In what feels like a throwback scenario to 2017 which marked the first time Trump bombed Syria over al-Qaeda's unverified claims of a government chemical attack on a "rebel"-held town in Idlib province, Russia's military is now warning that anti-Assad jihadists are planning a new "false-flag operation against civilians" involving chemical weapons in Idlib.
The allegation of a major 'provocation' in the works originated in official comments days ago from the deputy chief of the Russian de-escalation mission in Syria, Rear Admiral Vyacheslav Sytnik. The statements are being featured predominantly in Russian and Iranian state media sources, which say the incident will be blamed on Damascus, ultimately in order to gain the attention of the newly in office Biden administration.
"According to our information, militants of illegal armed groups are plotting a provocation to blame Syria’s government forces for delivering strikes at settlements in thee Idlib de-escalation zone," Admiral Sytnik said.
At a moment it's widely believed the Biden White House is internally divided over Syria and Mideast policy in general, with little future strategy having been announced publicly, any level of 'mass casualty incident' is sure to gain Washington's attention.
Here are the details of Adm. Sytnik's statement via Russian media sources and their translation:
Citing intelligence reports, Rear Admiral Vyacheslav Sytnik, deputy chief of the Russian de-escalation mission in Syria, claimed that militants belonging to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) have transported containers with toxic agents to the settlement of Tarmanin. The Al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorists plan to use the chemicals, believed to be chlorine, to "simulate" an attack resulting in casualties among local residents, Sytnik said. He added that the militants hope to then blame the incident on Syrian government forces.
HTS is formally designated as a terrorist organization by the US government as well as internationally. Yet despite this, the US and Western allies have frequently condemned any attempts of Syrian or Russian military forces to take back the northwestern province of Idlib.
Idlib has been held by HTS and other al-Qaeda factions since its takeover in 2015, reportedly with CIA help via an operations room in Turkey.
Russia: #AlQaeda support group the UK+US funded #WhiteHelmets have sent a team to #Idlib with pro video equipment, expected to launch new chemical provocation to blame on the #Syrian Arab Army. https://t.co/bJWIjJhdjk pic.twitter.com/kCh8yqkxMN— tim anderson (@timand2037) February 17, 2021
Assad with Russia's help has been the clear victor over most of Syria, with a northeast oil-and-gas concentrated chunk of the country occupied by the US and its Kurdish allies (SDF), and the northwest (Idlib) occupied by al-Qaeda (HTS), and northern towns now under Turkish control.
The Russians have been getting increasingly vocal over the past month that some level of 'provocation' is coming soon, despite Syria having long been out of international headlines.
"The warning comes several weeks after the reconciliation center revealed that it had been tipped off that HTS militants and members of the 'White Helmets,' a self-styled civil defense group, were planning to stage a chemical attack in a town 11 kilometers (seven miles) northwest of Aleppo," RT summarizes of recent allegations.
Former Trump envoy to Syria sharing one of the achievements of the sanctions & military occupation policy he helped carry out: further destroying a war-ravaged country’s economy. https://t.co/aNXkFSWGfx— Aaron Maté (@aaronjmate) February 21, 2021
Meanwhile, despite the Syrian government under Assad being the 'victor' over the conflict, loyalist areas are now being smashed by US-led sanctions that are meant to choke the economy. Thus the economic war was greatly ramped up the moment that Western-led regime change efforts were acknowledged as having ultimately failed.