France Mulls Military Action Against Syria For Gas Attacks

by Garry Watts April 16, 2018, 1:47
France Mulls Military Action Against Syria For Gas Attacks

The same officials say Syria has continued to produce or procure chlorine, which also has industrial and agricultural uses.

Earlier on Wednesday, May said all the indications were that the Syrian authorities were responsible for the attack in the town of Douma and that such assaults could not go unchallenged.

Trump has since tempered those remarks and the White House said no final decisions on possible actions had been taken.

Speaking to congress at a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee on Thursday, Mattis said he believed a chemical attack had taken place and blamed Russian Federation for being complicit in Syrian government's possession of chemical weapons.

May has said that Russia's veto at the Security Council of a vote to create a new inquiry on chemical attacks meant the United Nations could have no role in investigations. The Syrian government has been known to use chlorine bombs, along with sarin, a nerve agent developed by Nazi Germany that was used in a 2013 attack that killed almost 1,500 people outside of Damascus.

On the ground in Syria, rebels in Eastern Ghouta surrendered their heavy weapons and their leader left the enclave, signalling the end of one of the bloodiest assaults of the seven-year war and a major win for the Assad regime.

The samples suggested the presence of both chlorine gas and an unnamed nerve agent, two officials said. Trump said Thursday on Twitter.

Syria warned that it will have "no other choice" but to defend itself if the West launches military action.

The Assad regime is known to have stocks of the nerve agent sarin, and has previously used a mixture of chlorine and sarin in attacks, say US officials. Asked if France is planning to participate in retaliatory attacks on Syria, he was noncommittal.

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Echoing the United States stance, France's Ambassador Francois Delattre said Assad's government had reached a "point of no return" with repeated use of chemical weapons.

Asked about the risks of USA military retaliation, Mattis cited two concerns, starting with avoiding civilian casualties.

Rep. Adam Smith, the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, said he sees no legal justification for a US strike in Syria, absent explicit authorization by Congress.

"Until we have a more long-term strategy, until we have some idea where we're going in Syria and the Middle East, it seems unwise, to me, to start launching missiles", said Smith, D-Wash.

"Just imagine the scenario if an American missile shoots down a Russian plane, or vice-a-versa - where do we go from there?"

Theresa May received unanimous cabinet backing for United Kingdom military action against Syrian regime targets after senior ministers were briefed by Sir Mark Sedwill, the national security adviser, on the intelligence case pointing to President Assad's culpability for the Douma attack.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley said no decision had been taken to launch strikes and stressed Washington was taking time to assess the implications of possible military action after Russia warned it could lead to a risky US-Russian war.

"I'm not ready to speculate that that would happen", Mattis said.


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