Russia defends Syrian regime
This week, Syria experienced one of the worst chemical attacks resulting in more than 60 deaths of civilians in the northern city of Idlib. Since then, the international community has issued numerous statements in condemnation of the act with various sides blaming either the government or the rebel factions in Syria.
America itself has not minced words either. In a strongly worded statement of his design, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson accused Russia of either being complicit or incompetent in the stopping of Syrian chemical weapons, as the back and forth between Trump’s and Putin’s administrations heated up.
Trump ordered airstrikes
The result was an act of aggression that entailed Trump launching 59 cruise missiles on April 6, targeting an airfield which he claims Syria used to stage a chemical weapons attack which resulted in the deaths of men, women, and children. Russia being a close ally to Syria, points to this as a hasty act by the American commander in chief and an act of aggression against a fellow UN member.
Russia defends Syrian regime
Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke of Syria several hours before the Trump offensive in support of Syrian president Assad and the Russian official who warned there would be negative consequences to America. He compared the situation to Iraq and Libya where failed governments and lawlessness have become normal.
Russia, instead, blamed the gas leaking from a rebel chemical weapons depot after it was hit air strikes courtesy of the Syrian government and so it was not a deliberate gas attack.
This is the stance that Syria’s Foreign Ministry supported on Thursday. Foreign Minister Walid al Moallem claimed in a news conference, “I stress to you once again: the Syrian Army has not, did not and will not use this kind of weapon – not just against our own people but even against the terrorists that attack our civilians with their mortar rounds.”
However, experts are refuting the explanation saying it is implausible and goes against the evidence. The World Health Organization, among numerous others, put the blame squarely on the Syrian government. This is an interesting turn of events since Syria seemed to be the one thing that both Putin and Trump could agree on.
During the recent election, Trump had pledged to cooperate with Russia in fighting terrorism, and top officials made it clear that America is no longer seeking regime change in Syria. The US military is reluctant in joining forces with Russia in Syria and these events place the two blocks as far apart as they were during Obama’s administration.
Putin is expected to meet Secretary of State, Tillerson on his first visit to Russia as the Trump administration’s top diplomat in the coming week, with Syria as the main agenda. America is also at odds with the Kremlin when it comes to Russia’s contacts with the Taliban in Afghanistan and its involvement in the rebel-held areas of eastern Ukraine.
Perhaps the negative consequences that Putin and his officials were referring to has to do with American military presence in the region. The Syrian and Russian air defense systems are not targeting American aircraft because they were previously focused on fighting the Islamic State and its activities in Syria considering they are a common enemy of both the Syrian regime and America.
“American and coalition aircraft have flown around and through their air defense systems for the last two years. If you launched a strike against the regime, it would have every excuse to start lighting up coalition planes with anti-aircraft systems,” stated Andrew Exum, a former senior defense official with the Obama administration.
If US Air force planes were shot down or they were made to fire back at the Syrian and Russian radar, the United States may get entangled in yet another Middle-eastern conflict presented as the Syrian civil war and thus complicates the war on ISIS.