US appears to be preparing airstrikes on Syria due to chemical attack on Douma [Updated x2]

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With all of this time that had past, I was convinced, sure, somebody was going to write about the fact that the US looks to be preparing for a new round of missile strikes on Syria.  After all, it was such big news on this site the last time; does nobody care anymore?  

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— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 8, 2018

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— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 8, 2018



The last time around, there was of course a conspiracy theory on this site that the US was just “pounding sand” as a show, with no actual damage done or intended.  I spent a lot of time debunking this conspiracy in detail.  This time, I would expect a strike to not be anywhere nearly as “constrained”; reports last time were that Trump was considering targeting several airbases, but decided to constrain it to just one.

This was a long time in coming.  Usage of chemical weapons heavily died down after the previous strike, but has steadily resumed since then; most of the resumption has been chlorine gas rather than nerve agents, which provides greater plausible deniability.  There’s been a particular focus on using them in more inaccessible-to-the-outside-world places, such as Eastern Ghouta.  

Just days ago, UN ambassador Nikki Haley issued a public warning that the US will not tolerate continued chemical attacks:

The Assad regime continued using chemical weapons against the Syrian people,” she said. “One member of this council shielded the Assad regime from any consequences, and then blocked us from renewing the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM). Our consensus broke down.

Other countries, such as France, have been taking an equally hard line against the use of chemical weapons.   Even countries not involved in military action have issued statements, such as:

“Perpetrators of such crimes must be held accountable. We cannot accept impunity,” added Sweden's alternative Ambassador Carl Skau.

Yet days after the speech, a new round of chemical attacks was reported in Douma, of an unusually large scale.  At least 70 people are reported dead, many sheltering underground.

The US issued the following statement:

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— Michael A. Horowitz (@michaelh992) April 8, 2018

Unsurprisingly, Russia and Iran have issued statements calling the allegations baseless. Russia stated:

We decidedly refute this information. We hereby announce that we are ready to send Russian specialists in radiation, chemical and biological defense to collect information, as soon as Douma is freed from militants. This will confirm the trumped-up nature of these statements

Iran stated:

Such allegations and accusations by the Americans and certain Western countries signal a new conspiracy against the Syrian government and people, and a pretext for military action,

Other responses:

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— Arab News (@arabnews) April 8, 2018

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— i24NEWS English (@i24NEWS_EN) April 8, 2018

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If the US does respond — which it looks at this point that they will — I wouldn’t expect it to be as constrained as last time.

UPDATE:

The UN Security Council is scheduled to meet twice tomorrow about the attacks — one meeting instigated by Russia, one by the US and its allies. This will be Bolton’s first day on the job.

This seems to indicate that there may not be strikes until after that point in time. Haley is threatening strikes if the security council does not act.  I expect US’s allies to (largely) stand behind its actions, whatever they may be.  France in particular has had strong anti-chemical-weapons rhetoric of late.

UPDATE 2x

Israel, not the US, appears to have struck a Syrian airbase (T4). Israel strikes in Syria at fairly regular intervals, but the timing to this attack is surely not coincidental.