outgunned Syrian rebels, deprived of reinforcements, ammunition and sleep, were surviving on olives and canned beans."
For a start, these aren’t "Syrian rebels"; they are Western-backed foreign self-styled jihadists who have descended on Syria’s population to terrorize it into relinquishing support for its sovereign government. Secondly, the New York Times’ pitiful depiction of "outgunned and deprived of ammunition" does not square with other media reports of explosive dumps, mines, rockets and assault rifles abandoned by the fleeing mercenaries.
In spite of such self-serving spinning by the Western media, the obvious conclusion is that the Western narrative on Syria has been exposed as baseless and bankrupt by the events this week in Qusair. These weren’t hapless, heroic rebels; they were bandits who did not have any popular support and who realized that their nefarious terrorizing game in Qusair was over.
This brings us to the seemingly equally dramatic French government claims that they had "proof" that Syrian government forces "or their accomplices" had used chemical weapons; that a red line had been crossed; and that meant all options for Western military intervention were on the table.
The night before the fall of Qusair, on Tuesday 4 June, around 6pm Paris time, France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius announced on national television that his government "had no doubt" that "the Syrian regime or its accomplices" had used the chemical nerve poison, sarin.
Fabius said that laboratory tests in Paris had confirmed numerous exposures of the nerve agent and added that those who used chemical weapons of mass destruction must be punished. (Strangely enough, he refrained from extending the application of justice to verifiable incidents of American and Israeli military using white phosphorus in Fallujah and Gaza.)
"These analyses demonstrate the presence of sarin gas in the samples in our possession. In view of this evidence, France is now certain that sarin gas has been used in Syria several times and in a localized manner," said Fabius (with more than a hint of dodgy ambiguity, despite the pretense of being certain).
The deployment of chemical weapons by the Syrian government forces had earlier been insinuated by Washington, London and Paris as far back as April at locations near the northern city of Aleppo. But this was the first time that the claim was being asserted by a Western government with "definitive proof". And Fabius was now saying that the notorious "red line" – first coined by US President Barack Obama to signify the threshold for a direct NATO intervention in Syria – had definitely been transgressed by the Syrian government.
Behind Fabius’ façade of scientific certainty, however, there was tellingly a lack of specific incriminating detail. He did not, or could not, explicitly corroborate where, when and who allegedly deployed the chemical weapons.
The British government immediately tried to add gravitas to the French claim by saying that it too had tested positively "physiological samples" for sarin at its Ministry of Defence laboratory at Porton Down in Wiltshire. But again, this was a matter of claim without verifiable evidence.
A senior British official was quoted in media anonymously saying: "Are we confident in our means of collection, and are we confident that it points to the regime’s use of sarin? Yes. Can we prove it with 100 per cent certainty? Probably not."
So, there you are. We are expected to believe the say-so of Western governments relying on tests under their control without any objective oversight about the alleged evidence; «evidence» that conveniently bolsters their agenda for regime change in Syria. And remember these are the same governments who lied about weapons of mass destruction only 10 years ago in order to justify an illegal war for regime change in Iraq – a war that caused over 1.5 million civilian deaths.
How did the French government obtain its putative samples for sarin? It appears that these were the same samples that had been surreptitiously taken out of Syria by a couple of Le Monde journalists who had been embedded for two months with Western-backed mercenaries earlier this year. The French newspaper is an outspoken advocate of its government’s regime-change agenda in Syria. Eight days before the Fabius announcement of "proof", Le Monde ran a report, on 27 May, claiming that chemical weapons had been used by the Syrian regime.
Let’s get this straight. The French government is making a potential call to (overt) war based on secret samples provided to it by a couple of partisan journos.
The question is: what made Fabius reiterate a week-old story from Le Monde on the Tuesday evening of 4 June, and especially since he wasn’t bringing any new detail of proof to back up the allegations of chemical weapon use?
The answer, plausibly, was more to do with the unfolding events in Qusair. French military intelligence, being closely aligned with the mercenaries assailing Syria, as with those of the US and Britain, most probably knew that the writing was on the walls of Qusair – and the writing spelled imminent defeat for the Western-cherished mercenaries in the early hours of Wednesday.
In other words, the NATO sponsors, and the old colonial power France in particular, were within hours of facing a public-relations slap in the face. All their invested political capital of trying to convince the world that they are on the side of «pro-democracy rebels» in Syria would be flushed down the toilet with the news of victorious Assad forces retaking Qusair from Western-backed jihadists and bandits, who had been holding the citizens hostage for the past year.
That provides a powerful incentive for why the French felt compelled to quickly wheel out their "chemical pre-action" on that Tuesday evening – to try to neutralize the embarrassing action about to take place in Qusair in the early hours of Wednesday. The French wanted to grab the international media headlines for the next day – the day on which Qusair fell – with the incriminating claims of Assad using chemical weapons of mass destruction.
But, far from being proof against Assad, the French pre-action is more proof of yet another tiresome Western attempt to smear the Damascus government and to muddy the waters about NATO’s criminal regime change in Syria.
Finian Cunningham is a political analyst and commentator who has written extensively on international affairs, particularly in the Middle East.