Middle East | Moscow says US 'one step from military clashes with Russia'
US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Porter  conducts strike operations. Photo: Ford Williams/US Navy via Reuters
US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Porter conducts strike operations. Photo: Ford Williams/US Navy via Reuters

Moscow says US ‘one step from military clashes with Russia’

While Moscow says cruise missile strikes brought the US close to clashing with the Russian military, it is clear that Washington now sees no future for Bashar al-Assad in Syria

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev complained on Friday that the cruise missile strikes on a Syrian airbase put the US one step away from clashing with the Russian military.

US officials informed Russian forces ahead of the strikes — intended to punish the Syrian government for what they say was a chemical weapons attack earlier this week — and avoided hitting Russian personnel.

Satellite imagery suggests the Shayrat air base that was struck is home to Russian special forces and military helicopters, part of the Kremlin’s effort to help the Syrian government fight Islamic State and other militant groups.

Medvedev, writing on social media, said the U.S. strikes were illegal and had been “one step away from military clashes with Russia.”

Other international reactions to the US launch of 59 Tomahawk missiles were largely along expected ally-adversary lines as the US signalled it will not tolerate use of chemical weapons such as those used on Syrian civilians earlier this week.

It was also a clear message that Washington’s view has shifted and the US sees no future for President Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

United Nations

The UN Security Council was expected to hold closed-door consultations on Friday about the US strike on Syria following a request by Bolivia, an elected member of the council, a senior Security Council diplomat said.

On Thursday, the UN Security Council failed to reach agreement on demands for a thorough investigation of the suspected chemical attack in Syria

Russia

“We have to think about negative consequences, negative consequences, and all the responsibility if military action occurred will be on shoulders of those who initiated such doubtful and tragic enterprise,” said Vladimir Safronkov, Russia’s deputy UN envoy.

Russia will demand an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council in connection with the missile strike launched by the United States on a military airfield in Syria’s Homs province, Victor Ozerov, the chairman of the Russian Federation Council’s Committee on Defense and Security, told Sputnik.

Iran

“Iran strongly condemns any such unilateral strikes … such measures will strengthen terrorists in Syria … and it will complicate the situation in Syria and the region,” ISNA quoted Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qasemi as saying.

Syria

The key opposition, National Coalition, welcomed the US cruise missile strikes, hoping they will prevent the government of Syria from conducting air strikes and using internationally banned weapons, a coalition official said in Sputnik.

Israel

“Israel fully supports President Trump’s decision and hopes that this message of resolve in the face of the Assad regime’s horrific actions will resonate not only in Damascus, but in Tehran, Pyongyang and elsewhere,”Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in the Times of Israel.

US Democrats

“Making sure Assad knows that when he commits such despicable atrocities he will pay a price is the right thing to do,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said. But the leading Democrat warned that the Trump administration needs to “come up with a strategy and consult with Congress before implementing it.”

Indonesia

Indonesia, home to the world’s largest Muslim population, said it strongly condemned the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

“At the same time, Indonesia is concerned with unilateral actions by any parties, including the use of Tomahawk missiles, in responding to the chemical weapon attack tragedy in Syria,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Armanatha Nasir said in a text message.

“Military actions, undertaken without prior authorisation of the UN Security Council, are not in line with international legal principles in the peaceful settlement of disputes, as stipulated in the UN Charter.”

UK

“We fully support this strike, it was limited, it was appropriate, and it was designed to target the aircraft and the equipment that the United States believe were used in the chemical attack and to deter President Assad from carrying out future chemical attacks,” UK Defense Secretary Michael Fallon told the BBC.

Australia

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the strikes sent “a vitally important message” that the world will not tolerate the use of chemical weapons. “The retribution has been proportionate and it has been swift,” he told Reuters in Sydney. “We support the United States in that swift action.”

Reuters, Agence France-Presse

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