US President Trump ordered a military attack against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Friday, joining allies Britain and France in launching missile strikes in retaliation for what Western nations said was the deliberate gassing of Syrian civilians.
Corporate Dispatch in collaboration with Diplomatique.Expert is following the developments as they unfold.
Theresa May told MPs that there was clear evidence that the Assad government was behind the Douma chemical weapons attack and it was “legally and morally right” for the UK to join air strikes against the Syrian regime to prevent “further human suffering”. She emphasised that the UK had “explored every diplomatic channel” in response but regrettably decided there was no alternative to “limited, carefully targeted action”.
Updated : Russia to allow OPCW inspectors on Wednesday
Russia said that chemical weapons inspectors in Syria will be permitted to visit the site of an alleged chemical attack, on Wednesday. A representative of Russia’s military said late Monday that OPCW inspectors would be permitted to travel to Douma on Wednesday.
On Monday, Washington and London accused Moscow of blocking the nine OPCW inspectors from reaching the alleged gas attack site and said Russians or Syrians may have tampered with evidence there. Moscow denied the charge and blamed delays on retaliatory U.S.-led missile strikes on Syria on Saturday.
Updated : Berlusconi weighs in on the air strikes on Syria
In a letter published on Il Corriere della Sera, Silvio Berlusconi argues that Russia’s direct intervention prevented Syria from repeating what happened in Libya with Gaddafi: the dramatic errors of the West on that occasion produced a catastrophe of which the Libyans still pay the consequences, sunk into a bloody chaos , but also we Italians, victims of the dramatic recovery of illegal immigration that our government had managed to block thanks to agreements with Gaddafi. As such his view is that Russia needs to be seen as a partner rather than an enemy in this regard.
Updated: Pope Francis urges common action
Pope Francis told the faithful in St. Peter’s Square that he is “deeply disturbed” by the international community’s failure to come up with a common response to the crisis in Syria and other parts of the world.
Updated : Macron’s stance criticised
France 24 reports that Macron drew criticism Saturday from the far-left to the far-right. Far-right leader Marine Le Pen tweeted that the strikes expose France to “unpredictable and potentially dramatic consequences,” and criticised Macron for not taking an “independent” stance.
Updated : USA, UK and France pushing for irreversible end to Syria’s chemical weapon’s programme.
CNN reports that the United States, the United Kingdom and France are pushing for an “irreversible” end to Syria’s chemical weapons programme, amid furious recriminations from Russia over the effectiveness and legality of a wave of US-led missile strikes on Syrian targets.
UN diplomats shared with CNN a new resolution, led by France and backed by the US and the UK, calling for an independent investigation into the suspected chemical weapons attack inside Syria that precipitated the cruise missile strikes unleashed by the Western allies Friday.
Now having gone on longer than World War II, the war in Syria is causing profound effects beyond the country’s borders, with many Syrians having left their homes to seek safety elsewhere in Syria or beyond. The conflict which started off with a peaceful uprising, riding the wave of the 2011 Arab Springs has evolved into a Civil War and, in its own way a global war.
Updated : Article by Boris Johnson
In an opinion piece published by The Telegraph, the UK Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Boris Johnson said that there is a very simple reason why it was right for the UK to join its closest allies in launching strikes against the Assad military machine. “This is about our collective future. It is about the kind of world we want our children to grow up in. It is about – and exclusively about – whether the world should tolerate the repeated use of chemical weapons and the human suffering they cause.”
Updated : Russia threats to wage dirty campaign against Britain’s elite.
The Sunday Times reports that Russia threats to wage dirty campaign against Britain’s elite. Spy chiefs are braced for a Russian revenge attack in which Kremlin-backed hackers release embarrassing information on ministers, MPs and other high-profile people. Theresa May has received intelligence risk assessments since the nerve-agent attack in Salisbury that the Putin regime could hit back with “kompromat” (compromising material) on members of her cabinet.
Updated : UK publishes its legal documents supporting its position
Air strikes on Syria were legally justified on humanitarian grounds, government documents say. The British Government published the legal position document it had, and which led to the air strikes.
Updated : Trump’s actions gather support but strategy is questioned
A chorus of voices across the American political spectrum expressed support for Trump’s latest strikes, but criticized the lack of a broader U.S. Syria strategy that could end the seven-year war – with or without Assad.
Commentators questioned the message behind the latest strike – which signalled that Western allies would not let a chemical weapons attack go without punishment – but demurred about deeper involvement when barrel bombs by the Assad government kill far greater numbers of Syrians.
