Signs that three powers cooperating on imminent military strike against Assad regime facility
UPDATE 2000 GMT: The New York Times reports its findings on responsibility for the chemical attacks on Douma:
While much about the attack remains unclear, [our] review of more than 20 videos of its aftermath, an examination of flight records compiled by citizen observers, and interviews with a dozen residents, medics and rescue workers suggest that during a military push to break the will of Douma’s rebels, pro-government forces dropped charges bearing some kind of chemical compound that suffocated at least 43 people and left many more struggling to breathe.
“You imagine yourself on Judgment Day, and there is death all around you,” said Mr. Hanash, the student. “It was a scene that you don’t want anyone to have to see: old men, women and children screaming and suffering.”
The US, France, and UK continued on Wednesday to plan for a military response — but without taking — to the Assad regime’s chemical attacks near Damascus last Saturday.
Having suddenly shifted his position on Syria’s conflict after watching TV images of the victims, Donald Trump opened Wednesday with the Twitter message that US missiles are on the way to the regime’s military facilities — adding a message to his friend Vladimir Putin:
Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. 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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 11, 2018
But Trump had not consulted advisors, so US officials spent the rest of the day reviewing plans and consulting with the British and French. A two-hour meeting was convened on Wednesday afternoon, which Defense Secretary James Mattis and Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The French Government signaled a move toward action with the news that President Emmanuel Macron was reviewing military plans. UK Prime Minister Theresa May, facing calls to secure Parliamentary approval, took a firmer line. Reports in the morning said Britain wanted more intelligence from the US of the Assad regime’s responsibility, but in a speech later in the day May said “all the indications” are that the regime was responsible and that the use of chemical weapons “cannot go unchallenged.”
Speculation grew through the day that the three militaries would act overnight, but White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders dampened it with the remarks that consultations over targets and with allies were ongoing. She assured, “The President holds Syria and Russia responsible for this chemical weapons attack.”
Defense Secretary Mattis said earlier in the day that the US was “still assessing the intelligence” on the chemical attack: “We stand ready to provide military options if they are appropriate as the President determined.”
In London, Prime Minister May will convene an emergency Cabinet meeting on Thursday.