Assad warns Western action would 'further destabilise' region

Donald Trump

Donald Trump

British Prime Minister Theresa May and US President Donald Trump have agreed to keep working on an worldwide response to the alleged chemical attack in Syria's Douma, vowing it would not "go unchallenged".

Ten hours after the missiles hit, smoke was still rising from the remains of five destroyed buildings of the Syrian Scientific Research Center in Barzeh, where a Syrian employee said medical components were developed.

Trump has since tempered those remarks and the White House said no final decisions on possible actions had been taken.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres urged all Security Council members to exercise restraint and avoid escalation in Syria, but said allegations of chemical weapons use demand an investigation.

Later, May's office said she had spoken with Trump by telephone, and the two had agreed it was vital to challenge Assad's use of chemical weapons, and that they would continue to work closely together to do so.

The Western intervention has virtually no chance of altering the military balance of power at a time when Assad is in his strongest position since the war's early months.

The combined US, British and French assault involved more missiles, but appears to have struck more limited targets, than a similar strike Trump ordered a year ago in retaliation for an earlier suspected chemical weapons attack.

What might France and the United Kingdom do?

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"Cabinet agreed on the need to take action to alleviate humanitarian distress and to deter the further use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime", a spokeswoman for the prime minister said in a statement after the meeting.

The Russian military, which has troops in Syria, said on Monday that its officers had visited the site of the alleged attack and found no evidence to back up reports of poison gas being used.

Defense Secretary Mattis, however, indicated that evidence of what happened was still being studied.

The recent military victories that the Syrian army gained in Douma and elsewhere in Eastern Ghouta are the main reason behind Trump's move to escalate tensions and mount pressure on the Syrian government and nation, he added.

Britain has launched air strikes against Islamic State militants in Syria, but not against the country's government.

"We hope that there will be no point of no return, that the USA and the allies will refrain from military action against sovereign states", he said.

Despite Donald Trump's tweet suggesting that a USA strike on Syria was imminent - and warning Russian Federation to "get ready" - the United States naval and other forces in the region suggest his rhetoric may have outpaced military readiness for anything but the most limited action.

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