The West is ready to take military action against Syria if it is confirmed government forces were behind a toxic gas attack in Douma, but Russia has blocked an independent investigation proposed by the US.

By Joe McDonough

Posted on April 11, 2018

Vladimir Putin is standing firm against the United States and its allies, as Donald Trump threatens military action against those responsible.

The Russian President’s representative at the UN Security Council vetoed a US proposal for an independent investigation into who was responsible for the alleged chemical weapons attack in the Syrian town of Douma last weekend, that left at least 60 dead and 1000 injured, according to a Syrian rebel group and a medical relief organisation.

Footage from rescue workers also shows dozens of people, including children, violently convulsing, foaming at the mouth and gasping for air during the aftermath of the attack.

It is the 12th time the staunch ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has used the power of veto in the Security Council to prevent action against the regime, with Vassily Nebenzia claiming there was no evidence that a chemical attack took place, and Washington’s proposal was a “pretext” to justify a military response.

“We are using the veto in order to protect international rule of law, peace and security, to make sure that you do not drag the Security Council into your adventures,” Nebenzia said.

Moscow then offered two counter resolutions that endorsed a visit by UN weapons inspectors, but the US and its allies argued it would not have been an independent panel.

US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, said Russia was protecting a “monster” in Assad.

“History will record that, on this day, Russia chose protecting a monster over the lives of the Syrian people,” she said.

According to Reuters, The Hague-based Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is deploying an investigative team to the region to assess whether chemical weapons were used, but assigning culpability is not part of the mission.

The move has been welcomed by Damascus and Moscow.

“Syria is keen on cooperating with the OPCW to uncover the truth behind the allegations that some Western sides have been advertising to justify their aggressive intentions,” Syria’s state news agency SANA said.

Trump vows strong response

In the mean time, US President Donald Trump — who has the backing of UK Prime Minister Theresa May and France President Emmanuel Macron — said he would soon know “if it’s Russia, if it’s Syria, if it’s Iran, if it’s all of them together”, and that swift action would follow confirmation of the attack.

“We can’t let that happen in our world… especially when we’re able to because of the power of the United States, the power of our country, we’re able to stop it,” he told military leaders and national security advisers in Washington.

He has opted not to travel on Friday to the Summit of the Americas in Peru, to give his full attention to the crisis in the Middle East.

On Sunday, Trump tweeted: “President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big price to pay.”