While American Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visits Moscow this week, the Kremlin and the White House continue to exchange jabs in the media over the chemical weapon attack in Syria last Tuesday, and the resulting American military action taken against Assad’s regime on Thursday.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer once again voiced the concerns of the Trump administration regarding Russia’s seemingly unwavering support for Assad and his regime in Syria, claiming that Russia is isolating themselves from the international community by continuing to stand by the Syrian leader.
“Russia is on an island when it comes to its support of Syria,” Spicer told reporters. “In this particular case, it’s no question that Russia is isolated. They have aligned themselves with North Korea, Syria, Iran. That’s not exactly a group of countries you’re looking to hang out with. With the exception of Russia, they are all failed states.”
According to Spicer and other White House officials, a concerted Russian and Syrian effort to mislead the public as to the events that occurred in Syria last week is already under way, claiming the two nations are working to “confuse the world community about who is responsible for using chemical weapons against the Syrian people in this and earlier attacks.”
Russian president, Vladimir Putin’s recent statements regarding the attack could be seen as indicative that the White House has reason to suspect a misinformation campaign is afoot, as Putin went so far as to nearly accuse the American government of having a hand in “planting” sarin gas in Syrian villages to justify taking military action against Assad, despite President Trump’s announced policy shift away from removing Assad from power coming only days before the Sarin gas attack.
When asked by the Russian media about the potential for subsequent U.S. attacks against Syrian assets, Putin responded, “We have information that a similar provocation is being prepared … in other parts of Syria including in the southern Damascus suburbs where they are planning to again plant some substance and accuse the Syrian authorities of using (chemical weapons).”
Of course, accusations of the Russians not only attempting to cover up the chemical attack after it occurred, but also of being complicit in the decision to use Sarin gas on civilians have been levied by a number of top U.S. Defense Officials as well as Russian military personnel have been confirmed to have been operating out of the same air base used to launch the attack.
“We do think that it is a question worth asking the Russians,” a senior White House official said. “How is it possible that their forces were located with the Syrian forces that planned, prepared and carried out this chemical weapons attack at the same installation, and did not have foreknowledge?”
“Russia’s allegations fit with a pattern of deflecting blame from the regime and attempting to undermine the credibility of its opponents.” The official added.
A White House report provided to journalists indicated that the chemical attack was delivered by Syrian Su-22 aircraft that took off from the Shayrat airfield that was targeted in Thursday’s strike.
“Additionally, our information indicates personnel historically associated with Syria’s chemical weapons program were at Shayrat airfield in late March making preparations for an upcoming attack in northern Syria, and they were present at the airfield on the day of the attack,” the report said.
President Trump chose not to comment on the possibility of Russian collusion regarding the chemical attack, though it is certainly an issue Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is expected to broach behind closed doors with his Russian counterpart this week.
Russia has requested a UN led independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding the chemical attack last week, but no official statement has been made by UN officials regarding one.
Image courtesy of the Associated Press