© TASSA Russian surface-to-air S-300 missile system during a military drill by Russian forces last year.
First, a brief recap of events leading up developments in the last couple of days. The September 9th ceasefire failed because the U.S. couldn't or wouldn't convince its moderate jihadis to separate from its radical jihadis. Those same jihadis:
  1. refused to accept the ceasefire,
  2. refused to accept humanitarian aid unless it was on their terms (not those outlined in the U.S.-Russia agreement),
  3. reaffirmed their allegiance to al-Qaeda, and
  4. continued their attacks on Syrian troops and civilians.
On top of this, the U.S. bombed Syrian troops, and it (or its jihadis) bombed a humanitarian aid convoy, both of which they then blamed on the Syrian and/or Russian military.

All of this proved two things:
  1. the U.S. and their proxies were responsible for the failure of the ceasefire,
  2. the moderates are no different than the extremists.
Both of which justified the revivified offensive on eastern Aleppo, which is held by designated terrorist group al-Nusra/al-Qaeda, and their affiliates. Like it or not, this is the logic of war. If one side refuses a truce, the other side cannot be expected to unilaterally cease fire and expose themselves and their civilians to undefended attacks.

Rather than take responsibility, the U.S. then went on the information warfare offensive, conveniently sidestepping the fact that its own failure justified the renewed offensive. Instead, it focused on allegations that the Russians and Syrians targeted civilians in eastern Aleppo, in the vain hope that moral outrage would be enough to demonize Russia and Syria... and make them stop? By doing so, the Americans also conveniently deflected attention from their own double standards, hypocrisy, and deliberate omissions and falsifications.

aleppo war
© Zain Karam/Reuters'Moderates' moderately killing civilians in Aleppo in 2012
We know that the source of most of the atrocity stories in the news are sourced from Western-backed NGOs (e.g., "SOHR" and the White Helmets) with an interest in portraying al-Nusra as the good guys and Russia/Syria as the bad guys. In fact, many of those sources are al-Nusra members themselves, who definitely have such an interest. But they do have a point: civilians are undoubtedly killed and injured in airstrikes targeting militants. Again, this is the cynical but inescapable logic of warfare: civilians get caught in the crossfire, especially in a war zone like Aleppo, which is essentially one large residential area. But here's what gets left unsaid:

Double standards: The U.S. called an emergency UN Security Council over the renewed fighting and airstrikes. They conveniently ignore the fact that they conduct the same type of warfare in Iraq (e.g., Fallujah) and Syria (e.g., Manbij) - besieging a terrorist-held city and saturating it with airstrikes that result in many civilian deaths. The U.S. and its vassals also target hospitals, schools, and residential areas, whether deliberately or not (e.g., Kunduz, Yemen, eastern Ukraine). And, of course, their moderate jihadists do likewise. (see this video report from today).

Hypocrisy: It doesn't bother the U.S. when they're the ones doing it. And it doesn't bother them when their jihadis are the ones doing it. There is no moral outrage for the fact that their jihadis target residential areas, hospitals and schools with hellfire canons, mortars and sniper fire. No moral outrage for the fact that they have publicly aligned with al-Qaeda. No moral outrage for the fact that they are holding civilians hostage and using them as human shields (the very thing that Israel often accuses Hamas of doing, thus justifying civilian casualties).

Omissions: They neglect to mention that the Russians and Syrians have arguably taken every step short of surrender in order to avoid civilian deaths. They held up to their end of the ceasefire agreement for the agreed-upon week, despite constant violations from the rebel side. By and large, Russia has refrained from targeting any residential areas, focusing their airstrikes solely on identifiable command outposts, militant convoys, etc. The Syrians have a longstanding amnesty policy that has been successfully used on countless occasions: militants are free to give up their weapons and reintegrate into Syrian society (if they're actually Syrian - foreigners are to be expelled), or keep their weapons and be moved to a different position on the front, e.g., in Idlib or Hama. Civilians are urged to avoid militants and the areas they use, and have been provided with numerous corridors through which they can travel to western Aleppo, where they are provided with aid and shelter.

Russian 'war crimes' and American 'collateral damage': A tale of two narratives

US support Nusra
Also omitted are the most basic facts of the situation in eastern Aleppo: that it is held by a designated terrorist group, that civilians are prevented from leaving by those same terrorists, that the terrorists regularly target residential areas (including hospitals) in western Aleppo and kill civilians. To allege that the Syrians and Russians deliberately target civilians is pure atrocity propaganda and psychological projection.

In fact, if the U.S. generals were the ones running the operation to liberate eastern Aleppo, the situation would be worse, for the simple fact that, to them, civilians are seen purely as 'collateral damage'. As was the case in Fallujah in 2003, we would be seeing more airstrikes and more civilian deaths. In fact, what led to the Iraqi resistance (not foreign-backed terrorists) taking over that city - and thus 'justifying' its obliteration by the Americans - were repeated, deliberate US military attacks on unarmed demonstrators against the US invasion.

