Experts to inspect attack site in Syria

Staff/wire report


The international chemical weapons watchdog said Tuesday it was sending a fact-finding mission to the Syrian town where a suspected chemical gas attack took place over the weekend, following a request from the Syrian government and its Russian backers that appeared to be aimed at averting punitive Western military action.

It was not immediately clear whether the announcement would delay or prevent a U.S. strike in Syria. President Donald Trump has vowed to respond “forcefully” to Saturday’s attack on civilians in the town of Douma, hours before rebels agreed to surrender it, and warned that Russia – or any other nation found to share responsibility – will “pay a price.”

In a statement, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said a fact-finding mission was “preparing to deploy to Syria shortly,” though it did not give a more precise timetable on when the inspectors would arrive.

Trump on Tuesday cancelled plans to travel to South America later this week, choosing to stay in the United States to manage the response to the events in Syria. The White House said he later spoke with British Prime Minister Theresa May, and the two “agreed not to allow the use of chemical weapons to continue.”

Keith Lepak, a Youngstown State University associate professor of politics and international relations, said international conflicts such as the situation in Syria generally cause problems for students in the region – including some from Kuwait or Jordan.

“They have delayed returns,” he said.

But if the U.S. pulls out of the Middle East, Lepak said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will gain the upper hand.

“[Assad] is being supported both by Iran and Russia,” he said. “The problem with the American president is that we have steadily reduced our presence [in the Middle East] and the people that we relied on to take on ISIS people are the Kurds, and they are now in a fight with Turkish forces.

“Turkey has entered northern Syria and does not want to allow them independence. Trump said we are going to get out [of Syria], and I think that’s an indication, again, that Turkey is going to get its way with the Kurds. Is it a good idea to pull out is anybody’s guess. To do so, I think, is an error. ... Not to have anybody there is not a good idea.”

Lepak added that to pull troops out of Syria would be “letting the Kurds hang out to dry.”

“ISIS – for the most part – seems to have been taken apart, but to say they are inactive is part of the problem,” he said. “They just disappear into desert locations and reappear. ... It’s like chasing Jell-O around on a wall.”

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