By Peter Clifford © (http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news-2/)
Once again tensions are rising in the Middle East following the widespread publicity given to the chemical weapons attacks on the suburbs of Damascus reported earlier in the week (scroll down – see below).
Today, Saturday, President Obama has met this morning with his top security advisers to discuss options on “what to do about Syria” following mounting pressure from individuals, human rights organisations and governments across the world after Wednesday’s attacks and reported huge loss of life.
USS Mahan – Cruise Missile Carrying Cruiser
At the same time the US is increasing its armed presence in waters at the eastern end of the Mediterranean not far from the coast of Syria.
The USS Mahan, a cruise-missile armed warship, was due to return to its base in Virginia in the USA, but has been ordered to stay on at the moment in the region, along with its replacement the USS Ramage.
This brings to 4, the number of heavily armed US warships in the Syrian region capable of delivering Cruise missile warheads from a considerable distance.
But don’t hold your breath. While Obama has made statements such as “What we’ve seen indicates clearly this is a big event, of grave concern” and has directed his intelligence agencies to clarify the nature of the chemical weapons attack, he clearly remains strongly opposed to getting involved in this conflict.
Activist Wears Gas Mask in Zamalka District Where Many Died – Reuters
However, Iran is clearly nervous, its leaders claiming there is “evidence” that the Opposition used chemical weapons and warning once again against foreign intervention in Syria.
ASSAD REGIME CLAIMS THAT SOME OF ITS TROOPS HAVE “SUFFOCATED” IN TUNNELS IN JOBAR – THEIR OWN GAS BITES BACK?:
The Iranian “evidence” may be that released by SANA, the Syrian state news agency, this morning claiming that some of its troops entering tunnels formerly used by Opposition fighters in the Jobar suburb of Damascus had found “samples of chemical weapons” and even that some of the soldiers had suffered from “suffocation” requiring hospitalisation.
If there is any truth in this report, it could be of course that the chemical gas fired on Wednesday from the Government side, being heavier than air, has merely settled in the tunnels and remained there.
The Opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) has made it clear that it will ensure that any UN chemical weapons investigators, a team of whom are already present in a Damascus hotel, will be guaranteed safe passage in OpposItion territory if they wish to investigate the latest attack.
An independent photojournalist from the UK’s ITV channel has released footage (disturbing) that he took of the aftermath of the attack, with victims showing no signs of shrapnel injury to bodies or blood and every sign of death by gassing:
So far the Assad Government is keeping the UN investigators well away from Eastern Ghouta where the dreadful attack, believed to have killed possibly more than 1,000 people, took place.
Protesters in Aleppo Call for Realistic Action
The UN General Secretary, Ban Ki-Moon, has also sent one of his senior assistants, Angela Kane, UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, to Damascus to try and push the Syrian Government to allow the UN team there to investigate the latest attack.
If the Assad regime is “not responsible”, as they claim then they have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Opposition sources have also revealed that both hair and blood samples of dead victims of the attack have been smuggled outside Syria for analysis (though not where to) and that some of the injured victims themselves have been sent to Jordan for further treatment and investigation.
OPPOSITION DRIVE ASSAD’S NDF OUT OF IDLIB TOWN AND TAKE COMPLETE CONTROL:
Tension in the region was raised further on Friday with a twin car-bomb blast at Tripoli in northern Lebanon killing 47 people, mainly Sunnis, in the sectarian divided city.
Syria Twin Bomb Blast in Tripoli, Lebanon
Sunni elements have been quick to accuse Hezbollah, the armed Shia group supporting President Assad, of the attack, probably in retaliation for similar attacks on parts of Beirut controlled by them.
Within Syria itself, rocket and shell attacks have resumed on Opposition held areas of Homs but the Opposition has taken complete control of Ariha in Idlib province after a week of intense fighting.
According to reports Assad’s National Defence Force, who were defending the town, were completely defeated, although the regime has responded with no less than 5 air attacks on the town this morning.
In Hasakah province, chaos continues to ensue as the extreme Jihadist group ISIS continues its fight with the Kurdish militia for control of the region and strategic towns and checkpoints. Ironically both sides are opposed to the Assad Government.
The fighting between the 2 sides has led to more than 40,000 Syrian refugees (mainly Kurds) streaming across the border into Iraq in the past week.
And finally, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, announced yesterday that it has registered more than 1 million children since the Syrian conflict began, 75% of them under the age of 11 and many of them completely traumatised by their experiences.
UN Fiddles While Assad Buys Time