National security expert weighs in on President Trump's recent strikes on Syria

Apr 20, 2018, 00:49
National security expert weighs in on President Trump's recent strikes on Syria

The last rebels abandoned the town on Saturday, hours after the USA -led missile strikes, leaving government forces in control of the site of the suspected chemical attack.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said after the U.S., British, and French strikes in Syria his country will continue "to move against Iran in Syria".

The United States, Britain and France fired missiles at three Syrian targets on Saturday to punish President Bashar al-Assad for the suspected chemical attack, the first coordinated Western action against Assad in seven years of war.

British Prime Minister Theresa May accused the Syrian government and its ally Russian Federation of trying to cover up evidence and obstruct the investigation.

According to the Pentagon, US intelligence had established that the base was the launchpad for the alleged chemical attack.

Although a United Nations security team was able to access and visit Douma on Tuesday, a chemical weapons fact-finding mission scheduled to probe the site of the alleged attack is still awaiting entry.

The Syrian Central Media said six missiles targeted the Shayrat air base in Homs on Tuesday, adding that Syrian air defenses shot down majority.

"It is our understanding the Russians may have visited the attack site", U.S. Ambassador Kenneth Ward said at an OPCW meeting on Monday, reports Reuters. Hours after the alleged chemical attack, the rebel faction that controlled the town, the Army of Islam, relented and was evacuated along with thousands of residents.

Syria and Russian Federation deny unleashing poison gas on 7 April during their offensive on Douma, which ended with the recapture of the town that had been the last rebel stronghold near the capital, Damascus.

Days before the USA, together with the United Kingdom and France, bombarded targets in Syria in response to a suspected chemical attack, President Trump said the US would get out of Syria "very soon".

"The Syrian government did all that it can do to facilitate the work of this mission".

A United Nations official says a U.N. team on a security mission to the site of a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria was sacked upon and had to return to its base in Damascus.

Inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) travelled to Syria last week to inspect the site, but have yet to gain access to Douma, which is now under government control after the rebels withdrew.

Russian Federation has rejected France's proposal at a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) meeting that called for the launch of an independent investigation over an alleged chemical attack that struck the former rebel-held town of Douma in Syria's Eastern Ghouta.

Even though the OPCW team was not allowed in, the Syrian authorities organised a tour of the town for the foreign press, including Agence France-Presse. Journalists in Damascus were prevented by government minders from contacting the OPCW inspectors, and The Hague-based organization refused to comment on "operational details regarding the Douma deployment". Syria, Iran and Russian Federation blamed Israel for that attack.

On Monday, as the Guardian reported at the time, OPCW attempted to reach the site of the suspected attack in order to carry out an inspection. Activists say at least 40 people were killed. Saudi Arabia is also a member of the USA -led coalition battling ISIS militants.

Additionally, while the use of chemical weapons is prohibited and presents a rather vague red line for some Western leaders - notably, President Donald Trump - far more people have died via conventional weapons and warfare in Syria since the start of the unrest there in 2011, resulting in over half a million deaths and the displacement of millions.

The conclusion contrasts with the Trump administration's assertion that the strikes on Saturday hit at the heart of Assad's chemical weapons programme, language suggesting that Assad's ability to stage more attacks had been dealt a devastating blow.

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