Amidst all the fury about the alleged chemical attack on Douma on Sunday, it is impossible to hold on to one single vital fact.
There have been two previous occasions when chemical weapons attacks had resulted in actual or threatened US military action. The first was in 2013 in East Ghouta, the second was in 2017 in Khan Sheikhoun.
On both those occasions the Jihadis after the alleged attacks retained control of the alleged crime scene, ie. of the place where the chemical weapons attack was supposed to have happened.
In the case of the alleged crime scene in Douma the situation is however different.
As a result of the total surrender of the Jihadis previously in control of Douma on Sunday, it is the Russian military who this time are in control of the alleged crime scene.
This has put the Russians in a position where for the first time they are able both to invite the OPCW inspectors to attend the crime scene and to provide them with protection if they are there, whilst at the same time monitoring and supervising their work.
If the chemical attack on Douma really is fictitious – as the Russians insist it is – then for the first time their control of the crime scene puts the Russians in a strong position to prove it.
The point was made forcefully by Russia’s UN ambassador Vassily Nebenzia at the UN Security Council session today, and it also received indirect backing from the UN Secretariat, who admitted that they could not confirm that a chemical weapons attack had happened, and who called upon all sides to show restraint until a proper investigation of the incident had taken place.
Nebenzia followed this up by inviting OPCW inspectors to the scene as early as tomorrow Tuesday.
By now it should surprise no-one that the fact that the Russians are in control of the crime scene and may on this occasion be able to prove conclusively that no chemical weapons attack happened in Douma, instead of deterring a US attack, is actually making it more likely.
This is because the credibility of the various ‘witnesses’ to the Douma attack – who are of course the same witnesses who were previously ‘witnesses’ to the 2013 East Ghouta and the 2017 Khan Sheikhoun attacks – is now on the line, as is the credibility of those Western governments – first and foremost the US government – who believed or who pretended to believe them.
I would add that not only is the credibility of the US government and of other Western governments on the line. So is the credibility of Western journalists who also believed or pretended to believe the ‘witnesses’.
On any logic, since what actually happened in Douma is unconfirmed and disputed, and since the conditions for an objective investigation this time are there, the correct and proper thing to do is for no action to be taken until that investigation has taken place.
The reason that logic is not being followed, and why against all reason a military strike is likely, is because those who want a military strike do not want an objective investigation to take place, which might expose them as having acted previously on a false basis.
In other words, the military strike is not intended to punish the perpetrators of the alleged chemical strike in Douma. It is intended to make an objective investigation impossible.
There is something genuinely bizarre about the latest threatened military strike.
The Battle of East Ghouta is over. The Jihadis there – following their capitulation in Douma – have lost. A military strike now really would be a case of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted, and its military rationale appears to be non-existent. Moreover Donald Trump – the man who is supposed to be the President of the United States – was only a few days ago saying that US troops would be withdrawn from Syria “very soon”.
Yet the US looks likely to launch a military strike – one which the Russians are warning risks dangerous escalation – not because it has any clear policy which requires such a strike, but because it is alarmed by a possible loss of face.
When a nuclear powered superpower launches military strikes for such frivolous reasons the situation in the world has become very bad and dangerous indeed.