Eli Ridder | The Avro Post
United States President Donald Trump met national security officials on Thursday to discuss retaliatory options in response to the purported chemical attack carried by the Syrian government, and the Russian envoy to the United Nations raised concerns over a confrontation in the Middle East.
Mr. Trump criticized Russia for standing by its ally Bashar al-Assad on Wednesday, tweeting that Moscow should “get ready” for U.S. missile strikes after Russian officials said that their country would block any incoming strikes.
France and the United Kingdom are also part of an allied response force, but Trump followed up on Thursday when he pointed out he “never said when” such military action could occur, tweeting that it “could be very soon or not so soon at all!”
Trump spoke to British Prime Minister Theresa May and the two leaders talked about the “need for a joint response to Syria’s use of chemical weapons,” according to the White House.
Ms. May’s office said they agreed on the need to deter Assad’s government from further such attacks, after the prime minister met with her cabinet ministers in London.
Vassily Nebenzia, Moscow’s ambassador to the U.N., said he “cannot exclude” war between the U.S. and Russia and urged Washington and its allies to refrain from military action against Syria.
“The immediate priority is to avert the danger of war,” he told reporters. “We hope there will be no point of no return,” the envoy said.
A team of experts from the global chemical weapons watchdog, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, was traveling to Syria and will start its investigations on Saturday, the Netherlands-based agency said.
Although some analysts say the multilateral response would not come while the OPCW probe was on the ground, it is not entirely clear whether a strike could occur before then.
French President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday he has evidence that the Syrian government attacked the town of Douma with chemical weapons earlier this month, which come as the United States prepares to potentially strike.
Mr. Macron said that he would decide “in due course” whether to respond with air strikes.
Urine and blood samples from victims of the attack have tested positive for chlorine and a nerve agent, U.S. media report, citing U.S. officials as saying.
Cabinet ministers left Downing Street earlier on Thursday after meeting U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May to discuss the British response to the suspected chemical attack.
The cabinet is expected to back her call to join military action threatened by the United States and its allies.
The prime minister is prepared to take action against the Assad regime without first seeking Parliamentary consent, reported BBC News.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said earlier that her country would not engage in an allied offensive on Syria in response to the Douma chemical attack, but explained her country supports the chemical probe.
“Germany will not participate in possible military actions” against Syria, she said from Berlin, explaining that her country will “support and see to it that every effort is being made to show that this use of chemical weapons is unacceptable”.
The chancellor explained her country is behind the U.N. Security Council and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, or OPCW, who said they would be investigating Douma to find truth for the alleged chemical weapons attack.
If the U.S., the U.K. and France were to take military action, Berlin would seek other ways to help which don’t involve the military.
Damascus narrowly avoided U.S. and French air strikes in 2013 in retaliation for a suspected sarin attack by agreeing to hand over its chemical arsenal.
The U.S. and France vowed a “firm” response earlier this week and movements in the Middle East region, military brass moving in and out of the White House and flight rerouting by Syria shows anticipation of an incoming air assault by allies.
The U.S. maintained that “all options are on the table” for its response to the alleged chemical attack the Syrian government carried out last week following threats of a missile attack from President Donald Trump on Wednesday.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders would not go into further detail regarding the a possible U.S. strike, repeating that Mr. Trump had several options for a response to Syria, despite the president specifically suggesting earlier that an attack was imminent.
Mr. Trump tweeted in the morning that missiles “will be coming” to the condemnation of Russia, who blames the White Helmets, a Syrian rescue group, for the purported chemical weapons strike on April 7 that Syria denies responsibility for.
He clarified on Thursday, tweeting that he “never said when an attack on Syria would take place”.
Ms. Sanders also said that Russia plays a role in determining whether it becomes an enemy of Washington in regards to what she described as being a “bad actor”.
The suspected chemical strike in Douma may have affected some 500 people, according to the World Health Organization.
The WHO said the mass of people had been seen at medical facilities exhibiting symptoms consistent with exposure to toxic chemicals.
On Monday, Trump said that there would be a decision made within 48 hours, vowing a “firm” response with ally French President Emmanuel Macron, but Sanders on Wednesday said the president “has not laid out a timetable”.
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.”
British Prime Minister Theresa May ordered submarines to move within missile range of Syria in preparation for a strike, the Telegraph reported.
Other U.S. allies such as Canada gave their condemnation over the attack for violating international law on the day it happened, 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.
Kuwait Airways has announced it has decided to stop flights to Beirut from Thursday onward until further notice on the basis of security warnings from the Cypriot authorities which say it is dangerous to fly in the atmosphere surrounding Lebanon.
More details to follow. Image of U.S. aircraft from previous files.