Syria Daily: US Considers Options, UK & France Back Response v. Assad Chemical Attacks

A man holds up a photo of one of the victims of the Assad regime's chemical attacks on Douma near Damascus (Anadolu/Getty)

UPDATE 1900 GMT: The US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, has accused the Assad regime of using chemical weapons at least 50 times in Syria’s conflict.

Haley said at a UN Security Council meeting, “Our president has not yet made a decision about possible action in Syria. But should the United States and our allies decide to act in Syria, it will be in defense of a principle on which we all agree.”

See also Russia’s Helpers — Disinformation and Conspiracy Trolling After Assad’s Latest Chemical Attacks
The Chemical Attacks Near Damascus — An Open Source Review
Podcasts: The Impending Strike v. Assad’s Chemical Attacks — What Happens Next?

Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia insisted there was no confirmed evidence that chemical weapons were used last Saturday, and maintained that the US and its allies had “demonstrated they have no interest in an investigation” — even though Russia vetoed a US-drafted resolution for an inspection with full authority to determine responsibility for the attacks.

The Russian envoy also asserted that Russia, Mr. Assad’s biggest ally, had done far more than the West to achieve peace in the Syria conflict. He accused Washington of having adopted “a categorical policy to unleash military force against Syria.”

Haley said the use of chemical weapons was “a violation of all standards of morality” and commented on Douma, “We know who did this. Our allies know who did this. Russia can complain all it wants about fake news, but no one is buying its lies and its cover-ups.”


UPDATE 1830 GMT: Adnan Dahhan, a resident of East Ghouta displaced by the pro-Assad assault, reacts to the prospect of a US-UK-France response:

They should have bombed the regime before they took over Eastern Ghouta and forcibly displaced us. We have already been hit dozens of times with chemical weapons, and now they have agreed to evacuate us….

If you can see me right now, you’ll see me carrying only the clothes on my back. We have lost everything. It is too little, too late.

However, Dahhan still welcomes the intervention, “If the attack can prevent further attacks against civilians in Idlib [Province in northwest Syria] and stop us from being displaced again, and bring us back to our homes, then I am for it.”


As the US considers options for a response to the Assad regime’s chemical attacks near Damascus, both the UK and France supported action after Thursday meetings.

The Trump Administration’s national security team conferred over regime targets that could be struck and considered scenarios following a response, amid Russia’s threats of “war” if the US acted.

Trump continued to put out inconsistent declarations on social media. Having promised Moscow on Wednesday that the Assad regime would soon see America’s “new, shiny” missiles, he backtracked yesterday, saying — incorrectly — that he had never set a time for the response.

In fact, Trump — prompted by TV images of the victims of last Saturday’s double chemical attacks on Douma, the last opposition enclave near Syria’s capital — had indicated on Tuesday that there would be military intervention “by the end of the day” before his Wednesday tweet about delivery of the missiles.

Meanwhile, the US officials considering plans and their effects spoke of further steps before any strike on the Assad regime’s military facilities.

Two US officials “familiar with an investigation of samples from Douma and the symptoms of victims” said initial indications that a mix of weaponized chlorine gas and sarin were used appeared to be correct; however, US intelligence agencies have not completed their assessment or reached a final conclusion.

Defense Secretary James Mattis told a Congressional hearing that no decision to launch military action has been made, and suggested he was examining ways to prevent strikes from triggering a broader conflict: “I don’t want to talk about a specific attack that is not yet in the offing….This would be pre-decisional.”

UK, France Line Up

Meanwhile, British ministers indicated — after a special meeting convened by Prime Minister Theresa May on Thursday — that the UK is now ready for military action.

The Cabinet unanimously backed May’s assessment that the use of chemical weapons could not go unchallenged. The Prime Minister’s office said senior ministers agreed that it was highly likely the Assad regime was responsible for the “shocking and barbaric” assault.

Within hours of the meeting, the prime minister spoke to Donald Trump by phone about the crisis, with the two leaders agreeing to work closely together on the international response. They stressed that Syria must be prevented from launching a similar onslaught on its own people in future.

The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, accused the government of “waiting for instructions” from the US. He said: “Further UK military intervention in Syria’s appalling multi-sided war risks escalating an already devastating conflict.They said that the latest chemical attack could not go unchallenged.

In France, Emmanuel Macron said Paris has “proof” of the use of the chemical weapons by the Assad regime. He indicated that his Government would join a response to prevent any further attacks, while saying that he would decide “in due course” whether this would be through airstrikes.

Trump subsequently spoke with both May and Macron on Thursday night.

Moscow continued a mix of diversionary propaganda and disinformation, threats, and appeals to stave off strikes on its ally.

