Damascus takes defensive steps as Trump considers strikes

US President Donald Trump delivers remarks on the U.S. opioid crisis, at Manchester Community College in Manchester, New Hampshire, US, on Monday. (REUTERS)
Updated 20 March 2018
0

Damascus takes defensive steps as Trump considers strikes

LONDON: Washington is debating whether to strike militarily against Damascus following multiple reports it has used chemical weapons against civilians, according to US officials.
US President Donald Trump launched airstrikes in Syria last April against the Shayrat air base after Damascus killed more than 80 people in the opposition-held town of Khan Sheikhun using sarin or a sarin-like substance, according to a subsequent UN report.
The Trump administration has drawn a “red line” over the use of sarin gas. Damascus is reported to have intensified defensive measures including the deployment of Russian army units in key locations in anticipation of a US attack.
But US officials have referred to the “lack of evidence” that Damascus has used sarin since the Khan Sheikhun attack “therefore, striking Syria for using chlorine will lead to lowering the red line and will force Washington to respond on several occasions.”
“In addition to that, it will lead to a strategic change in the military balance and Damascus may use this to justify carrying out more operations against the opposition,” the official said.
Damascus and Moscow have repeatedly denied the use of chemical weapons and accused the opposition of doing so.
There have been several reports of chemical weapons including chlorine and sarin being used by Damascus this year, including in the besieged enclave of eastern Ghouta. Nikki Haley, US ambassador to the UN, told the Security Council on March 12 that if the 15-member body failed to act on Syria, then Washington “remains prepared to act if we must.”
• This article appeared in Asharq Al-Awsat on March 19


US-backed Syria offensive kills 35 Daesh fighters: monitor

Updated 20 October 2018
0

US-backed Syria offensive kills 35 Daesh fighters: monitor

BEIRUT: An offensive by US-backed forces against Daesh’s last redoubt in eastern Syria killed 35 militants on Saturday, a Britain-based war monitor said.
Twenty-eight Daesh members were killed in air strikes by the US-led coalition around the town of Hajjin, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Another seven militants were killed in ground fighting with the Syrian Democratic Forces, who launched a coalition-backed offensive against the Daesh-held pocket in the Euphrates Valley last month.
Fighting has killed 414 militants and 227 SDF fighters in total since the assault began on September 10, the Observatory said.
Coalition air strikes on Daesh targets in another part of the pocket on Thursday and Friday killed at least 41 civilians, 10 of them children, the monitor said.
Daesh overran large swathes of Syria and neighboring Iraq in 2014, proclaiming a “caliphate” across the land it controlled.
But the militant group has since lost most of its territory to various offensives in both countries.
In Syria, its presence has been reduced to parts of the vast Badia desert and the Hajjin pocket in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor near the Iraqi border.
Syria’s war has killed more than 360,000 people since it erupted in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.