The White House issued its most threatening statement yet yesterday, denouncing Iran and the Lebanese Shia movement Hezbollah as "partners in tyranny" for their support of the Assad regime in Syria.
This week, Syrian government forces claimed victory in the battle for the strategic town of Qusayr, near the Lebanese border, after weeks of fighting beginning May 19. Qusayr lies along a land corridor linking Damascus and the Mediterranean coastal area that is home to Assad's Alawite sect and is, at the same time, key to maintaining opposition supply lines to Lebanon.
The battle involved Lebanon's Shia Hezbollah militants in support of Assad, pitched against the numerous Sunni groups such as the Al Qaeda-affiliated Al Nusra Front and other foreign fighters backed by the region's Sunni states.
White House spokesman Jay Carney responded by condemning "in the strongest possible terms the Assad regime's assault on Qusayr," adding: "It is clear that the regime is unable to contest the opposition's control of a place like Qusayr on their own, and that is why they are dependent on Hezbollah and Iran to do their work for them."
After being routed from Qusayr, the leader of the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army, Gen. Salim Idris, told the BBC that Hezbollah fighters were "invading" Syria, and "when they continue to do that and the Lebanese authorities don't take any action to stop them coming to Syria, I think we are allowed to fight Hezbollah fighters inside [Lebanese] territory."
He made good on his word Wednesday night, as a dozen rockets fired from Syria hit areas in and around the Lebanese city of Baalbek, injuring a number of people. Lebanon's National News Agency said 11 rockets hit various locations, including the city centre.
In another effort to escalate the war, opposition fighters seized the Syrian-controlled section of the Quneitra crossing in the Golan Heights bordering Israel. Austria announced that it was withdrawing its 380 troops from the 1,000-strong United Nations force monitoring a ceasefire between Syria and Israel. Tel Aviv declared the border area a closed military zone, shut the main road link and evacuated farmers. The border area was reclaimed by the Syrian Army, but not before three mortars had landed in Israeli territory.
Tensions have been whipped up throughout the week by the US and its allies. The past days were dominated by allegations emanating from France and Britain of chemical weapon use by the Assad regime, in a transparent effort to supply a pretext for stepped-up military aggression.
In Paris Tuesday, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said he had passed analyses to identify military toxins to the head of a United Nations inquiry into chemical weapon use in Syria. "These analyses demonstrate the presence of sarin gas," he claimed. "In view of this evidence, France is now certain that sarin gas has been used in Syria several times and in a localized manner."
President Francois Hollande later echoed Fabius, declaring, "We have elements of proof and we urge the international community to act."
Both stressed that France would not act unilaterally and would hold talks with Washington. Their concern is that peace negotiations planned to be held in Geneva should not be too openly exposed as a fiction, given the stress being placed by the Obama administration on neutralising Russian opposition to the fall of its main Middle East ally.
"A line has been indisputably breached," said Fabius and France and its allies must decide "whether to react, including in an armed manner" But at the same time we must not block an eventual peace conference."
The conference will not now take place this month, as planned, and will meet in July, if at all.
France's announcement was meant to reinforce the more tentative findings of a UN commission of enquiry on human rights abuses that cited "reasonable evidence" of chemical weapons being used in Syria on four occasions in March and April but without attributing blame.
Britain's Foreign Office also said that body fluids collected from victims of one or more attacks in Syria were found by scientists at its Porton Down facility to contain evidence of sarin use.
There is every reason to question any claim made by France or the UK, given their record of lies to justify wars in the Balkans and Iraq -- more so because the claims made now are insubstantial and without independent verification.
Some of the blood samples used by France were smuggled out of Syria by Le Monde journalists and reportedly supplied by local doctors. There were no details on how France obtained other samples used. In only one case has Fabius claimed that the use of sarin is directly attributed to government forces, saying there was "no doubt that it was the regime and its accomplices."
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