Monday, 19 February, 2018

Tillerson, Russia's foreign minister discuss Syria strike

Melinda Barton | 21 April, 2017, 17:18

The latest chemical attack has already drawn a hypocritical response from the U.S., which launched Tomahawk missiles at an Assad airbase.

The chemical attack prompted the United States to launch 59 Tomahawk missiles on a Syrian airbase early on Friday, killing nine people.

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley told CNN in an interview to be aired Sunday she sees no possible political solution in Syria as long as President Bashar al-Assad remains in power.

Moreover, in terms of broader USA military involvement, Syria today is not a clear analogy with Iraq in 2003.

"If we can achieve ceasefires in zones of stabilisation in Syria, then I believe - we hope we will have the conditions to begin a useful political process", Tillerson said.

Less than three months into Trump's administration, prospects have all but evaporated for collaboration with Russian Federation on fighting the Islamic State group, reducing arms stockpiles and lowering tensions in Eastern Europe. The attack against a Syrian air base was the first U.S. assault against the government of President Bashar Al Assad. In addition to the usual diplomatic protestations, the Russians have suspended a deal with the USA to prevent mid-air collisions over Syria and announced new plans to strengthen Syrian air defences.

Such anger though did not extend to Breitbart, the news website formerly run by and still closely allied with Steve Bannon, Trump's anti-globalist White House strategist. But that doesn't mean the conflict will necessarily entangle the US more deeply. The Syrian government has denied using chemical weapons.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has cancelled a planned trip to Moscow after the United States launched missile strikes on Syria and in the wake of "Russia's continued defence of the Assad regime". "Russian Federation will draw conclusions from the actions of the United States in Syria", he said.

Johnson condemned Russia's continued defense of Assad "even after the chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians". The chemical attack has even led to calls for U.S. troops to be sent in - the one course of action guaranteed to turn this civil war into something even worse.

The United States is leading a coalition of countries that conducts airstrikes targeting ISIS in Syria. The Russian military was informed beforehand, the Pentagon said.

Standing firm, the Trump administration on Friday signaled new sanctions would soon follow the missile attack, and the Pentagon was even probing whether Russian Federation itself was involved in the chemical weapons assault that compelled President Donald Trump to action.

The fact that no Russian personnel were reported harmed and, according to Syria's Army spokesman Ali Mayhoub, only six Syrian personnel were killed, in the multiple missile strike on the high capacity base, indicates both sides had notice to empty the facility.

The comments were Pyongyang's first since Mr Trump ordered the strikes on an air base in the war-wracked country on Thursday. The base's runway was still in use.

The strikes against Assad are very much in line with traditional Washington thinking and have been urged by U.S. foreign establishment figures.

In an emotive broadcast, Mr Trump said he was responding to the regime's attack - believed to have involved sarin nerve agent - on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun which left at least 72 people dead, including 20 children. There was no independent confirmation of civilian casualties.

Trump has accepted Xi's invitation to make a state visit to China, Tillerson added, but he gave no other details. Moscow has been a steadfast ally of the Syrian government and has defended it against claims of chemical weapons use in front of the U.N. Security Council.