Even as President Trump weighs a potential military response, the Dutch-based international chemical weapons watchdog agency said Tuesday it plans a visit to the Syrian city of Douma to investigate reports that the Syrian government launched a deadly chemical attack that killed dozens over the weekend.
The request for permission from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) for clearance make the trip comes after both the Syrian government of President Bashar Assad and its ally Russia asked for a formal investigation of the charges, which the Assad government has denied.
The strike on one of the last rebel-held areas around the Syrian capital of Damascus reportedly killed at least 40 people, including a number of women and children.
“The team is preparing to deploy to Syria shortly,” the OPCW said in a statement Tuesday from its headquarters in The Hague, while not giving a specific date.
Mr. Trump, who launched a cruise missile attack on a Syrian base after a previous chemical weapons attack in 2017, has promised a swift and sharp response to the latest incident, which U.S. officials have blamed on the Assad government.
As Mr. Trump huddled with his military and national security advisers, the U.S. Navy revealed that the USS Donald Cook, a guided-missile destroyer, left the port of Larnacain Cyprus on Monday. The warship reportedly carries 60 Tomahawk cruise missiles and was sailing toward the eastern Mediterranean.
Syria’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement the government is ready to welcome the OPCW investigators “to uncover the truth behind the allegations that some Western sides have been advertising to justify their aggressive intentions,” the state news agency SANA said Tuesday.
The OPCW has been working with Syria since 2014 after President Obama backed off on a threat to hit Syria for its use of chemical weapons. Russia at the time brokered a deal under which Mr. Assad was supposed to voluntarily give up his chemical weapons arsenal in a process overseen by the OPCW. The U.S. and its allies claim Mr. Assad failed to live up to his pledges under the agreement.