Joe Lauria / Consortium News& teleSUR – 2018-04-16 00:51:35
Trump Attacks Syria With Chemical Experts on the Way
Joe Lauria / Special to Consortium News
(April 13, 2018) — President Donald Trump on Saturday (Syria time) ordered air strikes against Syria in retaliation for an alleged chemical weapons attack last weekend outside Damascus.
“I ordered the United States armed forces to launch precision strikes on targets associated with the chemical weapon capabilities of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad,” Trump said from the White House.
The strikes were carried out together with Britain and France, he said. CNN reported explosions at a research facility near Damascus. At a news conference later, Pentagon officials said this “phase” of the missile strikes against three so-called chemical research targets, one in the center of the Syrian capital, were completed and “no additional attacks are planned.”
US officials said Russia had been told of the military operation but Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, told the press briefing Friday night (Washington time) that Moscow was not informed of the Syrian targets. Russia had vowed to shoot down incoming US and allied missiles as Russian military personnel are embedded with the Syrian Arab army at various locations in the country.
US military analysts say the US wanted to avoid hitting Russian targets, but once unleashed, military action can lead to unintended consequences.
Pentagon officials said they only had reports that Syrian, but not Russian, anti-missile defenses had been engaged. Whether any US missiles or planes were hit would be made plain on Saturday morning in Washington, they said.
OPCW Team Was on the Way
A team of experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons was on its way to Syria after accepting an invitation from the Syrian government to study soil and other samples in Duma, the Damascus suburb where the alleged attack took place.
It’s not clear whether the US-led operation would complicate their mission as the team was due to arrive later on Saturday. It is also not certain whether the timing of the US-led attack was intended to prevent the team from gathering evidence to prove whether or not chemicals were used. The OPCW does not assess blame.
Trump had threatened earlier in the week, in perhaps his strangest Tweet yet, to send “smart” and “clean” missile strikes into Syria to attack “Animal Assad.” He also blamed Russia for supporting Assad, which may have been intended to get critics, who accuse him of being a Putin puppet, off his back. Indeed this latest display of American militarism may also be driven by Trump’s anti-Russian critics.
Trump had backed off his threat when it was revealed that his aides had not yet agreed to the attack.
In April 2017 the US fired 59 cruise missiles at a Syrian airbase that Washington believed was used to carry out a chemical attack. US Defense Secretary James Mattis later said the US did not have concrete evidence that Syria was responsible.
No Proof Made Public
Likewise no public proof has been offered that Syria was behind the alleged chemical attack last weekend in Duma, where as many as 70 people may have been killed.
The gas allegedly used in the Duma attack is chlorine. In 2014 Syria was certified by the OPCW to have given up its entire chemical weapons arsenal in a deal with the United States and Russia. The chemicals were destroyed on a US Navy ship.
Chlorine, however, is not on the OPCW list of banned chemicals, and is not classified as a chemical weapon. Any country, including Syria, is allowed to possess it, but cannot use it as a weapon. US officials know this but say incorrectly that Russia had failed to give up chemical stocks that were on the OPCW banned list.
The military strikes were, as usual, egged on by influential US pundits, some masquerading as reporters. Christiane Amanpour said on CNN after the attack was launched that Russia had stopped President Obama from attacking Syria by agreeing to eliminate its chemical weapons.
“The allies have been forced into this,” Amanpour said, adding that they had no choice. “Russia promised that they would remove Syrian chemical weapons but they have chlorine,” she said, clearly uniformed that it was a joint-US-Russia operation and that chlorine is not classified as a chemical weapon.
Consortium News this week published two pieces calling on Trump to obtain evidence of Syria’s guilt and legal authorization before launching an act of war. The US has neither demonstrated that it is acting in self-defense nor did it get UN Security Council approval, making tonight’s actions clearly illegal.
Nor has Trump received authorization from Congress, making it illegal under US law. Several Congressmen complained of this after the attack, but Dunford told the Pentagon briefing that Trump acted legally because US interests were involved.
UN Security Council Rejects
Russian Proposal for Peace in Syria
Russian Ambassador to the UN
Vassily Nebenzia asked the United States:
“Why didn’t you wait for the outcome
of the investigation you called for?”
NEW YORK (April 14, 2018) — Russia’s proposal to resolve Friday’s military strikes orchestrated by the United States, Britain and France against Syria has been rejected by the UN Security Council.
The northern power had drafted a resolution condemning the “aggression” and calling for restrictions, which would prevent the tri-national force from further missile attacks. However, out of the nine votes needed to pass, Russia only received three votes, leaving Syria at the mercy of the tri-powers.
The 15-member council met on Saturday at Russia’s request: the fifth time it has met regarding Syria since a suspected deadly poison gas attack in the Syrian town of Doumaa week ago. The United States, France and Britain fired 105 missiles overnight in retaliation, targeting Syria’s chemical weapons program.
“I spoke to the president this morning and he said: ‘If the Syrian regime uses this poisonous gas again, the United States is locked and loaded,'” US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said, adding that when the president “draws a red line,” he enforces it.
Russia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Vassily Nebenzia denounced the West’s actions as “hooliganism” and demanded an end to the military attacks and any future aggressions: “You are not only placing yourselves above international law, but you are trying to re-write international law,” Nebenzia said.
International investigators from the global chemical weapons watchdog arrived in Syria to start their inquiry on Saturday into the suspected toxic gas attack. Russia and Syria have said there was no evidence of a chemical weapons attack, but the United States remains adamant.
Eight countries voted against the Russian-drafted text on Saturday. Chile, Russia and Bolivia voted in favor, while Peru, Kazakhstan, Ethiopia and Equatorial Guinea abstained. A resolution needs nine votes in favor, and no vetoes by Russia, China, France, Britain or the United States to pass.
From the VIII Summit of the Americas, Bolivia’s President Evo Morales called the United States the greatest threat to world peace and global stability, urging the nation radically change its policies toward Latin America.
“The main threat against freedom, against democracy, against Mother Earth and against multilateralism is the USA . . . I am not afraid to say it openly and openly,” Morales said Saturday from Lima, Peru.
France, the United States and Britain planned to put forward a new draft resolution aimed at dismantling Syria’s chemical weapons program, wiping out terrorism, demanding a ceasefire across Syria and finding a political solution to the conflict, French UN Ambassador Francois Delattre told the council on Saturday.
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