Misleading lull in devastated Syria
President Trump seeks to replace US troops with Arab forces
17 April, 2018A week after the Western airstrikes on Syrian government sites, а team of international chemical weapons inspectors came under fire and failed to reach the scene of the alleged poison gas attack. The US and allied nations believe Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's Russian backed forces killed at least 40 people with banned weapons in Damascus suburb of Douma. The team of inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) had to reach Douma on 17 April, but an explosion stopped them. Nobody was injured. The delay in the inspectors' visit to Douma raised concerns that any evidence they might find could be useless. More than a week ago, Syrian and Russian forces declared the town liberated from rebels forces and under their control.Last Monday, OPCW Director-General Ahmet Uzumcu said Syrian and Russian authorities had blocked its inspectors from going to Douma and instead offered them 22 people to interview as witnesses. Journalists in Damascus were prevented by government minders from contacting the OPCW inspectors, and The Hague-based organisation refused to comment on “operational details regarding the Douma deployment”.British PM Theresa May accused the Syrian government and its ally Russia of trying to cover up evidence and obstruct the investigation.Meanwhile, a new strategy of US President Donald Trump appeared to let the US leave Syria without relinquishing its interests to Assad's government or his allies, Iran and Russia, news wires reported.The option of replacing US troops in Syria with Arab forces was fuelled last week by Riyadh. Saudi Arabia would be prepared to send troops into Syria as part of the US-led coalition if a decision was taken to widen it, Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said on Tuesday. “We are in discussion with the US and have been since the beginning of the Syrian crisis about sending forces into Syria,” Jubeir told a news conference in Riyadh with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.Trump wants to bring US troops home from Syria but has not set a timeline, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said last week. One US official told Reuters the US is looking at what forces might be able to follow on in areas of Syria formerly under Islamic State control, should the United States leave or reduce its force dramatically. But no decisions have been made to do this.Before the Western military strikes took place, Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had said that the kingdom, a key US ally, could take part in military action in Syria.Replacing US forces in Syria with Arab troops could lead to a long-term Arab-Iranian war on Syrian soil, Syrian opposition leader, Michel Kilo warned. “Syria is now divided, the Americans control 28%, the Russians control 40%, the Turks 10%, and all of them have large forces in Syria. Therefore, reaching a solution can only be achieved through an international understanding that can ensure the implementation of any agreement reached,” he said, cited by Arab media.