‘As if out of nowhere, a Russian general announces that if the United States strikes Central Damascus (Syria) with an aerial attack, the Russians would retaliate.
It had appeared at the start of this year that the possibility of an American attack on Syrian government targets— a serious possibility in 2013 and 2014—was now off the table. It appeared that the Syrian government, with Russian and Iranian support, would soon take the last remaining strongholds of the opposition, now mainly reduced to one form of extremist or another. The capture of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, was the sign of the turnaround. Each time the Syrian government forces encircled the opposition, largely extremist fighters, it would cut a deal and send them off to the province of Idlib in the north of Syria. No major attempt to overthrow the Syrian government of Bashar Assad seemed possible.
In meetings, the Syrian government’s officials routinely told the Russians and the Iranians that they would triumph in this war. Negotiations became difficult because it now appeared that there would barely be enough Syrian opposition leaders to fill the chairs on the other side of the table. There was serious disagreement amongst these allies, with the Russians being most focused on getting a political path laid out between the Syrian government and the various Syrian opposition groups (except the hardened extremists, now largely encircled in Idlib).
It is at this moment that the conversation about chemical weapons is back on the table. An unpublished United Nations report suggests the trade in chemical weapons between North Korea and Syria. What has come out of the report indicates that the evidence from this comes from a Western country that does not want to reveal its identity. It makes the report rather fishy. There are also claims about the use of chemical weapons in the current phase of the war, which might provide the pretext for a quick bombing raid by the United States on Damascus. In April 2017, the Trump administration launched cruise missiles at Syrian government targets. They said it was in retaliation for the use of chemical weapons. US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross intimated that the strike was ‘after dinner entertainment’. There appeared to be a great deal of cynicism around the 2017 strike. Nothing was said of it later.’