US readies response to Syria attacks after UN clash with Russia

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President Donald Trump faced a decision on whether to strike Syria and risk a clash with Damascus ally Russia, after United Nations (UN) members failed on Tuesday to agree on action to probe chemical attacks in the war-wracked country.

The US leader has made it clear he plans to make Bashar al-Assad and perhaps his Russian and Iranian backers pay a price for the latest alleged toxic gas atrocity of Syria’s civil war.

But the United Nations Security Council failed to agree on a global response to the incident, after Washington and Moscow opposed each other’s rival motions to set up an international investigation into chemical weapons use in the seven-year-old conflict.

According to rescue workers, on Saturday more than 40 people died in the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Douma in an alleged chemical attack, which left victims wheezing, with discolored skin and foaming at the mouth.

The United States, Britain and France have argued the alleged attack bears all the hallmarks of a strike ordered by the regime of Russia’s ally Assad, which has been blamed for previous attacks by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

Trump has said that Assad and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin may have to “pay a big price” for the alleged action, and Washington’s UN ambassador Nikki Haley made it clear that the failure to secure a Security Council vote would not hold America and its allies back.

“Russia has trashed the credibility of the council,” she said. “Whenever we propose anything meaningful on Syria, Russia vetoes it. It is a travesty.”

Haley dismissed the Russian draft as “all about protecting the Assad regime” because of provisions that would have required the Security Council to endorse its findings, in other words, giving Russia a veto over any attempt to apportion blame.

Russia, in turn, vetoed the US-backed motion, which would have re-established an international Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) to probe chemical strikes in Syria and to identify culprits.

Trump has threatened to respond “forcefully” to the most recent allegations, saying the US had “a lot of options militarily” and would decide in the coming days.

The White House said that, in a telephone call, Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May “agreed not to allow the use of chemical weapons to continue.”