US, Russia in crisis talks as Syria missile strikes loom

Nellie Chapman
April 15, 2018

President Donald Trump on April 12 appeared to put off what seemed earlier in the week like imminent US air strikes in retaliation for a suspected chemical-weapons attack on the Syrian town of Douma that killed at least 43 civilians on April 7.

"Insulting the President of Russian Federation is unacceptable and inadmissible", he added.

At the House hearing, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a Democrat of Hawaii, disputed Trump's legal authority to act without congressional authority and suggested that a USA strike would lead to war with Russian Federation.

"The victory of Syria will change the map of the region and the world", she said, adding that Israel is feverishly trying to prolong the Syrian war "because it would be the biggest loser".

However, the ministry stated later than no Russian personnel was harmed and no missiles came close to Russian air-defense equipment indicating that only Syrian air-defense systems have shot down U.S. coalition missiles.

Trump, who evoked the devastating poison gas attacks of World War I, said the USA was prepared to "sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents".

Macron kept up the drumbeat for likely war with his claim of evidence that chemical weapons were used in the attack, although he did not elaborate.

Macron claimed in a TV interview Thursday that he had "proof" that Assad's regime had used chemical weapons and vowed a response "in due course". The Kremlin said a crisis communications link with the U.S., created to avoid an accidental clash over Syria, was in use.

Jennifer Cafarella, a senior analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, noted that the Syrian-Russian-Iranian coalition and its war effort in Syria "poses a strategic problem for the United States beyond the use of banned weapons in war crimes against civilians".

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Meanwhile, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said its experts in Syria will start investigations on Saturday.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: In another diplomatic showdown in the U.N. Security Council, Russia's ambassador, Vasily Nebenzya, called an emergency meeting that seemed aimed at one thing - to head off USA military strikes, which he says would violate the U.N. charter and put Russian troops in harm's way. It "could be very soon or not so soon at all". The Syrian military has also been repositioning some air assets to avoid possible missile strikes, U.S. officials told Reuters.

For its part, the Russian military said it had observed movements of US Navy forces in the Gulf. However, there was no official announcement from Syria on the matter and there was also no indication of Syrian government forces entering the city Thursday.

The call for action came after a suspected chemical attack on the rebel-held town of Douma in the Eastern Ghouta last week killed over 70 people.

Trump has repeatedly expressed frustration over the mainstream media and the opposition Democratic leaders over the probe.

The head of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, predicted: "This will reduce the regime's ability to further attack the people of Syria with chemical weapons". Syria's official SANA news agency reported.

She also ordered British submarines to move within missile range of Syria in readiness for strikes against the Syrian military that could begin as early as Thursday night, the Daily Telegraph newspaper reported.

The Syrian president added that the threats endanger worldwide peace and security and that military action would only contribute to the "further destabilization" of the region.

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