Russian President Vladimir Putin says the recent US missile strike on a Syrian air base over an alleged chemical attack was reminiscent of a plot hatched in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Speaking at a joint press conference with his Italian counterpart, Sergio Mattarella, in Moscow on Tuesday, Putin said Washington invaded Iraq following false allegations that it possessed chemical weapons.
“Then the US representative at the UN Security Council showed alleged chemical weapons found in Iraq,” he said, adding that the military intervention “ended with the country's destruction, with the growth of the terrorist threat and the appearance of the ... [Daesh terrorist group] on the international stage, no more, no less.”
On April 7, US cruise missiles hit Shayrat Airfield in Syria’s Homs Province earlier this week, killing 15 Syrians and causing material damage. Washington claimed that the air base was the origin of the April 4 purported gas attack on the town of Khan Shaykhun in Syria’s Idlib Province which left over 80 people dead.
The US attack on the Syrian airfield following accusations of Damascus' involvement in the Khan Shaykhun incident "strongly resembles the developments of 2003,” Putin pointed out.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said last week that the Khan Shaykhun deaths were caused when a Syrian airstrike hit a "terrorist warehouse" used for making bombs containing "toxic substances.” Syria also gave a similar account of the incident.
Elsewhere in his remarks, the Russian president warned of future chemical weapons "provocations" in Syria to frame President Bashar al-Assad.
"We have information from various sources that such provocations - I cannot call them otherwise - are being prepared in other regions of Syria, including in the southern outskirts of Damascus, where they are again planning to throw some kind of substance and accuse Syrian official authorities of using it," he said.
In early 2003, the US, strongly backed by the UK, invaded Iraq under the pretext that the regime of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. No such weapons, however, were ever found in Iraq.
The invasion and subsequent occupation of the country killed more than one million Iraqis, according to the California-based investigative organization Project Censored.
The Iraq Inquiry report concluded last year that the Iraq war was launched on the basis of "flawed" intelligence at a time when Saddam presented "no imminent threat" and diplomatic options had not been exhausted.