US and allies didn't bother waiting for UN report before striking Syria
World April 14, 2018 5:08 pm U.S. and allies didnât bother waiting for UN report before striking Syria
WATCH: U.S. says missile strike on Syria âjustifiedâ after reports of chemical weapons use
- A A + Listen
The United States, Britain and France opted to strike Syria for its apparent use of chemical weapons without waiting for a report from UN inspectors because they were convinced that the Assad government had used chlorine and sarin nerve gas against a rebel-held Damascus suburb, American officials said Saturday.
The allies also acted because of concerns that Russian and Syrian forces may already have tried to clean up important evidence in Douma, where more than 40 people died in last weekendâs attack, the officials said.
The three countries launched their missiles even as the fact-finding team from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons was in the Syrian capital and had been expected to head on Saturday to Douma.
READ MORE: U.S. and allies launch military strikes against Syrian chemical weapon targets
Russia and Syria have denied that chemical weapons were used at all and said their own investigators had been to the area and found no trace of them. Those assertions have been denounced as lies by Western officials.
The Westâs assessments of what happened April 7 in Douma rely mainly on open source information. That includes witness testimony, as well as video and photos shot by aid workers, victims of the attacks and unspecified additional intelligence about barrel bombs and chlorine canisters found in the aftermath.
Barrel bombs are large containers packed with fuel, explosives and scraps of metal, and British Prime Minister Theresa May said reports indicated the Syrian government had used one to deliver the chemicals.
WATCH: U.S., Britain, France launch air strikes in Syria
The White House said doctors and aid organizations on the ground in Douma reported âthe strong smell of chlorine and described symptoms consistent with exposure to sarin.â A senior administration official told reporters Saturday that while there was more publicly available evidence pointing to the use of chlorine, the U.S. has âsignificant information that also points to sarin use.â
The official did not elaborate on what that information entailed.
Chlorine use has been a recurring footnote in the course of Syriaâs civil war, but rarely has it generated the same outrage as reports of sarin use.
Chlorine has legitimate industrial and other civilian uses, so it is not banned by the Chemical Weapons Convention. The treaty does, however, prohibit the use of chlorine as a weapon.
READ MORE: Donald Trump takes to Twitter after Syria airstrikes: âMission Accomplished!â
One senior U.S. official familiar wi th the decision to act on Friday said the U.S., British and French intelligence services were unanimous in their assessments of the attack and were âeagerâ to move when they did because of concerns about contamination of the site.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss specifics beyond those contained in the formal statements.
Despite the strikes, the chemical weapons watchdog agency said its experts would go ahead with their mission. The Russian foreign ministry, however, accused the allies of acting when they did âto hamper the work of the OPCW inspectors.â
The U.S. has denied that assertion and called the groupâs mission âessentialâ to a complete understanding of what chemical agents were used.
WATCH: Nikki Haley says missiles hit the âheart of Syrian regimeâs illegal chemical weapons programâ
A second U.S. official said Britain, France and the U.S. are confident that the inspectorsâ eventual report will confirm their findings that chlorine was used, likely in conjunction with sarin.
The three governments noted dozens previous, smaller-scale chlorine and other chemical weapons attacks over the course of the past year, since President Donald Trump first ordered airstrikes against Syria last April.
Reports of major chlorine attacks began emerging in 2014, soon after Syriaâs declaration of complete chemical disarmament, which was the result of an Obama administration agreement between the U.S. and Russia. The agreement only covered declared chemical weapons. Syria is widely suspected of hiding some stocks, manufacturing more as well as holding on to chlorine.
READ MORE: Hundreds of Syrians gather in cap ital, flying flags in defiance after U.S. airstrikes
âThe pictures of dead children were not fake news. They were the result of the Syrian regimeâs barbaric inhumanity,â Trumpâs U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, said Saturday. âAnd they were the result of the regime and Russiaâs failure to live up to their international commitments to remove all chemical weapons from Syria. The United States, France, and the United Kingdom acted after careful evaluation of these facts. â
In August 2015, the U.N. Security Council first authorized the OPCW and U.N. investigators to probe reports of chemical weapons use in Syria, as witnesses began to circulate increasing accounts of chlorine attacks by government forces against civilians in opposition-held areas.
WATCH: Russia didnât employ defenses in Syria during missile strike, Pentagon says
A year later, the joint OPCW-U.N. panel determined the Syrian government had twice used helicopters to deploy chlorine against its opponents in civilian areas in northern Idlib province. A later report held the government responsible for a third attack.
There have been dozens of attacks with chlorine gas since then, including an attack in Aleppo in 2016 that reportedly killed a woman and two children, and at least two attacks on the town of Saraqeb in northern Syria that injured dozens.
Â© 2018 The Canadian PressReport an error
Long-simmering dispute could keep Canada out of World Lacrosse Championship for 1st time since 1967
Calgary trucking company suspended pending investigation of Humboldt Broncos crash
How Ottawa might try to save the Trans Mountain pipeline
Two-thirds of Canadians don't trust Facebook with their data, Ipsos poll shows
Millennials are confident about buying homes, but many get a boost from mom and dad
Donald Trump keeps attacking Amazon â" here's why, and what he's hoping to accomplish
More Weekly FlyersSource: Google News