TOO many questions remain unanswered before the US-UK-Danish-Australian explanation of the slaughter of Syrian troops in Deir el-Zour can be accepted.
None of the Nato air forces operating in Syria in defiance of international law and the country’s lawful government has any record of military intervention in support of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA). Yet, had they really intended to target Islamic State (Isis) forces, as they claim, this could only have been to the benefit of the SAA and the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
The government-held town of Deir el-Zour is under siege by Isis, which controls most of the province of the same name, and is supplied with food and other essential materials by air.
A concerted bombing exercise could have taken place against Isis units in the province without risking harm to the town’s civilian population and their SAA defenders. Why target positions on the Tharda mountain which overlooks the town and its lifeline airport?
The scale of the aerial onslaught against the SAA defensive positions assisted an Isis advance and temporary occupation of Tharda before the death-cult forces were driven off it by Syrian troops backed by air support.
Were Isis forces aware beforehand, as President Assad alleges, that air strikes would take place, offering them the chance to capture Tharda and install heavy weaponry to threaten the airport and town?
The US often criticises Russian warplanes for hitting so-called moderate opposition forces linked to Washington even though these groups collaborate with al-Qaida affiliate Jabhat al Nusra, now renamed Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, and are indistinguishable from it.
But it then expects to be believed when it suggests that confusing SAA defensive positions for terrorists besieging Deir el-Zour was an honest mistake.
US refusal to honour its commitment to ensure that rebel groups, for which it vouches as “moderate,” distance themselves from the Isis and Jabhat Fatah al-Sham extremist groups is not an academic issue.
Washington provides state-of-the-art armaments to its surrogates on the ground, including anti-tank rockets and surface-to-air missiles.
These weapons have routinely found their way into the hands of Isis and Fatah al-Sham. This reality is acknowledged and regretted by the US, but its failure to prevent underground rearmament of these extremist groups must lead to its motives — and those of its closest allies — being questioned.
Apart from doubts surrounding the choice of Deir el-Zour as a target, the timing of the raids — just two days before the scheduled end of a week-long ceasefire when Moscow and Washington were supposed to finalise joint attacks on both terrorist outfits — arouses suspicions too.
Rather than drawing up plans with the Kremlin, US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power roundly abused her Russian counterpart Vitaly Churkin for demanding an emergency UN security council meeting.
She must have been following orders or she would have been in trouble with Secretary of State John Kerry — and she wasn’t.
Kerry insinuated that the Deir el-Zour bombing happened because no joint US-Russian co-ordination centre has been set up yet and urged Moscow to compel Assad to accept “humanitarian assistance” convoys into rebel-held east Aleppo. But he knows full well that convoys were prevented from entering the city by US-allied elements refusing to accept a ceasefire and, in fact, attacking Russian and Syrian forces engaged on preparing a safe thoroughfare into Aleppo.
Kerry’s undying hostility to the Assad regime — far and away above his claimed opposition to Isis and Fatah al-Sham — posts huge doubts against the Obama administration’s alleged determination to rid the region of these terrorist groups.