Syria repositions military assets as Trump 'telegraphs' plans for possible missile strikes

Maricruz Casares
Abril 20, 2018

The United States invented the reports of a chemical attack in Syria, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying on Wednesday by TASS news agency, adding that this could not be used as a justification for US strikes on Syrian government targets.

A fact-finding team of inspectors from the worldwide chemical weapons watchdog was in Damascus and had been expected to head to the town of Douma on Saturday, scene of the suspected chemical weapons attack that killed more than 40 people.

If the U.S. action follows the pattern of a previous punitive strike on Syria past year, it will begin with a salvo of cruise missiles fired from United States warships in the Mediterranean, as Trump implied when he tweeted they would be "nice, new and 'smart'".

He also called the Syrian leader a "gas killing animal".

Asked about possible United States strikes on Syria, President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that "it's necessary to avoid any steps that may fuel tensions in Syria".

Mattis also ignored a question about whether he was concerned about telegraphing US military moves in Syria, a question appearing to refer to Trump's earlier tweet on Wednesday. The British Prime Minister, Theresa May, was convening a meeting of her Cabinet on Thursday afternoon, at which she is expected to make the case for supporting the U.S. in any military action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Under no circumstances should President Donald Trump authorize action against Syrians that could lead to wider military involvement there.

If he approves an attack on a Syrian airfield, or goes further and destroys much of Syria's air force, he will be making a sober decision amid the chaos.

Immediately after the attack, hundreds of residents began gathering in the landmark Omayyad square of the Syrian capital.

The alleged poison gas attack took place in Douma on April 7, hours before the town's last rebels surrendered.

Trump said that he would make a decision about how to respond within a few days, adding that the United States had "a lot of options militarily" on Syria.

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The main US role in Syria has been to lead the coalition attacking Islamic State militants, who moved into the vacuum of a near-lawless country but now have been driven from their territory.

But the Pentagon said the pummelling of three chemical-related facilities left enough others intact to enable the Assad government to use banned weapons against civilians if it chooses.

Yet such talk, on the question of military action in a region where American and Russian forces are nudging up against each other, is not the kind of rhetoric that is normal from a president.

"If I wanted to fire Robert Mueller in December, as reported by the Failing New York Times, I would have fired him", Trump tweeted.

The administration has indicated that ousting Assad is no longer a specific goal but has said that it can not envision political stability as long as he remains, and that the global reconstruction funds that Syria will need if the war ever ends will not be forthcoming if he remains in power.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said in London that the West had tried "every possible" diplomatic means to stop Assad from using chemical weapons.

Another reason for the delay could be the risk of accidentally attacking Russian troops stationed in Syria, who are there to support Moscow's long-time ally Assad.

Britain's defence ministry said that while the effectiveness of the strike is still being analyzed, "initial indications are that the precision of the Storm Shadow weapons and meticulous target planning have resulted in a successful attack".

Syria's Foreign Ministry said Wednesday that Trump's threats to attack are "reckless" and endanger worldwide peace and security.

The U.S. and Russian militaries have sought to avoid conflict in Syria, notably previous year in the Euphrates River Valley where they supported rival sides in the campaign against Islamic State militants. Bush addressed sailors aboard a Navy ship in May 2003 alongside a "Mission Accomplished" banner, just weeks before it became apparent that Iraqis had organized an insurgency that tied down US forces for years.

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