U.S. threat­ens Syria over ‘gas at­tack plan’

Rus­sia urges U.S. to halt pro­vok­ing Syr­ian army

Tehran Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

The White House has ac­cused Syria of pre­par­ing to stage a chem­i­cal at­tack in the coun­try, threat­en­ing that the United States would make Da­m­as­cus pay “a heavy price.”

Press Sec­re­tary Sean Spicer claimed in a state­ment that the U.S. had “iden­ti­fied po­ten­tial prepa­ra­tions” for an at­tack “that would likely re­sult in the mass mur­der of civil­ians, in­clud­ing in­no­cent chil­dren.”

Spicer said Syr­ian President Bashar al-As­sad and the Syr­ian mil­i­tary would “pay a heavy price” if they went ahead with the al­leged plan.

A fa­mil­iar man­ner of ratch­et­ing up ten­sions

The As­so­ci­ated Press, mean­while, cited anony­mous U.S. State De­part­ment of­fi­cials who would “typ­i­cally” be con­sulted be­fore such state­ments are made as say­ing that they had been caught “com­pletely off guard” by Spicer’s state­ment and that they had come to know about it only after it was re­leased.

The AP re­port also said that the con­tent of Spicer’s state­ment “didn’t ap­pear to be dis­cussed in ad­vance with other na­tional se­cu­rity agen­cies.”

On April 4, over 80 peo­ple died in an in­ci­dent in­volv­ing chem­i­cals in the town of Khan Shaykhun in the western Idlib Prov­ince of Syria. Western coun­tries blamed the Syr­ian gov­ern­ment for what they said was a chem­i­cal at­tack, and days later, the U.S. used it as a pre­text to fire 59 Tom­a­hawk cruise mis­siles at a Syr­ian air­field in the cen­tral prov­ince of Homs. U.S. of­fi­cials claimed that the al­leged Khan Shaykhun gas at­tack had been launched from that air­field.

This is while Syria and its ally Rus­sia said the Syr­ian gov­ern­ment had con­ducted a con­ven­tional airstrike on mil­i­tant po­si­tions in Khan Shaykhun, which also tar­geted a chem­i­cal arms de­pot held and run by anti-Da­m­as­cus mil­i­tants, caus­ing a leak­age of the toxic sub­stance and the deaths.

Vet­eran Amer­i­can in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist Sey­mour M. Hersh re­cently con­firmed the Syr­ian nar­ra­tive. He said that U.S. President Don­ald Trump had ig­nored im­por­tant in­tel­li­gence re­ports be­fore is­su­ing the or­der for the mis­sile at­tack against the Syr­ian air­field in re­ac­tion to the Khan Shaykhun in­ci­dent.

Ac­cord­ing to Hersh, Trump turned a blind eye to re­ports by the U.S. in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity which warned that there was no ev­i­dence sug­gest­ing the Syr­i­ans had used a chem­i­cal weapon. The U.S. in­tel­li­gence had found that the Syr­i­ans had on April 4 tar­geted a meet­ing site of mil­i­tants, us­ing a Rus­sian-supplied guided bomb equipped with con­ven­tional ex­plo­sives.

Fol­low­ing the U.S. mis­sile strike, Rus­sia said the U.S. could have prompted an all-out war as the pro­jec­tiles could have hit Rus­sian forces in the coun­try.

An­other U.S. of­fi­cial threat­ens Iran, Rus­sia, as well

The de­vel­op­ments fol­low as the U.S. Am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions Nikki Ha­ley is­sued sim­i­lar re­marks on Twit­ter, say­ing, “Any fur­ther at­tacks done to the peo­ple of Syria will be blamed on As­sad, but also on Rus­sia & Iran.”

Rus­sia has been lend­ing its air­power to Syria’s coun­tert­er­ror­ism op­er­a­tions since Septem­ber 2015. Iran has also been pro­vid­ing the Syr­ian mil­i­tary with ad­vi­sory mil­i­tary sup­port. The col­lec­tive sup­port has helped Syria rid con­sid­er­able ter­ri­tory of Tak­firi pres­ence and helped es­tab­lish an all-out cease­fire in the coun­try in late 2016.

Rus­sia has al­ready sus­pended a mil­i­tary hot­line with the U.S. over an­other provoca­tive in­ci­dent that saw U.S. forces shoot down a Syr­ian fighter jet.

The ratch­et­ing up of ten­sions by the U.S., in­clud­ing with the lat­est state­ment, now risks spark­ing a ma­jor con­fronta­tion be­tween par­ties to the Syr­ian con­flict and com­pli­cat­ing ef­forts aimed at re­solv­ing it.

The U.S. has un­sanc­tioned pres­ence in Syria

Just hours ear­lier Rus­sian For­eign Min­is­ter Sergei Lavrov had called on the U.S. to pre­vent “provo­ca­tions” against Syr­ian gov­ern­ment forces.

In a phone call ini­ti­ated by U.S. Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son, Lavrov “called on Wash­ing­ton to take steps to pre­vent provo­ca­tions against Syr­ian gov­ern­ment forces car­ry­ing out op­er­a­tions against ter­ror­ists,” the Rus­sian For­eign Min­istry said.

The call was made some eight days after the U.S. Navy F/A-18 Su­per Hor­net shot down a Syr­ian SU-22, which was con­duct­ing an op­er­a­tion against the Is­lamic State in Iraq and the Le­vant (ISIL/Daesh) ter­ror­ists on the out­skirts of the city of Raqqah.

On two other oc­ca­sions in June and May, U.S. war­planes at­tacked a Syr­ian mil­i­tary po­si­tion near At-Tanf, killing an un­spec­i­fied num­ber of peo­ple and caus­ing some ma­te­rial da­m­age.

Syria denies U.S. al­le­ga­tion

How­ever, the Syr­ian gov­ern­ment on Tues­day dis­missed White House al­le­ga­tions that it was pre­par­ing a new chem­i­cal weapons at­tack, as ac­tivists re­ported an airstrike on an ISIL jail in eastern Syria that they said killed more than 40 pris­on­ers.

The Bri­tain-based so-called Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights (SOHR) said at least 15 mil­i­tants were also killed in the airstrike that hap­pened on Mon­day in the Deir al-Zor prov­ince. The ac­tivist-run Deir Ez­zor 24 me­dia out­let said at least 60 civil­ians were killed.

The two groups said the United States-led coali­tion was be­hind the strike. Rus­sia and Syria also carry out airstrikes in Dayr al-Zawr, and it was not clear how the ac­tivists iden­ti­fied the air­craft re­spon­si­ble. The coali­tion could not im­me­di­ately be reached for com­ment.

Ali Haidar, the Syr­ian min­is­ter for na­tional rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, mean­while dis­missed a White House state­ment on Mon­day that warned Syr­ian President Bashar As­sad’s gov­ern­ment against car­ry­ing out an­other chem­i­cal at­tack. Haidar told The As­so­ci­ated Press the charges fore­shad­owed a new diplo­matic cam­paign against Syria at the United Na­tions.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Iran

© PressReader. All rights reserved.