“To succeed in the long run, we need a comprehensive strategy for Syria and the entire region,” Republican Senator John McCain said in a statement after the latest strikes.
Updated : Russia’s resolution defeated
Russian resolution at the UN security council condemning the air strikes met with a stinging diplomatic defeat. Moscow gained support from only two other countries, China and Bolivia. Four council members – Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Peru and Equitorial Guinea – abstained, while the remaining eight members voted against. After the vote the Russian envoy, Vassily Nebenzia said “Today is a very sad day for the world, the UN, its charter, which was blatantly, blatantly violated.”
Updated : Theresa May faces criticism
The Guardian reports that Theresa May is facing a furious backlash from MPs after she ordered UK forces to join the US and France in targeted airstrikes on Syrian chemical weapons facilities early – without having gained the consent of parliament.
Updated : Syria’s Opposition reacts
The Syrian opposition said Western strikes on Saturday would not change the course of the seven-year-old war as the army said it would crush remaining rebel parts of the country. Rebels and opposition politicians said the Western powers should also hit Assad’s conventional weapons which have killed many more people during the war.
Some insurgent officials said they feared an onslaught against the rebel bastion of Idlib, which a senior Iranian official has indicated could be the next target.
“Maybe the regime will not use chemical weapons again, but it will not hesitate to use weapons,” opposition leader Nasr al-Hariri said.
Updated : UN Security Council
The United States is “locked and loaded” to strike again if Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad’s government again uses chemical weapons, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told the Security Council on Saturday. “We are confident that we have crippled Syria’s chemical weapons program. We are prepared to sustain this pressure, if the Syrian regime is foolish enough to test our will,” she said. “If the Syrian regime uses this poison gas again, the United States is locked and loaded,” Haley said.
Source : Reuters
Updated : Russia submits UN resolution
Russia proposed a draft United Nations Security Council resolution on Saturday, seen by Reuters, that would condemn “the aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic by the U.S. and its allies in violation of international law and the U.N. Charter.”
It was not immediately clear when it could be put to a vote. It was unlikely to get the minimum nine votes needed to force a veto by the United States, France or Britain, said diplomats. A resolution needs nine votes in favour and no vetoes by Russia, China, France, Britain or the United States to pass.
Updated : France declassifies intelligence report
In a rather unprecedented move, one of the allies which took part in last night’s air strikes on Syria, published the intelligence report on the basis of which decisions were taken. The report concludes that “On the basis of the overall assessment and on the intelligence collected by our (French) services, and in the absence to date of chemical samples analysed by our own laboratories, France therefore considers (i) that, beyond possible doubt, a chemical attack was carried out against civilians at Douma on 7 April 2018; and (ii) that there is no plausible scenario other than that of an attack by Syrian armed forces as part of a wider offensive in the Eastern Ghouta enclave.
Updated : Saturday Pentagon Briefing
The aim of the Air Strikes on Syria was to significantly impact the Syrian regimes ability to develop, deploy and use chemical weapons in the future. 105 weapons against three targets were used specifically for this aim. During a briefing at the Pentagon, Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the director of the Joint Staff, said that the coordinated strikes which struck targets in Syria overnight will set the country’s chemical weapons capability back “for years.”
Updated Italy’s reaction
Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said that Italy did not participate in the attack in Syria. According to news agency ANSA, Gentiloni said that the Italian Government insisted and clarified that the logistical support we provide to the United States, in this regard, could not in any way translate into the fact where the direct actions aimed at to hit Syria leave from the Italian territory.
Gentiloni added that “It is not the moment of escalation, it is time to ban chemical weapons, diplomacy and work to give Syria stability and pluralism after seven years of a tormented and terrible conflict”.
Updated : China’s reaction
Beijing has voiced opposition to US-led airstrikes against Syrian military targets and called for talks. It also claimed that the operation had complicated the Syrian crisis and efforts to find a solution.
“Any unilateral military action violates the United Nations charter and its principles and international law and its principles. [The strike] is also going to add more factors to complicate the resolution of the Syrian crisis,” Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a statement on Saturday afternoon.
Updated : Hezbollah’s reaction
Syrian News Agency SANA reports that Lebanese Hezbollah strongly condemned the US, British and French tripartite brutal aggression on Syria at dawn on Saturday.
In a statement, the Party said that the tripartite aggression constitutes a flagrant violation of the Syrian sovereignty and a clear support to the Israeli latest aggression on Syria.
