Staff | The Avro Post
This is the live article for the geopolitical crisis building over the alleged Syrian chemical weapons attack that purportedly targeted Douma on April 7, 2018.
The crisis over the purported chemical attack was escalated to a war of words on Twitter by U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday, a method Russia said they would engage in.
It became more likely that the United States and some of its allies would strike after Mr. Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron talked via phone earlier this week, affirming that there would need to be a “firm” response.
The United Kingdom was more vocal on Wednesday, saying that “All indications are that this was the responsibility of the Syrian regime and we will now work with our closest allies to see how we can ensure that those responsible are held to account.”
Other U.S. allies such as Canada gave their condemnation over the attack the day it happened for violating international law, but so far it appears that only the U.S., U.K. and France would participate in a multi-lateral attack on Syrian government forces.
The chemical attack occurred in Syria’s Douma in an attempt to push out one of the last remaining rebel enclaves in Eastern Ghouta, a flashpoint in the seven year Syrian Civil War that started on Mar. 15, 2011.
It is not the first time that the Syrian government has been accused of using chemical weapons, but they denied any involvement and are supported by ally Russia, who also says the attack did not come from them.
Moscow invited investigators with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, known as OPCW, to probe the scene for evidence.
What do we know about Douma?
U.S. President Donald Trump warned Russia to “get ready” for missiles to be fired into Syria on Wednesday morning after Moscow said it would shoot down any weapons targeting its ally Damascus.
Last Saturday, the Syrian government allegedly carried out a chemical attack on a the then-rebel enclave of Douma in Eastern Ghouta with the World Health Organization saying some 500 were affected by gas symptoms.
Washington, France and the United Kingdom have been considering a coalition military response and investigators from a chemical weapons watchdog are arriving to determine whether an attack occurred.
The U.S. president tweeted: “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,” he continued, in apparent reference to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
It comes just hours after Russia warned the U.S. not to strike in Syria.
Russia in response said on Wednesday that U.S. strikes would destroy evidence of the suspected chemical weapons attack, which contrasts with the Kremlin’s previous stance where they denied involvement.
Moscow also published a military report saying that the chemical attack was carried out by the White Helmets, a nonpartisan rescue organization that works to save human lives in Syria.
Trump followed up over 30 minutes after the initial tweet with a post apparently calling for peace, saying that the Russian economy needs help from the U.S. and asking: “Stop the arms race?”
“Our relationship with Russia is worse now than it has ever been, and that includes the Cold War. There is no reason for this,” he tweeted, in what came across as a different tone from the previous tweet.
Moscow said that any missiles should target terrorists and not the “legitimate government” in Syria.
A Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman responded to U.S. Trump’s call to end “the arms race” by saying “great idea, let’s start with U.S. chemical weapons”.
Syria’s state news agency responded to Trump’s tweets as well, saying the threats bring about an “reckless escalation”.
Shortly before noon on Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of Defence James Mattis said that the Pentagon was “ready” to provide military options for Syria.
Syria and Russia say that the West has no evidence of the attack and deny carrying out such an attack.
Turkish Prime Minister Yıldırım urged Russia and the U.S. to stop “street fighting” over Syria.
Trump blamed much of the tensions with Russia on the investigation into alleged collusion between his presidential campaign and the Kremlin in a third tweet.
“Much of the bad blood with Russia is caused by the Fake & Corrupt Russia Investigation, headed up by the all Democrat loyalists, or people that worked for Obama,” he tweeted.
“Mueller is most conflicted of all (except Rosenstein who signed FISA & Comey letter). No Collusion, so they go crazy!”
The Russian ruble experienced a significant value drop following Mr. Trump’s first tweet.
Trump’s missile strike comments appear to reference statements made by Russian envoy to Lebanon Alexander Zasypkin who said in an interview on Tuesday that Russia will “shoot down U.S. rockets and even the sources that launched the missiles.”
Mr. Zasypkin said “if there is a U.S. missile attack, we–in line with both [Russian President] Putin and Russia’s chief-of-staff’s remarks–will shoot down” the U.S. weaponry.
U.S. officials have declined to comment on future operations, with the Pentagon remaining silent saying it “does not comment on potential future military action”.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said hours after Trump’s tweet that the situation in the world is worrying and Russia will build constructive relations with foreign partners.
Theresa May said the “continued use of chemical weapons cannot go unchallenged” and that the U.K. will work with its “closest allies” to see how those responsible for the latest attack in Syria can be held to account.
Moscow and London have had their own bilateral tensions following the nerve agent positioning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia.
Oil prices surged to their highest level since December 2014 amid warnings of a possible missile strike, with Brent Crude rising to $71.33 USD per barrel late on Tuesday.
Syria is not a key oil producer, but any Middle Eastern military tensions affect the entire region, the top oil exporter in the world.
Analysts have said that while a team from the chemical weapons prohibition organization was on the ground, the likelihood of a strike is much less.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said their fact-finding mission would deploy “shortly” on Tuesday.
More details to follow. Refresh for the latest.