The Syrian regime of Bashar Assad has installed a crematorium at the notorious Saydnaya military prison outside Damascus in order to destroy the remains of thousands of murdered prisoners, the United States charged May 8. “We believe that the building of a crematorium is an effort to cover up the extent of mass murders taking place in Saydnaya prison,” said Stuart Jones, acting assistant secretary for Near Eastern Affairs. The State Department also released commercial satellite photographs showing what it said is a building in the prison complex that has been modified as a crematorium. Jones said Washington’s information came from “credible humanitarian agencies” and from the US “intelligence community,” and that as many as 50 people per day are thought to be hanged at Saydnaya. In presenting the photographs, Jones said Assad’s regime “has sunk to a new level of depravity” with the support of Russia and Iran.
Jones’ press conference came just as he had returned from the Russia-brokered talks in Kazakhstan on the Syria peace process. The US had been sidelined in the previous round of Kazakhstan talks. Yet Jones’ comments explicitly held Russia responsible for enabling Assad’s atrocities. This continues to raise the question of to what extent the seeming Trump-Putin breach is real, and to what extent the posturing is for appearances’ sake.
As Middle East Eye notes: “The latest satellite photograph presented by Jones dated to January 2015, more than two years ago, and it was not immediately clear why the United States waited to present its evidence.”
Amnesty International earlier this year claimed that 13,000 had been secretly hanged at Saydnaya military prison between 2011 and 2015. Since then, there have only been further signs that the Assad regime has escalated to genocide in its war on the Syrian people—including a systematic extermination of detainees.
So we await the word on the crematorium claim from human rights groups and “credible humanitarian agencies.” We anticipate that the “anti-war” left will merely dismiss the claim as disinformation—a kind of boy-who-cried-wolf syndrome. But regardless of the claim’s credibility, the question remains of why the Trump administration is now making it…