Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem on Thursday denied his government used chemical weapons on a rebel-held town in the Idlib province.
“I stress to you once again: the Syrian army has not, did not, and will not use this kind of weapons – not just against our own people, but even against the terrorists that are targeting our civilians indiscriminately,” Muallem said at a press conference in Damascus, as reported by Al-Jazeera.Muallem went on to give the same account of the incident that Russia has insisted upon, claiming that Syrian warplanes “attacked an arms depot belonging to al-Nusra Front,” which is al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria.
.. The Foreign Minister claimed the Nusra Front, ISIS, and other organizations “continue to store chemical weapons in urban and residential areas.”
For years, at least since it began shelling neighborhoods with artillery in 2012, then bombing them from helicopters and later from jets, the Syrian government has adopted a policy of seeking total victory by making life as miserable as possible for anyone living in areas outside its control.
.. Government forces have been herding defeated opponents from across the country into Idlib Province, where the chemical attack occurred. Starved and bombed out of their enclaves, they are bused under lopsided surrender deals to the province, where Qaeda-linked groups maintain a presence the Syrian military uses as an excuse to bomb without regard for the safety of civilians.
.. such extreme tactics aimed to demonstrate the government’s impunity and to demoralize its foes.
.. “Militarily, there is no need,” said Bente Scheller, the Middle East director of the Berlin-based Heinrich Böll Foundation. “But it spreads the message: You are at our mercy. Don’t ask for international law. You see, it doesn’t protect even a child.”
.. Syria’s foreign minister challenged accounts by witnesses, experts and world leaders that his government was involved. “I stress to you once again: The Syrian Army has not, did not and will not use this kind of weapons — not just against our own people, but even against the terrorists that attack our civilians with their mortar rounds,” the minister, Walid al-Moallem, said in Damascus.
.. But the denial, as well as a Russian assertion that a bomb hit a chemical weapons depot controlled by the rebels, seemed perfunctory, almost without regard to the facts
.. recent statements by American officials that it was time to accept the “political reality” of Mr. Assad’s grip on power.
By showing it puts no limits on the tactics it uses, Mr. Yazigi wrote, “the regime shows to the world the West’s impotence and weakness.”
.. After Mr. Trump came into office, proclaiming a wish to work with Russia and maybe even Mr. Assad against the Islamic State, expectations grew that the international community would accept relegitimizing Mr. Assad. And last week came the statements from Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson and the ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki R. Haley, indicating effectively that Washington could accept Mr. Assad remaining in power.
.. On Monday, Western officials were gathering in Brussels to weigh billions of dollars in reconstruction aid to the Assad government