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Saturday, April 21, 2018

United States, France and United Kingdom launch attack against Syria

Por Rory

"Mission accomplished," President Donald Trump said on the military attack he ordered overnight against Syria. "It was a perfectly executed attack," he added. The United States, with the support of France and the United Kingdom, launched joint military action in response to the alleged use of chemical weapons in Douma by the government of Bashar al-Assad.

The offensive, limited to one night, was announced by President Donald Trump in a televised message on Friday night, in which he assured that it was "precision attacks against targets related to the chemical weapons capabilities of the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.” France and the United Kingdom confirmed that they also supported the action of the United States in Syria. This Saturday, Trump tweeted, thanking both countries for "their wisdom and the power of their excellent armed forces." Trump added: "Very proud of our great armed forces."

Russian President Vladimir Putin described the attacks as an act of aggression and called for an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council. Earlier, Russia had warned of a war with the United States if this happened, responded through his ambassador in Washington that "such actions will not be without consequences. All responsibility falls on Washington, London and Paris." For his part, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, the other ally of Syria, called the leaders of the United States, the United Kingdom and France "criminals", adding that they would not gain anything from the attack. Meanwhile, Al Asad's government, which denies having used chemical weapons, denounced "a flagrant violation of international law."

President Emmanuel Macron said that, for France, the use of chemical weapons had crossed a red line. British Prime Minister Theresa May said the attacks sent a clear message to the government of Syria and to anyone else who believed they could use chemical weapons with impunity. Although some opposition parliamentarians criticized that the military response had not been debated and that the prime minister was only following the orders of Donald Trump, May assured that the joint action of the United Kingdom, USA and France had been "correct and legal". "I think it's fair that the international community has acted united and said that we will not accept this."

In Damascus, explosions and smoke were reported in the vicinity, mainly in the district of Barzeh, while Syrian state television claimed that government forces confronted the attack with anti-aircraft defenses and shot down several missiles. The president of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States, Joseph Dunford, pointed out the three main objectives: A scientific research facility in Damascus allegedly connected to the production of chemical and biological weapons. A chemical weapons storage facility west of the city of Homs and a warehouse of alleged chemical weapons equipment and an important command post, also near Homs. Dunford, who confirmed that Tomahawk missiles were used in the attacks, added that Russia was not notified in advance about the attacks, although he indicated that measures were taken not to bomb targets of Moscow in Syria.

However, on Saturday morning, the French Interior Ministry contradicted the US military high command by claiming that Moscow had been alerted prior to operations. In fact, the Syrian government assured that it had evacuated the objectives of the attack by a warning from the Russians. The Russian Ministry of Defense estimated that about 100 missiles were launched during the operation and that "a significant number" of them were intercepted while Iran, another ally of Syria, also warned that there would be "consequences".

The order given by Trump responds to the alleged chemical weapons attack last Saturday in the area of Douma, on the outskirts of Damascus, which accused the government of Bashar al-Assad and that Russia considers a montage. When Trump had announced his intention to attack Syria this week, Russia responded that it would shoot down any missiles and attack the platforms from which they were launched. US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, however, indicated that there was no information of military casualties or downed aircraft from his country, France or the United Kingdom; although he reiterated that it was preliminary data. According to the Pentagon chief, no new operations were planned in Syria after the attacks against precise targets.

Hours before the attack, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said his country had "irrefutable proof" that Al Assad's alleged use of chemical weapons was a mounting of foreign agents. A day before, the Russian ambassador to the United Nations, Vasili Nebenzia, warned that the possibility of an armed conflict between his country and the United States could not be ruled out, if Washington decided to launch an attack on Syria, like this Friday. President Emmanuel Macron, who on Thursday said he had proof of Al Assad's chemical attack, said the aim of the actions was to destroy "clandestine chemical weapons arsenals" of the Syrian government. Meanwhile, the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, indicated that the decision "had no other alternatives" and that the attacks were limited and designed not to intensify tensions in the region. Mattis had previously warned Congress that a potential action against Damascus could trigger "escalation out of control" so he said one of his biggest concerns is to prevent this from happening.

A team of experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons arrived in Syria from Thursday to investigate what happened and was scheduled to begin operations on the ground next Saturday, the Dutch-based agency said in a statement. Chemical weapons are prohibited by international law and on several occasions the Syrian government has been accused of using them in cities taken by rebels during the internal conflict that has lasted more than seven years.

The international community has reacted in a varied way. NATO Secretary General Jen Stoltenberg tweeted his support for Western allies. He said that those who used chemical weapons "should take responsibility for their actions."I support the actions of the United States, the United Kingdom and France against the chemical weapons facilities and capabilities of the Syrian regime," Stoltenberg tweeted. "NATO considers the use of chemical weapons unacceptable, and those who use them should take responsibility for their actions," he added.

The Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, expressed her support, calling the necessary and proportional response. The Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, also expressed the support of his country. John McCain, chairman of the US Senate Armed Services Committee and a Republican who has often been critical of Trump, applauded the president for taking military action against Syria. On the other hand, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, warned the members of the UN about their responsibilities. "There is an obligation, particularly when it comes to matters of peace and security, to act consistently with the Charter of the United Nations and with international law in general," he said. "I urge all Member States to show control in these dangerous circumstances," he added.