By Peter Clifford              ©      (

Despite an agreement last weekend between the US and Russia on a “framework” to dismantle and remove Syria’s chemical weapons stocks, political wrangling continues between the Western powers and Russia on the terms of any UN Security Council resolution to implement the agreement.

Ban Ki-Moon, the UN General Secretary, says that any Security Council motion must include “consequences” on Syria for any violation of a chemical weapons agreement.  Russia at the weekend seemed to be going along with that idea but has since back tracked.

Lebanese Nun Russia’s New CW Expert?

Before, the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, was saying “wait for the UN chemical weapons inspectors’ report”.

Now it has appeared, and by implication at least points the finger at the Assad regime, Lavrov does not like it  (scroll down and see link to the full report below).

In meetings yesterday, Tuesday, and continuing today, the Russians are saying that any Security Council resolution must not include any reference to Chapter 7, which would allow the UN to impose sanctions or military force if Syria failed to live up to its obligations.

Russia has also announced this morning that the Assad regime has provided it with “new evidence” that the “rebels” were behind the August 21st gas attacks.  If this is as convincing as previous “evidence”, then it won’t amount to a lot.

The source of much of the Syrian regime and Lavrov’s evidence is likely to be the unlikely figure of Mother Agnes Mariam de la Croix, a Carmelite nun who was born in Lebanon and is clearly pro-Assad.  Mother Agnes has been quoted by Lavrov before and even appeared on Russia Today as an “expert” about the events on the early morning of August 21st.

Mother Agnes, whose nunnery in a northern Damascus suburb well away from the Ghouta area that was attacked with Sarin, has apparently produced a 50 page document from observing online videos and which “proves” that the whole thing was “a sham” and a “co-ordinated charade staged for the cameras”.

You can read more, HERE:

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Sergei Ryabkov, said while visiting Damascus yesterday that his country was “disappointed” with the UN inspectors’ report, adding that they thought it was “politicised, biased and one-sided”.

An unnamed Syrian “security official” was also quoted yesterday as saying, “Of course the rebels know how to load missiles with Sarin. They have been trained by the US, French and British secret services, which are active on the ground”.

While the UN inspectors’ report does not specifically accuse any particular group for firing the missiles containing Sarin, it does conclude that a particular type of sophisticated artillery shell was used, known to be possessed by the Assad regime, and that the shells came from an area north-west of the Opposition suburbs where the attack occurred.  That area, from where they must have been fired, is Government controlled.

The shells also contained “stabilisers” as well as Sarin, suggesting that they originated from a chemically controlled area, rather than some ad hoc Opposition environment and lastly, and most damning, the shells had Cyrillic lettering, Russian writing, on the side. You can read more on this from the Washington Post, HERE:

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has also produced its own report of events of August 21st, from which the map below was taken.  There is a new interactive version of the HRW report, that can be made bigger or smaller, HERE:

Map of Likely Source of Chemical Weapons Missiles

The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) based in Geneva, also announced yesterday that it is currently investigating as many as 14 reported instances of chemical weapon use in Syria.  So far, the Assad regime, has declined to allow the UNHRC to send a team to Damascus to investigate.


On the Turkish border a car bomb exploded yesterday on the Bab al-Hawa crossing which is held by the Opposition. Casualties have not been confirmed, but a previous explosion at the same place on February 11th, killed 13.

Wreckage of Syrian Helicopter Shot Down by Turkey

Further details emerged yesterday of the incident of the Syrian Ml-17 helicopter shot down by the Turkish airforce on Monday.

The Turkish authorities, who have changed their rules of engagement after frequent shell and rocket fire from the Syrian side that has killed their citizens, said that the helicopter had been warned to stay away when it was 26 nautical miles from the border, but it kept on coming.

Once it had violated Turkish airspace, one of two patrolling Turkish F-16 jets shot it down, the aircraft eventually crashing in flames a kilometer inside Syria.

In Homs, the Government siege of Opposition held areas is now in its 500th day and people still living there are desperate for food, water and other essential supplies.

Heavy fighting is reported around Hama where the Opposition yesterday gained control of the Aboud checkpoint on the southern approaches to the city.  There are also major battles ongoing along the the route from Hama via Khanasser to Aleppo, which the regime is desperate to regain in order to resupply its forces trapped in the north.

There is video of the Opposition fighters attacking a Government convoy on the Hama – Aleppo road, HERE:

Faces of Despair in Syria

Similarly, the Assad regime is trying to reopen the Latakia to Aleppo road coming from the west in Idlib province.

Some Opposition fighters are reported, supported by video evidence, to be back in Ariha, a key town on the route,HERE:  and shelling the Syrian Army with one of their own captured tanks from Mount 40 above Ariha, HERE:

In Aleppo province Opposition fighters have been bombing the main checkpoint at Kharabrash near the entrance to the Military Research Base and incredible video has emerged of people in Aleppo city “going shopping” as they cross the frontline in droves under the nose of a tower based Assad sniper, here:


In the southern Deraa province ongoing clashes are reported around the perimeter of the base of Brigade 5 near Inkhell and in Damascus there is an fierce Army offensive against the Opposition held suburbs of  Barzeh, Daraya and Muaddamiya, supported  by frequent airstrikes.

Government forces are also reported to have penetrated into the suburb of Shebaa, which would give them access to East Ghouta and cut off Douma.  Opposition fighters are resisting the advance as best they can.

This bus journey filmed through the Damascus suburb of Qaboun gives you some idea of the terrible and typical destruction to be found now throughout Syria, HERE:

Lastly, reports are coming in of continued fighting between the Jihadists of the Al-Nusra Front (ANF) and The Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) on one side and Kurdish militia  on the other in Hassakah province to the far north.

The Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG) is said to have this morning, Wednesday, to have pushed the Jihadists out of the village of Aluk, to the east of the border town with Turkey of Ras al-Ain. 4 days of fighting has left 21 dead on both sides.

The Syrian National Coalition (SNC) has just voted to give more seats on their council to the Kurds, in the hope that this will strengthen cooperation between the Kurdish militias, who are pursuing a policy of independence in the north-east, and the less extreme Free Syrian Army (FSA).

A FSA Woman Fighter in Deraa


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