UN Syria shenanigans already breaking down as Russians dispute that Assad was to blame for Damascus gas attack

Curious that they’d agree that he should disarm in the wake of the Damascus attack if they sincerely believe he’s innocent of it, no? Just like it’s curious that they’d agree the UN is the proper forum for resolving Assad’s disarmament if they sincerely believe its findings on his WMD are “politicized” and “one sided.”

Nah, just kidding. This is, of course, theater for western dummies:

Russia denounced U.N. investigators’ findings on a poison gas attack in Syria as preconceived and tainted by politics on Wednesday, stepping up its criticism of a report Western nations said proved President Bashar al-Assad’s forces were responsible…

“We are disappointed, to put it mildly, about the approach taken by the U.N. secretariat and the U.N. inspectors, who prepared the report selectively and incompletely,” deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told the state-run Russian news agency RIA in Damascus.

“Without receiving a full picture of what is happening here, it is impossible to call the nature of the conclusions reached by the U.N. experts … anything but politicised, preconceived and one-sided,” Ryabkov said after talks with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem.

They know Assad won’t disarm, which in turn means sooner or later the U.S. might ask the Security Council for a Chapter VII authorization to use force. Here’s their way of impugning the credibility of the process in anticipation of inevitably vetoing that authorization later.

It is true that the new UN report on the Damascus attack doesn’t explicitly blame one side or the other, but the NYT has a nifty analysis today explaning that, if you read the technical details in the report closely, it’s obvious where the missiles containing the gas were launched. And that in turn makes it obvious which side is responsible:

The inspectors, instructed to investigate the attack but not to assign blame, nonetheless listed the precise compass directions of flight for two rocket strikes that appeared to lead back toward the government’s elite redoubt in Damascus, Mount Qasioun, which overlooks and protects neighborhoods and Mr. Assad’s presidential palace and where his Republican Guard and the army’s powerful Fourth Division are entrenched.

“It is the center of gravity of the regime,” said Elias Hanna, a retired general in the Lebanese Army and a lecturer on strategy and geopolitics at the American University of Beirut. “It is the core of the regime.”…

The map that Mr. Lyons and Human Rights Watch prepared, and a similar map made by The Times with no consultation or exchange of information, suggested that gas-filled rockets, which sailed over central Damascus and landed in civilian neighborhoods, originated “from the direction of the Republican Guard 104th Brigade,” which occupies a large base on the mountain’s western side…

“When you fire it from such a place, it means that you don’t care if fingers will be pointed to you in some period of time,” General Hanna said.

That last bit is the only surprising thing about the attack. Assad has, as he must, maintained his innocence in the Damascus gassing publicly, just because it might be a bit too brazen a violation of Obama’s “red line” for him to start crowing, “Yup, I did it.” But launching the missiles from an impregnable regime power base instead of some more plausibly deniable locale is all but an admission to experts who know how to trace missile trajectories. If he’s worried enough about a U.S. attack to play along with Russia’s disarmament charade, why didn’t he do a bit more to make it look like it might have been the rebels who were behind the gassing? If Obama hadn’t chickened out about the domestic politics of hitting Syria without congressional approval, Assad might very well be dead now thanks to an American smart bomb. His posture on all this is a weird mix of steadfastly denying blame but barely denying it.

Speaking of domestic politics, the Russian “reset” has finally reached its predictable conclusion with the American public — but not for the reason you might think:


After 15 years of pretend friendship, people are ready to join Mitt Romney and stop pretending. It’s not because of the Syria standoff, though. I figured the last straw for Americans was watching Putin spend the last few weeks de-pantsing President Bumbefark on the world stage, but no: Per Gallup, 72 percent endorse the phony Russian plan to disarm Assad (i.e. to keep the U.S. out of another messy war) and 50 percent say Putin’s participation was mostly helpful versus just 36 percent who disagree. The rising antagonism is due to public irritation with Russia for sheltering Edward Snowden (of those who’ve heard about it, the split is 25/64 in disapproving) and for its new anti-gay policies (13/69 disapproval among those who are familiar with the subject). We’ve reached the point of war weariness, I guess, where watching Russia protect a degenerate who’s firing off gas-tipped missiles at civilians is less of an annoyance than them granting a visa to an American whose defenders treat him as a civil libertarian hero. Interesting times.

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