Donald Trump has warned Russia and Iran there will be a “big price to pay” for backing the Syrian regime after a suspected chemical attack.
The US President condemned as “mindless” and “SICK” reports of at least 70 people being killed, and a further 500 injured, in an alleged chlorine gas attack in the city of Douma in eastern Ghouta..!
There has been no independent verification of the claims – made by the White Helmets rescue service and other opposition-linked medical relief groups – of a chemical attack.
The allegations have been denied by the Syrian government and Russia.
Syrian media accused anti-Assad fighters in Douma of making “chemical attack fabrications”, and added that allegations of toxic gas use are an “unconvincing broken record”.
Iran has branded the allegations as a “conspiracy” against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and warned that any US military intervention would “certainly complicate the situation” in Syria and the wider region.
The country’s official IRNA news agency said the alleged attack had been condemned by the foreign ministry, which said in a statement: “Such allegations and accusations by the Americans and certain Western countries signal a new conspiracy against the Syrian government and people, and a pretext for military action.”
It continued: “With the Syrian army having the upper hand on the ground against the armed terrorists, it would not be rational for it to use chemical weapons.”
Trump had earlier tweeted: “Many dead, including women and children, in mindless CHEMICAL attack in Syria. Area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian Army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world.
President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big price…
“….to pay. Open area immediately for medical help and verification. Another humanitarian disaster for no reason whatsoever. SICK!”
He also pointed to former president Barack Obama’s handling of the Syrian civil conflict – and his failure to face down Mr Assad after setting a “red line” on the use of chemical weapons…
Trump added: “If President Obama had crossed his stated Red Line In The Sand, the Syrian disaster would have ended long ago! Animal Assad would have been history!”
US Vice President Mike Pence tweeted that Syria and its backers must stop its “barbaric behaviour” or there will be a “big price to pay”.
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson described the allegations of a chlorine gas attack in the rebel holdout as “deeply disturbing” and called for an immediate investigation by inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
“It is truly horrific to think that many of the victims were reportedly families seeking refuge from airstrikes in underground shelters,” he said.
“Despite Russia’s promise in 2013 to ensure Syria would abandon all of its chemical weapons, international investigators mandated by the UN Security Council have found the Assad regime responsible for using poison gas in at least four separate attacks since 2014”.
“Should it be confirmed that the regime has used chemical weapons again, it would be yet another appalling example of the Assad regime’s brutality and blatant disregard for both the Syrian people and its legal obligations not to use chemical weapons.
“We condemn the use of chemical weapons by anyone, anywhere. We are in close touch with our allies following these latest reports. Those responsible for the use of chemical weapons have lost all moral integrity and must be held to account.”
France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has said his country will “do its duty” in relation to the allegations.
He said in a statement that the “use of a chemical weapons is a war crime”.
France has repeatedly warned that evidence of such attacks in Syria would serve as a “red line” prompting French strikes.
The country has asked the UN Security Council to convene as soon as possible to examine the situation in Eastern Ghouta.
Last year, the United Nations was among those blaming Syrian government forces for a deadly sarin gas attack on the opposition-held village of Khan Sheikhun in which at least 100 people died…
That attack prompted the US to launch several dozen Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian air base, which President Trump said was meant to “prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly weapons”.
Responding to the latest allegations, the Russian foreign ministry warned: “The goal of these false speculations, which are not substantiated by any facts, is to cover up terrorists and irreconcilable radical opposition, which opposes political settlement, and to simultaneously try to justify potential external military strikes.
“It is necessary to once again caution that military intervention under false and fabricated pretexts in Syria, where the Russian servicemen stay at the request of the legitimate government, is absolutely unacceptable and may trigger the gravest consequences.”
British MP Johnny Mercer, who has previously claimed it was “the biggest foreign policy mistake of the decade” not to take military action in Syria, tweeted: “Look at the consequences of inaction.”!