Updated : Syria’s reaction
Syria’s Foreign Ministry described the joint US, UK and French airstrikes as a “flagrant violation of international law and the principals of UN charter.”
Syria called on the international community to strongly condemn this aggression, which will lead to nothing but the igniting of tensions around the world and pose a threat to international peace and security as a whole,” the Ministry said.
Updated : Putin calls for urgent meeting of the UN Security Council
Russian President, Vladimir Putin called for an immediate United Nations Security Council meeting to discuss the “aggressive actions” of the United States and its allies, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said in a statement Saturday.
Updated : NATO to meet this afternoon
CNN reports that following the trilateral airstrikes launched in Syria, a meeting of the North Atlantic Council (NAC) will be held Saturday afternoon, a NATO official tells CNN. France, the United Kingdom and the United States will brief allies on actions taken in Syria, the official said.
The NAC is the most important decision-making body within NATO. It is made up of representatives of the Allies, including ambassadors, ministers, and heads of state and government. There is no voting or decision by majority.
Updated with comments from Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon
Commenting on Facebook , Scottish First Minister said “My first thoughts this morning are with service personnel called to action. Syria’s use of chemical weapons is sickening – but the question that the PM has not answered is how this action, taken without parliamentary approval, will halt their use or bring long term peace.
Air strikes have not resolved situation in Syria so far – nothing I’ve heard persuades me they will do so now. An international strategy for peace must be pursued – not a course that risks dangerous escalation. UK foreign policy should be set by Parliament, not the US President.”
Updated with comments from EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker
As the European Commission has stated, the use of chemical weapons is unacceptable in any circumstances and must be condemned in the strongest terms. The international community has the responsibility to identify and hold accountable those responsible of any attack with chemical weapons.
This was not the first time that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons against civilians but it must be the last.
As it enters its 8th year of conflict, Syria desperately needs a lasting ceasefire respected by all parties that paves the way for achieving a negotiated political solution through the United Nations-led Geneva process, to bring peace to the country once and for all. After the suffering they have endured, Syrians deserve nothing less.
Updated with comments from UK’s Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn
The UK Labour Party’s leader said that bombs won’t save lives or bring about peace. This legally questionable action risks escalating further, as US defence secretary James Mattis has admitted, an already devastating conflict and therefore makes real accountability for war crimes and use of chemical weapons less, not more likely. He added that “Britain should be playing a leadership role to bring about a ceasefire in the conflict, not taking instructions from Washington and putting British military personnel in harm’s way. His view was that Theresa May should have sought parliamentary approval, not trailed after Donald Trump. The Government should do whatever possible to push Russia and the United States to agree to an independent UN-led investigation of last weekend’s horrific chemical weapons attack so that those responsible can be held to account.
Updated with comments from briefing delivered by UK Prime Minister Theresa May.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May addressed the press at her office in 10 Downing Street following the allies air strikes that took place in Syria. In her briefing, Ms May said that the air strikes took place after the failure of all possible diplomatic avenues. Efforts with international partners to build evidence were also taken.
She said that the UK knows that the Syrian regime has an abhorrent record of using chemical weapons against its own people.
Theresa May said that she believes this action was necessary and it was the right thing for the UK to do. “We’ve been working with our allies and partners to make a full assessment of what happened on the ground, then to consider what action was necessary. Then to do that in a timely fashion. One of the gravest decisions a prime minister can take is to send our service personnel into action, into combat. We owe it to them we protect their safety and security.”
Updated with reactions from Vladimir Putin and Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
Russian President Vladimir Putin has denounced a strike on Syria launched by the US and its allies as an “act of aggression” that will exacerbate humanitarian catastrophe in Syria.
In a statement issued by the Kremlin, the Russian leader says Moscow is calling an emergency meeting of the United Nations’ Security Council over the strike launched by the US, Britain and France.
Putin added that the strike had a “destructive influence on the entire system of international relations”.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, condemned Saturday’s US-led airstrikes on Syria. “I clearly declare that the US president, the French president and the UK prime minister are criminals and have committed a crime.”
President Trump ordered a military attack against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Friday, joining allies Britain and France in launching missile strikes in retaliation for what Western nations said was the deliberate gassing of Syrian civilians.
Trump announced the strikes in an address to the nation Friday evening. “The purpose of our action tonight is to establish a strong deterrent” against the production and use of chemical weapons, he said, describing the issue as vital to national security.