Vassily Nebenzia, Russia’s UN Ambassador, said he “cannot exclude” war between the US and Russia: “The immediate priority is to avert the danger….We hope there will be no point of no return.”

The Interfax news agency said Russian ships had left their base in Tartous in western Syria on the Mediterranean, Vladimir Shamanov, chair of the defense committee of the lower house of the Duma, said the vessels had departed for their safety.

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Scott Lucas is Professor of International Politics at the University of Birmingham and editor-in-chief of EA WorldView. He is a specialist in US and British foreign policy and international relations, especially the Middle East and Iran. Formerly he worked as a journalist in the US, writing for newspapers including the Guardian and The Independent and was an essayist for The New Statesman before he founded EA WorldView in November 2008.

32 COMMENTS

  1. It is highly likely that Assad had sarin mixed with the chlorine in the chlorine tanks. The advantage of this method of delivery is that the chlorine camouflages the neurotoxic agent attack, and he can still claim to have used chlorine only. We know that he has a huge military R&D facility that specializes in CW WMD.

    • This method of delivery also assures that the chlorine disperses the sarin widely and reaches a much larger set of victims. Something that sarin cannot do by itself.

      • This method of delivery also assures that the chlorine disperses the sarin widely and reaches a much larger set of victims.

        how does chlorine disperse the sarin? I can’t wait to read the link to this scientific analysis.:)

        • Ahem, the chlorine is pressurized and released. Sarin molecules suspended in chlorine will then disperse with the chlorine. Don’t they teach physics in St. Petersburg?

    • It is highly likely that Assad had sarin mixed with the chlorine in the chlorine tanks.

      Sarin is a binary agent that needs to be mixed prior to delivery. Chlorine, being a very powerful oxidizing agent, would likely degrade the nerve agent.

      We know that he has a huge military R&D facility that specializes in CW WMD.

      Where is it? And if we knew, why wasn’t it bombed already?

      • And you know as a fact that the chlorine will oxidize sarin? Citation please. Assad should have hired you instead of spending millions on a WMD laboratory.

    • The Center of Disease Control notes of Chlorine exposure:

      Laboratory criteria for diagnosis:
      Biologic: No biologic marker for chlorine exposure is readily available.

      US government is lying.

      • In the postmodern world there are many truths and the truth depends subjectively on the narrator. All truths are equivalent. So if the Russians say that Britain staged the attack, then that is equivalent to Britain saying Russia staged the attack. Both are true at the same time, due to the law of quantum superposition (and I am not kidding).

    • Russian lying is becoming desperate and has reached a point of ridiculousness.

      Actually it’s the Washington BS that is falling apart. General Mattis admits the US has no evidence.Macron’s lies are the object of jokes.

      Even the right is turning on Trump’s threats to attack Syria.

      • Can we just add a permanent disclaimer to Andre’s posts that his Mattis claim(which he uses daily) has been proven a false and blatant distortion?

      • Scott, on FB pages and groups, after a few warnings are issued, the member who continues to indulge in falsification and fake news dissemination, and who does not heed the warning, is booted. No reason to allow a proven lie to be copied to almost every page of this site.

    • Here is an interesting article that hits the nail on the head. Trump, Macron and May should read it before making up their minds what to hit.

      Listen to a handful of Syrians? What about listening to the majority who do not want Syria to be bombed?

      That’s how the Iraq debacle happened, by listening to a handful of Iraqi exiles.

  2. Trump attacks Syria on the day inspectors are due in Ghouta

    So far it seems he is firing a few tomahawks at non-existent CW plants near Ghouta to save face, just as I predicted (Mattis is skeptical that Assad was responsible or even if an attack took place). The S-400 has intercepted 13 missiles so far. No B-2 bombers yet deployed.

    • Few? Wrong. More than 130 cruise missiles. S 400 shot down 13 of them? Wrong. Russian systems dident even engage (the same russians said it). B2’s not used? And you know that from were? So of your post every single thing you said is wrong. As usuall. Thay happens when you are a slave of propaganda, a comical one too indeed.

    • …..was the time. US&UK and France are bombing. Apparently its a mix of cruise and airforce. By Trump’s words its not gonna be a one day op.

      • By Trump’s words its not gonna be a one day op.

        Trump changed his mind by the hour.

        US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis described Saturday’s strikes on multiple targets in Syria as “harder” than those in 2017, but said that no further launches were planned for the moment.

  3. Bullshit is coming in thick and fast from Washington.

    They say they are targeting chemical weapons facilities. This flies in the face of reality. Why have they allowed these alleged facilities to remain all this time if they were there all along?

  4. Syria’s air defenses have shot down 13 missiles in the Kiswah area south of Damascus, SANA state television reported.

    US, French and British planes staying far out of Syrian air space to avoid being shot down.

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