Iraq calls for end to further escalation in Syria, ‘urgent’ international probe

Iraq calls for end to further escalation in Syria, ‘urgent’ international probe
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi, in a telephone call with US Vice President Mike Pence, highlighted the need to end the escalation of the Syrian conflict and conduct an urgent investigation into the suspected chemical weapons attack.

Abadi “stressed the need to develop a comprehensive plan to stop the escalation in Syria and unite efforts to eliminate Daesh [Arabic acronym for IS] and other terrorist organizations,” the Iraqi government said in a statement. 

“Iraq considers the use of chemical weapons in Syria a condemned and denounced crime,” Abadi said, according to the statement.

“We are with the Syrian people who were the victims, just like the Iraqi people who were also victims of being hit with chemical weapons by the former [Saddam Hussein] regime,” he noted, calling for an “urgent international investigation” into the use of chemical weapons.

US Vice President Mike Pence meanwhile “affirmed that US policy in the region didn’t change, and its priority is to defeat Daesh in Iraq and the region,” the Iraqi statement concluded.

On Friday, the US carried out a missile strike on the Shayrat airfield near Homs in response to an alleged chemical attack on a rebel-held town in Idlib Province, the blame for which Washington pinned on Syrian President Bashar Assad.

A total of 59 Tomahawk missiles were deployed in the pre-dawn attack, ordered by US President Donald Trump.

The Russian Defense Ministry noted on Saturday that Washington has presented no evidence yet that the Shayrat airfield targeted by the US after the alleged chemical attack in Idlib actually had any such weapons. 

“Neither the Pentagon nor the US State Department have provided any evidence of the presence of chemical weapons at this air base,” spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov said in a statement.

“The only way to obtain and present to the entire world community any objective evidence of the alleged presence of poisonous substances on Shayrat [Airbase] is to send missions of professional experts there,” Konashenkov added.

The Syrian Army called the US missile strike “blatant aggression,” stating that it makes the US a partner of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and other terrorist organizations. 

Syrian officials have so far confirmed that six people were killed and several others wounded in the operation. According to the governor of Homs, however, the US strike on Shayrat Airbase in Syria killed 14 people, including nine innocent civilians.