The deal with the Syrian government for the remaining armed militants to leave the embattled city of Douma after losing to Syrian forces took effect before the chemical attack allegedly occurred. Assad had no reason to use chemical weapons in a battle that had already been won, diplomats explained to Sputnik News this week. Nevertheless, the New York Times reports that chemical warfare was used for military reasons.
"A New York Times review of more than 20 videos of its aftermath, an examination of flight records compiled by citizen observers and interviews with a dozen residents, medics and rescue workers suggest that during a military push to break the will of Douma's rebels, pro-government forces dropped charges bearing some kind of chemical compound that suffocated at least 43 people and left many more struggling to breathe," according to an April 11 NYT report.
But the anti-Assad forces had already agreed to leave, as Alfred de Zayas, a retired high-ranking UN official and the UN Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order, told Radio Sputnik's Loud & Clear Thursday.
"The New York Times is another example of fake news and manipulation of public opinion," de Zayas said.
"When you bring in the issue of motive, Assad has zero motive to use chemical weapons. I'm quite sure that having been attacked a year ago by the United States with 59 Tomahawks, he knows that there are consequences. For me, it was quite clear that having won against the rebels, about the only possibility for the rebels to bring the US, UK and France back in to support them is to create a situation where the outrage of the West against the use of chemical weapons would do the trick for them."
"They have already lost. But now the French and the Brits and the Americans are going to devastate Damascus. Human life is important… carrying out any military attack on Syria is going to add to the tragedy."
Doubts about the claim that Assad used chemical weapons have started to pour in after US President Donald Trump declared definitively that the alleged attack had earned the Syrian president the title of "Animal Assad."
Pentagon chief James Mattis acknowledged Thursday that since "we don't have troops, we're not engaged on the ground there… I cannot tell you that we have evidence" that chlorine or Sarin was deployed in Douma.
The United Nations' Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, explained at the UN Security Council's emergency meeting on Monday that while he had seen photos and social media reports indicating people were suffering from the effects of chemical weapons. According to the UN's recap of the special envoy's remarks, "While the United Nations was not in a position to verify those reports, [de Mistura] said, 'it cannot ignore them.'"
Peter Ford, former British ambassador to Syria, told Sputnik Radio's Loud & Clear Assad probably isn't guilty of using chemical weapons in Douma. "The idea that Assad would — having virtually reconquered Eastern Ghouta — wait until the end of this very successful recovery operation to launch a completely unnecessary attack on a bunch of civilians… Really, you have to be totally naïve to believe Assad would see any advantage in this," the former diplomat said Wednesday.