Military option takes lead in Syria, as diplomacy suffers
The US and its European allies weigh how to punish Damascus regime for chemical attack
12 April, 2018
The UN Security Council's fiasco last week to set up international investigations into chemical weapons attacks in Syria, opened the door for a military response aimed to punish the regime of President Bashar Assad. At least 60 people were killed and more than 1,000 injured in suspected chemical weapons attack on 7 April in the town of Douma, according to a Syrian relief group.The Security Council failed to approve three draft resolutions on chemical attacks, as Russia vetoed a US text, while two Russian-drafted resolutions didn't get a minimum nine votes to pass. So diplomats left the arms to act.The US President Donald Trump tweeted on Wednesday that he will direct an air strike at Syria, blaming the Kremlin for its support of Syrian President. “Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and 'smart!' You shouldn't be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!”, Trump wrote on Twitter. He noted that US relationship with Russia is worse now than it has ever been, including the Cold War era. But at the same time, he added: “There is no reason for this. Russia needs us to help with their economy, something that would be very easy to do, and we need all nations to work together. Stop the arms race?” The Russian foreign ministry responded in a Facebook post, saying “smart missiles should fly toward terrorists, not legal government.” Russia's military has propped up Assad's regime as it wages a multiway war against both the so-called Islamic State and various anti-government forces. Both Syria and Russia have said reports of the attack were fabricated by rebels and rescue workers in the town, and have accused the US of seeking to use it as a pretext to attack the government in Damascus.Meanwhile, Russian news agencies reported last Thursday that Syrian government forces have raised their flag over the last rebel bastion in Eastern Ghouta, taking full control of the town of Douma as insurgents withdraw. Eastern Ghouta had been the biggest rebel stronghold near Damascus, but insurgent groups there surrendered after a series of ferocious government assaults aided by Russia under a massive bombardment.Trump's plans for strike on Syria came only week after the White House announced that the US military mission in Syria “is coming to a rapid end”, observers noted. That was just before the chemical attack. Trump last year ordered a strike against Assad, following a deadly sarin gas attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun. The US Navy launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles from destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean, targeting Shayrat air base, its aircraft, ammunition supply bunkers, air defence systems and radars. But the strike was limited and designed to not draw America into the chaos of Syria's bloody civil war.
Syrian Arab News Agency shows President Bashar Assad (L) receiving Ali Akbar Velayati (R), a top adviser to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Damascus, 12 April.
A handout photo made available by the US Navy shows the guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook departing Larnaca, Cyprus, 9 April.
People walk amongst destruction in the Zamalka town, Eastern Ghouta, recaptured by the Syrian government during a military offensive against rebels, 11 April.