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The White House Says Russia Spread 'False Narratives' About Syria

A declassified White House report claims the Kremlin tried to confuse people about the recent Syrian chemical attacks.
Vladimir Putin holds a press conference on April 11. Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

On Tuesday, the White House National Security Council released a four-page declassified report about the recent chemical attacks in Syria that not only stated it was "confident" the Syrian government was behind the sarin attack, but also accused the Syrian and Russian governments of working together to try to cover the whole thing up.

More specifically, the report says the Kremlin tried to mislead the world about what's really going on in Syria by pushing disinformation, "false narratives," and "a drumbeat of nonsensical claims." According to the New York Times, those accusations revolve around Russia's earlier assertion that the April 4 attack was actually a strike on a terrorist chemical weapons hub, rather than targeted at rebel groups. The report cites video evidence that counters Russia's claim.

It's ironic that the Trump administration would accuse Russia of spreading false information considering the debt the president seemingly owes to Russian propagandists. The FBI is currently investigating the country's alleged involvement in the 2016 election, including Twitter bots that spewed anti-Clinton propaganda during that time.

The report also could be the final blow to US–Russia relations, which have been rapidly deteriorating since the attack last week. After Trump bombed Syria on Wednesday night in retaliation, Russian prime minister Dmitri Medvedev said ties were "completely ruined." Then the Associated Press published a thinly-sourced story about a US official who suspected Russia might have known about the sarin gas attacks in advance—though no officials who spoke to the Times Tuesday would comment on that. Now it's unclear if Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will even meet with Russian president Vladimir Putin during his trip to Moscow this week.

"We hope that the Russian government concludes that they have aligned themselves with an unreliable partner in Bashar al-Assad," he told reporters before his departure. "Is that a long-term alliance that serves Russia's interests? Or would Russia prefer to realign with the United States, with other Western countries and Middle East countries that are seeking to resolve the Syrian crisis?"

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