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7 Apr, 2017 23:55

US launches probe into whether Russia took part in ‘chemical attack’ in Syria – AP

The US has reportedly begun an investigation into whether Russia is linked to the suspected chemical attack in Syria’s Idlib, which Washington claims was carried out by Damascus. It comes after Russia condemned the US strike on a Syrian air base, which killed up to 15 people.

READ MORE: US missile strike in Syria: What we know so far about target, victims & reactions

An unidentified drone, allegedly Russian or Syrian, has been spotted over a rebel-held town in Idlib province after the Tuesday incident Khan Sheikhoun, AP cited US military officials as saying on Friday.

The AP report comes amid an array of reactions to the early Friday Tomahawk cruise missile strike on the Syrian army’s Shayrat airfield near Homs, which US President Donald Trump said he ordered after Damascus “used banned chemical weapons.”

Despite no investigation into the incident, which Russia and Syria said coincided with the bombing of a rebel warehouse storing munitions and toxic substances allegedly used in the production of shells used in Iraq and in some previous gas attacks in Syria, the US and its western allies have jumped to conclusions that Syrian President Bashar Assad bears responsibility for “chemical attack.”

READ MORE: Syria & Iraq: Anatomy of a 21st century conflict

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, commenting on the attack at an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, claimed that the US actions “were fully justified” while adding Washington is “prepared to do more,” but “hope[s] that will not be necessary.”

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that Washington is closely following the Syrian government’s response to the US airstrike on the airbase near Homs, adding that the further actions by the US will depend on if and how Syria decides to retaliate.

“And as we said last night, we will monitor Syria’s response to that strike in terms of whether they attack our own forces or coalition forces, or whether we detect that they are considering mobilizing to take additional chemical weapons attacks,” he said in a briefing Friday.

Moscow has decried the US bombing of Syria. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said President Putin “regards the strikes as aggression against a sovereign nation,” in violation of international law, conducted “under an invented pretext.”

Russia’s Prime Minister Medvedev said that the attack was conducted “on the verge of a military clash” with Russia and showed that Trump has already bowed down to the establishment he once used to harshly criticize.

READ MORE: US afraid of real investigation into Syria chemical incident – Russian deputy UN envoy

Russian deputy acting envoy to the UN Vladimir Safronkov also believes that the US is “afraid” of “real investigation” into the incident which might show that president Assad did not use chemical weapons.

‘US strike encouraged jihadists in Syria’ – former UK Syria ambassador

While the UK government was among those who commended the aggressive action by the US against Syria, a former UK ambassador to Syria, Peter Ford, has sharply criticized the move, questioning the mainstream narrative and warning of dire consequences for the Syrian people.

“If it’s only an alleged chemical attack, then the strike by the Americans can’t possibly be justified. They have delivered the verdict without deliberating on the evidence. What needs to happen, and may yet happen, is the proper UN investigation, but the damage is done,” Ford told RT.

Ford said that the US attack will serve to deteriorate the situation in Syria: “What Trump has done has made it less likely that there can be a negotiated outcome and more likely that there’ll be more fighting and more use of chemical weapons.”

Crucially, the US strike will likely encourage terrorists in Syria to launch attacks, including possible chemical attacks, the former ambassador said.

“If you were a jihadi, would you not be jubilant this morning? Would you not be planning false flag operations to make sure more American involvement was brought on Assad’s head? Of course you would,” Ford said.

Such “false-flag operations” have already been launched by militants as documented in the August report by the UN, he reminded, warning that “we’re all being manipulated by the jihadis and their backers.”

“We’ve totally forgotten the lessons of Iraq. Remember the ‘dodgy dossier’? Remember how certain the British and American intelligence agencies were that Saddam [Hussein] had weapons of mass destruction? That he had sarin, indeed? Turned out to be false, utterly false. We’re like a dog returning to its own vomit,” Ford said.

READ MORE: Disregarding cruel lessons of Iraq War, Trump launches attack on Syria

As to Assad’s alleged responsibility, Ford believes that the Syrian government had no plausible motive to launch such an attack at the time when the Syrian forces were heading towards victory and the new US administration was seemingly softening its stance on Syria.

“It beggars belief. They had absolutely zero motive for doing it, and a hundred reasons not to it. Only days after Trump put out an olive branch in their direction, is it credible at all that Assad would respond with a two-finger gesture?”

READ MORE: Mosul civilians between 'a rock and a hard place' - ISIS & US-led coalition strikes