Syria’s political landscape continues to evolve rapidly, with Russia launching a diplomatic offensive to establish that the opposition was responsible for the deadly August 21 chemical weapon strike amid fierce infighting in the anti-government camp where al-Qaeda linked militants have taken yet another step to rout the western-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA).
In a sharp-tongued interview with Russia Today (RT), Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Sergei Ryabkov rebuked the U.N. inspectors who had collected samples from East Ghouta — an area on the outskirts of Damascus where sarin gas was used to kill hundreds — for deliberately ignoring evidence provided to them by the Syrian government. He also accused the inspectors of pursuing a biased approach by pointing out that they had disregarded samples that the Syrian government had collected from a succession of “tragic episodes”, which apparently took place between August 21-24.
“This is new material — new material for us. But this is not already completely new material for the U.N.,” observed Mr. Ryabkov referring to fresh evidence provided by the Syrian government, which Moscow has now pledged to highlight at the U.N. Security Council.
“This material was discreetly handed over to Ake Salstrom, the head of the U.N. mission of experts here [in Syria] which came to investigate the Ghouta incidents. [Mr.] Salstrom was asked to look into it and eventually factor this new evidence into the final report.
It never happened in fact,” said Mr. Ryabkov. “This is one of the reasons why we criticise the speed with which the report was released… and also an incomplete content of this report”.
As the Russians built a case that was likely to strengthen the Syrian government’s hand, the growing dominance of al-Qaeda-linked groups in the Syrian opposition has come to the fore yet again. After fierce fighting, the al-Qaeda affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has routed the so called “moderate” western- backed FSA in a highly sensitive zone between Turkey and Aleppo , Syria’s largest city, as well as its commercial capital, which has rapidly assumed the appearance a scarred battlefield.
The ISIS militants have overrun the Syrian town of A’zaz near the Turkish border, following fierce clashes with the FSA.
At least five FSA cadres were killed and another 100 detained in the town.
Heavy clashes between the ISIS and the FSA have also been reported in the Al-Bab city, northeast of Aleppo.
Analysts say that the growing assertion of al-Qaeda-affiliated groups, comprising mostly of foreign fighters, bolsters the government’s argument that after over two years of fighting, the revolt in Syria has morphed into a proxy-war, waged by foreign powers.
It is also an indictment of the decision by western governments to arm the opposition, as the supplied weapons are likely to fall in the hands of the al-Qaeda affiliates, further inflaming terrorism in the region.
Coinciding with this, Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad is leading from the front by engaging in a sophisticated media campaign involving American television channels.
After his interview with Charlie Rose on CBS news, the Syrian President has now reached out to the hawkish Fox News network
He told the channel on Wednesday that he was committed to the Geneva agreement between Russia and the United States, which paves the way for the destruction of Syria’s inventory of chemical weapons.
“I think it’s a very complicated operation, technically. And it needs a lot of money, about a billion [dollars],” he said.
“So it depends, you have to ask the experts what they mean by quickly. It has a certain schedule. It needs a year, or maybe a little bit more,” observed the President.
The President also advised his U.S. counterpart, Barack Obama to “follow the common sense” of his people, who are overwhelmingly opposed to a military strike against Syria.