As the world's attention was focused on Singapore and the historic Trump-Kim summit this week, and with broad media acknowledgement that Assad has won the war for Syria, the time could be ripe for some kind of major event to jolt the globe's focus back to the war, now in its seventh year, which could be slowly winding down.
It seems to occur every time the Syrian Army is on a trajectory of overwhelming victory: an ill-timed and strategically nonsensical mass chemical attack on civilians supposedly ordered by Assad — inevitably giving the West an open door for military intervention, new rounds of crippling sanctions, and yet more international media condemnation heaped on Damascus.
And this week the Russian Defense Ministry has warned of just such a scenario. Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Igor Konashenkov said early in the week that US-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) forces are planning a "serious provocation" aimed at justifying a new round of Western coalition missile attacks against Syrian government bases and facilities.
Konashenkov, in a statement carried by Russian state-run TASS and subsequently featured in a One America News report, said "According to the information confirmed through three independent channels in Syria, the command of the so-called ‘Free Syrian Army’ aided by the forces of the US special ops units are preparing a serious provocation involving chemical warfare agents in the Deir ez-Zor province."
The TASS media release explained further:
According to Konashenkov, FSA militants have delivered chlorine cylinders to the Syrian Deir ez-Zor province to simulate another "chemical attack against civilians."
"After being published in western media a staged video is set to initiate a missile strike on Syria’s state facilities by the US-led coalition and justify an offensive operation by militants against Syrian governmental forces on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River," he said, adding that Russia’s Defense Ministry warns that the use of such provocations for destabilization of the environment on the Syrian territory is unacceptable.
Though there's currently no way to verify if such claims are true, and no "staged video" has yet to surface on the internet, the Russian Defense Ministry appears to be painting a potential future scenario much like last April's chemical attack incident: it was video of mass civilian death which directly led to Western airstrikes on Syria.
A new One America News report features the Russian Defense Ministry claims:
After the Saudi-backed jihadist group Jaish al-Islam, working in tandem with the US/UK sponsored White Helmets, claimed a Syrian Army chemical attack against civilians in Douma on April 7, the US-led coalition launched over a hundred missiles on government facilities primarily in and around Damascus. This was done even as the UN and global chemical watchdog organization, the OPCW, said there were no independent observers on the ground to confirm whether or not a chemical attack even took place, much less who was to blame.
Some among the first group of journalists to gain entry inside Douma, located just outside Damascus, such as the UK Independent's Robert Fisk and One America News Network's Pearson Sharp, found no evidence that a chemical attack took place in Douma, contrary to what was widely reported in international media. A formal OPCW investigation is still ongoing.
Notably, Russia as well as some mainstream Western counter-terror experts have consistently pointed the finger at Jaish al Islam (JAI) for staging the Douma "chemical attack" in order to provoke the US military response. And prior reporting emerged in the aftermath that JAI itself had used chemical weapons against Kurdish militias in Aleppo’s Sheikh Maqsoud district in 2016 (and it appears that the Saudi-backed group openly admitted to carrying out prior chemical attacks according to The Daily Beast).
Russia further hosted a press briefing at OPCW headquarters in The Hague where witnesses came forward to say there was no chemical attack, but that respiratory problems from conventional weapons bombarding the town were made to look like chemical symptoms once Jaish al Islam and the White Helmets took over a local hospital and began filming.
The testimony was consistent with well-known Syrian opposition group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), which initially reported based on its own pro-rebel sourcing that heavy government bombardment of Douma city resulted in the collapse of homes and underground shelters, causing civilians in hiding to suffocate.
According to SOHR, which has long been a key go-to source for mainstream media over the course of the war, "70 of them [women and children] have suffered suffocation as a result of the demolition of home basements over them due to the heavy and intense shelling."
Crucially, all of this occurred just days after President Trump declared he planned to order a complete US military pullout from Syria. And predictably, the April chemical provocation was just the thing that brought Trump's planned pullout to a grinding halt, with Secretary of Defense James Mattis telling NATO leaders at the start of this week that he remains against a US withdrawal "before progress was made" — whatever that means.
Recently, the Washington Post issued a surprising admission, reluctantly declaring that that Assad is "here to stay" —"The writing is now indisputably on the wall: The Syrian regime is going nowhere," according to widely circulated op-ed.
But if recent history provides a pattern for the future, once the media establishment and political leaders in the West begin acknowledging "Assad is here to stay," this portends that a major regime change precipitating event is just around the corner.