WHILE UN INSPECTORS CONTINUE THEIR WORK, WESTERN POWERS PREPARE FOR IMMINENT STRIKE ON SYRIA

By Peter Clifford              ©              (http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news-2/)

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news

There is now every indication that a military strike against Syria by the US, the UK and France, and backed by their NATO allies, is imminent.

In an emotional speech on Monday, US Secretary of State John Kerry, indicating that the chemical weapons attack on Syrian civilians on August 21st had significantly changed US views on engagement with Syria, described what had happened as a “moral obscenity” and said:

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Victims of Assad’s Chemical Weapon Attack

“The meaning of this attack goes beyond the conflict in Syria itself, and that conflict has already brought so much terrible suffering.

This is about the large-scale, indiscriminate use of weapons that the civilized world long ago decided must never be used at all – a conviction shared even by countries that agree on little else”.

Clearly moved at a personal level, Kerry went on to add,“Last night after speaking with foreign ministers from around the world about the gravity of this situation, I went back and I watched the videos, the videos that anybody can watch in the social media, and I watched them one more gut-wrenching time.

It is really hard to express in words the human suffering that they lay out before us. As a father, I can’t get the image out of my head of a man who held up his dead child, wailing while chaos swirled around him; the images of entire families dead in their beds without a drop of blood or even a visible wound; bodies contorting in spasms; human suffering that we can never ignore or forget.

Anyone who can claim that an attack of this staggering scale could be contrived or fabricated needs to check their conscience and their own moral compass”.

You can read the full transcript via the Washington Post, HERE:  or watch this video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=3gxI519c0Bk

The US view on Syria and that of its allies on Syria, has also hardened this week following the reported interception by US Intelligence of phone conversations between a panicked official of the Syrian Ministry of Defence and a member of the Syrian Chemical Weapons Unit, demanding to know what has happened.

It remains unclear whether the attack was ordered at a high level in the Syrian Government or was the independent action of a local commander carrying out some pre-determined battle plan. You can read more in Foreign Policy magazine, HERE:

The UK’s Prime Minister, David Cameron, has put out a statement this morning saying that after speaking to President Obama last night, both men are “in no doubt” that the Syrian Government side carried out the chemical weapons attack in Damascus.

Based on their evidence, it is now clear that some sort of “punishment strike” will be carried out against Syria in the next few days, though it has been emphasised that they are not seeking “regime change”.

Cameron has recalled the British House of Commons and a debate and vote on action against Syria is scheduled for tomorrow, Thursday. A military strike could take place anytime after this, though the US and its allies may wait until the UN Chemical Weapons investigators complete their work in Syria on Sunday.

The UN investigators are reported to have left their hotel in a 6 vehicle convoy this morning, Wednesday, and to have reached East Ghouta, the main district subjected to chemical weapons attack, without incident.

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US Warship Fires Test Cruise Missile

Reports from airline pilots and local people confirm that the British forward base in the Mediterranean, RAF Akrotiri on the island of Cyprus (just 120 miles from the Syrian coast), has been very busy this week and US Defence Secretary, Chuck Hagel, has told the BBC that US forces are “ready to go, right now”.

The most likely scenario is a short sharp strike by cruise missiles fired from the sea, bombs dropped from a high level and guided missiles fired from outside Syrian airspace, over a period lasting no more than 2 days. There will be no “boots on the ground”.

The UK has also laid a draft resolution before the UN Security Council to be debated this evening, Wednesday, by the 5 permanent members, condemning the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian Government and calling for “necessary measures”, though Russia and China will inevitably oppose it.

WHAT WILL FOLLOW AN ATTACK ON SYRIA? IRAN & RUSSIA WARN OF “CONSEQUENCES” AND ISRAEL IS ON HIGH ALERT:

Iran and Russia have again, today, Wednesday, issued statements talking about the “dangerous and grave consequences” of military action against Syria and such action being a “disaster for the region”.

What the consequences of such a Western led attack would be are unknown, but presumably the risks have been calculated.  Almost certainly, Hezbollah, egged on by Iran, will launch a series of rockets from south Lebanon against Israel.

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Israel’s “Iron Dome” Defence System

Israel is reported this morning to have all its missile intercept systems, short, medium and long range, on high alert but if it is struck by rockets from Lebanon or Syria it will inevitably strike back.

Russia’s likely reaction is as yet unknown but there have been suggestions that they could set in motion a limited attack on US ally, Saudi Arabia.

Erring on the side of caution though Russia is reported to have evacuated 100 personnel from Syria with 2 planes in the last 48 hours flying from Latakia airport near the Mediterranean coast. There are additionally unconfirmed reports that the Syrian elite are sending their families across the border into Lebanon.

Whether the Syrian Opposition can take advantage of this new scenario remains to be seen. France has already said that as a consequence of the chemical weapons attack, it will be supplying the Opposition with more weapons.

In a televised statement the Syrian Foreign Minister, Walid Muallem, described the accusations that his Government had used chemical weapons as “a lie” and commenting on the predicted US strike said, “We have two options: either to surrender, or to defend ourselves with the means at our disposal. The second choice is the best: we will defend ourselves”, without specifying what action the Assad regime would take.

Global stock markets fell sharply yesterday and the slide has continued on Asian markets this morning, in anticipation of US action and the possible consequences.  The same fears have also driven a sharp spike in gold prices and world oil prices with the possibility of an interruption to supplies.

Rumours also abound on the Internet that Assad has landed in Tehran, Iran, with his family, though there is as yet no evidence to back that up and many would be surprised if this were true.

OPPOSITION FIGHTERS BLOCK THE LAST ASSAD SUPPLY ROUTES BOTH TO ALEPPO CITY AND THE ALEPPO CITADEL:

Meanwhile, on the ground in Syria the Opposition continue to make advances.  In Aleppo there is a report this morning, Wednesday, that Opposition fighters have successfully interrupted all the supply routes into the Aleppo citadel where substantial numbers of regime troops remain.

Also at at a cement factory in the Sheikh Said district, Opposition forces destroyed 4 military vehicles.

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Victim of White Phosphorous Attack in Gaza

However, on Monday, a phosphorous bomb attack, while John Kerry was speaking about chemical weapons, is reported to have killed 20 in the town of Urm south-west of Aleppo, leaving many others with first and second degree burns.

Earlier in the week the Opposition also took control of Khanasser, a strategic town on the Hama to Aleppo main highway.

A Government convoy is reported to be on its way to try and retake the town but if the Opposition can hold it they have effectively cut the last remaining main regime supply route to its troops in and around Aleppo.

The Opposition fighters captured large amounts of ammunition in Khanasser as can be seen HERE:  and yet more ammunition and artillery pieces when they overran another Government military position south of Aleppo, HERE:

Also, Assad’s stock of tanks is now regularly and repeatedly downgraded.  Two recent Opposition strikes are shown near Hama, HERE: and near Damascus, HERE: plus a “tank-destroying Fest” in the Damascus suburbs, HERE:

There is also a report that 40 members of the elite Syrian Republican Guard were killed by Opposition fighters in an ambush in Homs province on the Homs to Damascus highway.

In Idlib province, Ariha, which the Opposition took control of earlier this week, has suffered 45 air attacks in 3 days with as many as 20 barrel bombs hitting the city and 100 missiles on Tuesday alone.

And in Deraa province in the far south, Opposition forces are advancing on the city of Ezra, taking out Government barriers and checkpoints as they go.

Lastly, in a world exclusive, courtesy of ‏@yildarado, here is a screenshot of the iPhone of Russia’s President Putin yesterday:

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Screenshot of President Putin’s iPhone

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