Images speak louder than thousands of words
The war in Syria has strong propagandistic aspect, which is underestimated by the West but plays the significant role in the Assad-Putin alliance. Assad started to experience strong disadvantage in the propagandistic war when activists around the world begun to picture him with blood on his hand. Moreover, he was depicted with blood on his hands together with his staunch ally Vladimir Putin. Certainly, Putin, carefully managing his public image, could not afford this. However, it didn't make him drop his support to Assad.
Moreover, the public campaign against carnage in Syria made feel uncomfortable not only Putin. It had devastating implications for the morale of Assad’s forces – important defections on the different levels have followed.
No Blood, No Blame?
The solution was found. As everything genial, it was simple. It was an exclusion of such visual element of carnage as blood.
Chemical weapons are much more deadly.” than usual, but at the same time, they are devoid of such potentially high visual propagandistic element as blood. Instead of bloody mess, one can now see “young children’s corpses lying perfectly still and seemingly asleep…” It 's hard to make use of this picture for depicting Assad as a bloody despot. There is no blood in the picture.
Moreover, the chemical substance causing death is quickly evaporating. It is necessary just to withstand keeping off the UN fact-finding mission a couple of days, and there is nothing that would indicate a use of a deadly gas agent against the civilians.
To further confuse the situation, Assad creates his profile on the Instagram, promoted first by the Russian oligarch-owner of The Independent, which has nothing in common with the reality of war and genocidal attacks against the own people.
Smoke and mirrors of Russia’s propaganda and diplomacy efforts
Immediately after the deadly attack on 21 August, the main Moscow’s propagandistic weapon 'Russia Today' conveyed the message that in fact, it was the Syrian opposition who used the chemical weapon against the civilians.
On the other level, at the UN Russia in advance managed to lobby a limited mandate for the UN fact-finding mission, which now “is simply to determine whether chemical weapons have been used, not to establish who ordered the attacks”. The sterilized UN mission mandate, by promoting impunity, in fact, provoked a new chemical attack. At her turn, Russia successfully managed to dilute the UN response to the new chemical attack by editing the UN Statement in Assad’s favor.