U.S. in Middle East: strikes on Syria air base to be discussed

DUBAI (Reuters) – A top defense official with the United States expects to discuss the November 2017 military strike by the United States, Britain and France on an air base in Syria with commanders in the Middle East and its European allies, the Pentagon’s top general said on Tuesday.

Philippines’ Air Force Cmdr. Romulo Legaspi chairs the Third International Symposium of Incident Response Mechanisms on Military Actions in Legal Context at a Chinese delegation, at the Defense Ministry in Beijing, China June 15, 2017. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

“We’ll be discussing with our partners what further they would like to do or if they think they can do” in the region, Marine General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters.

“But the overall approach is to ensure that if and when this is ever necessary again, that it is done properly, it’s responsible and executed under proper U.S. national security laws and proper international law.”

The United States, France and Britain launched 105 missiles, targeting what they said was a Syrian chemical weapons research center. Syria said the target was a military base.

The attack triggered Russian retaliation, including a barrage of missiles fired from the Kaliningrad enclave, a Russian enclave that borders NATO members Poland and Lithuania.

The November strike was carried out under a law allowing the president to order an attack when there is evidence of “clear and convincing evidence” of a chemical weapons attack by Syria’s government, or if other actions were not effective.

“I think it’s very clear to me, if it’s ever needed, that that’s an option that we have,” Dunford said, when asked about how the president, or the Pentagon, might respond to a suspected chemical attack.

“We’re addressing these other things, of course, on our own way of engaging with our partners and allies. It would be very inconsistent with our values and our interests to ignore the use of chemical weapons.”

Assad has regularly denied using chemical weapons, though Washington, London and Paris say such weapons have been used on numerous occasions.

The United States, Britain and France say they have proof that Assad’s forces used chlorine gas, but have not publicly presented evidence.

The White House dismissed as “patently false” reports on Monday that the United States has “proof” that Assad and his Iranian and Russian allies launched another chemical attack.

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