Russia says it has evidence Islamic rebels, not Assad regime used poison gas in attack
Meanwhile, Russia, China sending warships to region.
Russia has released a report that claims rebels, not Assad is responsible for a chemical weapons attack in Syria that killed 26 people. The Russian government has sent the report to the UN amid deliberations in the U.S. over striking Syria.
The Russians believe it is the rebels, not the regime, that is using chemical weapons against civilians.
The Russian report is 100 pages long and details the evidence accumulated by investigators. With Syria in turmoil, it is certainly possible that rebels could have access to some of that nation's chemical weapons stockpiles.
While a summary of the report was announced, the details have not yet been released to the media. The report was delivered in July, a month before the deadly Aug. 21 attacks in Damascus that has the U.S. preparing to strike in retaliation.
Rebels have been accused of using chemical weapons before, however the evidence is subject to debate. It is unclear if the Russian report provides more definitive evidence.
In Damascus, the U.S., Britain, and France say they have clear evidence the Assad regime is responsible for the attacks. According the U.S. officials, regime forces deployed small quantities of the gas as tests before the main attack. The main attack seems to have been delivered by chemical shelling and possibly rockets sometime between 2:00 and 3:00 am, local time when most residents were asleep.
For hours afterwards, opposition forces reported the telltale signs of the attacks including a rotten egg-and-vinegar smell and victims who died with no apparent wounds and survivors who were foaming at the mouth and spasms.
According to U.S. intelligence intercepts, regime forces mentioned the attacks as their own.
Following these attacks, the U.S. has lead a charge to punish the Assad regime with "limited strikes" and it appears increasingly likely those strikes will occur as the Senate and Congress prepare to debate the merits of them. Initial signals from Congressional leaders suggests they will authorize strikes.
Aside from the moral and legal implications of a strike, there is vast potential for unintended consequences. Both Syria and Iran have sworn retaliation against any attacks, and both have mentioned they may attack Israel as a proxy for the U.S.
Israel has also vowed to defend itself.
Russia has moved additional warships to the Mediterranean and according to Russian news reports, China has also sent a warship. Other Chinese ships may be in the region.
The outcome of a short-term strike is hardly in doubt. U.S. technological ability and sheer military might is substantial. Syria will be hammered as lightly or as hard as the Obama administration wishes and the world can do little to stop it.
However, the potential of the conflict to spill across borders and to involve major powers such as Russia and China is troubling. While those countries may be content to "observe" for the moment, there is no guarantee they will not become involved in some way, even if by accident.
Meanwhile, the Russians are promoting their report that they claim proves the rebels, not the Assad regime, are using poison gas against civilians.
The rest of the world is urging the U.S. to refrain and to pursue a diplomatic solution. Despite this, President Obama and key decision makers in Congress seem bent on a strike, no matter the risk.
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