By contrast, the Syrian Army does not benefit by killing civilians, and it has a societal and existential incentive not to do so: the last thing they need is more Syrians joining al-Qaeda because of grievances and a desire for revenge. Again, that doesn't mean civilians are not killed and wounded. Civilians always are. America's wars, past and present - none of which have resulted in any legal/punitive consequences - are a testament to that fact.

aleppo map
© South FrontThe 'Aleppo cauldron', where US-backed terrorists are surrounded by govt and Kurdish forces
In fact, if we think about it further, Russian military intervention in Syria cannot actually be compared with American military intervention in Iraq. It's not just that it's 'collateral damage when the Americans do it', and 'war crimes when the Russians do it'; the things each side is 'doing' are very different. Russia is in Syria to do what it says it is doing - eradicating a terrorist scourge from urban centers. Russia has set a precedent for doing what it says it is doing. It had to flatten the Chechen capital Grozny (most of the population had already fled) to eradicate the terrorist scourge there 15 years ago. It received a lot of flak for that in the Western media, but no one disputes that Chechnya has since been rebuilt and is flourishing.

When the Americans conduct airstrikes against foreign urban centers, they have a track record of doing so as part of a campaign to intentionally target civilian infrastructure, as in Serbia in 1999, or Iraq in 2003. Here, it's justified as 'collateral damage' in service of a 'higher political goal' - regime change. And yet, when Russians target terrorist sites, unintentionally damaging civilian quarters in the process, it's 'war crimes'. Not only are the appropriate terms switched in each case, the terms mask two fundamentally different motivations.

In sum, the Americans get only one thing right: what is happening in eastern Aleppo is a tragedy. It should never have happened in the first place. But these crocodile tears are shallower and saltier than the disappearing Aral Sea. US influence could cut off the funding and supply lines to these terrorists. Given American reluctance to exercise such influence, what can the Syrians and Russians possibly do any differently? They tried a ceasefire: the "rebels" in the city refused to cease firing. Syria and Russia cannot unilaterally cease firing indefinitely. That is suicide, and would only result in al-Qaeda, ISIS and all the rest launching their own offensives in Aleppo and elsewhere, taking even more territory and killing countless Syrian troops and civilians in the process. Is that, in fact, what the U.S. wants? (Rhetorical question!)

In the midst of the renewed fighting, and the West's crocodile tears, events are moving fast. The U.S. officially 'unfriended' Russia, cutting off all military contacts regarding Syria. As Russian UN envoy Vitaly Churkin put it, this is regrettable, because "there's no alternative". The U.S. has thrown diplomacy and negotiations out the window, which is rich coming from the very party that showed itself to be unable to keep its own promises. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights wants to revoke Russia's UNSC veto so that the UN can take Assad to the Hague. That is unprecedented, and just goes to show how desperate the U.S. is now that it is actually losing a proxy war.

Almost immediately after the announcement, as if on cue, suicide bombers detonated themselves in Hama and at a wedding in Hasakah, killing 30 and injuring 90. Hasakah, along with Deir ez-Zor, is one of the key eastern cities in Syria essential to the creation of a "Salafist principality" there. Coincidentally, Hasakah and Deir ez-Zor are the only two cities in the east that still have a substantial Syrian army presence; they're also the only two cities in which Syrian troops have been targeted by the U.S. coalition. In Damascus, jihadi rebels shelled the Russian embassy, which is the second time that has happened in the last year. The Russian Ministry responded:
We view this shelling of the Russian embassy as a consequence of actions of those who, like the US and its allies, provoke the violent conflict in Syria, flirting with militants and extremists of different sorts.

Fox News broke the story that Russia had deployed its S-300 anti-missile defense system to the naval base in Tartus, Syria. The Russian Defense Ministry confirmed the news, stating that it is "intended to ensure the safety of the naval base." The U.S. intel community had been "observing" the shipment inside Russia "in recent weeks". Western media pundits and talking heads were left scratching their heads, uncertain of Moscow's motives, while pointing out that the S-300 can defend against American cruise missile attacks.
While the purpose is not clear, one US official asked sarcastically, "Nusra doesn't have an air force do they?" speaking about the Al Qaeda-linked group in Syria. The Islamic State also does not fly any manned aircraft or possess cruise missiles, in a sign that Russia is directing its actions to protect itself against any potential attack from the United States or its allies.
But, as we saw in Deir ez-Zor, Nusra and ISIS do have an air force: the US/NATO Air Force. White House spokesman Josh Earnest was typically dense:
"I am aware of recent reports that that kind of military equipment has been transferred to Syria... this equipment contradicts President Putin's own claims that their efforts in Syria are focused on extremists," Earnest told reporters. "I'm not aware that ISIL [Daesh] or al-Qaeda in Syria is operating aircraft there."
Butter wouldn't melt in this dude's mouth. Obviously the S-300 system, and the S-400 system further north in Latakia, are to protect against the U.S. and its allies, and any belligerent attempts to set up a Libya-style 'no-fly zone'.

