Syria: US, UK and France launch air strikes in response to chemical attack

The Guardian – By Julian Borger/Washington – Fri 13 Apr 2018

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Photo: President Donald Trump speaks at the White House about air strikes on Damascus in response to the Syrian chemical weapons attack
Photograph: Susan Walsh/AP.

President orders armed forces to launch precision strikes on targets associated with chemical weapons in the wake of gas attack on Douma.

Donald Trump has launched air strikes with UK and France that the president said were aimed at the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons facilities in response to Saturday’s poison gas attack in Damascus.

In a televised address from the White House, Trump said that the US and its allies intended to “sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of chemical weapons.”

The president said the attack involved “precision strikes on targets associated with chemical weapons facilities”.

Explosions were reported in Damascus moments after Trump finished finished his seven-minute address, and then more reports came in from around the country of other detonations, making it clear that the air campaign would be significantly more far-reaching than a missile salvo Trump ordered a year ago in response to an earlier chemical weapons attack.

Among the initial targets according to accounts from inside Syria were a branch of a research centre that has been linked to suspected chemical weapons development, several air bases.

US officials said that ship-launched missiles and planes were involved in the attacks, and British officials said that missiles launched from GR4 Tornados warplanes had hit a plant near Homs believed to be used for precursors for making chemical weapons.

The attack came on the eve of a planned visit by inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to the site of Saturday’s chemical weapons attacks. The US, UK and France had announced they had reached their own conclusion that it the Syrian regime was responsible, an accusation denied by Damascus and Russia, which claimed on Friday the attack had been staged by British intelligence.

Trump said that last April’s US missile strike at a desert airbase following an earlier poison gas attack a year ago had not stopped the Syrian regime using chemical weapons. The attacks had continued, culminating in Saturday’s attack in Douma.

“This massacre was a significant escalation in a pattern of chemical weapons use by that very terrible regime,” Trump said. He noted that establishing deterrence against use of such weapons represented “a vital national security interest of the US”.

“We are prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents,” he said. Referring to the Syrian leader, Bashar al-Assad, Trump said. “These are not actions of a man, they are crimes of a monster instead.”

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, confirmed that France was involved in the air strikes, saying the French role would be limited to Syria’s chemical weapons facilities.

“We cannot tolerate the recurring use of chemical weapons, which is an immediate danger for the Syrian people and our collective security,” a statement from the Elysee presidential office said.

In London, Theresa May issued a statement about British participation in the air strikes.

“This evening I have authorised British armed forces to conduct co-ordinated and targeted strikes to degrade the Syrian Regime’s chemical weapons capability and deter their use,” the prime minister said in a written statement from Downing Street.

Like Trump a few minutes earlier, May stressed that the aims of the intervention were limited to stopping chemical weapons use, for humanitarian reasons, and to uphold the international norm outlawing chemical weapon use.

“We have sought to use every possible diplomatic channel to achieve this.But our efforts have been repeatedly thwarted,” May said. “Even this week the Russians vetoed a Resolution at the UN Security Council which would have established an independent investigation into the Douma attack.

“So there is no practicable alternative to the use of force to degrade and deter the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian Regime. This is not about intervening in a civil war. It is not about regime change.”

Trump addressed some of his remarks to the Syrian regime’s principal external backers, Russia and Iran.

“What kind of nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of men, women and children?” he asked. “Russia must decide if it will continue down this dark path or join civilised nations as a force for peace.”

The decision to launch air strikes in response to last Saturday’s chemical weapons attack in a rebel-held district of Damascus is fraught with risks. There are Russian and Iranian forces in bases across Syrian and substantial Russian air defences in the west of the country. Russian officials had threatened to use those defences.

Read entire article here

Posted by Teri Perticone

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