Trump added that the United States is prepared “to sustain this response” until its aims are met.
Trump asked both Russia and Iran, backers of Assad, “what kind of nation wants to be associated” with mass murder and suggested that someday the United States might be able to “get along” with both if they change their position.
UK’s Prime Minister Theresa May said that the fact of this attack should surprise no-one. The Syrian Regime has a history of using chemical weapons against its own people in the most cruel and abhorrent way. And a significant body of information including intelligence indicates the Syrian Regime is responsible for this latest attack. This persistent pattern of behaviour must be stopped – not just to protect innocent people in Syria from the horrific deaths and casualties caused by chemical weapons but also because we cannot allow the erosion of the international norm that prevents the use of these weapons.”
She added that “we have sought to use every possible diplomatic channel to achieve this. But our efforts have been repeatedly thwarted. Even this week the Russians vetoed a Resolution at the UN Security Council which would have established an independent investigation into the Douma attack. So there is no practicable alternative to the use of force to degrade and deter the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian Regime.”
French President Emmanuel Macron said “our response has been limited to hitting the capacities of the Syrian regime that permit the production and use of chemical weapons. We cannot tolerate the trivialization of chemical weapons, which is an immediate danger for the Syrian people and our collective security. This is the direction of the diplomatic initiatives put forward by France at the United Nations Security Council.”
He added that “as from today, France and its partners will renew their efforts at the United Nations to allow the establishment of an international mechanism to establish responsibility, prevent impunity and prevent any recurrence by the Syrian regime.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Saturday that the aggression on Syria targeted a sovereign state that has tried to return to life after years of terrorist aggression.
During the briefing in Pentagon Defense Secretary James N. Mattis and Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said that “As the world knows, the Syrian people have suffered terribly under the prolonged brutality of the Assad regime,” the secretary said. “On April 7, the regime decided to again defy the norms of civilized people showing callous disregard for international law by using chemical weapons to murder women, children and other innocents. We and our allies find these atrocities inexcusable.”
The strikes hit Syrian leader Bashar Assad’s chemical weapon research, development and production facilities. The strikes tonight were far harder than the ones last year, when the United States launched 58 missiles against the Shayrat air base following a chemical attack. “Obviously, the Assad regime did not get the message last year,” Mattis said.
The strikes now send a very clear message to Syrian leaders “that they should not perpetrate another chemical weapons attack for which they will be held accountable,” the secretary said. The three nations forces were integrated throughout the planning and execution of the operation, Dunford said. “The targets that were struck and destroyed were specifically associated with the Syrian regime chemical weapons program,” the chairman said.
Syrian state media said U.S.-led air strikes caused material damage only at a scientific research center in the Barzeh district of Damascus on Friday. The attack destroyed a building that includes a learning center and laboratories. The missiles that targeted a military position in Homs were thwarted and diverted from their path, and injured three civilians.
Canada supports the decision by the United States, the United Kingdom, and France to take action to degrade the Assad regime’s ability to launch chemical weapons attacks against its own people,” said Canadian President Justin Trudeau in a statement. “We will continue to work with our international partners to further investigate the use of chemical weapons in Syria. Those responsible must be brought to justice,” he said.
Israel, a close U.S ally that has also engaged in its own brushes with Syria, commended the swift response.
Syria continues to engage in and provide a base for murderous actions, including those of Iran, that put its territory, its forces and its leadership at risk,” said an Israeli official to NBC News.
NATO’s Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, said the attack was appropriate and would ” reduce the regime’s ability to further attack the people of Syria with chemical weapons. The use of chemical weapons is unacceptable, and those responsible must be held accountable,” he said.
In a statement following the airstrikes in Syria, Antonio Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, said that there’s an obligation, particularly when dealing with matters of peace and security, to act consistently with the Charter of the United Nations and with international law in general. The UN Charter is very clear on these issues. The Security Council has primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. I call on the members of the Security Council to unite and exercise that responsibility. I urge all Member States to show restraint in these dangerous circumstances and to avoid any acts that could escalate the situation and worsen the suffering of the Syrian people.”
Any use of chemical weapons is abhorrent. The suffering it causes is horrendous. I have repeatedly expressed my deep disappointment that the Security Council failed to agree on a dedicated mechanism for effective accountability for the use of chemical weapons in Syria. I urge the Security Council to assume its responsibilities and fill this gap. I will continue to engage with Member States to help achieve this objective.”