Meanwhile, the Russian Duma is set to ratify an agreement with the Syrian government to keep its air force contingent at Khmeimim airbase on an unlimited basis. Putin had submitted the draft agreement on August 9, and if the Duma ratifies it, the Upper House will look into it on October 12. As for the original agreement, signed in Damascus on August 26 of last year:
The document was published on Russia's web portal for official government documents on January 14 of this year when Yevgeniy Buzhinskiy, the former head of the Defense Ministry's directorate for international agreements, told reporters that this is the first time such an agreement has been declassified and made public so soon after signing. Previously, documents of this type had remained secret for decades.
This comes in addition to the transfer of additional jet fighters to Khmeimim, and unsubstantiated rumors that Russia is ready to send thousands of special forces to Syria.

On the Americans' part, according to the U.S.-backed SDF (composed predominantly of Kurdish fighters), the U.S. is building another (illegal) airfield in northern Syria to supply SDF forces in the planned offensive on Raqqa (for which Turkey may send jets).

According to Secretary General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg, NATO plans to deploy AWACS to Syria, another illegal move by the arch-criminal protection racket known as NATO.

France and Spain proposed for the UNSC to salvage the ceasefire deal by immediately halting the air campaign over eastern Aleppo. As if leaving al-Nusra in eastern Aleppo alone is the solution. It would be funny if it weren't so infuriating. The U.S. violates the ceasefire, and Russia and Syria take all the heat for fighting terrorism. White House mouthpiece John Earnest even had the gall to say: "Everybody's patience with Russia has run out." Village idiot John Kirby confused Russia and the U.S.: "Unfortunately, Russia failed to live up to its own commitments."

Meanwhile, the Red Cross and Red Crescent will continue their work in Syria, despite the breakdown in U.S.-Russia communications. Yes, they're already working in Syria; the Syrian government has no problem with humanitarian aid deliveries. But the fact that the jihadis in eastern Aleppo make it impossible to deliver aid is the perfect excuse to blame Assad.

John Kerry is up to his usual antics, pretending to want peace: "We are not giving up on the Syrian people, we are not abandoning the pursuit of peace, we are not going to leave the multilateral field, we are going to continue to try to find a way forward in order to end this war." That's right, peace through terrorism. The Syrian people are SO thankful, Kerry.

British caretaker prime minister Theresa May summoned up unprecedented levels of hypocritical British condescension:
"The levels of violence we are seeing, the way the Syrian regime is indiscriminately bombing its own civilians and their policy of starve or surrender, that seems to make a political solution at the moment impossible. We need humanitarian aid to get through to people who are in absolutely desperate need in Syria and we need a political transition to a Syria without Assad."
She's right about something: a political solution is impossible as long as countries like the U.S., UK, Saudi Arabia and Qatar continue to back jihadists, pretend they're moderates, and berate Assad for attacking them. And humanitarian aid is essential, but tell that to your jihadists, May.

In the face of this constant stream of malicious invective, the Russians somehow manage to stay professional. Lavrov:
"We are not giving up and will spare no effort to have the UN Security Council resolutions [on Syria] implemented," Lavrov was cited as saying by Tass. "We believe the International Syria Support Group can and must play a major, leading role in it," he added.

Regrettably, from the very beginning, there have been many, including those in the US administration, seeking to ruin those agreements," he said. "And it's even more regrettable that yesterday it was achieved by those who oppose political settlement of the Syrian crisis, oppose the implementation of the relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council, and who openly seek to employ a force scenario."
Maria Zakharova reiterated Lavrov's main point, and made even more explicit some of the things that have only previously been spoken of in that strange art of diplomatic language:
"The problem is that for the whole time we were involved in Russian-American negotiations... we realized very clearly that the US had no joint position. Different organizations, different structures in Washington were taking different positions on what's going on Syria. They had absolutely different views," Zakharova said. The Americans "were changing their opinion and their point of view on what's going on in Syria, actually, every day... Probably, that was the main reason why they failed in fulfilling those agreements that we achieved," she added.
According to the spokeswoman, the Americans "told us that they have no possibilities to influence the moderate opposition." Both key tasks [separation of moderates, pull-back from Castello road] concerning the implementation of the ceasefire "failed and it wasn't our fault," she added.
"Actually, we're not sure that moderate opposition still exists. Because these guys, who were fighting for many months as Jabhat al-Nusra - with the same weapons, using same methods - hardly could be called moderate opposition. But we respected [HK: past tense] our American colleagues, who were insisting that these guys are still moderate," she said.
It took some for the US and its allies to realize "that Syria isn't a field for their games. Syria is a real threat because it became a field for terrorists," but Russia's efforts paid off with the creation of the 20-member International Syria Support Group (ISSG).
Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov was just as explicit:
"Is it not time for our US partners to publicly admit that almost all of the 'opposition' it nurtures and controls in Syria is an integral part of one 'umbrella brand': al-Qaeda - al-Nusra Front?"
Finally, just for laughs: