Trump to decide on Syria response ‘very quickly’


US President Donald Trump said he was nearing a decision about whether to launch a strike on Syria in response to an alleged chemical attack he described as “atrocious” and “horrible”. “We’ll be making that decision very quickly, probably by the end of today,” Mr Trump said on Monday at the start of a cabinet meeting, after earlier promising a decision in 24 to 48 hours. “We cannot allow atrocities like that.” There was mounting international condemnation following the alleged attack on the town of Douma, in Eastern Ghouta, which killed 48 people and injured hundreds more, according to the Syrian American Medical Society, a medical relief organisation. It said victims were suffering symptoms consistent with exposure to both chlorine gas and a nerve agent. “If it’s the Russians, if it’s Syria, if it’s Iran, if it’s all of them together, we’ll figure it out,” Mr Trump said. “We have a lot of options, militarily. And we’ll be letting you know pretty soon. Probably after the fact.” On Tuesday, Moscow said it hoped the risk of a military collision with the US in Syria could be avoided. “I think not, one would hope so,” deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov told Russian media when asked whether there was a risk of military confrontation. “I think that common sense should prevail over madness.” He added that Moscow and Washington were maintaining working contacts with regard to Syria. But Dmitry Peskov, president Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, criticised the US position on the chemical attack as unconstructive. “Of course this narrows the manoeuvring space for diplomatic efforts,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean that Russia intends to give up on active diplomatic moves. Of course, this work will continue.” Nikki Haley, US ambassador to the UN, told security council diplomats at an emergency session on Syria on Monday afternoon that the hands of the Russia regime “are all covered in the blood of Syrian children”. Opening the way for a more aggressive US response, she said the UN had repeatedly failed to act despite dozens of reports of chemical weapons attacks over the past year in Syria. She blamed Moscow for weakening the UN’s credibility. When asked earlier in the day whether the US would launch missile strikes in Syria, Jim Mattis, defence secretary, said: “I don’t rule out anything right now.” He said the US was “going to address this issue” in concert with Nato and regional allies.

Share on LinkedIn (opens new window) Save Save to myFT Katrina Manson in Washington, Rebecca Collard in Beirut and Kathrin Hille in Moscow 2 HOURS AGO Print this page US President Donald Trump said he was nearing a decision about whether to launch a strike on Syria in response to an alleged chemical attack he described as “atrocious” and “horrible”. “We’ll be making that decision very quickly, probably by the end of today,” Mr Trump said on Monday at the start of a cabinet meeting, after earlier promising a decision in 24 to 48 hours. “We cannot allow atrocities like that.” There was mounting international condemnation following the alleged attack on the town of Douma, in Eastern Ghouta, which killed 48 people and injured hundreds more, according to the Syrian American Medical Society, a medical relief organisation. It said victims were suffering symptoms consistent with exposure to both chlorine gas and a nerve agent. “If it’s the Russians, if it’s Syria, if it’s Iran, if it’s all of them together, we’ll figure it out,” Mr Trump said. “We have a lot of options, militarily. And we’ll be letting you know pretty soon. Probably after the fact.” On Tuesday, Moscow said it hoped the risk of a military collision with the US in Syria could be avoided. “I think not, one would hope so,” deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov told Russian media when asked whether there was a risk of military confrontation. “I think that common sense should prevail over madness.” He added that Moscow and Washington were maintaining working contacts with regard to Syria. But Dmitry Peskov, president Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, criticised the US position on the chemical attack as unconstructive. “Of course this narrows the manoeuvring space for diplomatic efforts,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean that Russia intends to give up on active diplomatic moves. Of course, this work will continue.” Nikki Haley, US ambassador to the UN, told security council diplomats at an emergency session on Syria on Monday afternoon that the hands of the Russia regime “are all covered in the blood of Syrian children”. Opening the way for a more aggressive US response, she said the UN had repeatedly failed to act despite dozens of reports of chemical weapons attacks over the past year in Syria. She blamed Moscow for weakening the UN’s credibility. When asked earlier in the day whether the US would launch missile strikes in Syria, Jim Mattis, defence secretary, said: “I don’t rule out anything right now.” He said the US was “going to address this issue” in concert with Nato and regional allies. Donald Trump condemns alleged Syria chemical attack “The first thing we have to look at is why are chemical weapons still being used at all when Russia was the framework guarantor of removing all the chemical weapons,” Mr Mattis said. Syria and its ally Russia denied the use of chemical weapons in Douma and accused opposition groups of fabricating the attack. The Russian foreign ministry called the allegations of a chemical attack a dangerous provocation that had been concocted to derail the liberation of eastern Ghouta from extremist fighters. Vassily Nebenzia, Moscow’s top representative at the UN, blamed the US, UK and France for threatening Russia and for what he called the west’s “reckless geopolitical experiments in the Middle East”. Both Syria and Russia accused Israel of carrying out an air strike against an air base near Homs in retaliation against the alleged attack. Sana, the Syrian state news agency, said Israeli F-15 fighter jets attacked the T-4 air base near Homs early on Monday by firing missiles from inside Lebanese airspace, having initially blamed US forces for the strike. Russia has also said Israel carried out the attack. Russia intervened militarily to back Mr Assad in 2015 and shifted the balance of the war in the regime’s favour. The prospect of a potential US retaliatory attack in Syria would stoke fears that it could bring the two world powers into conflict. Douma is part of the Eastern Ghouta suburbs that have been a centre of rebellion against Mr Assad’s rule since the uprising began in 2011. The area has been under intense bombardment by government forces that has killed at least 1,600 people since February. The regime said on Monday it had reached a deal with Jaish al-Islam, the last armed opposition group in the enclave, suggesting it is close to regaining full control of the last rebel-held pocket near Damascus. Moscow said on Monday that Russian military experts had found no evidence of a chemical attack in Douma. “The location was visited by our military experts and by representatives of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent . . . They found no traces of chlorine or any other chemical substance used against civilians,” said Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister. Boris Johnson, the UK foreign secretary, spoke to his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian on Monday morning, ahead of the UN Security Council meeting, and had agreed that “a full range of options should be on the table” in response to alleged use of chemical weapons, the British government said in a statement. Germany added its voice to criticism of Russia’s role in the Syrian conflict as it condemned the alleged attack in Douma. It called on Moscow to stop blocking UN investigations of the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

 

Source www.ft.com

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