Diplomacy

U.S., U.K., and France Launch Coordinated Attack against Syrian Chemical Weapons Facilities

The United States, United Kingdom and France launched more than 100 missiles on Friday night against what they say were Syrian chemical weapons facilities in response to a chemical weapons attack in Douma, near Damascus, a week ago, the BBC reported on Saturday.

The Pentagon said the strikes, which began at 4am Syrian time (9pm EST), involved planes and ship-launched missiles and destroyed three targets: a chemical weapons storage facility west of Homs, another storage site and command post nearby, and a scientific research center in Damascus.

The White House said it had overwhelming evidence that the Assad regime used chemical weapons and deployed sarin gas against Douma’s civilian population. The evidence was detailed in a briefing released by the White House on April 13. France’s President, Emmanuel Macron, had said the previous day France has “proof” that the Syrian regime attacked Douma with poison gas.

The evidence cited by the White House includes videos and images, which show the remnants of at least two chlorine barrel bombs from the attacks, as well as additional information which points to the regime using the nerve agent sarin. Multiple regime helicopters were seen flying over Douma on April 7 and, according to eye witnesses, barrel bombs were dropped from these helicopters – a tactic, the White House said the Assad regime “used to target civilians indiscriminately throughout the war.”

A large volume of high-resolution photos and video from Douma, taken in the aftermath of the attack, document victims suffering from severe disruption to the central nervous systems, consistent with exposure to chemical agents. The White House said, “Reliable intelligence also indicates that Syrian military officials coordinated what appears to be the use of chlorine in Duma on April 7.” They concluded that the attack was consistent with previous attacks carried out by the regime and said no other groups had the means and capabilities to use sarin gas.

President Donald Trump, in a press conference on Friday evening, condemned Russia and Iran for being complicit in the Assad regime’s crimes against humanity. “I also have a message tonight for the two governments most responsible for supporting, equipping, and financing the criminal Assad regime,” he said. “To Iran, and to Russia, I ask: What kind of a nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men, women, and children?”

In an interview with BBC Radio on Monday, The Israel Project’s Senior Fellow Julie Lenarz said that “Assad doesn’t exist in a vacuum” and is kept alive by Russia and Iran. She said with the deadline approaching on May 12, to fix or nix the nuclear deal with Iran, “we have an opportunity right here to cut one of the Assad regime’s essential life lines.”

Iran financially and militarily underwrites the Assad regime. Financially, Iran has provided the regime with financial support totaling at least $6 billion annually through mid-2015. Militarily, Iran had between 6,500 and 9,200 personnel stationed in Syria by April 2016. Tehran has also supported an array of militias shipped in from across the Middle East, according to the U.S. State Department’s Country Reports on Terrorism 2016: “Iran has facilitated and coerced, through financial or residency enticements, primarily Shia fighters from Afghanistan and Pakistan to participate in the Assad regime’s brutal crackdown in Syria.”

Iran seeks to build a land corridor from Tehran to the Mediterranean that will enable it to move assets to target Israel, which the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says will be destroyed within 25 years.

[Photo: Department of Defense / Facebook]