Led strike raises questions about what's next in Syria strategy
Apr 20, 2018, 00:46
The U.S. and France say they have evidence that poison gas was used in the April 7 attack in Douma, killing at least 40 people, and that Syrian President Bashar Assad's military was behind it.
And in London, British Prime Minister Theresa May was to face an emergency parliamentary debate Monday over her country's part in the operation.
Saturday's air strikes were the first coordinated Western strikes against President Bashar al-Assad's government in a seven-year war that has killed more than 500,000 people and drawn in global powers and neighbouring states. However, the USA, U.K., and France remained adamant in their resolve to discipline the Syrian government after the attack, while they also attempted to accommodate Russian Federation and its stance on the attack.
The three Syrian targets ultimately chosen were involved in the "research, development and deployment" of chemical weapons, the Pentagon said.
The four nations confronted each other in tense emergency talks at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague as inspectors prepare for a hard and risky mission.
Earlier on Tuesday, Syrian state television reported that the experts from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons had entered Douma.
But U.S. officials familiar with U.S. military planning said Russian Federation and Iran were never seriously considered as targets.
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Damascus and Moscow have broadcast statements from hospital workers in Douma - which medical aid groups operating in rebel areas have dismissed as propaganda - saying that no chemical attack took place.
Syria and Russian Federation deny unleashing poison gas on April 7 during their offensive on Douma, which ended with the recapture of the town that had been the last rebel stronghold near the capital, Damascus.
However, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the United Nations has "provided the necessary clearances for the OPCW team to go about its work in Douma".
United States officials have raised concerns that Russian Federation may have tampered with the site while inspectors were denied access.
The Associated Press, during a government-organized visit Monday to Douma, spoke to survivors and witnesses who described being hit by gas.
All its 192 member states are required to destroy their existing stockpiles of chemical weapons and stop large-scale production.
Douma was the last town to hold out in the besieged eastern Ghouta enclave, the last big rebel bastion near the capital Damascus, which was captured by a government advance over the past two months.
But on Wednesday, OPCW said that's not what happened.
British journalist Robert Fisk, writing in The Independent, says when he visited the site in Douma his questions about the attack were met with "genuine perplexity".
One source told Reuters the advance team had "encountered a security issue" during the visit to Douma, including gunfire which led to the delay.
And shadow attorney general Baroness Chakrabarti questioned the Government's justification for the airstrikes, telling BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "You can't use force under worldwide law just to punish Syria for bad behaviour". "Russia and Syria must cooperate".
Officials said "millions" of computers worldwide had been targeted in operations created to "support espionage.and potentially lay a foundation for future offensive operations". Saudi Arabia is also a member of the US -led coalition battling IS militants. On a joint mission with the United Nations, the organization arranged for the transport of all chemical weapons the Syrian government had declared for disposal overseas.
Also, it's worth noting that no matter which party is found to have been blamed for the deaths in Douma, that so far, neither sanctions nor missile strikes have prevented the use of chemical weapons in the war.
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